Robert Gale Noyes Assistant Professor of Humanities

Overview

Holly Shaffer specializes in 18th and 19th century art and architecture in South Asia, Britain, and the British empire. 

Her first book, Grafted Arts: Art Making and Taking in the Struggle for Western India, 1760-1910 (Paul Mellon Centre with Yale University Press, 2022), won an American Institute of Indian Studies Edward C. Dimock, Jr. Prize and an Historians of British Art Book Award. It focuses on Maratha military rulers and British East India Company officials who used the arts to engage in diplomacy, wage war, compete for prestige, and generate devotion as they allied with, or fought against, each other to control western India. This book conceptualizes the artistic combinations that resulted through “graft”—a term that acknowledges the violent and creative processes of suturing arts, and losing and gaining goods, as well as the shifting dynamics among agents who assembled such materials in India and in Britain.

She has edited Volume 51 of Ars Orientalis on the Graphic Arts (2021), which focuses on how interlocking practices of making, collecting, compiling, and publishing graphic arts across Asia and between regions in Asia and Europe encouraged the replication, and also the subtle transformation of forms, opening up new possibilities for interpretation. This is part of a continuing project on the migration and reinvention of forms among different media—including paintings, chromolithographic prints, photographic albums, and printed books. 

Currently, she is working on her second book, The Belly of Empire: Food, Art, and the Cultivation of Taste across India and Britain, 1750-1850. Focused on river cities and ports in northern India, this project contends that food propelled artistic production and transformed aesthetic categories in this period, initiating new objects, paintings, and spaces that oriented art towards commerce and the senses. This is part of her wider attention to arts made under the auspices of the East India Company, which are at the heart of two collaborative projects: an essay on the historiography of the art historical term "Company Painting" (2024) jointly authored with Yuthika Sharma, and an exhibition, Painters, Ports, and Profits: Artists and the East India Company in India and China, co-curated with Laurel Peterson, which will open at the Yale Center for British Art in 2026.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas