Joan Evans (art historian)

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Dame Joan Evans DBE FSA (22 June 1893 – 14 July 1977)[1] was a British historian of French and English mediaeval art, especially Early Modern and medieval jewellery. Her notable collection was bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Joan Evans was born at Nash Mills, Apsley, Hertfordshire,[3] the daughter of antiquarian and businessman Sir John Evans and his third wife, Maria Millington Lathbury (1856–1944). She was half-sister to Sir Arthur Evans, excavator of Knossos and discoverer of Minoan civilisation. Sir Arthur was forty two years her senior: he caused huge hilarity at an antiquarian conference of learned and erudite gentlemen when he brought in a four-year-old Joan to be "shown off".[2]

Evans was educated privately before going up to St Hugh's College, Oxford to read Archaeology.[4] She graduated in 1916 as M.A.. In 1930 she was awarded a D.Litt..[2]


The Royal Institution of Great Britain's records suggest that Evans was the first woman to give a Friday Evening Discourse at the Institution: this was on 8 June 1923, the title being "Jewels of the Renaissance".[5]

In 1950, Evans's book Cluniac Art of the Romanesque Period, which concerned art and sculptures made by the monks of the abbey at Cluny in eastern France,[6] was published by Cambridge University Press.

A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, she published the Society's official history in 1956, and served as its first woman President from 1959–64.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Evans lived at Thousand Acres, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, from 1939 until her death in 1977 at the age of 84.[2]


  • English Jewellery from the Fifth Century A.D. to 1800, London, Methuen, 1921
  • Magical Jewels of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, particularly in England, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1922
  • Anglo Norman Lapidaries, 1924
  • Life in Mediaeval France, Oxford University Press, 1925 (Also in French: Civilisation en France au Moyen Age and in Dutch: Leven in de Middeleeuwen).
  • St Joan of Orleans: scenes from the 15th century "Mystére de Siége d’Orleans", by Peter Studer, selected and translated by Joan Evans, Clarendon Press, 1926
  • The Unconquered Knight: a chronicle of the deeds of Don Pero Nino, Count of Buelna, by his standard bearer, Diaz de Gamez, Translated and selected from El Vitorial by Joan Evans, Routledge, 1928
  • Pattern, a Study of Ornament in Western Europe from 1180 to 1900, 2 vols, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1931
  • Monastic Life at Cluny, 1931; Archon Books, USA, 1968
  • English Posies and Posy Rings: catalogue with introduction by Joan Evans, Oxford University Press, 1931
  • English Mediaeval Lapidaries, 1933, by Joan Evans and Mary S. Serjeantson (ed.)
  • Nature in Design A Study of Naturalism in Decorative Art, from the Bronze Age to the Renaissance, London, Oxford University Press, 1933
  • The Palace of Minos: Index of artefacts, vol. 5, compiled by Joan Evans in collaboration with Sir Arthur Evans, Cambridge University Press, 1936
  • The Romanesque Architecture of the Order of Cluny, Cambridge University Press, 1938
  • Joinville’s History of Saint Louis, edited by Joan Evans, Gregynog Press, 1937; Oxford University Press, 1938
  • Taste and Temperament. A Brief Study of Psychological Types in their relation to the Visual Arts. Jonathan Cape. 1939.
  • Chateaubriand: a Biography, Macmillan, 1939
  • Time and Chance: The Story of Arthur Evans and his Forebears, 1943
  • The Pursuit of Happiness: The Story of Madame de Sérilly 1762–1799, Longmans, Green and Co., 1946
  • The Unselfish Egoist: A life of Joseph Joubert, Longmans, Green and Co., 1947
  • Art in Mediaeval France, 987–1498, London, Oxford University Press, 1948
  • English Art: 1307–1461, Oxford History of English Art, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1949
  • Cluniac Art of the Romanesque Period, Cambridge University Press, 1950; edited, with John Howard Whitehouse
  • Style in Ornament, Oxford University Press, 1950
  • Dress in Mediaeval France, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1952
  • A History of Jewellery, 1100–1870, Faber & Faber, 1953
  • John Ruskin, Jonathan Cape 1954: the first biography of Ruskin to be written by a biographer with access to Ruskin’s own diaries
  • The Endless Web: A History of John Dickinson & Co. Ltd., 1804–1954, Jonathan Cape, 1955
  • History of the Society of Antiquaries, 1956
  • John Ruskin: Diaries, 3 vols., Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1956
  • The Lamp of Beauty: Writings on Art by John Ruskin, selected and edited by Joan Evans, Phaidon, Oxford, 1959
  • Madame Royale, Museum Press, 1959
  • Prelude & Fugue: An Autobiography, London, Museum Press, 1964
  • Monastic Architecture in France from the Renaissance to the Revolution, Cambridge University Press, 1964
  • The Conways: a History of Three Generations, London, Museum Press, 1966
  • The Victorians, Cambridge University Press, 1966
  • The Flowering of the Middle Ages, edited by Joan Evans, Thames & Hudson, London, 1966; also in German as Blüte des Mittelalters; and in Spanish, trans. Mireia Bofill, 1988
  • Monastic Iconography in France from the Renaissance to the Revolution, Cambridge University Press, 1970

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Staff (15 July 1977). "Dame Joan Evans, historian of French and English medieval art". The Times. London, UK. p. 18 – via The Times Digital Archive 1785–2008.
  2. ^ a b c d "Dame Joan Evans profile". Feb 2009. University of Oxford, Ashmolean Museum. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  3. ^ "Dame Joan Evans". Two Villages Archive Trust.
  4. ^ a b "Dame Joan Evans (D.B.E.) D.Litt". Judith Frances Hubbard. Archived from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  5. ^ "Royal Institution celebrates women in science". Royal Institution. Archived from the original on 14 July 2019. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  6. ^ "Evans, Joan, Dame". Dictionary of Art Historians. Archived from the original on 8 June 2019. Retrieved 11 August 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • Evans, Joan (1964). Prelude & Fugue: An Autobiography. London: Museum Press.
  • Garlick, Kenneth (2004). "Evans, Dame Joan (1893–1977)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 8 March 2016. (subscription required)

External links[edit]