Martin Kemp (art historian)

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Martin Kemp
A photograph of Martin Kemp, captured in 2011
Kemp in 2011 at Oxford University
Born (1942-03-05) 5 March 1942 (age 79)
Known forLeonardo da Vinci scholarship;
authentication of Salvator Mundi;
attribution of La Bella Principessa
Academic background
Alma materDowning College
Courtauld Institute of Art
Academic work
DisciplineArt history
InstitutionsDepartment of History of Art, University of Oxford

Martin John Kemp FBA (born 5 March 1942) is a British art historian and exhibition curator who is one of the world's leading authorities on the life and works of Leonardo da Vinci.[1][2] The author of many books on Leonardo, Kemp has also written about visualisation in art and science, particularly anatomy, natural sciences and optics. Instrumental in the authentication of Salvator Mundi to Leonardo, Kemp has been vocal on attributions to Leonardo, including support of La Bella Principessa and opposition of the Isleworth Mona Lisa.

Since 2008, he has been emeritus professor of art history at the University of Oxford, prior to which he was a professor of Art History there (1995–2008) and held posts at University of St Andrews (1981–1995) and University of Glasgow (1966–1981). He is a fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, an honorary Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge and a fellow of the British Academy.

Early life[edit]

In his youth, Kemp attended Windsor Grammar School.[3][a] From 1960 to 1963, Kemp studied natural sciences and art history at Downing College, Cambridge[b] and the history of Western Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London from 1963 to 1965.[4][5][6]


For more than 25 years he was based in Scotland where from 1966 to 1981 he was a lecturer at University of Glasgow and Professor of Fine Arts from 1981 to 1990 and Professor of the History and Theory of Art from 1990 to 1995 at University of St Andrews.[7][8] Kemp was Professor of Art History at the University of Oxford from 1995 to 2008, during which he helped create the Centre for Visual Studies, which opened in 1999.[9] Notably, Edgar Wind had held this post from 1955 to 1967 and subsequently Francis Haskell from 1967 to 1995.[5] Since 2008 he has been emeritus professor of the art history there.[7] He has held various visiting professorship posts at institutions such as Princeton University, University of Cambridge, University of Chicago and Harvard University.[7][5] Kemp received the prestigious British Academy Wolfson Research Professorship—An award offered by the Wolfson Foundation.[10]—and from 1993 to 1998 and was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1991.[8] With art historian Marina Wallace, Kemp launched the "Universal Leonardo" website.[5]


Kemp has written many books about Leonardo da Vinci, his first of which, Leonardo da Vinci. The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man in 1981, won the Mitchell Prize in art history for best first book.[11] He has published on imagery in the sciences of anatomy, natural history and optics, including The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat (Yale University Press). He has written a regular column called Science in Culture in Nature (an early selection published as Visualisations, OUP, 2000). The Nature essays are developed in Seen and Unseen (OUP, 2006), in which his concept of "structural intuitions" is explored. In 2011 he published his book Christ to Coke: How Image becomes Icon (OUP, 2011).[12][13]

Salvator Mundi[edit]

Kemp was a leading authority in authenticating Salvator Mundi to Leonardo da Vinci.[14]

La Bella Principessa[edit]

In 2010 he published a monograph together with French engineer Pascal Cotte, recounting the story of how a team of experts – under his guidance – pieced together the evidence for the extraordinary discovery of a major artwork by Leonardo, now named La Bella Principessa. The book, entitled La Bella Principessa (2010), narrates the steps Kemp and Cotte took in authenticating the painting, including the use of forensic methods usually reserved for criminal investigation, matching a fingerprint found on La Bella Principessa to the Renaissance master. The 2012 Italian edition, La bella principessa di Leonardo da Vinci.[15] produces evidence about its origins.[6]


Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Leonardo. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. 2004. ISBN 9780192805461. OCLC 55682608.



  1. ^ Vogel, Carol (20 January 2003). "Renaissance Genius as Compulsive Draftsman; An Exhibition Explores Leonardo's Creative Process With a Wealth of Examples". New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  2. ^ Charney, Noah (6 November 2011). "The lost Leonardo". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 November 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Lankford, Mike (17 August 2018). "The Keeper of the Keys Tells His Tale". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Martin J Kemp: Curriculum Vitae". martinjkemp. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e Honigman, Ana Finel. "Universal Leonardo". artnet. Artnet Worldwide Corporation. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Professor Martin John Kemp". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art". University of Oxford. Archived from the original on 26 March 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Professor Martin Kemp FBA". The British Academy. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  9. ^ "Professor Martin Kemp". University of Oxford. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  10. ^ "Wolfson Research Professorships". The British Academy. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  11. ^ Kemp, Martin (1986). "Simon Stevin and Pieter Saenredam: A Study of Mathematics and Vision in Dutch Science and Art". The Art Bulletin. Taylor & Francis. 68 (2): 237–252. doi:10.1080/00043079.1986.10788336. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  12. ^ "What makes an image an icon?". Oxford University Press. 3 October 2011. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  13. ^ York, Peter (9 December 2011). "Christ to Coke: How Image Becomes Icon, By Martin Kemp". The Independent. Retrieved 3 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ Kinsella, Eileen (12 June 2019). "Debunking This Picture Became Fashionable': Leonardo da Vinci Scholar Martin Kemp on What the Public Doesn't Get About 'Salvator Mundi". artnet. Artnet Worldwide Corporation. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  15. ^ Kemp, Martin J., and Cotte, Pascal (2012). La bella principessa di Leonardo da Vinci. Ritratto di Bianca Sforza. Firenze: Mandragora. ISBN 9788874611737
  16. ^ Conrad, Peter (21 October 2000). "Spectacular Bodies". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ "Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment, Design". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  18. ^ Riding, Alan (5 October 2006). "Leonardo: A master of lateral thinking - Arts & Leisure - International Herald Tribune". New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 16 August 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  19. ^ Castle, Tim (11 October 2007). "London show strips bare 2,500 years of erotic art". Reuters. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  20. ^ a b Christensen, Lauren (27 July 2019). "A da Vinci for Any Budget". New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 16 August 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]