Born 1957. Studied art history, classical archaeology, Italian philology, and theater studies at universities in Munich, Florence, and Frankfurt. 1985 doctorate from the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main. 1983–1986 associate researcher at the Institute of Art History of the University of Frankfurt. 1986–1988 fellow of the Max Planck Society at the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome, then assistant researcher in the Department of Art History at the University of Bonn, 1994 habilitation there. 1993 interim professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Hamburg. 1993–1994 senior research fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. 1994–1997 professor of modern art history in the Department of Art History of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. 1997–2003 holder of the professorship of art history at the RWTH Aachen. 1997 fellow at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. 1998 scholar at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. 2000 Clark Visiting Professor in the graduate program of Williams College in Williamstown. 2003–2009 tenured professor of early modern art history at the University of Basel. 2009–2014 director of the German Center for Art History in Paris. Since 2014 again active at the University of Basel as the professor of early modern art history.
Spokesperson of the international research project “Bilderfahrzeuge: Aby Warburg’s Legacy and the Future of Iconology”; curator of the exhibition For Your Eyes Only: A Private Collection, from Mannerism to Surrealism (Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice and Kunstmuseum Basel, 2014/2015), president of the academic commission of the Swiss Institute for Art Research (Zurich); chair of the academic advisory board of the Gerda Henkel Foundation (Düsseldorf); chair of the academic advisory board of the research partnership “Marbach, Weimar, Wolfenbüttel”; interim chair of the governing board of the Fondation Hans Hartung et Anna-Eva Bergman (Antibes); member of the academic advisory board of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar and of other commissions and boards.
- Early modern art and architecture (especially Italian) and German classicism
- Architecture and the image (see eikones)
- Migration of images and forms (see Bilderfahrzeuge)
- Methodology and the history of science