Universiteit Leiden

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Anna Tummers

University lecturer

Dr. J.C. Tummers
+31 71 527 5153

As of August 1st 2020 Dr. Anna Tummers holds the position of University Lecturer Early Modern Art and Theory at Leiden University.

More information about Anna Tummers

Since May 2021 she is cluster manager of the newly found cluster Art, Heritage and Science at the Centre for Global Heritage and Development (see https://www.globalheritage.nl/themes/art-heritage-science), and member of the Scientific Advisory Board of IPERION HS (a consortium of 24 partners from 23 countries that contributes to establishing a pan-European research infrastructure, see https://www.iperionhs.eu/). Besides, she is co-PI together with Professor Robert G. Erdmann of the research project 21st Century Connoisseurship: Developing Smart Tools for the Analysis of Seventeenth-Century Paintings (NICAS grant 2018-2022) (see also 'Research').

In 2009 she obtained a PhD degree at the University of Amsterdam (Art History of the Early Modern Era). Previously, she completed two MA-degrees (Art History and Cultural Studies, UofA, 1999), and studied in France (Sorbonne University, Paris), England (University of Sussex) and Italy (Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR); Dutch University Institute for Art History in Florence (NIKI).

Between 1997 and 2003 she worked consecutively at: the National Gallery of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1997), the Royal Palace (Amsterdam, 1997-1999), the Print Room at the Royal Library at Windsor Castle (UK, 1999-2000), the National Gallery of Art (2000-2003) and Stichting de Nieuwe Kerk (Amsterdam, 2003). From 2003 until 2008 she was Assistant Professor in training (AiO) at the UofA, and in 2006 and 2007 I also worked as a Lecturer at the International School (UofA). From 2008 until 2020, she worked as Curator of Old Master Paintings at the Frans Hals Museum (Haarlem).


The Riddle of Quality

"Seeing is thinking. One of most interesting aspects of new insights in art history is that new questions and interpretations literally make us look differently. What we see depends on what we think and vice versa. Without knowledge there is no such thing as a ‘good eye’ for art. Putting this knowledge into words is, however, a continuous challenge. One question that has fascinated me throughout my career is how to define quality in seventeenth-century painting. It is a tantalizing question that is hard to tackle from an academic perspective, and yet it touches the raison d’être of much of the art we study. Seventeenth-century connoisseurs agreed that quality was more important than attaching names to pictures, and that one needed an eye for quality to distinguish different hands. But what exactly were these early connoisseurs looking for and looking at? And what words and categories of thinking did they use to describe and judge paintings? Were the issues that concerned them the same ones we consider important today?
Judging a picture was – and is – far from simple, no matter how swiftly the judgment is made. It involves myriad questions that touch on different academic disciplines. The insights of early connoisseurs give us some guidance (as well as a fascinating glimpse of the history of our profession), and so do recent insights into old master painting methods and techniques. Nevertheless, many questions concerning quality remain unanswered."

Humour and Perspective

"My training in both Art History and Cultural Studies has given me a fondness for research topics on the crossroads of both fields. Even when studying a quintessential art historical task such as the attribution of paintings I always consider the broader cultural perspective. Such perspectives enhance our understanding of an “original” versus a “copy” at a time when painters regularly produced multiple versions of a single work. These considerations probe the paradoxical meaning of a work “by the master’s hand” when paintings were often produced with the help of assistants. They also clarify the meaning of style at a time when some artists intentionally varied their style depending on the subject matter of the work or its audience.
In the past few years I have looked into seventeenth-century paintings depicting festivities and have studied their relationships to actual Dutch celebrations. Working together with a team of scholars, I organized the exhibition and accompanying catalogue: Celebrating in the Golden Age (2011). My study of emotions in seventeenth-century Dutch painting and theory laid the ground for the 2014 exhibition on the topic held at the Frans Hals Museum. Furthermore I have initiated and completed the research project The Art of Laughter: Humour in the Golden Age in collaboration with Dr. Elmer Kolfin, Jasper Hillegers and Dr. Mariet Westermann, which resulted in a book and an exhibition (2017-2018)."

Authenticity Issues

"The desire to capture quality or qualities in words and concepts, which has been at the core of much of my research, led to the publication of my book The Eye of the Connoisseur: Authenticating Paintings by Rembrandt and his Contemporaries (Amsterdam University Press and Getty Publications Los Angeles 2011). This book combines an analysis of the insights of seventeenth-century artists and theorists with recent technical insights, as well as a broader cultural perspective.
I have expanded this interdisciplinary approach in a research project funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO): Frans Hals / not Frans Hals. Defining the oeuvre of the Painter Frans Hals (1582/83-1666): a Pilot Study (2016-2018). The project is a collaboration between the University of Amsterdam, the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the University of Amsterdam and the Technical University in Delft. The goal of the Frans Hals research project is to analyze the criteria that a number of prominent Hals scholars have used to determine whether a painting can be labelled an ‘authentic’ Hals or not. This study relates these criteria to the seventeenth-century context in which the paintings were made. Moreover, it features three case studies that assess whether or not these criteria can be replaced and/or expanded by using new technical research methods such as infrared reflectography ( IRR), hyperspectral imaging and MA-XRF analysis (see our articles in The Burlington Magazine, November & December 2019).
Currently, I am working with Prof. Dr Robert Erdmann on the research project 21st Century Connoisseurship: Developing Smart Tools for the Analysis of Seventeenth-Century Paintings (2018-2022), funded by the  Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science (NICAS). The goal is to develop tools that will make large and complex data sets (including various types of high resolution photographs, infrared reflectograms (IRR), laser scans and macro X-ray fluorescence scans) much easier to read and therefore much easier to use for art experts as well as for a wider public.

Key Publications

Research monograph 

1. Anna Tummers, The Eye of the Connoisseur: Authenticating Paintings by Rembrandt and his Contemporaries, Amsterdam University Press and Getty Publications Los Angeles 2011

Peer-reviewed articles (9 out of a total of 251 articles and entries published )

2. Anna Tummers, Arie Wallert and Nouchka De Keyser, ‘Supplementing the eye: the technical analysis of Frans Hals’s paintings – II’, The Burlington Magazine 161 (December 2019), pp. 996-1003

3. Anna Tummers, Arie Wallert, Katja Kleinert, Babette Hartwieg, Claudia Laurenze-Landsberg, Joris Dik, Roger Groves, Andrei Anisimov, Vassilis Papadakis and Robert Erdmann, ‘Supplementing the eye: the technical analysis of Frans Hals’s paintings – I’, The Burlington Magazine 161 (November 2019), pp. 934-941

4. Anna Tummers, ‘Connoisseurship of the Western World: Developments since the 1980s’, Grove Dictionary of Art, Oxford Art Online (article for internet art encyclopedia, published online 2018)

5. Anna Tummers, ‘Hoe kijkt de kunstkenner? Besluitvorming rond een betwiste Rembrandt’, in Jaco Ruthers en Mieke Rijnders (red.), Rembrandt in perspectief, de veranderende visie op de meester en zijn werk, Open Universiteit/Waanders Uitgevers, Zwolle 2014, pp. 174-193

6. Anna Tummers, ‘Le connoisseurship en action: controverses autour d’un Rembrandt’, in Charlotte Guichard (ed.), De L’authenticité, une histoire des valeurs de l’art (XVIe – XXe siècle), Publications de la Sorbonne, Paris 2014, pp. 125-144

7. Anna Tummers ‘The Painter versus his Critics: Willem van Nijmegen’s Defense of his Art’, in Anton Boschloo, Jacquelyn Coutré, Stephanie Dickey and Nicolette Sluijter-Seiffert (eds.), Aemulatio: Imitation, emulation and invention in Netherlandish art from 1500 to 1800; Essays in honor of Eric Jan Sluijter (Festschrift), Zwolle 2011, pp. 429-441

8. Anna Tummers, ‘By His Hand. The paradox of seventeenth-century connoisseurship’, in Art Market and Connoisseurship (see below, nr. 9), Amsterdam University Press 2008, pp. 30-66

9. Anna Tummers, ‘The Painter versus the Connoisseur? The best judge of pictures in seventeenth-century theory and practice’, in Art Market and Connoisseurship, Amsterdam University Press 2008, pp. 126-147

10. Anna Tummers, ‘Aelbert Cuyp's innovative use of spatial devices’, in The Learned Eye, Regarding Art Theory and the Artist's Reputation, Amsterdam University Press 2005, pp. 87-98

Other research monographs (including exhibition catalogues) and any translations thereof (11)

1. Anna Tummers, Elmer Kolfin and Jasper Hillegers (eds.), The Art of Laughter: Humour in the Dutch Golden Age, exh. cat. Frans Hals Museum / Waanders Publishers Zwolle 2017 ENG

2. Anna Tummers, Elmer Kolfin and Jasper Hillegers (eds.), De kunst van het lachen: Humor in de Gouden Eeuw, exh. cat. Frans Hals Museum / Waanders Publishers Zwolle 2017 NL

3. Anna Tummers (ed.), Frans Hals: Eye to Eye with Rembrandt, Rubens and Titian, exh. cat. Frans Hals Museum / NAI010 Publishers Rotterdam 2013 ENG

4. Anna Tummers (ed.), Frans Hals: Oog in Oog Rembrandt, Rubens and Titian, exh. cat. Frans Hals Museum / NAI010 Publishers Rotterdam 2013 NL   

5. Anna Tummers (ed.), Celebrating in the Golden Age, exh. cat. Frans Hals Museum / NAI010 Publishers Rotterdam 2011 ENG

6. Anna Tummers (ed.), De Gouden Eeuw viert feest, exh. cat. Frans Hals Museum / NAI010 Publishers Rotterdam 2011 NL

7. Anna Tummers and Shannon van Muijden, (ed.), Een groots gebaar, de schenking van het Elisabeth van Thüringenfonds, exh. cat. Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum 2011

8. Anna Tummers, Judith Leyster: The First Woman to become a Master Painter, exh. cat. Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum 2009 (focus exhibition in honour of Leyster’s 400th birthday, co-organized with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.) NL/ENG

9. Anna Tummers and Koenraad Jonkheere (eds.), Art Market and Connoisseurship: A Closer Look at Paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Their Contemporaries, Amsterdam University Press 2008  

10. Carla Brenner, Barbara Moore, Jennifer Riddell and Anna Tummers, Painting in the Dutch Golden Age: A Profile of the Seventeenth Century, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. 2007

11. Marieke van den Doel, Natasja van Eck, Gerbrand Korevaar, Anna Tummers and Thijs Weststeijn (eds.), The Learned Eye: Regarding Art, Theory, and the Artist’s Reputation, Amsterdam University Press, 2005


University lecturer

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Centre for the Arts in Society
  • KG Oude beeldende kunst

Work address

Arsenaalstraat 1
2311 CT Leiden
Room number A1.30



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