Dora Thornton

Renaissance Europe and Curator of the Waddesdon Bequest

Department: Britain, Europe and Prehistory 


+44 (0)20 7323 8665

Dr Dora Thornton is the Curator of a new gallery for the Waddesdon Bequest, a treasury of precious and intricate Renaissance objects which was bequeathed by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild to the British Museum in 1898. The gallery, which opened in June 2015, is funded by the Rothschild Foundation and designed by Stanton Williams Architects. With the digital programme and accompanying book, A Rothschild Renaissance: Treasures from the Waddesdon bequest, it aims to encourage close looking.

In 2012 Dora curated the British Museum exhibition for the Cultural Olympiad and World Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare: staging the world, which was mounted in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She worked with Professor Jonathan Bate as consultant Shakespearean and they co-authored a scholarly book of the same title.

The collections in Dora's care include the Waddesdon Bequest, Tudor collections and English silver; some of the world’s finest collections of Spanish lustred ceramics and Italian ceramics, Venetian glass, French painted enamels and Italian plaquettes. She researches, publishes and lectures in these areas and reports on Treasure cases from 1500-1660.Dora is currently supervising a PhD in collaboration with Professor Peter Mandler of Cambridge University, on aspects of the history of collecting of Renaissance art objects 1850-1900.

Previous projects

The Waddesdon Bequest Gallery

Shakespeare: Staging the World, exhibition at the British Museum 2012

Italian Renaissance Ceramics; A Catalogue of the British Museum’s Collection
with Timothy Wilson of the Ashmolean Museum

External fellowships/ honorary positions/ membership of professional bodies

Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Trustee of Uppingham School

Recent publications

D. Thornton, A Rothschild Renaissance: Treasures from the Waddesdon Bequest, London, 2015

D. Thornton, 'Opal glass in the British Museum attributed to the Buquoy glasshouse', with A. Meek & W. Gudenrath, Glass Studies 57, 2015, pp. 167-182

D. Thornton, 'Technical study of a rare Venetian turquoise glass goblet from the Waddesdon bequest', with I. Freestone, W. Gudenrath, M. Bertini, A. Meek & D. Ling, British Museum Technical Bulletin 8,. 2013, pp. 1-12

D. Thornton, Shakespeare: staging the world, with Jonathan Bate, British Museum Press, London, 2012

D. Thornton, Shakespeare’s Britain, with Jonathan Bate and Becky Allen, British Museum Press, London 2012

D. Thornton, Italian Renaissance Ceramics, A Catalogue of the British Museum’s Collection, with Timothy Wilson, 2 vols., British Museum Press, London, 2009

D. Thornton, “Cantagalli pieces in the British Museum and the Fondo Cantagalli”, in Il Risorgimento della maiolica italiana:Ginori e Cantagalli, eds; Livia Frescobaldi Malenchini and Oliva Rucellai, Museum, Florence 2011-12, Florence 2011, pp. 121-130

D. Thornton,  “The Waddesdon Bequest as a neo-Kunstkammer of the 19th Century”, Silver Studies, 2008, pp. 15-25.

D. Thornton, Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, ed. Andrea Bayer, MMA, New York, and Kimbell,  Fort Worth, New Haven and London 2008, cats. 1-31, pp. 68-100, and cats. 79 and 81.

D. Thornton, “A plaquette by Leone Leoni acquired by the British Museum”, The Burlington Magazine, December 2006, CXLVIII, pp. 828-32

D. Thornton, 'The Use of Dürer Prints as Sources for Italian Renaissance Maiolica' , in G. Bartrum (ed.), Albrecht Dürer and his Legacy, (British Museum Occasional Paper 130, 2004)

D. Thornton, “Le mie cose: Fra Sabba da Castiglione e i suoi oggetti”, in AR Gentilini, (ed.) Sabba da Castiglione 1480-1554. Dalle corti rinascimentali alla Commenda di Faenza, atti del convegno , Faenza 19-20 maggio 2000, (Florence 2004), pp.307-22

D. Thornton, “A bella donna from the Pasolini collection in the British Museum”, Faenza, LXXXIX, (2003), pp.135-50

D. Thornton, Objects of Virtue, Art in Renaissance Italy, with Luke Syson, London, 2001