Rachel King

Curator of Renaissance Europe and the Waddesdon Bequest

Department: Britain, Europe and Prehistory


+44 (0)20 7323 8665

Dr Rachel King is Curator of Renaissance Europe and Curator of the Waddesdon Bequest, a treasury of precious and intricate Renaissance objects bequeathed by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild to the British Museum in 1898. In addition to the Waddesdon Bequest, she is responsible for Tudor collections and English silver and some of the world’s finest collections of Spanish lustred ceramics and Italian ceramics, Venetian glass, French painted enamels and Italian plaquettes.

These collections are displayed across the Museum, but particularly concentrated in the new Waddesdon Bequest Gallery (Ground Floor, Room 2a), the Enlightenment Gallery (Ground Floor, Room 1), and Europe 1400-1800 (Level 3, Room 46).

Rachel’s research focusses on the movement of objects, ideas, and craftspeople in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe. She is especially interested in transparency and translucency, for example in objects made of gemstones, glass, and amber. She is also interested in fleeting phenomena like smell and sound, and in the reception of Renaissance art in the twentieth century, particularly among modernist critics and collectors.

Rachel is especially interested in broadening engagement with Renaissance art and history, and in exploring novel ways of communicating them, particularly with a view to the diversification of the field.

Rachel’s work on the Waddesdon bequest is supported by the Rothschild Foundation.

Selected publications

R. King, M. Zöschg & C. Blakey, ‘Tabernacles, howsynges and other things’: Three Alabasters from the Burrell Collection in Context’, in Murat Z. (ed.), English Alabaster Sculptures in Context: Art, History and Historiography (Boydell and Brewer, forthcoming).

R. King, ‘Telling Time - Knowing North: Clocks, Sundials and Compasses in Amber’ in Polyakova, I. (ed.), Collection in the Space of Culture (Amber Museum Kaliningrad, forthcoming).

R. King, ‘A Chain of Thought? The continued use of the rosary in early modern medical treatments’, in Ivanic, S. & Laven, M. (eds.), Religious Materiality (Amsterdam University Press, forthcoming).

D. De Bellaigue, L. Troalen, M. Richter, M. Wong Rueda, L. Palozzi, T. Schwartz, T. Challands, & R. King, ‘Revealing the archetype: The journey of a trecento Madonna and Child at the National Museum of Scotland’, in 18th Triennial Conference of the ICOM Committee for Conservation, Copenhagen, Denmark, 4-8 Sep 2017, International Council of Museums, Paris, 1–8.

R.King, ‘Objective Thinking: Early-Modern Objects in Amber with Curative, Preservative and Medical Functions’, in Duffin, C. Polyakova, I. & Surova, T.(eds) Amber in the History of Medicine (Amber Museum Kaliningrad, 2016) 80–94.

R. King, ‘Bernstein. Ein deutscher Werkstoff?’ in Andriga, A. Harry, F. Mareuge, A. & Terrisse, B. (eds.), Ding, Ding, Ting: Objets médiateurs de culture, Espaces germanophone, néerlandophone et nordique (Editions L’Harmatten, Paris, 2016) 101–20.

R. King, ‘Asbestos Fingers and Flaming Lips: Metallgefäße für Tee und ihre Handhabung im 18. Jahrhundert’, in Poepper T. (ed.), Dinge im Kontext. Artefakt, Handhabung und Handlungsästhetik zwischen Mittelalter und Gegenwart (Birkhäuser/De Gruyter, 2015) 163–74.

R. King, ‘Collecting Nature within Nature – Animal Inclusions in Amber in Early Modern Collections, or “Miniature Marvels of Nature”’, in Galdy, A.M. & Heudecker, S. (eds.), Collecting Nature (Newcastle Upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Press, 2015) 1–18.

R. King, ‘Whose Amber? Changing Notions of Amber’s Geographical Origin’, in Haug, H. Bushart, M. & Lipińska, A. (eds.), Gemeine Artefakte. Zur gemeinschaftsbildenden Funktion von Kunstwerken in den vormodernen Kulturräumen Ostmitteleuropas, Ostblick 2.2014, 1–22.

R. King, ‘To counterfeit such precious stones as you desire: Amber and Amber Imitations in Early Modern Europe, in Münch, B.U. Tacke, A. Herzog, M. & Heudecker, S. (eds.) Fälschung – Plagiat – Kopie. Künstlerische Praktiken der Vormodernen (Petersburg, Michael Imhof, 2014) 87–97.

R. Eikelmann, U. Hack & R. King (eds.) Baroque furniture in the Boulle technique: conservation, science and history (Munich, Verlag Anton Siegl, 2013).

R. King & A. Zettel, Paris Intense: Die Nabis von Bonnard bis Vallotton (Ostfildern, Hatje Cantz, 2013).

R. King, ‘Re-thinking the ‘oldest surviving amber in the West’, in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 155, no. 1328, 2013, 756–62.

R. King, “Finding the Divine Falernian”: Amber in Early Modern Italy’, in V&A Online Journal, vol. 5, Autumn 2013: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/journals/research-journal/issue-no.-5-2013/finding-the-divine-falernian-amber-in-early-modern-italy.

R. King, “The beads with which we pray are made from it”: Devotional Ambers in Early Modern Italy’, in de Boer, W. Goettler, C. & Roodenburg, H. (eds.), Religion and the Senses in Early Modern Europe (Leiden, Boston, Brill, 2012) 153–75.

R. King, ‘Whale’s sperm, maiden’s tears and lynx’s urine: amber and the fascination for it in early modern Italy’, in Jurkowlaniec, G. & Łabno, J. (eds.), East meets West at the Crossroads of Early Modern Europe, Ikonotheka, vol. 22 (2009) 167–80.

R. King, ‘The shining example of Prussian Gold - Amber and cross-cultural connections between Italy and the Baltic in the early modern period’, in Lipińska, A. (ed.), Materiał rzeźby: Między techniką a semantyk, Acta Universitatis Wratislaviensis, no. 3156 (2009) 456–70.