Cécile Fromont


I am an Associate Professor in Art History and the College at the University of Chicago. My writing and teaching focus on the visual, material, and religious culture of Africa and Latin America with a special emphasis on the early modern period (ca. 1500-1800) and on the Portuguese-speaking Atlantic World. My first book, The Art of Conversion: Christian Visual Culture in the Kingdom of Kongo was published in 2014 by the University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute for Early American History. It won a College Art Association Millard Meiss Publication Fund Grant, was named the American Academy of Religion's 2015 Best First Book in the History of Religions, received the 2015 Albert J. Raboteau Book Prize for the Best Book in Africana Religions, the 2017 Arnold Rubin Outstanding Publication Award from the Arts Council of the African Studies Association, and an honorable mention for the 2015 Melville J. Herskovits Award of the African Studies Association. My essays on African and Latin American art have appeared, among other venues, in the Colonial Latin American ReviewAfrican ArtsRES: Anthropology and Aesthetics as well as various edited volumes and exhibition catalogues.

Support for my research and writing include grants and fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the Michigan Society of Fellows, the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. I will spend the 2017-2018 academic year at the American Academy in Rome as a Rome Prize Fellow.

I am currently pursuing two lines of research investigating areas of intersection between visual and material culture, religion, and knowledge creation in cross-cultural environments of early modern Africa and Latin America. The first project is a study of Franciscan Capuchin images of Kongo and Angola composed between 1650 and 1750 that examines the formation and communication of cross-cultural knowledge and the second an investigation of the circulation of African visual, material, and religious culture in the early modern Atlantic world.

My scholarly activities also involve the development of interdisciplinary conversations on the visual, material, and religious cultures of the early modern Atlantic world, for example through the organization of international meetings of musicologists, art historians, literature scholars, and historians such as “Afro-Christian Festivals in the Americas” (Yale, February 2015), “Color in the Early Modern Atlantic World” (University of Chicago, May 2015, with Emily Osborn), or the convening of the University of Chicago Slavery and Visual Culture Workshop since 2016 with Larissa Brewer-García and Agnes Lugo-Ortiz. 

I hold a diplôme from Sciences Po Paris and received my PhD in the history of art and architecture of Africa and Colonial Latin America at Harvard University. 


The Art of Conversion: Christian Visual Culture in the Kingdom of Kongo

University of North Carolina Press

“Becoming the Black Rome: Bahia, Africa, and the African-Atlantic,” in Axé Bahia: the Power of Art In an Afro- Brazilian Metropolis, eds. Patrick Polk, Sabrina Gledhill, Randall Johnson, and Roberto Conduru (Los Angeles: Fowler Museum at UCLA, 2017)


“Foreign Cloth, Local Habits: Clothing, Regalia, and the Art of Conversion in the Early Modern Kingdom of Kongo. Tecido estrangeiro, hábitos Locais: indumentária, insignias reais, e a arte da conversão no início da era moderna do reino do Congo," Anais do Museu Paulista 25, 2 (2017)


“Under the Sign of the Cross in the Kingdom of Kongo: Religious Conversion and Visual Correlation in Early Modern Central Africa,” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 59-60 (2011)


“A Walk through the City: Stories and Histories of Luanda 1575-1975,” Ellipsis: The Journal of the American Portuguese Studies Association, 4 (2006)



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