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Jennifer’s newest book, Portraits of Resistance: Activating Art During Slavery, will be published by Yale University Press in November 2022. In 2019 Jennifer received the National Portrait Gallery’s Director’s Essay Prize for a piece of this project published in The Art Bulletin. Her research for this project was supported by a senior fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art and a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Jennifer’s first book The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America, was published by the University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture in 2017. A finalist for the George Washington Prize, it received an honorable mention for the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies’ Louis Gottschalk Prize.

Her essays have appeared in several collected volumes, as well as in The Art Bulletin, American Art, Early American Studies, Panorama, and Winterthur Portfolio. She has also co-edited a special double issue of Winterthur Portfolio entitled “Enslavement and Its Legacies.” She is currently working on an edited volume with co-editor Jaipreet Virdi, tentatively titled The Disability Gaze: Material and Visual Approaches.

Jennifer’s books can be purchased on Amazon or at independent bookstores and sellers.


  • The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America

    In this interdisciplinary transatlantic study, Jennifer investigates diverse artifacts—from portraits and city views to gravestones, dressing furniture, and prosthetic devices—to explore how elite white consumers assembled objects to form a new civil society on the margins of the British Empire. Over the course of the eighteenth century, Anglo-Americans purchased an unprecedented number and array of goods. Far from passive markers of rank or political identification, these objects made Anglo-American society. More from the publisher.

  • Portraits of Resistance: Activating Art During Slavery

    This timely and eloquent book tells a new history of American art: how enslaved people of African origin and descent mobilized portraiture for acts of defiance. Moving from the wharves of colonial Rhode Island to antebellum Louisiana plantations to South Carolina townhouses during the Civil War, Jennifer illuminates how enslaved people’s relationships with portraits provided the grounds for assertions of their selfhood, and ultimately shaped the trajectory of African American art post-emancipation. More from the publisher.


Guest co-editor with Catharine Dann Roeber, “Enslavement and Its Legacies,” special double issue of Winterthur Portfolio: A Journal of American Material Culture, that explores the rich connections between materiality and enslavement and marks the first issue to focus explicitly on race in the journal for twenty years.

  • Winterthur Portfolio 54:4

    Winterthur Portfolio 54:4 (Winter 2020): 199-312. Articles discuss objects such as John Singleton Copley portraits, an embroidered sack, a woven coverlet, conch shells and carved canes. Authors include Tiya Miles, Nika Elder and Diana Greenwald, Whitney Stewart, and Rebecca Bush.

  • Winterthur Portfolio 55:1

    Winterthur Portfolio 55:1 (Spring 2021): 1-82. Focused on providing models for students, conservators, museum professionals, and scholars as they continue the work of interpreting enslavement and its material legacies. Includes an interview with fashion historian, scholar, and curator Dr. Jonathan Michael Square as well as articles by Amanda Kasman and Nalleli Guillen.


  • Elusive Archives: Material Culture Studies in Formation

    Includes: “Both Lost and Found: A Portrait of the Enslaved Homer Ryan,” Elusive Archives: Material Culture Studies in Formation. Eds., Martin Brückner and Sandy Isenstadt. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 2021, 65-72.

  • A Material World: Culture, Society, and the Life of Things in Early Anglo-America

    Includes: “‘Painting’ Faces and ‘Dressing’ Tables: Concealment in Early Southern Dressing Furniture,” A Material World: Culture, Society, and the Life of Things in Early Anglo-America. Eds., George W. Boudreau and Margaretta Lovell. University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 2019, 177-206.

  • Beyond the Face: New Perspectives on Portraiture

    Includes: “Prince Demah and the Profession of Portrait Painting,” Beyond the Face: New Perspectives on Portraiture. Ed., Wendy Wick Reaves. London: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian with D. Giles, Ltd., 2018, 42-59.


  • “Seeing Flora’s Silhouette as Portrait,” co-authored with Phillip Troutman, Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art 8:1 (June 2022)

  • “Remapping Resistance: The Place of Slavery in The Washington Family,” in “Perspectives: On Edward Savage’s The Washington Family,” American Art 35: 3 (Fall 2021): 15-25.

  • “Dancing in the Flames: Early American Andirons,” American Art  35:1 (Spring 2021): 9-15.

  • “Material Culture in the 18th Century,” in The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. Ed., Jon Butler. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014–. Article published March 25, 2021.  

  • “‘The Dark Iconoclast’: African Americans’ Artistic Resistance in the Civil War,” The Art Bulletin 99:4 (December 2017): 129-63.

    • Winner of the National Portrait Gallery’s inaugural Director’s Essay Prize 2019 (biennial award for leading research by an emerging scholar in American portraiture)
  • “George Washington’s Dentures: Disability, Deception, and the Republican Body,” Early American Studies 14:1 (Winter 2016): 2-47.

  • “The Mask of Civility: Portraits of Colonial Women and the Transatlantic Masquerade,” American Art 23:3 (Fall 2009): 8-35. 

    • Celebrated as a landmark article for the 30th anniversary issue of American Art
  • “Samplers, Gentility, and the Middling Sort,” Winterthur Portfolio: A Journal of American Material Culture 40:4 (Winter 2005): 219-48. 


Jennifer Van Horn
University of Delaware