Professor Mónica Domínguez Torres has had a truly international career, from South America to North America passing through Europe. Before joining the University of Delaware in 2003, she worked as a curator at the National Art Gallery in Caracas, in her birth country Venezuela, and moved on to obtaining a MA in Museum Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada. As part of her Master’s program, she held a summer-long internship at the museum of the Monastery of Pedralbes in Barcelona, Spain, a female convent founded in 1327. Its community had lived at the site virtually uninterrupted until 1983, when they moved to an adjacent modern building and the Gothic complex was opened to the public. “Among the many museums I have been to in my life, the Museu-Monestir de Pedralbes holds a special place,” she tells us. “It is a living historic relic, with the cloistered nuns still residing next door. I never got to see any of them, but I could hear them cooking in the kitchen, praying and chanting in the church choir and, when one of the sisters died, opening the crypt below the cloister for the burial.”
Professor Domínguez always thought her professional life would be devoted to interpreting works of art for museum audiences but, once she had her first taste of university teaching as part of her doctoral training, she was hooked. As a college professor, Domínguez says, “I not only get to share with others all what I have learned and experienced in many different contexts throughout the years, but I can also pursue research projects that go beyond specific museum collections and priorities.” In particular, it has allowed her to study cross-cultural interactions between Spain and the Americas through a number of interpretative lenses. Currently she is working on a book manuscript, Pearls for the Crown: European Courtly Art and the Rise of the Atlantic Pearl Trade, studying the impact of the New World pearl industry (which originated in the coast of today’s Venezuela) in early modern art. “This line of research lets me produce new readings of pieces that have usually been neglected within the art historical canon,” she adds, “and reflect on issues of materiality and eco-politics in Renaissance art history.” She is offering this Spring a graduate seminar entitled Collecting New Worlds, which examines the incorporation of non-European materials, artifacts, and images (mainly coming from the Americas) into early modern European artistic representations and collections.