Carolyn Yerkes specializes in Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Focusing on European buildings from the 15th through 18th centuries, much of her latest research investigates relationships between architectural theory and techniques of architectural representation.
Her first book, Drawing after Architecture: Renaissance Architectural Drawings and Their Reception (Marsilio 2017), examines the nature of architectural evidence by asking how Renaissance architects used images to explore structures, to create biographies, and to write history. Countering the enduring tendency to valorize the original, Drawing after Architecture restores the copy to its crucial role in the history of architectural theory and invention. The book was awarded the James Ackerman Prize in the History of Architecture, and was a finalist for the 2019 Charles Rufus Morey Book Award from the College Art Association.
Yerkes’s ongoing projects on Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778) take architecture’s relationship to print as their primary subject. Piranesi Unbound (Princeton University Press 2020), a book co-written with Heather Hyde Minor, demonstrates that within Piranesi’s volumes, textual erudition, academic argument, and experimental printmaking techniques were fundamentally intertwined. An exhibition on this theme will open in the new galleries of Princeton’s Firestone Library in September 2021. The twin goals of the book and exhibition are to view Piranesi’s remarkable imagery within the context of the twelve books that he designed.
In addition to further research on architectural drawings and on Piranesi, other topics that have interested Yerkes lately include staircases, echo chambers, lost architectural fragments, inscriptions, printing technologies, subterranean construction, and architects’ letters. Now she is working on a book about early modern architectural experiments. The book examines how architects used buildings to explore the natural world, including such phenomena as acoustical echoes, gravity, optics, and time.
Yerkes joined Princeton’s faculty in 2014. Before that she was curator of rare books at Columbia’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library. She also taught classes in art history and architecture in Columbia’s Department of Art History and Archaeology. At Princeton, she is a Faculty Fellow of Rockefeller College, and is interested in advising graduate students pursuing dissertations across the field of early modern architecture.