Professor Melissa Percival
Professor of French, Art History and Visual Culture
Melissa Percival grew up in Nottingham and did her undergraduate degree in French and German at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. She returned to Cambridge to write an interdisciplinary PhD on facial expression in the Enlightenment period. She was appointed Lecturer at the University of Exeter in 1996 and promoted to a Personal Chair in 2017. In the course of her career she has held visiting positions at the University of Tübingen, the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, the University of California Santa Barbara, and the University of Toulouse Jean-Jaurès. Her research has been supported by the British Academy, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Recently she was awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship to write her next book on the global history of French printed textiles.
A specialist in art, literature and history of ideas of the French eighteenth century, Melissa Percival's publications include: Physiognomy and Facial Expression in Eighteenth-Century France (1999), Physiognomy in Profile: Lavater's Impact on European Culture (2005), and Fragonard and the Fantasy Figure: Painting the Imagination (2012). In 2015-16 she co-curated the exhibition 'Ceci n'est pas un portrait': figures de fantaisie de Murillo, Fragonard, Tiepolo at the Musée des Augustins, Toulouse. Her most recent book is Fancy in European Visual Culture, (2020) in the series Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment. Current research includes the notion of risk in portraiture, and a new project on French textiles in a global context.
Melissa Percival teaches on Exeter's undergraduate degree programmes in both Modern Languages and Art History and Visual Culture. She offers a variety of interdisciplinary and research-led modules, for example on 'the face' and on private life in the eighteenth century, as well as contributing to core French language teaching.
She supervises PhD students on topics connected with the eighteenth-century and also French painting and visual culture. She would be happy to talk to any prospective research students who are interested in working in these areas.
- Sebastian Tym, Gustave Doré's Hisory of Holy Russia
- Nihan Cetintas, Turquerie and Consumption in Britain, 1717-1775
- Rebecca Ford. Man and the Animal Kingdom: D’Holbach and the Encyclopédie’.
- Madeleine Percival. Women’s Memoirs from the Late Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.
- Paul Willis. The Italian sketch books of Joshua Reynolds.
- Maria Anesti. Eremitic landscape dwelling in Confucian China and Enlightenment Europe.
- Nigel Pratt. Decorative Plasterwork in Devon and Somerset c.1560-1670.