Robert Bagley

Professor Emeritus


Robert Bagley studies the art and archaeology of Neolithic and Bronze Age China. His special interests include ancient metal technology, the origins of writing, ancient music theory, the comparative study of ancient civilizations, and a range of topics in the broader discipline of art history, e.g., ornament, and the historiography of art.

Current Research

Professor Bagley is currently working on a book of essays about the historiography of art and on a general history of art in China, Neolithic to Han. He has written a chapter titled “Art, 1400 B.C. to A.D. 900” for volume 4 of the forthcoming Cambridge History of the World.


Ph.D., Harvard University, 1981

Selected Publications

Gombrich among the Egyptians and Other Essays in the History of Art. Seattle: Marquand Books, 2015. 

“Art.” Chapter 8 in Craig Benjamin, ed., The Cambridge History of the World, Volume 4, A World with States, Empires, and Networks, 1200 BCE – 900 CE (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 179-234.

 “Ancient Chinese Bells and the Origin of the Chromatic Scale.” Zhejiang University Journal of Art and Archaeology 2 (2015), pp. 56-102.

“Anyang Mold-making and the Decorated Model,” Artibus Asiae 69 (2009).

Max Loehr and the Study of Chinese Bronzes: Style and Classification in the History of Art, Cornell East Asia Series 141 (East Asia Program, Cornell University, 2008).

“Interpreting Prehistoric Designs,” chapter 1 in Iconography without Texts, Warburg Institute Colloquia 13, ed. Paul Taylor (Warburg Institute, 2008).

“The Prehistory of Chinese Music Theory,” Proceedings of the British Academy 131 (2005).

“Anyang Writing and the Origin of the Chinese Writing System,” chapter 7 in The First Writing: Script Invention as History and Process, ed. Stephen D. Houston (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

“What the Bronzes from Hunyuan Tell Us about the Foundry at Houma,” in Chinese Bronzes: Selected Articles from Orientations 1983–2000 (Orientations Magazine Ltd., 2001).

“Shang Archaeology,” chapter 3 in The Cambridge History of Ancient China, ed. Michael Loewe and Edward L. Shaughnessy (Cambridge University Press, 1999).

“Meaning and Explanation,” Archives of Asian Art 46 (1993).

“Shang Ritual Bronzes: Casting Technique and Vessel Design,” Archives of Asian Art 43 (1990).

Early Chinese Art and Archaeology
Home Department and Other Affiliations
Art & Archaeology
Department of East Asian Studies