Camouflage is not the exclusive domain of animals. Humans also practice it, in hunting, war and fashion, social behaviour, and the arts. It is not restricted to artefacts; it also occurs in social behaviour, when people disguise their social status, desires, or motives behind appearances they judge to be more acceptable or effective. The shared domain of animal and human camouflage and mimicry raises many psychological, cultural, behavioural, and evolutionary questions about the relations between such animal and human behaviour, but it also offers new ways of thinking about the relations between human and other animals, the evolutionary origins of cognition, image-making, and empathy, and new departures for a dialogue between the humanities and life sciences. In this network we will bring together zoologists, cognitive scientists, as well as specialists of art, costume, gardens, the hunt, and the theatre, to discuss how camouflage and mimicry shape animal and human behaviour and artefacts, and how an understanding of this shared domain can help rethinking the relations between human and other animals. We hope that this network will also provide a major impulse to the rethinking of a radical gap between animals and humans that takes place in philosophy as well as in ethology for instance.

Here are some readings to provide some background to the seminars and its research agenda:

This network will consist of regular fortnightly lectures, on Mondays from 17:00 – 19:00, offered over Zoom and in person, from speakers based in and out of Cambridge offering different perspectives on camouflage.

Supported by CRASSH



  • Caroline van Eck (Professor of Art History, Department of Art History)
  • Ulinka Rublack (Professor of Early Modern European History, Faculty of History)

About the convenors

Professor Caroline van Eck studied art history at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris, and classics and philosophy at Leiden University. She has taught at the Universities of Amsterdam, Groningen and Leiden, where she was appointed Professor of Art and Architectural History in 2006. She has been a Visiting Fellow at the Warburg Institute and the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art at Yale University, and a Visiting Professor in Ghent, Yale, the Ecole Normale in Paris, the Scuola Normale in Pisa and the Villa I Tatti in Florence. In September 2016 she took up her appointment as Professor of Art History at Cambridge, and in 2017 she gave the Slade Lectures in Oxford on Piranesi’s late candelabra. In 2017 she founded, with colleagues in Ghent, Leiden and Pisa, the Cultures of Camouflage Network.

Recent publications include Piranesi’s Candelabra and the Presence of the Past (Oxford University Press 2023); and Camouflage, zoomorphism, and the origins of image-making’, in: David Wengrow (ed.), Thought, Image and the Making of the Social World, Freiburg: Propylaeum Verlag, 2020 (Freiburger Studien zurArchäologie und Visuellen Kultur (FAVis), pp. 93-115.

Professor Ulinka Rublack  completed her PhD in Cambridge under the supervision of the late R.W. Scribner, was offered a lectureship at Cambridge University in 1996 and has taught at the History Faculty and St John´s College ever since. Her books are translated into six languages, including Arabic and Chinese, and have been awarded prestigious international prizes. A particular focus of her work is the history of art and of dress. Her book Dressing UP: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe was published by OUP in 2010, and she has recently published Dürer´s Lost Masterpiece: Art and Society at the Dawn of a Global World, also with OUP.  Rublack is currently writing a global history of dress practices.

Faculty advisors

  • Alyce Mahon (Head of the Department of Art History, University of Cambridge)
  • Mary Laven (Professor in Early Moden History, Chair of the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge)

Programme 2023 - 2024

Lent term 2024

Mimesis and Mimicry
22 Jan 2024 17:15 - 19:00, Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge

Caroline van Eck (Cambridge), Niki Hadikoesoemo (Amsterdam)

Camouflage and mimicry in the life sciences and the arts
5 Feb 2024 17:15 - 19:00, Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge

Jane Munro (Fitzwilliam Museum), Rebecca Kilner and James Herbert-Read (Zoology, Cambridge)

Empathy and camouflage
19 Feb 2024 17:15 - 19:00, Online & Seminar room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge

Michael Tomasello (Duke/Max Planck Institute for Evolution Studies), Maurice Saß (Alanus Hochschule für Kunst und Wissenschaft, Alfter)

Camouflage and evolutionary aesthetics
26 Feb 2024 17:15 - 19:00, CRASSH Meeting Room, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DP

Lorenzo Bartalesi (Pisa)

Camouflage research in the arts, sciences and warfare: a State of the Art
28 Feb 2024 16:00 - 17:30, Online & Audit Room, King's College, King's Parade, CB2 1ST

Michaelmas term 2023

Download the term card 

Camouflage in nature and the arts
16 Oct 2023 17:00 - 19:00, Online & Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road

Peter Forbes (London), Caroline van Eck (Cambridge)

Camouflage and theatricality
30 Oct 2023 17:00 - 19:00, Online & Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge

Bridget Orr (Vanderbilt), Bram van Oostveldt (Ghent)

Camouflage and fashion
13 Nov 2023 17:00 - 19:00, Online & Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road

Camilla Annerfeldt (Swedish Institute), Andrew Groves (Westminster)

Cross-cultural camouflage
27 Nov 2023 17:00 - 19:00, Online & Wine room, King's College, King's Parade, Cambridge

Jonathan Lamb (Vanderbilt), Nicholas Thomas (Cambridge)


Easter term 2024


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk