Sally M. Promey

Deputy Director and Professor of Religion and Visual Culture (ISM) and Professor of American Studies (FAS)
Denomination: United Church of Christ

Sally M. Promey is Director of the Yale Initiative for the Study of Religion and Visual Culture, generously supported by a grant awarded in 2008 from the Henry Luce Foundation. Prior to arriving at Yale, she was chair and professor in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Maryland, where she taught for fifteen years. Her scholarship explores relations between visual culture and religion in the United States from the colonial period through the present. Her most recent book project is entitled Sensational Religion: Sensory Cultures in Material Practice. Other recent projects include Religion in Plain View: The Public Aesthetics of American Belief and Written on the Heart: Protestant Visual Culture in the United States. Promey’s Painting Religion in Public: John Singer Sargent’s “Triumph of Religion” at the Boston Public Library received the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in the Historical Study of Religion and Spiritual Spectacles: Vision and Image in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Shakerism was awarded the Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art.

Recent articles and book chapters include essays titled “Mirror Images: Framing the Self in Early New England Material Piety”; “Taste Cultures and the Visual Practice of Liberal Protestantism, 1940–1965”; “Situating Visual Culture”; and “The ‘Return’ of Religion in the Scholarship of American Art.”

Promey is recipient of numerous grants and fellowships including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a residential fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, two Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellowships (1993 and 2003) at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Teachers. In 2001 she received the Regent’s Faculty Award for Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity from the University System of Maryland; and in 2002 the Kirwan Faculty Research and Scholarship Prize, University of Maryland. She was co-director (with David Morgan, Duke University) of a multi-year interdisciplinary collaborative project, “The Visual Culture of American Religions,” funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Lilly Endowment Inc. A book of the same title, co-edited by Professors Promey and Morgan, appeared in 2001 from University of California Press. In 2004 she was senior historian in residence for the Terra Summer Residency Program in Giverny, France. She serves on the editorial boards of Material Religion, American Art, and Winterthur Portfolio, the Council of the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture, and the Advisory Committee of the Center for Historic American Visual Culture at the American Antiquarian Society.


B.A., Hiram College
M.Div.,Yale University
Ph.D., University of Chicago


  1. Sensational Religion, ed. (Yale University Press, 2014)
  2. The Visual Culture of American Religions, co-ed. (University of California Press, 2001)
  3. Painting Religion in Public:  John Singer Sargent’s “Triumph of Religion” at the Boston Public Library (Princeton University Press, 1999)
  4. Spiritual Spectacles:  Vision and Image in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Shakerism (Indiana University Press, 1993)