Sylvia W. Houghteling

Associate Professor of History of Art
Sylvia W. Houghteling headshot


Phone 610-526-5652
Location Old Library 232


Areas of Focus

Early Modern Art | South Asian Art | Decorative Arts and Material Culture


Sylvia Houghteling specializes in early modern visual and material culture with a focus on the history of textiles, South Asian art and architecture, and the material legacies and ruptures of European colonialism.

Houghteling’s first book, The Art of Cloth in Mughal India (Princeton University Press, 2022) examined the textiles crafted and collected across the Mughal Empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, showing how woven objects helped to shape the social, political, religious, and aesthetic life of early modern South Asia. The book received a College Art Association Millard Meiss Publication Fund Grant and won the 2023 Charles Rufus Morey Book Award from the College Art Association. The Art of Cloth in Mughal India was also the recipient of the 2022 R.L. Shep Memorial Book Award from the Textile Society of America. Houghteling’s ongoing research is concerned with questions of temporality and the unique material histories of the Indian Ocean trade.

Houghteling received her Ph.D. in the history of art from Yale University in 2015, where she received the Frances Blanshard Fellowship Fund Prize for her doctoral dissertation. She holds an A.B. in history and literature from Harvard University (2006), and an M.Phil. in history from the University of Cambridge (2007). Houghteling’s research has been supported by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Council of Learned Societies, the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Fulbright program, the Huntington Library, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the Wolf Humanities Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Beinecke Scholarship Program.

Before entering the field of art history, Houghteling gained experience in weaving, textile dyeing, fashion design, felting, block-printing, and silk-painting. As someone who became interested in art through making it, Houghteling teaches and learns through conversations with contemporary practitioners and hands-on encounters with objects.

Teaching Interests

Sylvia Houghteling teaches undergraduate and graduate-level courses that study art objects in the context of the intercultural connections and conditions of exploitation of the early modern period; theories of ornament; the history of the textile medium; tapestry; and the visual arts and material culture of South Asia.

Selected Publications

*If it is not possible for you to access any of these publications in your library or online, please contact Sylvia Houghteling directly at

Click here to view a YouTube video: "Conversation: Where the Wind Blows: Histories of Textiles and Colours in the Works of Lavanya Mani"