Blakesley is expected to serve for “at least five years" with a maximum tenure of ten yearsHannah Mawardi for Varsity

Professor Polly Blakesley, an author and art historian, has been appointed as the next master of Pembroke College, following an eight-month replacement search.

Prof Blakesley will replace Lord Chris Smith, who has held the role since 2015. Prior this, Lord Smith was a Labour MP and the first openly gay politician in the UK.

Blakesley will take over from Lord Smith of Finsbury on October 1st 2025, and is expected to serve for “at least five years” with a maximum tenure of ten years.

Professor Blakesley has been a Fellow at the College since 2002 and was promoted to the University Professorship in Russian and European Art in 2018.

She is currently a trustee at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Samuel Courtauld Trust, having previously served on the boards of the National Portrait Gallery and the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Blakesley is a leading art historian in the visual culture of imperial Russia and the Baltic region, and currently researching Russia’s artistic engagement in the Baltic with support from the Leverhulme Trust.


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Her latest book, Women Artists in the Reign of Catherine the Great, was shortlisted for the Apollo Book of the Year.

Prof Blakesley said: “It is an honour to take on this role at a pivotal moment in Pembroke’s history, as we celebrate the completion of Dolby Court and realise the extraordinary potential of the Mill Lane project for Pembroke as a whole.”

“I look forward to serving the College’s many communities as we sustain our commitment to excellence and diversity and embrace the opportunities ahead,” she continued.