Elsje’s research is broadly concerned with the viewing, use and display of early modern art. In her monograph The Lives of Paintings: Presence, Agency and Likeness in Venetian Art of the Sixteenth Century (De Gruyter, 2017), she examines how and why people in Titian’s Venice treated certain paintings and other works of art as living beings. Ongoing research focuses on the art of display in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Venice, Paris, and Lisbon. Another major research project looks at the circulation of Asian material culture between Portugal, England and Holland c. 1600. Further research and teaching interests include portraiture, early modern art theory, early museums, the visual arts in literature, and theories of presence and the agency of things.