Murray Seminars Spring Term 2020

We’re pleased to announce the details of this term’s Murray Seminars on Medieval and Renaissance Art at Birkbeck.

Seminars take place at 5pm in the History of Art Department (43, Gordon Sq., London WC1H 0PD) in The Keynes Library (Room 114), unless stated otherwise.  Talks finish by 5.50pm to allow those with other commitments to leave, and are then followed by discussion and refreshments.  These talks are supported by the Murray Bequest in memory of the Department’s founder Peter Murray, and are open to all.

This term’s papers are as follows:

3rd February (previous date 27/01 has been changed):

James Hall, ‘Embattled Exclusivity: the Aesthetics and Politics of Michelangelo’s Attack on Flemish Painting’.

In a dialogue composed by Francisco de Holanda, Michelangelo launches a diatribe against painting produced in Europe north of the Alps, attacking what he sees as its crowdedness and materialism; its lack of order and discrimination; its sentimentality and its popularity with the ignorant and especially with women. This talk explores Michelangelo’s disparagement of Flemish painting within its rich cultural and political context. His antipathy draws on a historic association between those who lived north of the Alps with the Goths and Vandals who destroyed ancient Rome. Their modern mercenary descendants were still invading Italy, and their artforms – musical as well as visual – had done so too. However, Michelangelo’s main concern was less with Flemish art, than with the fact that it was so influential on Italian artists, including Michelangelo himself. To make matters worse, he was working in the Sistine Chapel, filled with supreme products of Flemish culture, and things were not going well.

25th February:  

Federico Botana, ‘A gift for Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici? The Aritmetica by Filippo Calandri’ 

The Aritmetica (Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, MS 2669, c. 1485) is one of the most lavish libri d’abbaco (mathematical treatises) that has come down to us from Renaissance Florence. The Aritmetica is illustrated with sixty-five miniatures, many consisting of lively scenes relating to trade, crafts and games. It has been thought that the manuscript was created for Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici. The evidence that will be presented in this seminar, however, strongly suggests that a member of the Dell’Antella family commissioned the manuscript, and that it was later given to Lorenzo for use by his son Giuliano, the future Duke of Nemours.  In addition to presenting evidence on the original ownership of the manuscript, the paper discusses the contents and readership of libri d’abbaco, and the personality and intellect of Giuliano de’ Medici, which at a young age made him a worthy recipient for such a gift.

16th March:  

Sarah Ferrari ‘Provenance matters: acquisitions of Venetian Renaissance art in Northern Europe between the First and the Second World War’.

This paper sheds new light on the dynamics of the European art market by investigating a group of paintings that were acquired by the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Sweden, between 1917 and 1954. The group includes works attributed to Titian, Tintoretto, Schiavone and Veronese, some of which were once part of the celebrated collection of Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-1689). The paper offers an account of both documentary sources and material aspects, in order to identify the network of collectors and dealers involved, while at the same time analyzing the role of national identity as a driving force in the context of these acquisitions.

We hope to see you soon,

The History of Art Department, Birkbeck