Murray Seminars Autumn Term 2019

Welcome to the new academic year! We’re pleased to announce the details of this term’s Murray Seminars on Medieval and Renaissance Art at Birkbeck.  You’ll find a poster attached, which we hope will be of interest to you and your colleagues or students.  I’d be most grateful if you could display it on any noticeboards, or circulate it to any forums where you think it would be of interest.

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. No booking required.

This term’s papers are as follows;

Petr Uličný, 16th October, 5pm

The Origins of Renaissance Architecture in Bohemia

This seminar considers the leisure architecture of Central Europe in the Renaissance. He explores how two kings of Bohemia, Mathias Corvinus and Vladislaus Jagiello, hired foreign architects to bring the fashion for Renaissance architecture to central Europe. The Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand I, continued to do the same. As a result, palaces in Prague and Kutná Hora were built or ‘updated’ in styles which could be decades-old in their native Italy, but entirely novel in their new surroundings.

Michael Carter, 12th November, 5pm

Relics and monastic identity in late medieval England


Michael Carter, Senior Historian at English Heritage, analyses the importance of relics in the construction of monastic identities in late medieval England. Focussing on two Benedictine (Battle and Whitby) and two Cistercian (Hailes and Rievaulx) abbeys. He suggests that monasteries used relics to promote and sustain their wider religious role until the time of the Suppression, and that relics were also used to affirm relations between religious houses. The paper will also give an idea of the broad range of sources available for the study of the cult of relics at English monasteries, and show that significant material remains unexplored or capable of reinterpretation

Laura Jacobus, 4th December, 5pm

Faces and Enigmas: maker-portraits by Giotto and Giovanni Pisano

During the later middle ages, the questions ‘who makes an art-work?’ and ‘what is a portrait?’ had no simple answers.  The person who commissioned a work of art could be seen as the person responsible for its creation, and the person we call the artist could be regarded as just one of the means employed to make it. The word ‘portrait’ was not in use (at least not in its modern sense), and images of people were not expected to look like anyone recognisable. Giotto and Giovanni Pisano were two of the most famous artists working in Italy in the years around 1300 and they wanted recognition in every sense of the word. But how?

We look forward to seeing you,

The History of Art Department, Birkbeck

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Murray Seminars Autumn Term 2018-19

I’m writing with details of this term’s Murray Seminars on Medieval and Renaissance Art at Birkbeck. These advanced research seminars are open to all, and attract interested members of the public, staff and students from other London colleges and beyond.  They are an opportunity to hear and contribute to cutting-edge research, often at the very early stages of work in progress.

All this term’s seminars take place in the History of Art Department at Birkbeck (43, Gordon Sq., London WC1H 0PD) in Room 114 (The Keynes Library) at 5pm.  Talks finish by 5.50pm (allowing those with other commitments to leave) and are then followed by discussion and refreshments.  We hope to see you there.

This term’s seminars are:

16 October, Lisa Monnas

Vestments and Textiles in Hans Memling’s ‘God with Singing and Music-making Angels 

Three large panels in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, painted by Hans Memling in the 1480’s, represent a heavenly scene framed by clouds, which part to reveal the central figure of God attended by sixteen singing and music-making angels. Thye once formed the top of the high altarpiece of the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria la Réal in Nájera, in Spain. In the central panel, God is depicted vested as priest and ruler, and the angels in this and in the flanking scenes wear clerical dress. The work has been interpreted as relating to the Good Friday liturgy and the Exaltation of the Cross, but since the panels originally formed the top of an altarpiece whose main subject was the Assumption of the Virgin, this is open to doubt. This paper will re-examine the vestments and textiles in the newly conserved panels, assessing their ‘realism’ and their contribution to the heavenly scene. It will also consider them in the wider context of some of Memling’s other works.

14 November, Jana Gajdosova

Sculpted Genealogies: The Effigies of Bohemian rulers in Prague Cathedral  

With the death of Wenceslas III, the Přemyslid dynasty, which had ruled Bohemia for over four centuries, came to an end. The murder of the young king created chaos in the kingdom for several decades; however, after the marriage of Elizabeth of Přemyslid and John of Luxembourg and the subsequent birth of Charles IV (1316 – 1378), Bohemia reached the height of its political and cultural power in Europe. Charles IV saw himself as a bridge between two Bohemian dynasties – the Přemyslids of the past and the Luxembourgs of his envisioned future. This link was communicated with painted genealogies in at least three of Charles’ castles, and with staged genealogies across Prague. The fascination that Charles had with re-imagining and visualizing his role within the dynastic shift that occurred also found expression in the sculpted genealogies which are the subject of this paper—specifically the effigies of Přemyslids rulers commissioned by Charles IV for Prague Cathedral, which were made to communicate these ideas in sculpture and across real space.

5 December, Marie-Louise Lillywhite 

Blood is Thicker than Water: Artists, Friends and Family Alliances in Seventeenth-Century Venice

How did Venetian artists forge alliances to advance their interests and ensure the continuation of their workshops? Focusing on the painter Palma il Giovane, this paper explores his concerted efforts to continue his family name through strategic marriages, and safeguard his success through advantageous friendships. This study will demonstrate how these potentially positive relationships impacted artistic production in Venice for better, or indeed worse.

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Murray Seminars at Birkbeck, Summer Term

THE MURRAY SEMINAR ON MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE ART

All seminars are held at 5pm in The Keynes Library, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43, Gordon Sq., London, WC1H OPD. A break at 5.50pm is followed by discussion and refreshments. 

1 May, Cristina Guarnieri, University of Padua

The Stories of St. Lucy by Jacobello del Fiore, and Venetian folding reliquary altarpieces

The Stories of St. Lucy by Jacobello del Fiore are one of the masterpieces of Italian Late Gothic painting, but their function has been little understood. Re-evaluating prevailing theories about the panels’ purpose and display, this paper proposes that they formed a folding reliquary altarpiece, and considers other examples of this type which was once common in the Veneto.

5 June, Michelle O’Malley, the Warburg Institute

Botticelli: A conundrum of production

Two versions of Botticelli’s Virgin and Child with an Adoring Angel suggest raise fundamental questions about the specifics of authorship in the workshop and how we, as art historians, understand Renaissance artistic practice and construct attribution. This paper looks again at the technical evidence and the value of connoisseurship in tracking the development of the use of reproductive technique in late fifteenth-century Florence.

27 June, Alison Wright, UCL

Gold against the Body:  gold surfaces and their limits, medieval to early modern

The myth, famously invoked in Goldfinger, of the human body suffocated by being coated in gold exemplifies the fascination and danger attached to the idea of an ‘excess’ of gold, especially in respect to human skin. This paper explores the slippery boundaries of when, where and for whom gold surfaces might be deemed excessive in relation to European art, especially Italian, of the fourteenth to early sixteenth centuries.

All this term’s seminars take place in the History of Art Department at Birkbeck (43, Gordon Sq., London WC1H 0PD) in Room 114 (The Keynes Library) at 5pm.  Talks finish by 5.50pm (allowing those with other commitments to leave) and are then followed by discussion and refreshments.  We hope to see you there.

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Murray Seminars: Spring Term 2018

MURRAY SEMINARS – Spring Term 2018

These advanced research seminars are open to all, and attract interested members of the public, staff and students from other London colleges and beyond.  They are an opportunity to hear and contribute to cutting-edge research, often at the very early stages of work in progress.

All this term’s seminars take place in the History of Art Department at Birkbeck (43, Gordon Sq., London WC1H 0PD) in Room 114 (The Keynes Library) at 5pm.  Talks finish by 5.50pm (allowing those with other commitments to leave) and are then followed by discussion and refreshments. This term’s seminars are:

17 January: Carol Richardson

Britons and Anglo-Saxons in Sixteenth-Century Rome: the 1580s fresco cycle at the English College

William Allen referred to Bede’s Ecclesiastical History as a seminarian’s reader because it proved that Christianity in Britain derived directly from the Catholic church in Rome from its very origins. This was an important argument in the context of Tudor persecution of Catholics because of the Protestant assertion that British Christianity had taken root long before the missions of Augustine of Canterbury introduced the corrupted Roman version of Christianity. This paper will consider the earliest part of the fresco cycle in the English College, which survives as printed images, in light of this deliberate historiographical choice.

13 February: Emanuele Lugli

Chasing Absence: The Body of Christ and the Measures to Enter in Touch with it

This talk focuses on the singular devotion for the ‘mensura Christi,’ or the act of praying with objects that reproduced the height of Christ. It explores the reasons for its phenomenal success, from its diffusion in the twelfth century up to its ban in the seventeenth, and the motives for its marginalization in historical accounts today. The talk asks questions about what turns an orthodox veneration into a mere superstition, an inversion that is all the more puzzling given that the ‘mensura Christi’ relies on measuring, one of the methods to fight credulity. The lecture thus reconsiders the relationships of measuring practices, visual belief, and religious orders, thus contributing to discussions on representations, faith, and material studies.

14 March: Luca Palozzi

‘And the great lion walks through his innocent grove’. A cross-disciplinary study of lion paw prints in Giovanni Pisano’s Pisa pulpit

Giovanni Pisano carved animal tracks on the base of one of two lions bearing columns in his pulpit for Pisa Cathedral (1302-1310). Overlooked for more than seven centuries, these are the first naturalistic paw prints carved in marble in post-Classical Western art. This paper presents the initial results of a joint art historical and anatomical study of the Pisa paw prints conducted by Dr Luca Palozzi and Dr Gurå Bergkvist. In so doing, it tackles the much-debated issue of Medieval ‘naturalism’ (and its means) from an unusual perspective. A cross-disciplinary approach, that is, may help us find new answers to long-standing questions.

We hope to see you there.

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Murray Seminars Spring Term 2017

The programme of Murray Seminars on Medieval and Renaissance Art continues this term with the following seminars.

All are welcome.

22 February 2017

Laura Jacobus ‘”Mea culpa?” Penitence, Enrico Scrovegni and me’ The Arena Chapel in Padua was until very recently thought to be commissioned as an act of restitution for usury, and its frescoes by Giotto as an expression of penitence on the part of the patron Enrico Scrovegni.  That view has now been challenged by Laura Jacobus and others.  But two of her recent discoveries have the potential to reinforce the established view and undermine her own.  What happens when a researcher uncovers inconvenient truths, and what is to be done?

15th March 2017  

Péter Bokody  ‘The Politicization of Rape: Giotto’s Allegory of Injustice in Padua’ suggests that the allegory of Injustice in the Arena Chapel (Padua) by Giotto  and the allegory of War in the Palazzo Pubblico (Siena) by Ambrogio Lorenzetti are key allegorical images of rape which can offer critical and politicized representations of sexual violence without sanitizing or eroticizing the act. Their unparalleled representations of sexual violence have implications for a general history of rape and the visual culture of late-medieval Italy.

All this term’s seminars take place in the History of Art Department at Birkbeck (43, Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD) in Room 114 (The Keynes Library) at 5pm.  Talks finish by 5.50pm (allowing those with other commitments to leave) and are then followed by discussion and refreshments.  We hope to see you there.

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