New exhibition of historic photos of Notre-Dame in Paris

Notre-Dame, Paris, west front. Print by J. Coney, 1830

In response to the devastating Notre-Dame fire in April 2019, the Courtauld has published an online exhibition featuring 19th- and early 20th-century images of the cathedral taken from the Courtauld’s Conway Library.

Modern media gave the terrible fire at the cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris a shocking immediacy. We watched it live on 24-hour television, and followed the unfolding story on social media. Now comes the slow process of stabilising and conserving the damaged building, and, more controversially, restoring and rebuilding. The magnificent and largely 13th-century wooden roof above the vault has gone, and the central spire built by Viollet-le-Duc in the 1850s collapsed dramatically into the flames. But most of the cathedral church, begun around 1160, finished by around 1330, and heavily restored by Viollet-le-Duc and Lassus in the mid-19th century, has survived surprisingly intact.

Images have been chosen that help to tell the story of the cathedral. Many of them are photographs taken in the 19th century, during the restoration of the cathedral by Viollet-le-Duc. We have included some prints made by English artists which show the cathedral before the restoration. Evocative images of the cathedral in its cityscape are found in photographs by a British tourist, taken around 1911, and by the great architectural photographer A. F. Kersting in the third quarter of the 20th century. The early post-war city captured by Kersting now seems almost as remote as that of 1911. Photographs from the Macmillan Commission recording war damage in Europe during the Second World War show the emotive power of the cathedral and its ability to survive.

The Conway Library at The Courtauld is a collection of approximately one million photographic and printed images of architecture, sculpture and medieval painting, founded by the journalist, mountaineer, politician and pioneering art historian, Martin Conway, Lord Conway of Allington. Conway began collecting images of works of art as a student in the 1880s, and bequeathed his collection to The Courtauld Institute of Art when it was founded in 1932. A project to provide a digitised version of the entire collection is currently underway and is made possible through a dedicated team of staff and volunteers.

See the exhibition here

New Book: Practical Horsemanship in Medieval Arthurian Romance

practicalhorsemanshipThe figure of a knight on horseback is the emblem of medieval chivalry. Much has been written on the ideology and practicalities of knighthood as portrayed in medieval romance, especially Arthurian romance, and it is surprising that so little attention was hitherto granted to the knight’s closest companion, the horse. This study examines the horse as a social indicator, as the knight’s animal alter ego in his spiritual peregrinations and earthly adventures, the ups and downs of chivalric adventure, as well as the relations between the lady and her palfrey in romance. Both medieval authors and their audiences knew more about the symbolism and practice of horsemanship than most readers do today. By providing the background to the descriptions of horses and horsemanship in Arthurian romance, this study deepens the readers’ appreciation of these texts. At the same time, critical reading of romance supplies information about the ideology and daily practice of horsemanship in the Middle Ages that is otherwise impossible to obtain from other sources, be it archaeology, chronicles or administrative documentation.

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Call for papers: Horse History Sessions at the International Medieval Congress

chretien's perceval‘…the most impressive thing in the world [is] an armoured knight on horseback’ wrote Luis Zapata de Chaves in his late 16th-century treatise Del Justador. Recent flourishing of studies in horse history proves that horses not only at the core of pre-modern society but that they make an important part of medieval studies today.

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CFP: CAA session, Buildings in Bloom: Foliage and Architecture in the Global Middle Ages (sponsored by the ICMA)

Buildings in Bloom: Foliage and Architecture in the Global Middle Ages

College Art Association Annual Conference
Chicago, February 12-15, 2020

Session sponsored by the International Center of Medieval Art

CFP Deadline: July 23, 2019

This panel seeks to explore foliate forms in a cross-cultural context across geographies and cultural traditions from roughly 300 to 1500 CE. Foliate forms can be found in many types of buildings from the medieval period, displayed in prominent locations or hidden from the casual viewer’s gaze. From the Gothic cathedrals of western Europe to the Hindu temples of south Asia, builders and artisans filled their structures with flowers, leaves, fruits, and vines. These organic interventions took many forms and adorned architectonic elements in sometimes unexpected ways. They were also executed in a variety of media: sculpture, glass, mosaic, ceramics, and painting. The study of foliate forms has the potential to enliven discussions of artistic production and authorship in medieval architecture. A generation of new scholarship has richly re-integrated the decorative into architectural discourse; vegetal forms need not be filed neatly under “architecture” or “decoration,” as foliage often occupies a liminal space that defies such categorization. Furthermore, the ecological turn has reinvigorated debates concerning liveliness, between-ness, and nature in art, and this research presents a promising opportunity to apply new thinking to previously overlooked aspects of medieval monuments on a global scale while examining one of the most fundamental relationships in the history of architecture, that of nature and the built environment.

We seek papers from scholars working in any cultural context (including Western Medieval, Pre-Columbian, Byzantine, Islamic, African, South Asian, East Asian, etc.) and any building typology (sacred architecture, palace architecture, commemorative monuments, vernacular architecture). Potential questions may include but are not limited to:

-What role or roles do vegetal motifs play in articulating space, creating meaning, or mitigating identity?
-How do these forms connect to the broader cultural context?
-As historians of medieval art, how should we approach this aniconic imagery methodologically?
-What new methodologies or technologies can be employed in studying a large corpus of foliate decoration?
-What lessons might be learned from examining foliate forms across traditional cultural boundaries?

We invite interested applicants to submit a 250 word abstract and c.v. to Emogene Cataldo (emogene.cataldo@columbia.edu) and Meg Bernstein (megbernstein@ucla.edu) by July 23, 2019.

Accepted speakers may be eligible to apply for ICMA Kress Travel Grants to support travel to and from Chicago. For more information, see: http://www.medievalart.org/kress-travel-grant.

Why Put Artwork All Over Your Document? Querying Illuminated Charters

Why would you want to insert penworked letters, gold-leaf and illuminations on your legal document: company statues, a contract, a grant of land or even an indulgence? This may seem like a waste of time in the modern business context, but in the medieval culture visuals carried their own significance. The messages could be multiple. Look, it’s important, because whoever ordered or produced this document put extra time and materials into it! This document won’t get thrown away, because it’s so beautiful! It’s so rich, it must be authentic. Not to mention the visual shorthand the illuminations would generate for the document’s content. All of which, of course, could be highly misleading, because a forgery can get illuminated just as easily as an original, which I learned through my study of medieval Livonian charters.

Illuminated indulgence at the State Archives in Vienna

Illuminated indulgence at the State Archives in Vienna

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Book roundup: The Art and Architecture of the Cistercians in Northern England, c.1300-1540, by Michael Carter

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The Art and Architecture of the Cistercians in Northern England, c.1300-1540

Author: Michael Carter

Publisher: Brepols

2019, c. 328 pages
ISBN: 978-2-503-58193-4
Retail price: EUR 100,00 excl. tax

A major reappraisal of the art and architecture of the Cistercians in the late Middle Ages.

The Cistercian abbeys of northern England provide some of the finest monastic remains in all of Europe, and much has been written on their twelfth- and thirteenth-century architecture. The present study is the first in-depth analysis of the art and architecture of these northern houses and nunneries in the late Middle Ages, and questions many long-held opinions about the Order’s perceived decline during the period c.1300–1540. Extensive building works were conducted between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries at well-known abbeys such as Byland, Fountains, Kirkstall, and Rievaulx, and also at lesser-known houses including Calder and Holm Cultram, and at many convents of Cistercian nuns. This study examines the motives of Cistercian patrons and the extent to which the Order continued to enjoy the benefaction of lay society.

Featuring over a hundred illustrations and eight colour plates, this book demonstrates that the Cistercians remained at the forefront of late medieval artistic developments, and also shows how the Order expressed its identity in its visual and material cultures until the end of the Middle Ages.