Conference: Seeking Transparency, Florence, 19-20 May 2017

Seeking Transparency: The Medieval Rock Crystals International Conference

Florence, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut, Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai, Via dei Servi 51, May 19 – 20, 2017

Organized by Avinoam Shalem (Riggio Professor, Arts of Islam, Department of art history and Archaeology, Columbia University, NYC) and Cynthia Hahn (Professor of Art History, Department of Art and Art History, Hunter College, NYC)

Like the sea, the history of the production of carved rock crystals during the Middle Ages has its ebb and flow. From Late Antiquity to the age of the great Portuguese expansion, centers of productions of rock crystal rose and fell, and yet the specific knowledge of carving the hard material was kept a closely guarded secret. Royal courts and wealthy churches were eager patrons for the luxurious objects produced by these centers because rock crystal was valued as one of the most desirable and precious of all materials, ascribed mysterious origins and powers, and renowned for both rarity and clarity. The conference Seeking Transparency: The Medieval Rock Crystals to be held on May 19-20 at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz aims at revealing the global and cross-cultural histories of rock-crystal production in and beyond the lands of the Mediterranean Sea. It investigates varied aspects such as the physical nature of the material, its manufacturing techniques, affiliations to other modus operandi of luxurious objects, like cut glasses and carved precious stones, legends and traditions associated with its aesthetic qualities, as well as issues concerning the historiography of rock crystal.


Friday, May 19

09.00 – 09.15
Cynthia Hahn and Avinoam Shalem
Opening Remarks

09.15 – 10.00
Jens Kröger
The State of Research on Rock Crystals from the Islamic Lands in the 20th century

10.00 – 10.30
Elise Moreno
Relief-Carving on Medieval Islamic Glass and Rock Crystal: a Comparative Approach to Techniques of Manufacture

10.30 – 11.00
Jeremy Johns
The Medieval Islamic Rock Crystal ‘Industry’: Problems and Approaches

Coffee Break

11.30 – 12.00
Marcus Pilz
Beyond ‘Fatimid’ – The Iconography of Medieval Islamic Rock Crystal Vessels and the Question of Dating

12.00 – 12.30
Isabelle Bardiès-Fronty
As Beautiful as Mysterious: Updating the State of Research on the Lionheads at the Musée de Cluny

12.30 – 13.00
Stéphane Pradines
Madagascar, the Source of the Abbasid and Fatimid Rock Crystals. New Evidence from Archaeological Investigations in the Comoros Islands

Lunch Break

14.30 – 15.00
Venetia Porter
Amulets of Rock Crystal

15.00 – 15.30 Genevra Kornbluth
Transparent, Translucent, and Opaque: Merovingian and Anglo-Saxon Crystal Amulets

Coffee Break

16.00 – 16.30
Gia Tousaint
Rock Crystals in Church Treasuries. A Survey of Form and Function
16.30 – 17.00
Beate Fricke
Traveling Treasures – from Leo Insidiabatur to Agnus Dei

Saturday, May 20

10.00 – 10.30
Ingeborg Krueger
Man-Made Crystal: Crystal like Glass in the Middle Ages

10.30 – 11.00
Patrick Crowley
Rock Crystal and the Alchemical Sublime in Ancient Rome

Coffee Break

11.30 -12.00
Stefania Gerevini
Paradoxes of Material Implication. Medieval Rock Crystal between Clarity, Poverty and Splendor

12.00 – 12.30
Bissera Pentcheva
Shimmering Dualities: Crystal and the Poetics of the Resurrected Body

12.30 – 13.00
Hannah Baader
Transparency and the Landscapes of Quartz

Lunch Break

14.30 – 15.00
Brigitte Buettner
Solidly Transparent: Rock Crystal in Lapidary Knowledge

15.00 – 15.30
Farid Benfeghoul
Through Islamic Lenses: Rock Crystal and other Gems as Visual Aids

Coffee Break

16.00 – 16.30
Concluding Remarks
Gerhard Wolf’s ‘Reflexions’

Ester Fasino


Published by thegrailquest

Anastasija Ropa holds a doctoral degree from Bangor University (North Wales), for a study in medieval and modern Arthurian literature. She has published a number of articles on medieval and modern Arthurian literature, focusing on its historical and artistic aspects. She is currently employed as guest lecturer at the Latvian Academy of Sport Education. Anastasija’s most recent research explores medieval equestrianism in English and French literary art and literature, and she is also engaged as part-time volunteer horse-trainer. In a nutshell: Lecturer at the Latvian Academy of Sport Education Graduate of the School of English, University of Wales, Bangor. Graduate of the University of Latvia Passionate about history, particularly the Middle Ages A horse-lover and horse-owner

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