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 papers are as follows :
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: Emmanuele 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.