Online Conference: Medieval and Early Modern Spaces and Places: Courtly Encounters, The Open University, 9th-11th June 2021

In 2021 The Open University’s interdisciplinary Spaces and Places conference will address the theme of ‘Courtly Encounters’ by exploring instances of cultural exchange that shaped the day-to-day and extraordinary sensory experiences of court life.

Since Subrahhmanyam’s seminal book Courtly Encounters, scholars have incorporated the transcultural in courtly studies, but not to the extent it deserves. At a time when scholars across the humanities are embracing a ‘global turn,’ it is an important moment to reassess court studies and consider new approaches that allow us to move beyond Eurocentricism and simple explanations of ‘shared’ tastes and also adopt novel approaches.

The early modern court was not a closed entity but was reliant on the movement of people and things, its power being dependent on its relationships with other courts and states. In the early modern period, increased exploration led to fierce competition over the control of trade routes and territories, and inevitably led to diplomatic entanglements that reached from Brazil to Portugal to India. These entanglements brought about hostile relationships, confusion and admiration, giving rise to cross-cultural transfer, exchange and friction as objects, practices and people moved through trade and diplomacy.

This conference will examine courtly encounters during the early modern period to consider the following questions:

  • How were courtly spaces adapted and transformed through the movement of material and immaterial things and to what extent did those things condition sensorial experiences?
  • Which particular aspects of political, social, and economic infrastructures enabled the exchange of objects, ideas, and people?
  • To what extent do new methodologies and approaches need to be developed to consider courts within a global geopolitical network and how might sensorial approaches enable this?
  • How might sensory experiences of the same objects differ according to courtly environments (considering, for example, transcultural exchange or experiences of objects in different architectural spaces and/or geographical locations)?

This annual conference is fundamentally interdisciplinary: literary, musical, architectural, artistic and religious spaces will be the subjects of enquiry, not as discrete or separate entities, but ones which overlapped, came into contact with one another, and at times were in conflict.

The conference will take place online on Microsoft Teams with shorter presentations and more of a workshop format to accommodate the online platform. The event is free, but requires registration before 7th June:


9 June 2021 17:00-18:00

Keynote Lecture

Katherine Butler-Schofield (King’s College London) ‘Something Borrowed, Something New: Appropriation and Integration in Mughal Courtly Arts, 1580–1680’

10 June 2021

Exchanges and Images I

13:00 Jacopo Gnisci (University College London/British Museum) ‘The Veiled Emperor: On Courtly Customs in Ethiopia’

13:30 Rachel Carlisle (Florida State University) ‘Maximilian on the Move: Imperial Architecture and Courtly Spectacle in Print’

14:00 Break

Exchanges and Images II

14:15 Stefan Gasch (University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna) ‘What’s in a Book? Music, Miniatures, and Meaning in Wolfenbüttel Cod. Guelf. A Aug. 2°’

14:45 Rebecca Teresi (Johns Hopkins University) ‘A Gift Between Queens: Portraiture and Devotional Politics in Anglo-Spanish Relations, 1604-1606’

15:15 Break

Exchanges and Objects

15:30 Juan Chiva Beltrán (Universitat de València) ‘A Palace Between Asia and Europe: Luxury Objects in the Court of the Viceroys of New Spain’

16:00 Isabella Cecchini and Veronica Prestini (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice) ‘Accepting Ottomans in Florence: Spaces and Objects at the Medici’s Court (15th-17th centuries)’

16:30 Closing Discussion

17:00 End

11 June 2021

Exchanges and Urban Culture

13:00 C. Cody Barteet (The University of Western Ontario) ‘The Maya Court at Mayapán: Gaspar Antonio Chi’s Colonial Reflections and Self-Representation’

13:30 Alessandra Bertuzzi (“Sapienza” University of Rome), ‘Urbino “Città in forma di Palazzo” Spaces and Identity between Arts and Science ‘

14:00 Break

European Exchanges

14:15 M.A. Katritzky (The Open University) ‘Italian stage costumes at German court weddings’

14:45 Jaroslaw Pietrzak (Pedagogical University in Krakow), ‘The Polish Royal Court as a Common Space of Polish-German-Italian and French encountering between 16th and 17th century’

15:15 Break

Exchanges in Tudor England

15:30 Jonathan Gibson (The Open University) ‘French Poetry and the Elizabethan Court’

16:00 Alexandra Siso (University of Colorado Boulder) ‘Building Early Modern Tabernacles: Elizabethan Composers and the Fashioning of Sacred Courts’

16:30 Michael Ohajuru (Institute of Commonwealth Studies) ‘The John Blanke Project: Imagine the black Tudor trumpeter’

17:00 Closing Discussion

17:30 Online drinks reception (bring your own bottle)

18:00 Close


Published by charlottecook

Charlotte Cook graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in European History from Washington & Lee University in 2019. In 2020 she received her Master’s degree in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, earning the classification of Merit. Her research explores questions of royal patronage, both by and in honor of rulers, in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England. She has worked as a researcher and collections assistant at several museums and galleries, and plans to begin her PhD in the autumn of 2022.

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