Conference: ‘Book Ornament and Luxury Critique’, Institute of Art History, Zurich, 16-17 September 2022

The research group “Textures of Sacred Scripture. Materials and Semantics of Sacred Book Ornament” is organizing a two-day international conference on “Book Ornament and Luxury Critique”. The conference, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, will take place at the Institute of Art History at the University of Zurich from 16 to 17 September 2022.

Registration is required by 12.09.2022: thomas.rainer@uzh.ch. A Zoom link will be provided for participants who cannot attend in person.

When, how, and under what circumstances might book ornament be understood as offensive, and which strategies were employed to avoid such critique or to create books that are ostentatiously ascetic? Since antiquity, philological correctness was opposed to ornament in the rhetorical discourse, which associated an overtly rich language with overblown luxury and female adornment. Already in Roman literature, this gendered discourse was projected onto the material artifacts of writing, a tradition that influenced the varied discussions about the materiality of sacred books and their status in Christian, Islamic and Jewish book cultures from Late Antiquity until the end of the Middle Ages and beyond. In all three religious traditions, this critical discourse about scriptures, script and ornament established connections “between ornamenting bodies, buildings and language, in which fancy forms are rejected in favor of plain, and embellishment opposed to simplicity in a dialect of truth and falsity” (F. B. Flood, in: Clothing Sacred Scriptures, ed. D. Ganz/B. Schellewald, Berlin/Boston 2019, 52). The conference will explore the entire range of such critique of book ornament in Christian, Islamic and Jewish book cultures, and analyzes their specific contexts and semantics, as well as the spaces of negotiation, in which artists, commissioners and users could react to critical allegations without simply obeying them.

Find out more about the conference information here.

Conference Programme

16 September 2022

09:00-09:30Introduction
David Ganz (UZH)
09:30-10:20Striving for Authenticity: The Rabbinic Conception of a Kosher Torah Scroll as a Matter of Purity and Holiness
Annett Martini (FU Berlin)
10:50-11:40Gender, Luxury Critique and the Make-Up of Sacred Scripture in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages
Thomas Rainer (UZH)
11:40-12:30Distract or Engage? The Ornamented Qur’an in the Hands of Its Beholder
Alya Karame (Orient-Institut Beirut)
14:00-14:50Notis ornare libellos: Manuscript Illumination as a Sumptuary Art in the Middle Ages
Stefanos Kroustallis (ESCRBC, Madrid)
14:50-15:40Liturgical Luxury as the Devil’s Bait: Church Ornaments as Objects of Temptation in Western European Manuscript Painting c. 1025-1275
Sommer Hallquist (University of Cambridge)
16:00-16:50Material Semantics of Monastic Reform: Austerity and Ostentation in Twelfth-century Cistercian Bookbindings
Nancy K. Turner (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles)

17 September 2022

09:00-09:50Mind the Gap: Silentium in Insular Gospels and Book-Shrines
Heather Pulliam (University of Edinburgh)
09:50-10:40Between the Text and the Image: Micrography, Its Critique and Actual Practices in Medieval Ashkenaz
Ilona Steimann (Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg)
11:00-11:50Semantic Interpretation of the Decorations and Layouts of the Paris Kitāb al-Diryāq in Light of Cultural Graphology
Farnaz Masoumzadeh (Art University of Isfahan – AUI)
11:50-12:40Non-Gilded Islamic Devotional Manuscripts: Towards a History of Non-Luxury Materiality in the Islamic World
Nadirah Mansour (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
AfternoonExcursion to the Zentralbibliothek Zürich (ZB) and visit to the workplace of the luxury critics and leaders of the Zurich reformation Huldrych Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger

Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

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