Category Archives: seminar

Talk: Michael Carter, 12th November Relics and monastic identity in late medieval England

Michael Carter, Senior Historian at English Heritage, analyses the importance of relics in the construction of monastic identities in late medieval England. It will focus on two Benedictine (Battle and Whitby) and two Cistercian (Hailes and Rievaulx) abbeys. He will demonstrate that these monasteries used relics to promote and sustain their wider religious role until the time of the Suppression, and that relics were also used to affirm relations between religious houses. Relics and the development of local liturgical observance will also be discussed. Calling upon relic lists, chronicles, heraldry, wills and extant material remains, Michael will also give an idea of the broad range of sources available for the study of the cult of relics at English monasteries, and show that significant material remains unexplored or capable of reinterpretation. The talk is a work in progress, and presents preliminary findings from a projected large-scale study into relics and monasteries in the two centuries before the Suppression.

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The talk takes place on Tuesday 12th November, at 5pm in the History of Art Department (43, Gordon Sq., London WC1H 0PD) in The Keynes Library (Room 114).

Like all the seminars, the talk will finish by 5.50pm to allow those with other commitments to leave, and is then followed by discussion and refreshments.  

These talks are supported by the Murray Bequest in memory of the Department’s founder Peter Murray, and are open to all.

No booking required, but if you are sure you are coming it can be helpful to our planning if you let us know here  http://www.bbk.ac.uk/events/remote_event_view?id=8569

Seminar and Book Launch: Speaking Sculptures, Research Forum, The Courtauld Institute of Art (Vernon Square), Wednesday 23 January 2019, 5:00 pm–6:00 pm

2019.01.23_image-600x600Many statues and works of sculpture made in the late Gothic and Renaissance period are represented with mouth open, as if caught in a mid-utterance. These ‘speaking sculptures’ have received remarkably little comment from art historians. What are these speaking statues meant to be saying? And what, as viewers, are we meant to ‘hear’ and respond? The aim of this paper is to begin to unravel this illusion of speech and the agency it implies.

It would be a mistake to dismiss the phenomenon of the ‘speaking sculpture’ as just another virtuoso feature that enhanced the illusion of life and, with it, the persuasive character of a late Gothic art or Renaissance work of art. The illusion of speech creates a different level of engagement and interaction with the viewer: faced with such an image we not only look but ‘strain to hear’. Does this suggest a sort of animation that demands a living presence response? Or does the illusion of speech enhance the potential surrogacy of the statue, ‘enacting’ the hopes of the viewer? Or could it be that a speaking statue is actually ‘saying’ something quite specific that the viewer in some sense might have ‘heard’ as part of their viewing experience. If so, how do we recover the ‘period ear’ to listen in? These are some of the questions that will be addressed.k.-wood-book-cover

Kim Woods is a senior lecturer in Art History at the Open University, and a specialist in northern European late Gothic sculpture. She combines an object-based approach with an interest in materials and cultural exchange. Her single-authored book, Imported Images (Donington, 2007), focussed on wood sculpture. Since then she has been working on alabaster. Her Open University distance learning materials include the Renaissance Art Reconsidered volumes (Yale, 2007) and Medieval to Renaissance (Tate publishing, 2012).

The seminar will be followed by the launch of ‘Cut in Alabaster: a Material of Sculpture and its European Traditions 1330-1530′

Click here to book a free ticket for this seminar.

Murray Seminars at Birkbeck, Autumn 2019

16 October, Lisa Monnas

Vestments and Textiles in Hans Memling’s ‘God with Singing and Music-making Angels 

Three large panels in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, painted by Hans Memling in the 1480’s, represent a heavenly scene framed by clouds, which part to reveal the central figure of God attended by sixteen singing and music-making angels. Thye once formed the top of the high altarpiece of the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria la Réal in Nájera, in Spain. In the central panel, God is depicted vested as priest and ruler, and the angels in this and in the flanking scenes wear clerical dress. The work has been interpreted as relating to the Good Friday liturgy and the Exaltation of the Cross, but since the panels originally formed the top of an altarpiece whose main subject was the Assumption of the Virgin, this is open to doubt. This paper will re-examine the vestments and textiles in the newly conserved panels, assessing their ‘realism’ and their contribution to the heavenly scene. It will also consider them in the wider context of some of Memling’s other works.

14 November, Jana Gajdosova

Sculpted Genealogies: The Effigies of Bohemian rulers in Prague Cathedral

With the death of Wenceslas III, the Přemyslid dynasty, which had ruled Bohemia for over four centuries, came to an end. The murder of the young king created chaos in the kingdom for several decades; however, after the marriage of Elizabeth of Přemyslid and John of Luxembourg and the subsequent birth of Charles IV (1316 – 1378), Bohemia reached the height of its political and cultural power in Europe. Charles IV saw himself as a bridge between two Bohemian dynasties – the Přemyslids of the past and the Luxembourgs of his envisioned future. This link was communicated with painted genealogies in at least three of Charles’ castles, and with staged genealogies across Prague. The fascination that Charles had with re-imagining and visualizing his role within the dynastic shift that occurred also found expression in the sculpted genealogies which are the subject of this paper—specifically the effigies of Přemyslids rulers commissioned by Charles IV for Prague Cathedral, which were made to communicate these ideas in sculpture and across real space.

5 December, Marie-Louise Lillywhite 

Blood is Thicker than Water: Artists, Friends and Family Alliances in Seventeenth-Century Venice

How did Venetian artists forge alliances to advance their interests and ensure the continuation of their workshops? Focusing on the painter Palma il Giovane, this paper explores his concerted efforts to continue his family name through strategic marriages, and safeguard his success through advantageous friendships. This study will demonstrate how these potentially positive relationships impacted artistic production in Venice for better, or indeed worse.

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.  We hope to see you there.

Institute of Historical Research’s European History, 1150-1550 Seminar

FilippoilbelloAll are welcome to attend the opening lecture of the 2018 autumn term for IHR’s seminar, European History, 1150-1550. Julien Théry ( University of Lyon) will present his lecture entitled, ‘The French Way. The Rift between The Papacy and Capetian Monarchy under Philip the Fair (1285-1314)’ this Thursday, 27th September.

The complete 2018-19 programme can be found here.

Free Online Course: The Book of Kells, Trinity College Dublin

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Trinity College Dublin is offering a new online course started 8 October. This course is intended for any and all interested in the history, crafting, and enduring legacy of one of the world’s most famous medieval manuscripts.

The Book of Kells manuscript, housed at Trinity College Dublin is world famous – it attracts almost one million visitors a year. But what can this book tell us about Irish history? And what significance is the manuscript in today’s world?

On this course you will use the Book of Kells as a window through which to explore the landscape, history, faith, theology, and politics of early medieval Ireland. You will also consider how the manuscript was made, its extended biography and how it has affected different areas of the contemporary world.

Please the visit the course’s website for more information.