Tag Archives: Ivories

Conference review: Microarchitecture and Miniaturized Representation of Buildings (INHA, Paris 8-10 Dec 2014)

Search for “microarchitecture conference” on Google, and you will mostly be returned results concerning gatherings of computer programmers. This would doubtless make the concept of a conference on medieval microarchitecture entertaining to many. Even ignoring this parallel nomenclature, the sort of microarchitecture art historians are interested in is not an easy concept to explain, and perhaps one of the primary goals of the conference held at the Institut Nationale d’Historie d’Art in Paris was to actually work out what we had all come together for. I doubt wasn’t the only one who wondered whether my own material actually qualified.

Professor Timmermann with his pocket cathedral

Professor Timmermann with his pocket cathedral

Achim Timmermann (University of Michigan), a man who could indeed be dubbed “Mr. Microarchitecture”, gave an exciting overview of the concept in Early, High and Late Middle Ages, so epic in its scope of fantastic structures that the screen ought to have expanded into Imax proportions. His account demonstrated how microarchitecture transformed from the idea of a “pocket cathedral” into such an isolated ontological sphere that it crossed into convolute monstrosity with its self-mimesis by the late fifteenth century. An alternative and quite staggeringly rich oration, based on his new book Gothic Wonder, was given by Paul Binski among the medieval statuary in the ancient Roman baths of the Museé de Cluny. For Paul, the medieval intellectual aesthetic condensed great and small, magnificent and minificent, into an idea characterised by a single playfulness of embellishing surface with ornament. A more formal account, jointly delivered by Javier ibàñez Fernandez (Universidad de Zaragozza) and Arturo Zaragozá Catalán (Universidad de Valencia), introduced a 7-part taxonomy of microarchitecture in Spain: from functional maquettes to decorative miniaturisation of large-scale forms.

Sebastian Fitzner and some extraordinary medieval tile ovens

Sebastian Fitzner and some extraordinary medieval tile ovens

In this framework of ideas of categorisation, many new genres of object were introduced to the conference room. The present writer, of course, had packed a selection of sedilia, which by now I am certain always prove novel to continental audiences. But we also had stone tile ovens like traceried office blocks from Sebastian Fitzner (LudwigMaximilians-Universität München), Orthodox chivots for Eucharist reservation that mimic the forms of their parent building from Anita Paolicchi (Università di Pisa) and Renaissance elevation drawings that were originally intended to be folded and constructed into paper models from Giovanni Santucci (Università di Pisa).
These models are sort of things we would love to have more evidence for in the Middle Ages to explain the transmission of ideas, but alas, even presentation drawings and plans are difficult to come by. The miniaturisation of large forms into the decorative or representational was covered in papers by Sabine Berger (Sorbonne) on votive churches in the hands of donor statues and Peter Kurmann (ETH, Zurich) on relationship of tabernacle canopies to the geometry and form of great chevets.

Matthew Sillence with cardinals' seals

Matthew Sillence with cardinals’ seals


Final panel with Alexander Collins, Julian Gardner (chair), Sophie Cloart-Pawlak and Sarah Guérin

There was also consideration of the desirability of microarchitecture and its meaning beyond the artists’ play with novel forms. Matt Ethan Kalaver’s (University of Toronto) account of the earliest transmission of classical forms into the Netherlands by the high nobility on their tombs was reflected in the earlier centuries considered by Julian Gardner (University of Warwick) and Matthew Sillence (University of East Anglia). Their papers both focused on how influential medieval prelates and cardinals were for spreading new forms on their seals, which, quite thankfully, was a big part of my paper where also bishops seem the first to stick pointy gables over sedilia in chantry chapels they have endowed.
Perhaps one drawback about the novelty of much of the material is that it is only in retrospect to draw many of these parallels across sessions. One panel however that held together very well that at the end of the final day, between Sophie Cloart-Pawlak (IRHiS, Lille), Alexander Collins (University of Edinburgh) and Sarah Guérin (University of Montréal) who all explored the function and symbolism of microarchitecture on the spectator.
This was my first international conference, and it was a highly convivial experience with high-quality papers throughout. There was a healthy mix of postgraduates, early career researchers, established scholars and some legendary old hands. It is planned that the proceedings will be published, and therefore it should provide a much-needed general framework for the minificent microcosm of the fiddliest bits of the decorative arts.

The international conference Micro-architecture et figures du bâti au Moyen-Âge: l’échelle à l’épreuve de la matière was at the Institut Nationale d’Historie d’Art from the 8-10 Dec 2015. Here is our original post of the call for papers, the full programme and the INHA’s official page.

We also had a bit of fun tweeting the conference because we’re so Web 3.0.

Gothic Ivories: Context and Content

Christ Crucified between two thieves, the Wallace Collection, London

Christ Crucified between two thieves, the Wallace Collection, London

A first look at the big programme for the joint British Museum/Courtauld conference on Gothic ivories.



Saturday 5 July: The Courtauld Institute of Art, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre


9.30 Registration (reception hall-Courtauld Institute)


10.00 Introduction John Lowden and Catherine Yvard, The Courtauld Institute of Art


10.15 KeynotePaul Williamson, Victoria and Albert Museum
‘They Who Only Ivories Know, Know not Ivories’: Polychrome and Other Micro-Carvings around 1400 in their Broader Context.


Session One: The Object and its History

10.45 The Ivory Virgin and Child from the Martin Le Roy Collection

Danielle Gaborit-Chopin, Musée du Louvre, Parisand Juliette Levy-Hinstin, Conservator, Paris

11.05 A Happy End: The Group of the Descent of the Cross Reunited

Élisabeth Antoine-König, Musée du Louvre, Paris and Juliette Levy-Hinstin, Conservator, Paris

11.25 Looking Closely: What a 14th-Century Ivory has been Waiting to Tell Us

Lydia Chávez, University California Berkeley


11.45 Coffee break


Session Two: Ivories in Context: Sources and Uses

12.15 I segni del potere. I Pastorali gotici in avorio per i Vescovi dell’Italia mediana

Ileana Tozzi, Museo Diocesano di Rieti

12.35 Buying, Gifting, Storing: Ivory Madonnas in Documentary Sources from Late Medieval Central Europe

Christian Nikolaus Opitz, University of Vienna

12.55 What’s in a Name: Peigniers, Tabletiers, and Late Flamboyant Parisian Ivory

Katherine Eve Baker, Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris


13.15 – 14.30 Lunch


Session Three: Ivory Carving in the 16th century

14.30 Reproductions Reproduced. Woodcut, Ivory and Terracotta

Ingmar Reesing, University of Amsterdam

14.50 Biting, Dripping, Screaming? Active Bone on a Medical Knife Handle

Jack Hartnell, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London

15.10 Anatomical Impulses in 16th-Century Memento Mori Ivories

Stephen Perkinson, Bowdoin College, Brunswick (Maine)


15.30 Refreshments


Session Four: Collecting in the 19th Century

16.00 Gothic Ivories in an Unknown Illustrated Catalogue of the Collection of Clément Wenceslas, Comte de Renesse-Breidbach (1776 – 1833)

Franz Kirchweger, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

16.20 Fictile Ivories: Diffusing the Taste for and Connoisseurship of Gothic Ivories

Benedetta Chiesi, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

16.40 William Maskell and his Network: a 19th-Century Case Study

Naomi Speakman, The British Museum, London


17.00 – 18.00 Reception




Sunday 6 July: The British Museum, Stevenson Lecture Theatre


9.30 Registration


10.00 Introduction Naomi Speakman, Curator of Late Medieval Collections, The British Museum


10.15 KeynoteMichele Tomasi, Université de Lausanne
Why the Embriachi?


Session One: New Perspectives on Embriachi Carving

10.45 When is a Workshop not a Workshop? Re-considering Embriachi Bone Carving

Glyn Davies, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

11.05 The Embriachi Collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts, Paris

Monique Blanc, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris


11.25 Coffee break


Session Two: Questions of Iconography

11.55 The Son of Man Crowned in Thorns: Gothic Ivories and the Invention of Tradition in 13th-Century Paris

Emily Guerry, University of Oxford

12.15 A Workshop Reconstructed: Construction and Content

Sarah Guérin, Université de Montréal

12.35 Twin Plaques from the State Hermitage Museum and Budapest Museum of Applied Arts: an Iconographical Study

Marta J. Kryzhanovskaia, The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg


12.55 – 14.00 Lunch


Session Three: Relationships with Other Media

14.00 The Use of Gothic Ivories as a Basis for the Iconography of the Tomb of Lady Inês de Castro (Alcobaça Monastery – ca. 1358 -1362)

Carla Varela Fernandes, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Lisbon

14.20 Christ Crucified Between Two Thieves in the Wallace Collection London

Geoffrey Rampton, Independent Scholar, London

14.40 Ivory, Parchment, Paper: Ivory Sculpture and the Arts of the Book, 14th-16th Century

Catherine Yvard, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London


15.00 Refreshments


Session Four: Collectors and Ivories, 19th– 20th Centuries

15.30 ‘Collected with Love and Care’: Gothic Ivory in the Neutelings Collection of Medieval Sculpture

Lars Hendrikman, Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht

15.50 Paul Thoby, MD.: a Constant Collector

Camille Broucke, Musée Dobrée, Nantes

16.10 De Aves Venando in Eburibus: Two 19th– or 20th-century Ivories Acquired by Sir William Burrell

Anisha Birk, The British Museum, London and Robert Gibbs, University of Glasgow


16.30 – 16.45 Concluding remarks

Tickets will be available here soon: