Tag Archives: reliquary

CFP: Scaling the Middle Ages: Size and Scale in Medieval Art, 24th Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium, The Courtauld Institute of Art, February 8, 2019

The Courtauld Institute of Art’s 24th Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium invites speakers to consider issues and opportunities encountered by medieval artists and viewers in relation to size and scale.

Deadline: 16 November 2018

From micro-architectural reliquaries and minute boxwood prayer beads to colossal sculpture and the built spaces of grand cathedrals and civic structures, size mattered in medieval art. Examples of simple one-upmanship between the castles and palaces of lords and kings and the churches and cathedrals of abbots and bishops are numerous. How big to make it was a principal concern for both patrons and makers of medieval art. Scale could be manipulated to dramatic effect in the manufacture of manuscripts and the relative disposition of elements within their decorative programmes. Divine proportions – of the Temple of Solomon or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – were evoked in the specific measurements and configuration of contemporary buildings and decisions were made based on concern with numbers and number sequences.

Inspired by the ‘Russian doll’ relationship between the Sainte Chapelle in Paris and its micro-architectural miniature in the form of a gilded reliquary in the Musée de Cluny, Scaling the Middle Ages seeks to explore a range of questions surrounding proportion, scale, size, and measurement in relation to medieval art and architecture. The Sainte Chapelle, built by the saint-king of France Louis IX to house the relics of Christ’s Passion, is itself often described as an over-sized reliquary turned inside-out. The Cluny reliquary – made to house relics of Saints Maxien, Lucien, and Julien held within the chapel – both complicates and compliments that comparison, at once shrinking the chapel back down to size through close architectural quotation of its form in miniature and pointing the viewer’s attention back to that same, larger space. The relationship between these two artefacts raises a host of questions, including:

Scale and making

  • How were ideas about size and scale communicated between patrons, architects, craftspeople, and artists? In an age without universal standardised units of measurement, how did craftsmen negotiate problems of scale and proportion?
  • How were the measurements of a medieval building determined? What techniques did architects, masons, and artists use to determine the scale of their work?

Scale and meaning

  • What effects were achieved and what responses evoked by the manipulation of scale, from the minute to the massive, in medieval art?
  • What was the role of proportion and scale in architectural ‘copies’ or quotations?
  • What representational problems were encountered by artists approaching out-sized subjects, such as giants?
  • How was scale manipulated in order to communicate hierarchy or relative importance in medieval art?
  • How did size and scale function in competition between patrons or communities in their artistic commissions and built environments?

Problems of scale

  • What, if anything, happened when something was the wrong size? When was something too big, or too small? And how were such problems solved by patrons and makers?
  • How does the disembodied viewing of medieval art through digital surrogates distort or assist in our perception of scale?
  • How can modern measuring techniques and digital technology enhance our understanding of medieval objects and buildings?

Applicants to the colloquium are encouraged to explore these and related issues from a diverse range of methodologies, analysing buildings and objects from across the Middle Ages (broadly understood in geographical and chronological terms). The Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium offers an opportunity for research students at all levels from universities across the UK and abroad to present, discuss and promote their research.

To apply, please send a proposal of up to 250 words for a 20-minute paper, together with a CV, to teresa.lane@courtauld.ac.uk and oliver.mitchell@courtauld.ac.uk no later than 16 November 2018.

Organised by Oliver Mitchell and Teresa Lane (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Click here for more information:

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On this day in 1337…

Reposted from IAS Blog

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Reliquary of the Santo Corporale, gold and silver with basse taille enamel, 1.39×0.63 m, 1338 (Orvieto Cathedral). Source: Scala/Art Resource, NY

On 7 May 1337 goldsmith Ugolino di Vieri received the first payment for his masterpiece, the reliquary of the Santo Corporale of Bolsena. Payments are recorded for the following two years, reflecting the long process of creating an artwork as complex and monumental as this.

 

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Details of the Corporale, showing scenes from the Miracle. Source: Sailko on 
Wikimedia Commons.

The work was commissioned by the Bishop and Canons of Orvieto Cathedral to celebrate a miracle which had taken place in the nearby town of Bolsena in 1263. A priest in the town had become increasingly sceptical of the religious dogma of transubstantiation, namely the real conversion of the wine and bread used at Mass into the body and blood of Christ at the moment of their consecration. As the priest was celebrating the Eucharist one day, the consecrated host started bleeding on the corporal, the linen cloth used to cover the altar at this point of the celebration. Awed by the supernatural event, the priest described it to Pope Urban IV, who recognised it as a miracle and ordered the preservation of the blood-stained corporal as a relic.

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Façade of the Duomo of Orvieto. Source: Hans Peter Schaefer on Wikimedia Commons

Conceived to contain the square corporal, Ugolino di Vieri’s reliquary abandoned the circular or polygonal shape typical of earlier objects of this type. Instead, it adopted a flat, rectangular structure which evokes an altarpiece or the façade of a church. The gables crowning the object are in fact very similar to those of Orvieto cathedral’s own façade.

 

 

 

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Duccio di Buoninsegna, Maestà (back, conjectural reconstruction by Lew Minter), tempera on panel, 1308–1311. Source: Web Gallery of Art.

The iconography of the reliquary is as innovative as its form. It is decorated with 32 scenes representing the Passion of Christ and the Miracle of Bolsena in colourful basse taille enamel. The former narrative is illustrated with scenes copied from the famous Maestà altarpiece painted by Duccio di Buoninsegna for Siena Cathedral in 1308–11. Instead, the miracle had never been represented in art before, and Ugolino had to invent a completely new iconography to represent the event. Proud perhaps of his great achievement, Ugolino inscribed the reliquary with his name and with its date of completion.

 

On the day of Corpus Christi, 1338, a solemn procession transported the completed reliquary from Ugolino’s workshop to the cathedral. The procession evokes the similar celebration held for Duccio’s Maestà in 1311, as narrated by an anonymous Sienese chronicler:

On the day on which [the Maestà] was carried to the Duomo, the shops were locked up and the Bishop ordered a great and devout company of priests and brothers with a solemn procession, accompanied by the Signori of the Nine and all the officials of the Comune, and all the populace and all the most worthy were in order next to the said panel with lights lit in their hands, and then behind were women and children with much devotion; and they accompanied it right to the Duomo making procession around the Campo, as was the custom, sounding all the bells in glory out of devotion for such a noble panel as was this.

In Orvieto, Ugolino’s reliquary is still paraded every year during Corpus Christi celebrations.


Reference: Geddes, Helen. “Ugolino di Vieri.” Grove Art Online. http://www.oxfordartonline.com/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7000086908.