Illuminating Objects Programme - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Illuminating Objects Programme

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Illuminating Objects


Illuminating Objects shines new light on unexpected objects from the decorative arts and sculpture collections in a series of small displays focused around one object.

The point of Illuminating Objects is to dust off (sometimes quite literally!) these wonderful , unexpected and largely unknown objects. Each object will remain on display for three months.

The project is delivered in partnership with interns from a variety of disciplines and institutions including SOAS, King’s College London, the University of Kent in Canterbury, Imperial College and University College London.

17th Century Decorated Frame

The current display in The Courtauld Gallery is from 8 June 2017. Natasha Gertler, a Masters student in Science Communication at Imperial College London, examines a beautiful inlaid frame made in Rome in the first half of the 17th century, from the viewpoint of the geology of the decorative stones.

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A Pendant in the Form of a Book

13 November 2015 – 15 March 2016

This Illuminating Objects display examines an unusual early seventeenth-century pendant, possibly a reliquary, showcasing this delicate object for the first time since it entered the collection of The Courtauld Gallery with the Gambier-Parry Bequest in 1966. The display discusses the origins and iconography of the pendant, and considers its appeal for the Anglo-Catholic artist and collector Thomas Gambier Parry (1816-1888). The pendant has been researched with a particular focus on the relationship between faith and aesthetics in Victorian England.

The display was researched and prepared Devon Abts, a PhD candidate in theology at King’s College London.

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A Venetian Chalcedony and Adventurine Glass Bowl

March 2015 – 11 November 2015

This Illuminating Objects display investigates the cultural and scientific history of this 18th century Venetian glass bowl. Chalcedony and aventurine glass are two techniques beautifully demonstrated in this bowl. The display looks at the role of chance in scientific discovery and art, the relationship between the natural world and man-made products, and the complex techniques that went into the creation of this object.

The display was researched and prepared by Eleanor Magson, a Masters student in Science Communication at Imperial College London.

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Queen Anne Silver Coffee Pot

26 November 2014 to 1 March 2015

This Illuminating Objects display reflected on an early 18th century English coffeepot from the perspective of the cultural context of coffee consumption.

The display was researched and prepared by Maryam Ala Amjadi, a doctoral candidate in the School of English jointly at the University of Kent in Canterbury and the Universidad do Porto, Portugal.

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West African Loom Pulley

4 June – 12 November 2014

This object is a beautifully carved wooden loom pulley used in textile weaving, made by the Guro people of Côte D’Ivoire in West Africa in the late 19th or early 20th century.

The display was researched and prepared by Niamh Collard, a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her doctoral research is concerned with the educational and working lives of narrow-strip weavers in eastern Ghana, having spent a year in the field during which she apprenticed as a weaver.

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Iznik dish

On display from 6 November 2013

This Illuminating Objects display showcased an Iznik dish (1560-65). The dish is interpreted through a textual analysis of the floral symbolism –  the whirling composition is seen in the light of mystical meditations and the language of flowers through Ottoman lyrical poetry.

The display was researched and presented by Laila El-Sayed, a PhD candidate in the School of English jointly at the University of Kent and the Freie Universität in Berlin.

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Filigree Drinking Glasses

24 July to 4 November 2013

The two glasses on display in this Illuminating Objects span this era of European glass making. The first glass is a beautifully patterned Venetian or Venetian-style goblet; decorated with a delicate white pattern which is echoed in the stem of the second glass on display- an 18th century English wineglass.

This summer’s Illuminating Objects is a collaboration with a student from Imperial College London. Victoria Druce is studying for a postgraduate degree in Science Communication and is interested in the science of the objects she is displaying: a Venetian or Venetian style 16th century goblet and an 18th century English wine glass.

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German miniature picture Bibles

1 May to 22 July 2013

This pair of German miniature picture Bibles entitled Dess Alten Testaments Mittler: Dess Neuen Testaments Mittler, was produced by two sisters from Augsburg in the late seventeenth century. They were most likely designed for use in private devotion.

The dish has been researched, presented and interpreted by Josephine Neil, a PhD candidate in Theology and the Arts, at King’s College London.

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Dish decorated in lustre with raised boss of concentric rings

Spanish Lustre Dish

6 February to 29 April 2013

This splendid luxury object is displayed on its own for the first time since it was acquired by The Gallery, as part of the Gambier-Parry bequest in 1966.

The dish has been researched, presented and interpreted by Tanja Tolar, a PhD candidate in the History of Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London).

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Cross in cypress wood carved with scenes from the Bible and Church legend; partially gilt, mounted on a later metal stand

Mount Athos Cross

30 October 2012 to 3 February 2013

This large cross, decorated with minutely carved scenes of the Old and New Testament, was used for the benediction of the congregation during the liturgy of the Orthodox Church.

The intern responsible for the first Illuminating Object is Dr Eleni Dimitriadou, who recently completed her PhD in Byzantine art at The Courtauld Institute of Art, and is currently working as a Visiting Lecturer, in addition to her work as research assistant at the British Museum where she is cataloguing Byzantine material.

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