Study Day: Madonna and Child Reliefs

In March the Courtauld hosted a study day focusing on five fifteenth-century Madonna and Child reliefs in the Gallery’s collections. It was held under the auspices of the Research Forum, and organised in collaboration with the V&A. Colleagues from UCL, the V&A, University of Warwick and Metropolitan Museum joined Courtauld staff and Professor Rubin’s MA students in a series of discussions in front of the sculptures. The objective was to explore the relationships between the reliefs at the Courtauld and the V&A. The group considered the devotional context, the transmission of models and motifs and questions of attribution through a comparison of four reliefs associated with the so-called ‘Master of the Marble Madonnas’, including one from the Courtauld’s Gambier-Parry collection. Close observation of each work stimulated new discoveries.

Following an ambitious timetable, we started before the assembled works at the Courtauld Galleries. At the V&A we examined related works with Peta Motture and her team and visited the V&A store in Battersea. One session included an examination under the microscope by Aviva Burnstock of the painted stucco pieces where she revealed the identity of several of the pigments. The discussions in front of the sculptures were extremely productive. Finally, we had the treat of a stucco Madonna and Child with its original polychromy, and we are grateful to Daniel Katz and Stuart Lochhead for access to it.

The discussions demonstrated the value of intensive and collaborative study, and object-based teaching.

Dr. Peter Dent and Dr. Alexandra Gerstein