Making and Meaning in the Art of the Middle Ages - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Making and Meaning in the Art of the Middle Ages

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Making and Meaning in the Art of the Middle Ages


Professor John Lowden

The issues addressed include some of those most debated in art history: the links between form and content; matters of attribution and connoisseurship; the relations between the visual and the verbal (or ‘text and image’); the use of models and sources; the division of labour, workshops, and ‘schools’; the definition and role of ‘the patron’ (male or female), ‘the artist’, ‘art’.

At the same time the use of various methodologies is considered, and the historiographical aspect of the subject is never overlooked.

The production of art is considered largely, but not exclusively, in terms of detailed study of the works themselves. This is carried out in part at first hand with the originals, in part through the use of the unrivaled photographic resources of the Conway Library, and in part through publications available in The Courtauld and in other specialist libraries in London.

The consumption of art is extrapolated from a variety of sources, amongst which the often overlooked evidence of the objects themselves remains crucial, and can be deduced by a range of strategies.

The structure of the course is in terms of materials, with special attention paid in turn to metalwork and enamel, stained glass, wall-painting and mosaic, sculpture (including ivory carving), and manuscript illumination. The works chosen for consideration are from the Romanesque and Gothic periods, roughly between about 1050 and 1250, and were made in different parts of Europe. They are chosen for their variety, as well as their perceived importance, and are approached in an appropriately opportunistic manner: asking different questions, exploring different approaches.

The research dissertation normally takes up some aspect of the taught course.

The facilities for the study of medieval art in London are excellent, and students can take full advantage of these. MA students are welcomed at the various medieval seminars at The Courtauld and elsewhere in London. The activities of the Research Centre for Illuminated Manuscripts provide particular support for those with an interest in this area.

Courtauld Course Lecturer

About the lecturer

After studying English as an undergraduate at Cambridge, John Lowden took the MA (1977) and PhD (1980) at The Courtauld. He had a temporary appointment in art history at St Andrews, before joining the academic staff of The Courtauld in 1982. He is active nationally and internationally as a member of scientific committees (Anjou Bible-Leuven), advisory boards (chair, Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts, British Library), and as a supervisor of doctoral research. As director of the Research Centre for Illuminated Manuscripts he seeks to facilitate and forward research in relevant areas. He is convenor of the Leuven-Lille-London study group, which has met annually since 1999.

The Making of the Bibles Moralisées, was awarded the 2002 Gruendler Prize for the best book in medieval studies. His Early Christian and Byzantine Art (now in its sixth impression) has been translated into French, Greek, Japanese and Korean. He has been a British Academy/ Leverhulme Senior Research Fellow (1992-93), and he gave the Grinfield Lectures in the University of Oxford (1996-98). He was co-investigator with Dr Scot McKendrick (British Library) on the AHRC-funded ‘ROYAL’ project (2008-2011), and director of the privately–funded Gothic Ivories Project at The Courtauld (2008-2015). He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, and Perspective: La revue de l’INHA. He was elected member of the Academia Europaea in 2006 and a fellow of the British Academy in 2013.

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