Frustrated Seeing: Scale, Visibility and a Fifteenth Century Portuguese Royal Monument
The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London
Wednesday 24 May 2017
PLEASE NOTE: This Date Has Passed
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Research Forum Seminar Room, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN
- Dr Jessica Barker - University of East Anglia
- Dr Tom Nickson - The Courtauld Institute of Art
This paper considers the tomb of João I, King of Portugal (d. 1434), and his English wife Philippa of Lancaster (d. 1415) in the Founder’s Chapel at the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria de Vitória, Batalha. Recent studies have emphasised the artistic virtuosity and innovative design of the royal effigies. Yet the sculpted figures are also extremely difficult to see in situ, resting upon a tomb chest that measures 170 cm from the base of the supporting lions to the chamfer of the chest. My research explores this apparent paradox, focussing on the extraordinary height of the tomb chest and its implications for the relationship between the effigies and their viewers. Through an examination of the interactions between scale and sight in the Founder’s Chapel, I seek to complicate the notion that late-medieval art was characterised by a ‘need to see’, suggesting that the limited, conditional or partial visibility of an artwork could be a strategy to produce a distinctive type of aesthetic experience, lending the memorial both meaning and importance.
Jessica Barker is a Lecturer in Art History at the University of East Anglia. She recently published an edited collection of essays, Revisiting the Monument (Courtauld Books Online 2016), examining the legacy of Panofsky’s writing on funerary monuments, and has articles forthcoming in Gesta, Art History, British Art Studies, and The Sculpture Journal. The research for this paper was undertaken during a Henry Moore Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at The Courtauld.