North and South of the Loire: The Culture of Copying and the Rebirth of Sculpture - The Courtauld Institute of Art

North and South of the Loire: The Culture of Copying and the Rebirth of Sculpture

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The Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture of Britain and Ireland (CRSBI) Annual Lecture

North and South of the Loire: The Culture of Copying and the Rebirth of Sculpture

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London

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Selles-sur-Cher (Centre-Val de Loire)

  • Tuesday 25 April 2017
    PLEASE NOTE: This Date Has Passed
    5:30 pm - 6:45 pm

    Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN


  • Prof. Deborah Kahn - Department of Art History, Boston University

Organised by

  • Karen Impey - CRSBI

From his thesis of 1950 on “Regional Schools of English Sculpture” to his later writings, Professor George Zarnecki, deputy director of the Courtauld Institute of Art from 1961 – 74, showed himself to be a master of visual comparison.  In one of his last articles (written in 1992), he surveyed the iconographic kinship between the earliest Romanesque sculptures at Saint-Benoit-sur-Loîre, Bayeux and Toulouse.  These far-flung similarities revealed a culture of copying that led to what may be regarded as a rebirth of architectural sculpture in these regions.  The article still serves as the basis for further exploration of the visual relationships between the earliest monumental architectural sculpture and the role of copybooks and loose sketches in the transmission of motifs and iconography.   George speculated that the likely source of all these relationships was the monastery and library at Saint-Benoit-sur-Loîre — as indeed has turned out to be the case.   Moreover, the emergent taste for monumental architectural sculpture on the great new ashlar buildings of the first half of the 11th century appears to reflect not only the preoccupations of the abbot of Saint-Benoit, Gauzlin (1004-1030), but also those of his half brother Robert II (972-1031), whose foundations at Saint-Germain-des-Prés and Saint-Aignan at Orléans were richly carved in the 1020s as well.   The rebirth of monumental architectural sculpture in the early eleventh century thus turns out to have been given impetus by the ascendant Capetian dynasty.  These connections amplify the links set forth by George and confirm not only his extraordinary ability to trace previously unnoticed formal lineages but also his role in laying the ground for future studies in the field of Romanesque art.

Deborah Kahn is Associate Professor with tenure in the Department of Art History at Boston University, MA, where she teaches medieval history of art at undergraduate and graduate levels, and is advising multiple Ph.D. students. She joined the faculty in 1996, having taught for seven years at Princeton and a year at Columbia, and worked for a year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Professor Kahn obtained a Master’s degree and PhD at the Courtauld Institute in London, supervised by Professor George Zarnecki. She served as a consultant on medieval sculpture for the Dean and Chapter of both Canterbury Cathedral (1982-1988) and Lincoln Cathedral (1986-1988), and was chief research officer and administrator for the Hayward Gallery Exhibition, ‘English Romanesque Art 1066-1200’, held in London in 1984. Professor Kahn has published widely on medieval sculpture in English, French and American journals. Her books include Canterbury Cathedral and its Romanesque Sculpture (1991), The Romanesque Frieze and its Spectator (editor, 1992) and English Romanesque Art (1984). She is currently writing a book on Romanesque sculpture for Thames and Hudson.

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