i Bernardo Daddi, Polyptych - The Crucifixion and Saints, tempera on panel, integral frame gabled top, 1348, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust), © The Courtauld

Materiality and Meaning in Italo-Byzantine and Early Italian Panel Painting

On campus

Media, Materials, and Methods

Helen Dejean

Tuesday 10 – Friday 13 September 2024

Course description

This course explores the distinctive iconography and fascinating materiality of Italo-Byzantine and late medieval Italian panel painting and investigates the visually striking and spiritually engaging nature of works produced c. 1260 – 1380. Specific examples from The Courtauld’s collection and the National Gallery provide the focus for close object study and classroom discussion, in combination with practical sessions to demonstrate and explain the making process.

The art historical journey begins in Byzantium, with an appraisal of key iconographic themes, their origins, form, and function. The transmission of this imagery into the Latin West, its subsequent modes of translation and different functions are contextualised within the dynamic milieu of the ‘long thirteenth century’. The many aspects of patronage and reception are considered, including devotion and sensory experiences.

The twelfth- and fourteenth-century treatises by Theophilus and Cennino Cennini provide the technical art history sources that explain the methods and materials involved in panel preparation, gilding and painting in egg tempera. Participants have the option to engage with a range of these traditional materials and try out selected processes. No previous artistic experience or ability is required for this hands-on ‘workshop’ element.


Lecturer’s biography

Helen Dejean is an established iconographer, independent teacher and accredited Arts Society lecturer, specialising in Byzantine and Late Medieval Italian art. She holds a Masters degree in each of these subjects from The Courtauld, where she is currently reading for a PhD in Byzantine art history. For many years, Helen has taught within the adult education sector, combining art history with traditional panel painting practice. She is the owner of two businesses through which she has delivered courses in the UK, Italy and Sinai and undertaken numerous devotional art commissions for churches and cathedrals worldwide. Previous roles include Icon Cataloguer for a leading London Russian art auction house.