Medieval Work in Progress Seminar

Eagles, dragons, griffins, and angels: Netherlandish brass lecterns in context

Speaker: Dr Douglas Brine (Trinity University, San Antonio)

One of the most common types of ecclesiastical furniture from the Burgundian Netherlands that survive today is the brass eagle-lectern. Many remain in churches and continue to function much as originally intended, as supports for the books used during services. Indeed, there is perhaps no other medieval artwork still in active use that exists in such numbers as the brass lectern. Most extant examples feature eagles clutching dragons in their talons, but there is clear evidence that lecterns also took the form of pelicans, griffins, or standing figures of angels, saints, or even Moses. This paper considers Netherlandish brass lecterns, in their various guises, from various perspectives – as metal sculptures, as liturgical fixtures, and as vehicles for private commemoration – and argues that they constitute a significant, if overlooked, category of early Netherlandish art.

Douglas Brine completed his BA, MA, and PhD at The Courtauld and was the Research Forum Postdoctoral Fellow in 2006. He is now Associate Professor of Art History at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. His research focuses on the visual arts in northern Europe during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance with a particular emphasis on sculpture, painting, and metalwork in the Low Countries. His book Pious memories: The wall-mounted memorial in the Burgundian Netherlands was published by Brill in 2015.

Eagle-Lectern (‘The Cloisters Lectern’)
Attributed to Jehan Aert van Tricht, Eagle-Lectern (‘The Cloisters Lectern’), c. 1500, brass, h: 206 cm: detail of the eagle. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Cloisters Collection, 68.8)

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