Materials mattered in the Middle Ages. Only with the right materials could artists produce works of art of the highest quality, from jewel-encrusted crosses, gilded and enamelled chalices and ivory plaques to large-scale tapestries, wooden stave churches and stone cathedrals. This conference seeks to explore the qualities and properties of materials for the people who sourced, crafted and used them.
A critical examination of the physical aspect of materials, including stone, wood, metal, jewels, and textiles, can lead art historians to a deeper understanding of objects and their context. Medieval materials did not function as frictionless vehicles for immaterial meaning: materials, their sourcing, trade and manufacture all contributed to the reception and value of the object. In the vein of scholars like Michael Baxandall (The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany, 1980) and more recently Paul Binski (Gothic Sculpture, 2019), this conference asks participants to ground their papers in the messy realities of crafting materials, and to situate the object and its materials within a network of social, political and economic factors.
The Courtauld Institute of Art’s 25th Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium invites speakers to build out from the object and consider the ways in which physical materials were used, manipulated and interpreted by craftspeople, patrons and audiences throughout the medieval world (understood in its broadest geographical and chronological terms).
Organised by Charlotte Wytema, Harry Prance and Nicholas Flory (The Courtauld Institute of Art), with the generous support of Michael Carter.
9:00-9:30 Registration – Front Hall
9:30-9:40 Welcome – Charlotte Wytema, Harry Prance and Nicholas Flory (The Courtauld Institute of Art)
SESSION 1: Materials in trade and the economy – Session chaired by Jamie Haskell (The Courtauld Institute of Art)
9:40-10:00 Genevieve Verdigel (The Warburg Institute) – Paper, plates and pigments: considering the production of prints and drawings in the terraferma within the trade policies of the fifteenth century Veneto
10:00-10:20 Anne Servais (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) – A distant dye for a popular pigment: brazilwood supply route to medieval Europe
10:20-10:40 Bella Radenovic (The Courtauld Institute of Art) – Lesson of the Widow’s Mite: Materiality and Spirituality of Medieval Georgian Icons.
10:40-11:00 Discussion – Led by Jamie Haskell (The Courtauld Institute of Art)
11:00-11:30 Tea & Coffee break (Served in the Research Forum Seminar Room)
Session 2: Material Luxury – Session chaired by Chloe Kellow (The Courtauld Institute of Art)
11:30-11:50 Olivia Ellen Clemens (Colombia University) – Making the Immaterial Tangible: Narwhal Tusks as Unicorn Horns in the Medieval World
11:50-12:10 Laura Melin (The Courtauld Institute of Art) – Parchment and Aspects of Patronage in Fifteenth-Century England
12:10-12:30 Susannah Kingwill (The Courtauld Institute of Art) – Croix d’Or at the Valois Courts – material meaning and manipulation
12:30-12:50 Discussion – Led by Chloe Kellow (The Courtauld Institute of Art)
12:50-14:00 Lunch (provided for speakers and chairs only – Research Forum Seminar Room)
13:00-13:50 Metal-point drawing – Lecture Theatre 1– this drop-in session allows all attendees at the Colloquium to have a go at drawing with metal point tools on prepared paper
SESSION 3: Materials in the workshop – Session chaired by Teresa Lane (The Courtauld Institute of Art)
14:00-14:20 Marina Rovelli (University College London) – ‘…in quibus omnibus mirum est quam arti quoque materia succumbat egregia’. The Tabernacolo Pallavicino and the work of the faber in fifteenth-century Milan
14:20-14:40 Agnieszka Dziki (University of Warsaw) – Intentional incompleteness. The reception of unfinished or damaged objects and their materiality to the North of the Alps around 1500
14:40-15:00 Sophie Lamb (The Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge) – The experience of knowing: replicating the levigation of azure pigment to explore tacit knowledge and material literacy for the practising artisan
15:00-15:20 Discussion – Led by Teresa Lane (The Courtauld Institute of Art)
15:20-15:40 Tea & Coffee break (served in the Research Forum Seminar Room)
SESSION 4: Space and Material Session chaired by Lorne Darnell (The Courtauld
Institute of Art)
15:40-16:00 Dr. Rosa Bacile (Independent Scholar) and Dr Elise Morero (University of Oxford) – Petrifying Power: the transfer of technology in the Islamic Mediterranean and the use of hard-stone spolia in Norman Sicily (11th – 13th centuries)
16:00-16:20 Kate Waldron (Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge) – The polychromy of a group of late 15th-century angel roof sculptures at St Agnes Church, Cawston, Norfolk
16:20-16:40 Giosuè Fabiano (The Courtauld Institute of Art) – Sunlight as an Artistic Medium
16:40-17:00 Discussion – Led by Lorne Darnell (The Courtauld Institute of Art)
17:00-17:10 Closing Remarks
17:10 Reception – Served in the Research Forum Seminar Room, with special thanks to Dr. Michael Carter for his generous support
Organised by Charlotte Wytema, Harry Prance and Nicholas Flory (The Courtauld Institute of Art), with the generous support of Dr. Michael Carter.