Medieval Work-in-Progress Seminar

‘From Two to Three Dimensions: Drawings and Design Processes in Medieval Vaulting’, Dr Sophie Dentzer 

Medieval masons did not have Auto-CAD and other programmes to plan the erection of vaults three-dimensionally. Yet the successful erection of a vault required considerable planning. For instance, the junctions of ribs had to be carefully planned as bosses – with the correct number of ribs and appropriate moulding profiles – were often carved in advance of construction. This lecture will address the design, planning and construction process of vaults in the Middle Ages, with a particular focus on drawings and the translation of rib patterns from two to three dimensions. Design (when architectural forms and elements were chosen) and construction (when those forms were erected) were closely interlinked during the Middle Ages, with no distinct separation between theory and practice. The vault is probably the largest three-dimensional element of a great church, yet the establishment of rib patterns required experimentation in two dimensions. Given the scarcity of architectural drawings in medieval Britain, I will rely heavily on Continental examples and scholarship, principally German, to argue that drawings were used in Britain at each stage of the process and that they were essential in translating rib patterns into three-dimensions.

Sophie Dentzer-Niklasson recently completed her PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art with a thesis entitled ‘English Decorative Vaulting: Design, Invention and Integration in Gothic Architecture c. 1300’, which was supervised by Dr Tom Nickson and funded by the Society of Architectural Historians in Great Britain. Her doctoral research focused on England but also included comparative material from Continental Europe.


‘Collections in the Rewriting of History: The Sum and the Roles of its Parts’, Dr Amanda W. Dotseth

The treasury of the palatine chapel and monastery of San Isidoro de León is or was once home to an exceptional diversity of objects. A notable collection of luxury goods either made or repurposed for Christian use during the eleventh and twelfth centuries survived at the site until the nineteenth century when select items were removed to the Museo Arqueológico Nacional in Madrid. Owing to its quality as well as its enigma, not to mention a key association with the formative period of Spain’s Christian past, San Isidoro’s treasure has, collectively, played an intriguing role in the writing of both institutional and national histories in both the medieval and modern periods.

Amanda W. Dotseth completed her PhD on Romanesque art in Spain at the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2015. Her research is grounded in the Spanish Middle Ages but has addressed a wide range of topics, from architecture to panel painting. She is currently the Mellon/Meadows/Prado Postdoctoral Fellow and an associated scholar in the project “The Medieval Treasury Across Frontiers and Generations: The Kingdom of León-Castile in the Context of Muslim-Christian Interchange,” funded by a Spanish Nacional Grant. She has previously held a Fulbright Scholarship as well as a pre-doctoral fellowship in the History Institute of the Spanish Nacional Research Council in Madrid. She completed her M.A. at Southern Methodist University after which she served as the Assistant Curator of the Meadows Museum for three years. There she curated numerous exhibitions and was the primary editor of the catalogue: Fernando Gallego and His Workshop – The Altarpiece from Ciudad Rodrigo. Most recently she co-curated the Meadows Museum’s exhibition Zurbarán: Jacob and His Twelve Sons – Paintings from Auckland Castle and is working on a symposium and book project that will examine the collection and diversity of objects produced by and for medieval Iberia under the tentative title, The Medieval World in a Spanish Context, supported by the Mellon Foundation.

5:00pm, 13 Jun 2018

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