Trecento Stories

Speakers: Dr John Renner - Associate Lecturer, The Courtauld and Dr Imogen Tedbury - Assistant Curator, Royal Holloway Picture Gallery and Art Collections

This joint seminar includes two presentations:

Dr John Renner: Trecento Glories: Two Frescoes of St Francis

In the early fourteenth century the Franciscan order in Italy felt the need to glorify its founder, St Francis, in unprecedented ways. The new iconography – showing St Francis enthroned, surrounded by rays of light and in the company of angels or Virtues – was developed first in Assisi, in the so-called Vele painted by Giotto and his workshop above the saint’s tomb. This complex set of allegorical images was not directly copied elsewhere but aspects of the iconography were soon adapted for other churches, especially in Tuscany. A less well-known fresco programme in San Francesco, Pisa, attributed to the Sienese painter Jacopo di Mino del Pellicciaio, places St Francis in a comparable setting among Virtues, but introduces a number of variants which change the meaning of the image in significant ways. This paper examines what the friars were trying to communicate in these luminous images of St Francis, and how the artists they employed found formal means to respond.

John Renner is an Associate Lecturer at the Courtauld Institute, teaching Italian art of the later Middle Ages. He took his first degree at Oxford and subsequently worked in journalism and broadcasting before taking an MA in Art History at Birkbeck College and a PhD at the Courtauld, under the supervision of Professor Joanna Cannon. His research and publications focus on the interaction of aesthetics, theology and politics in the art of the Franciscan order in Italy in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Imogen Tedbury: ‘The charm of the backwater’: Purpose, progress and Sienese painting at the National Gallery 

Most Sienese paintings in Britain today were acquired during the long 19th century, when an interest in Italian “primitive” painting gathered momentum among British collectors and connoisseurs. The National Gallery acquired most of its remarkable collection of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Sienese paintings during this period. Yet the gallery’s approach to acquisitions in this area was rather more haphazard and controversial than their outstanding holdings might otherwise suggest. While trecento artists such as Duccio, Ugolino di Nerio and the Lorenzetti were sought out as examples of the Sienese school, quattrocento artists were often overlooked as a veritable ‘cul-de-sac’ of artistic progress. Through archival materials at the National Gallery, 19th-century evolutionist theory and the poetry of Robert Browning, this paper explores how and why Sienese painting became central to wider discussions concerning the purpose of the National Gallery as an institution in Britain.

Imogen Tedbury is the Assistant Curator at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD was undertaken between the Courtauld Institute and the National Gallery, under the supervision of Professor Joanna Cannon and Dr Caroline Campbell. This research was completed as a J. Clawson Mills Fellow in the Robert Lehman Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her research and publications explore the long lives of artworks, from the time of their making to their later collecting, reception and display.

Organised by Dr Tom Nickson (The Courtauld)

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22 May 2019

Wednesday 22nd May 2019

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, King’s Cross, London