Medieval Work in Progress Seminar

Unimpressed: Livery Badge and Legal Tender in Late Medieval England

Speaker: Sonja Drimmer, Associate Professor of Medieval Art, Department of the History of Art and Architecture, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

At the center of this talk are two unimpressive objects: the livery badge and the coin. Cheap, lead alloy medallions, livery badges bear the insignias of members of the nobility who would distribute them as well as cash payment bearing the face of the king to individuals in their service. Both of these exchangeable objects—badges and coins—enacted social, political, and economic alliances in fifteenth-century England, a system known as maintenance, or, more controversially, “bastard feudalism. Both objects are also a form of replicable portraiture. And both, over the course of the fifteenth century, underwent physical changes that caused their possessors to doubt their value. Taking seriously the formal and material properties of badges and coins, along with the conditions of their production and distribution, in the decades preceding and coinciding with the Wars of the Roses, I consider how they were essential to activating the perceptual regime that regulated how people envisioned themselves and their relationships to broader political communities, all while casting suspicion on the stability of those very relationships. Ultimately what this juxtaposition exposes is the value of and vexation posed by replicability to representation at this time. 

Sonja Drimmer is Associate Professor of Medieval Art in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of The Art of Allusion: Illuminators and the Making of English Literature, 1403-1476 (Penn, 2018). Her most recent publications include, Connoisseurship, Art History, and the Paleographical Impasse in Middle English Studies,Speculum (April 2022) and “The Shapes of History: Houghton Library, Richardson MS 35 and Chronicles of England in Codex and Roll,” in Beyond Words (2021). Currently she is at work on her second monograph, Political Visuality: Reproduction, Representation, and the Wars of the Roses. 

Organised by Dr Tom Nickson (The Courtauld) and Dr Jessica Barker (The Courtauld). 

This event has passed.

22 Jun 2022

Wednesday 22nd June 2022, 5pm - 6.30pm BST

Free, booking essential

Vernon Square, Lecture Theatre 1 and Online via Livestream

Please note this event will be live streamed to allow those outside London access to the event. All those who wish to access the event via this online method should book a ‘Livestream’ ticket rather than ‘Lecture Theatre’ ticket.

Booking closes 30 minutes before the event start time.


Image of two metal coins overlapping
British Museum, E4568 Gold Noble of Henry VI © The Trustees of the British Museum British Museum, 1856,0701.3011 Pilgrim Badge in the Form of a Noble of Henry VI © The Trustees of the British Museum