Volume 2, no. 1 (2008)

 

Abstracts and cover information

   

Cover
Ori Gersht, 'Blow Up no. 4' (2007)

Born in Tel Aviv in 1967, Ori Gersht has lived and worked in London for the last 19 years. He is Professor of Photography at the University College for the Creative Arts and his work is held in public collections worldwide.  Gersht’s artistic practice employs both the most sophisticated digital techniques and methods and materials from the earliest days of photography, often touching the practical limits of the medium.  His work explores issues of trauma and remembering, the relationship of photography to painting and of static to moving images.


In recent years Gersht has produced a series of film and photographic works based on paintings by Juan Sánchez Cotán, Henri Fantin-Latour and Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin in which still-life compositions are interrupted by a traumatic, apocalyptic event.  This issue of immediations features a photograph from the series Blow Up, based on a flower painting by Fantin-Latour, which was shown in 2007 at the Yale Center for British Art.  We are most grateful to Ori Gersht for his generosity in providing such a striking and beautiful cover.

Rogier van der Weyden and Early Netherlandish Wall Memorials
Douglas Brine 
      

The article considers two sculpted wall memorials from the Burgundian Netherlands that can be closely linked to the painter Rogier van der Weyden. The first was commissioned by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, for the Franciscan convent church in Brussels in commemoration of two long-deceased Brabantine duchesses to whom he was distantly related. It was destroyed by the Calvinists but a series of payments of 1440 records the various craftsmen responsible for its creation, including Rogier van der Weyden, who polychromed the sculpture and painted the duke’s coats of arms on its wings. It is argued that the memorial should be seen in the context of Philip’s efforts to emphasise his legitimacy as ruler of Brabant. The second memorial, which also had wings, came from Saint-Nicolas church, Tournai, and commemorated the merchant Jehan du Sart (d.1456) and his wife. The memorial is based on a design derived from various Rogierian Nativity paintings and it is proposed that Rogier’s nephew, the painter Louis le Duc, who arrived in Tournai in 1453 having presumably trained with his uncle in Brussels, may have been responsible for the memorial’s design.

                    

Common Derivation: 'Couple Holding a Wreath', a Late-Medieval Pipeclay Figurine from the Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum

Noa Turel  

'Couple Holding a Wreath', a late-medieval pipeclay figurine, 9.5-cm-tall, crudely crafted and badly damaged, has been kept in a storage room at the Victoria & Albert Museum since its accession to the collection in 1903, one of millions of mediocre artifacts by anonymous artists silently inhabiting museum basements around the globe. This article grants 'Couple Holding a Wreath' the kind of focused art-historical attention rarely given to objects of this sort, arguing that its unremarkable medium offers an invaluable physical trace of the processes of artistic derivation and adaptation that have sustained iconographic change for millennia. Following a discussion of the figurine’s provenance and production process, the author turns to trace its iconography both in relation to its immediate historical context in the late Middle Ages, and to its likely formal roots in ancient votive imagery. The attempt to infer the usage scheme of 'Couple Holding a Wreath', based on its iconography, leads to some basic questions about the nature of the human practice of image making and its historical transformations.

 

Bourgeois Ambition and Whist for Wives in John Everett Millais’s 'Hearts are Trumps'

Emily Talbot

When John Everett Millais exhibited the group portrait 'Hearts are Trumps' at the Royal Academy in 1872, critics praised his ‘[k]een perception of character’ and ‘rare mastery over colour’, and the artist’s portraits of this period were commonly compared to great masters, such as Velázquez, Titian, and Reynolds.  However, following the publication in 1882 of Emilie Isabel Barrington’s article ‘Why is Mr. Millais our Popular Painter?’, Millais began to draw criticism for pandering to popular taste and painting sentimental rather than intellectual pictures. Similar interpretations of his legacy persisted in academic literature until quite recently, undermining the critical status of Victorian portraiture throughout the twentieth century. Focusing on 'Hearts are Trumps', a portrait of three bourgeois sisters playing cards, this article acknowledges and seeks to substantiate the complexity of Millais’s late portraiture. Comparing the painting to its eighteenth-century inspiration, The Ladies Waldegrave by Joshua Reynolds, it considers such themes as gambling, sibling rivalry, and the social circumstances of the commission, demonstrating that the seemingly superficial content of 'Hearts are Trumps' in fact reveals the painter’s ability to respond to the expectations of his patron while challenging the conventions of the genre.

    

Images, Manuscripts and Hagiolatry:  Edward B. Garrison and the Study of Late-Medieval Italian Art

Jessica N. Richardson     

In the forward to his influential book Italian Romanesque Panel Painting: An Illustrated Index (1949) Edward B. Garrison (1900-81) wrote, ‘a correct history of painting in Italy will best be served through concentration upon the elementary problems of attribution and dating’. Yet both his writings and unpublished notes betray a deeper interest in the period as a whole, one that goes beyond these issues. This attitude is particularly apparent in the methodology he developed for the attribution of manuscripts to specific centres. Here he advocated an approach dependent on local hagiolatry and patterns of devotion. An assessment of Garrison’s scholarship and an examination of his Collection – housed, since 1962, in The Courtauld Institute of Art – reveal an underlying interdisciplinary approach to the field of late-medieval Italian art. This approach offers a way forward for integrating the study of images, manuscripts and hagiolatry.

 

Screening poetry: Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton and experimental cinema

Caroline Levitt 

In an interview with Pierre Albert-Birot, the editor of the journal 'SIC', and also in his 'L’Esprit Nouveau et les poètes' of 1917, Guillaume Apollinaire sees film as an extension of the poet’s technique, just as typography had contributed to innovation in previous years. Whilst Apollinaire’s own film scenarios may seem at first to be quaint, staid and unimaginative, in stark contrast with Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s two Surrealist films 'Un Chien Andalou' (1929) and 'L’Âge d’or' (1930), this article traces Apollinaire’s broader interest in film, in particular his promotion of a project entitled 'Rythmes colorés', conceived by the artist Léopold Survage, and his involvement with the journal 'SIC'. Philippe Soupault’s experiments with cinematographic writing in 'SIC' relate not only to Apollinaire’s ideas but also to those of André Breton. A discussion surrounding Breton’s comments on film in general and specifically regarding the obscure Charley Bowers short 'It’s a Bird' (1930) will demonstrate that the common interest in cinema shown by Apollinaire and Breton serves not to reinforce their differences but, rather, to suggest a progression from Apollinaire’s pre-war conception of the genre to Breton’s post-war embrace of it.