12th Annual Medieval
Post-graduate Student Colloquium

Interaction and Isolation
in the Art and Architecture of the Middle Ages


Roberta Ballestriero (Complutense University, Madrid)
Votive offerings in the art of Ceroplastic or Wax Modelling

Wax has been used since ancient times to create models of healthy or diseased body-parts as votive offerings. From 1200 to 1600, the donation of votive offerings was such common practice in Florence that it created a veritable industry. In the thirteenth century the image of the Madonna in the church of Orsanmichele and later one at the Santissima Annunziata were renowned as being capable of working miracles. The faithful came on pilgrimages from all parts of Tuscany bringing wax votive offerings, known as «bóti» representing limbs, portraits, objects and even animals. Such waxworks were displayed in public all around the church and the cloister, interacting between the faithful and the divinity and showing at the same time the mastery of the artist. Subsequently many of the high-ranking nobility commissioned a life-sized self portrait in coloured wax. Dressed in their clothes these they were offered to the Santissima Annunziata as an act of devotion.

Among the numerous craftsmen or modellers of wax several are viewed as true artists. The interaction between artists and craftsmen was quite common; famous was the story of Orsino Benintendi, assisted by Andrea del Verrocchio in creating three portraits of Lorenzo the Magnificent.

For the Annual Medieval Postgraduate Student Colloquium I will talk about the Italian wax votive offerings and their use in public spaces. Also I will underline the interaction between artist and craftsmen and the influence on style and the development of techniques.
The paper will discuss the psychology and culturo-anthropological importance of this practice quoting examples of sanctuaries famous for their votive offerings such as the S. Maria delle Grazie in Mantua, SS. Annunziata and Orsanmichele in Florence.

Laura Cleaver (Courtauld Institute)
Knowing when to Intervene. The Example of the Ass and Harp in the Twelfth Century

The fable of the Ass and Harp first recorded by Phaedrus in the first century A.D. was still being told eleven-hundred years later. The tale was used in schools to teach children both Latin and correct behaviour, it was frequently cited in scholastic texts, and was also represented by artists in both manuscripts and sculpture. The written versions record that an ass finding a harp took it up and tried to play, only to lament his lack of natural ability. The moral is that it is foolish to try to move beyond one's station in life. However, some of the images based on this tale depart from the text to show men encouraging the beasts' efforts. These seem specifically intended to comment on teachers and their interactions with pupils, raising questions about the role of education in social-climbing and the suitability of certain individuals for a life of study. The imagery provides a rare example of the satirising of teachers in art, presenting them as foolish and even dishonest, themes paralleled in contemporary writings. This paper, therefore, will examine the iconography of the ass and harp in twelfth-century France as evidence for contemporary thinking about the interactive nature of teaching. I will consider the negative example of teacher-pupil relations represented and its relationship to images of the ass as an isolated and shunned figure. Applying the moral of the tale, I will explore the role of these images as potential teaching tools and consider their likely audiences. Finally I will examine the position of these images between a written, and specifically scholastic, culture and oral traditions, as evidence for the exchange of ideas between scholars and the wider community.

Delphine Hanquiez (Charles de Gaulle-Lille 3)
Interconnected influences in an Early Gothic Building: the chevet of the priory church of Saint-Leu-d’Esserent

The church of the priory of Saint-Leu-d’Esserent (Picardy), directly dependent on Cluny Abbey, has not been the object of recent attention, with the exception of the short accounts given in studies like that of Kimpel and Suckale. New research on Early Gothic monuments in France allows us to reconsider the place of the choir of Saint-Leu-d’Esserent in the architectural context of the twelfth century. In this paper, we will consider the first building campaign of the choir, that comprising the outer  ring of radiating chapels. The study of the elevation, mouldings and sculpted decoration allows us to compare the chapels of Saint-Leu with those in the edifices of the Ile-de-France and Picardy, especially those of Senlis Cathedral and the abbey churches of Saint-Denis and Saint-Germer-de-Fly, and thus demonstrates the anonymous architect’s awareness of those great creations. Other, more isolated influences will be brought to light: some of the capitals, with their acanthus foliage ornament, seem to allude to Burgundian forerunners, raising the question of the transmission of models.

Melena Hope (Courtauld Institute)
The Wall Paintings of the Chapel at Château de Dissay

Appointed to the bishopric of Poitiers on November 21, 1481, Pierre d’Amboise (c.1450-1505) oversaw the construction of a new episcopal residence in the village of Dissay, some forty kilometres north-east of Poitiers. Near the end of his career he commissioned an ambitious series of wall paintings to decorate the internal household chapel of his new château. These paintings now remain as one of the finest examples of a late medieval French mural cycle executed within such a setting. Scholarly discourse has traditionally examined these paintings in isolation, without detailed reference to the physical space in which they are housed or an analysis of their overall function. While such an approach is useful in terms of stylistic and iconographical study, it also has a tendency to divorce the paintings’ content from their context. This paper will consider these works in light of their domestic setting and intended audience, allowing a reassessment of the extant evidence and revealing new insights into the function of the wall paintings. Taken as a whole, this paper will argue that the iconography of the chapel’s wall paintings served Pierre d’Amboise on multiple levels, fulfilling his personal spiritual needs, while also functioning as a pastoral tool for his invited guests. 

Liesbet Kusters (Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven)
Christ and the Haemorrhoïssa (Mk. 5, 25-34) – Interacting Bodies

While on his way to the house of Jaïrus, Christ felt “a healthy power flowing out of him” as Haemorrhoïssa, the woman with an issue of blood, touched his garment and was instantly cured. Although healings of women were rare themes in medieval art, the healing of the woman with an issue of blood was already a common subject in the art of the Early Middle Ages and established one of the most enigmatic mysteries of Christianity: the interaction between a human and Christ. And not just an interaction, but a touch, loaded with healing power. In most cases, a simple compositional formula was followed to visualize this interaction: the woman kneels or crouches behind Christ, stretching out her hands or touching his garment while He turns, looks at her or lays his hand on her head.

As a study on the image of the Haemorrhoïssa is still missing, the first part of this paper wants to explore the iconographic peculiarities of this motif. How exactly do artists envision what happens in the interface between fingers and garment? The second part then places this iconographic analysis in a cross-historical context, exploring the mechanisms behind the image and its visualisation of a specific form of “healing”. Specific in that way that it is, in turn, not just a healing but the healing of a woman, from a particular women-related issue. Gender-related aspects and women’s characteristic reception of divine presence in their body seem to explain the increased interest in Haemorrhoïssa. Haemorrhoïssa – and with her every woman – unites her own bodily space – the monthly locus of shedding blood – to the body and bleeding of Christ. Haemorrhoïssa becomes a model, her body a vehicle for interaction with the divine. Case studies will demonstrate how this double level of interaction – between Haemorhoïssa and Christ on the one hand, and as an invitation to other women on the other hand – takes place in one image.

Alicia Miguélez Cavero (University of León & Courtauld Institute)
The Massacre of the Innocents: The Transmission of Gestures in the Romanesque Art of the Iberian Peninsular

In this paper I intend to study different gestures which were used in the Iberian Peninsula in Romanesque times to give graphic expression to one of the most dramatic episodes in the New Testament: the Massacre of the Innocents.

This event is narrated by Matthew in a very brief way. That is why the first artists who depicted this passage realised that Matthew’s narration did not give them enough information. The Evangelist simply states how Herod ordered the massacre to be carried out but does not say either who carried it out or the method employed. Therefore, the artists turned their eyes to other sources which might help them to compose an iconographic theme that must have been, no doubt, of great expressive value. Those sources may have had a textual or an iconographic character.

In the Romanesque art of the Iberian Peninsula the subject of the massacre presents three types of personages whose gestures and attitudes give the setting the strong expressive character that it transmits:

  1. The first of the personages would be Herod, who orders the massacre. He is usually represented with his index finger pointing out but can also appear holding his beard.
  2. Then the soldiers who carry out the massacre. Amongst the most representative gestures, we can mention that of holding a baby by its ankle.
  3. Finally, women showing gestures of pain. One of the gestures is that of touching a cheek with a hand and another is that of tearing at their hair.

However, I have been able to ascertain that most gestures are used with several meanings and, at the same time, through different significants. This fact leads me to study the problem of how the models, together with the gestures, were used and transmitted in the Romanesque art of the Iberian Peninsula.

Tom Nickson (Courtauld Institute)
Toledo cathedral choir screen and the debate over images in late medieval Castile

This paper will examine the choir screen of Toledo cathedral, carved in the late 1390s with fifty-six reliefs of Old Testament subjects. Twenty-one of these on the screen’s north face depict scenes from Exodus, and these are related to the liturgical readings of the Paschal Vigil, and in particular the baptisms that took place on this feast day in the nearby baptistery. The paper will suggest that the organisation of the Exodus scenes is based not only on the traditional biblical account but also that in Psalm 78 (77), a passage traditionally understood to condemn the idolatry of the Jews and foretell the triumph of Christianity. This is then set in the context of Toledo’s powerful Jewish community and the aftermath of the violent pogroms against it in 1391; the urgent catechetical demands engendered by the flood of converts; the role of baptism in the process of conversion and finally the question of images in the virulent polemics issuing from Christian, Jewish and converso sources. In the light of recent studies of Jewish visual culture in fourteenth-century Iberia this paper will question the origin of the reliefs’ unusual iconography and relate it to a new interest in examining and deploying rabbinical scholarship as a means of converting Jews to Christianity, an interest inferred from a study of the screen’s patron, archbishop Pedro Tenorio (1377-99). Finally the paper will consider how the very use of images and the depiction of an anthropomorphic God positions the screen reliefs at the heart of contemporary polemics and how this may be related to ecclesiastical patronage in late medieval Castile and a wider programme of image-based catechism.

Michalis Olympios (Courtauld Institute)
Inquinat omnia sola superbia: The Grand’ salle and its loggia at Crac des Chevaliers, architectural design, reception and afterlife in the Latin East

This paper aims to examine the architectural envelope of the Great Hall and the attached ‘cloister walk’ built in the middle decade of the thirteenth century by the Knights Hospitaller at Crac des Chevaliers, their most imposing fortress in the county of Tripoli (in modern-day Syria) and to assemble a picture of the creative and financial impulses which factored into its conception and execution. To this end, architectural evidence will be combined with contemporary written sources to evoke an image of the wider context which spawned the structure under scrutiny. Key elements to be discussed include the interaction between local, ‘Crusader’ elements and imported, French Gothic forms in the design of the Great Hall and loggia; the question of the availability of French architects, masons and architectural models from the wider area of Champagne and the Ile-de-France in the Holy Land, the extent of the phenomenon and the possible reasons behind it; as well as the means by which such a sumptuous piece of architecture was financed in a period when the Knights of St. John were constantly engaged in defending the dwindling Crusader states of the Syro-Palestinian mainland against the advancing army of the sultan of Egypt.

The goal of the second part of this paper lies in briefly considering the impact this building complex had on Gothic architecture in the Levant, especially before the fall of Crac into the hands of the Mamluk sultan Baybars in 1271. Given that no major post-Crac edifices seem to have survived on the mainland, extant evidence from the kingdom of Cyprus will have to be taken into account, as it will be shown that the architectural vocabulary of the Crac loggia was quoted almost verbatim in the Great Hall of St. Hilarion/Dieudamour castle, located in the northern part of the island.  

Barbara Spanjol-Pandelo (University of Zagreb, Croatia)
Wooden gothic sculpture in Istria (Croatia) – an art production between two different social and cultural spheres

Wooden gothic sculpture in Istria is one of the most interesting groups of medieval art in Croatia due to the quantity and quality of the preserved examples. Even though, because of the delicacy of the material, many examples have been destroyed or stolen one can still find in Istria many sacral places where medieval sculptures are venerated.

Historical background has always had a great impact on the production of wooden sculpture in general and can help a lot when problems emerge whenever one deals with medieval art. Discussion about any piece of art is not valuable without the historical context. In that sense when dealing with the art history of Istria of the middle ages it must be taken into account that during the mentioned period that part of Croatia was between two different social and cultural spheres, Venice on the one hand and Habsburg dynasty on the other. Certainly the rivalry of the two opposite cultures had an important impact on the production and patronage of the wooden sculpture. Moreover, the relationship between secular and ecclesiastic patrons is in the same context very important.

In conclusion, wood as a material is very easy to transport so the questions of workshops will be discussed, as well as whether the craftsmen were local or they come from abroad. Also there is the problem of precise date of execution. Firstly, there are not many data about the origin of a certain piece of art. Secondly, work with the documents is very limited and finally most of the attributions are made on the grounds of morphological and iconographical elements. Therefore, defining the interaction between the two mentioned different cultures and the transmission of ideas will help in the research and in solving the art history problems of wooden gothic sculpture in Istria.

Géraldine Victoir (Courtauld Institute)
The choir of angels in the lord chapel of Flavacourt: interaction between men and heaven in the Parisian context of the first half of the 14th-century

The wooden vault of the “chapelle des seigneurs” founded in 1333 by the former chamberlain of king Charles IV, Ancel de Chantemelle, and his wife Yda de Flavacourt, in the church of St Clare in Flavacourt (located in the Vexin français, north-west of Paris) offers a well preserved choir of angels of the third decade of the 14th-century. Few examples of this theme, which enjoyed an increasing popularity in the later Middle Ages, are preserved before the mid-14th-century. The angels of Flavacourt, despite their exceptional quality and conservation, have remained unknown to art historians to this day.

Musician angels appear to have been a subject much favoured in the context of funerary chapels throughout the 14th-century: they were thought to welcome the dead in paradise and to ease their passage to another world. The choice by patrons of the representation of a choir of angels in their funerary chapel is a testimony of their wish to ensure the link between themselves and Heaven at the moment of their death.

Close antecedents to the iconography chosen by Ancel de Chantemelle and his wife show that, in the first third of the 14th-century, the theme of musician angels in a funerary context became fashionable in the circle of the Parisian nobility associated with the Court. Most of the choirs of angels of that time still existing today in chapels were commissioned by members of the king’s household or administration. The latter formed a network of individuals and families trying to monopolise the highest functions by extending their influence and by alliances through marriage. The painting of Flavacourt witnesses the relations and interactions between these ambitious figures.