Session 1: Collecting and The Creation of Value
Daniella Berman, PhD Candidate, History of Art and Architecture, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
Collecting Masters: The Taste for Italian Drawings in Eighteenth-Century Paris
Eighteenth-century France was characterized by the empiricist impulse to learn through direct observation: to collect, categorize, name, and classify. The concurrent rise of fine arts acquisitions made this a pivotal moment in the history of collecting. Collectors sought to attach themselves to artists and institutions, blurring the line between collector and patron. In France, three “types” of collectors emerged: the amateur, the connoisseur, and the curieux, each identified by specific criteria encompassing an individual’s passion, interest, and knowledge. The nascent interest in drawings as a specific focus of collecting had an enduring impact on the status of both Old Master and contemporary drawings. The French taste for Italian Renaissance and Baroque paintings expanded to include drawings from these periods. Drawings collections with strong holdings of Italian Old Masters were compiled, though painting collections were still seen as significantly more accessible and prestigious. As art dealer Édme-François Gersaint (1694-1750) explained: “Drawings, the appeal of which is principally to the intellect, can be appreciated only by those with considerable learning.” [i] The same classifying inclination that created categories of art lovers prompted collectors to create new systems to organize and display their holdings. Examining first the shifting terminology connoting different tiers of collectors, and then the collecting, cataloguing, and display patterns of select drawing collectors, this paper seeks to illuminate the importance of Old Master drawings for the moment, the legacy of their study and treatment, and the evolution of the status of drawings as a distinct artistic practice in eighteenth-century France.
[i] Édme-François Gersaint, 1744. As quoted in Bailey in Wintermute et al., 1999. 74.
Dominique DeLuca, MA Candidate, Art History and Museum Studies, Case Western Reserve University
Medieval Reflections of Self and Sin in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Folio 1954.16
In the Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection of medieval manuscript folios is a page from a codex of a 15th century French Chronique Universelle illuminated with a miniature depicting Paris and Helen arriving with an entourage at the gates of Troy to be greeted by King Priam and his court. This paper examines the many layers inherent of the theme of reflection present in the decorative scheme of this folio, including reflections of time, mirror images, and the contradicting reflections of human nature and the human body. I argue that the illumination of this folio encouraged the medieval viewer to consider the dangers of admiring the beautiful outer form that often conceals an ugly hidden truth. In this folio, the rendering of Troy and its occupants in medieval courtly finery in the miniature is juxtaposed to the monstrous creatures in the margins. The medieval owner of the manuscript saw in this folio not only a chronicle of his lineage in the scene of royalty, but perhaps also visual queues that made him consider the state of his immortal soul. Therefore, the folio becomes a mirror against which the viewer must appraise himself. Looking at the scene of what was considered a historical event, the aristocratic or royal viewer could see the best of his noble lineage displayed in the miniature, and the worst of his own human nature lurking in the margins as a reminder of the dangers hidden beneath the beautiful surface.
Olivia Miller, PhD Candidate, Department of Art History, University of Arizona
The Legacy of Philip IV as Hunter
Inside of the Torre de la Parada, a royal hunting lodge outside of Madrid, once hung three portraits that Diego Velázquez painted for the Spanish Habsburg family in 1636. Appropriately, the portraits depict the king Philip IV (r.1621-1665), his bother Don Fernando, and the heir to the throne, Baltasar Carlos in hunting garb. Although certainly venerated by family members and special guests of the king, most people would never have had the opportunity to see the grandeur of these portraits considering their private location. Rather than serving a purely propagandistic purpose, these works were used for self definition and to demonstrate the familial bond that hunting fostered. However, the significance, audience, and function of Philip IV as Hunter evolved during the reign of Charles III (r.1759-1788) when the painting was moved to the new Royal Palace in Madrid. During this time there was a growing effort to identify a pure Spanish style, and in particular the work of Diego Velázquez was revered. After its relocation, Philip IV as Hunter was identified as a masterpiece of Spanish art and was emulated and copied by the court painter, Francisco Goya. The portrait also grew to be redolent with ideological meaning for Charles III. This paper will explore how Charles III used the portrait of Philip IV in order to place himself within the tradition of Spanish hunting portraiture in an effort to legitimize his seat in the Spanish royal lineage.
Session 2: Materiality and Inherent Value
Joseph Ackley, PhD Candidate, Western Medieval Art History, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
Reconceptualizing and Reprioritizing Object, Image, and Metal in Western Medieval Precious Metalwork, 1200-1300
The availability and circulation of gold increased in the thirteenth-century Latin West, ultimately prompting the reestablishment of gold currencies, beginning in 1252 with the Florentine florin. Citing this event, Marie-Madeleine Gauthier identified the years around 1250 as a drastic turning point for precious metalwork, namely, the moment when gold lost its “aura.” Similarly, though with a hint of modernist vanguardism, Peter Lasko cites c. 1210-c. 1240 as the moment when precious metalwork fell behind painting and sculpture as the most prized site for innovative image-making. My paper responds to Gauthier’s and Lasko’s theses, first by combining them and then by identifying key reconfigurations of image, object, and medium, all subsumed under “style.” Increased supply of precious metals, increased economic monetization, and nascent guild operation all combined to produce precious metalwork whose metals were used either as ornament or as a framing device, or whose metals were fashioned to emulate sculpture in wood and stone. These reconfigured approaches to Western metalwork coincided with an influx, following the Fourth Crusade’s 1204 plunder of Constantinople, of morphologically influential Byzantine metalwork, e.g., reliquaries that employed radically different strategies of relic exposure than their Latin counterparts. I would argue that a socioeconomic reevaluation of precious metal, increasingly controlled systems of metalwork production, and contemporary stylistic stimuli from Byzantium collectively produced new conceptions of what precious metalwork was and what it should do. My argument is approached via and evidenced by a selection of thirteenth-century Venetian, Rhenish-Mosan, Lower Saxon, French, and Byzantine precious-metal objects.
Aaron Ziolkowski, PhD Candidate, Art History, Pennsylvania State University
For the Love of God, Why?
In 2007 Damien Hirst unveiled his newest creation to international media fanfare. For the Love of God is a sculpture composed of over 8,000 flawless diamonds which encrust a platinum cast of a human skull. In one sense the work fits within an art historical tradition of adorning and over-modeling human remains which goes back thousands of years and taps into several cultural traditions as well as more modern concepts like the memento mori. Alternately, the time in which the work was created and the manner in which it was publicized made it a totally unique spectacle. This was a case of material splendor at its most obscene and transparent. Hirst’s work instantly became a topic of water cooler conversations almost entirely for the accumulation of wealth and precious materials into a single object. The artwork as art became of almost no consequence. In my 20 minute presentation I will explore this work and its manner of being publicized as well as comparing it to other works by Hirst, mainly The Physical Impossability of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, while dealing with issues of splendor in terms of materials used and the way in which his art both celebrates, complicates and prostitutes traditional artistic issues of mortality and the human desire to experience ephemeral pleasure in objects of wealth.
Stephanie Chapman, PhD Candidate, Art History and Archeology, University of Missouri
Black Beauty: The Use of Jet in Private Devotional Art
During the excavation of a late-medieval midden located within the West Ward of Bamburgh Castle in Northumbria, England, the upper part of a small jet crucifix was discovered. With the aid of a magnifying glass, one can see the head and arms of Christ outstretched on the cross, finely carved out of this black gemstone. Similar to many stones, metals, and ivories, jet is a sensual and desirable material, because it warms to one’s touch, is easily polished, and can be carved with delicate details. As an inexpensive yet luxurious stone, its low cost would have made jet a more accessible material to non-nobles, such as laymen or skilled craftsmen/tradesmen who were working and living within the castle. Additionally, jet was believed to have magical and amulet-like powers, and likewise, the form of the cross was believed to be imbued with religious power and protection. Thus, both the object’s material and its form associate it with Christian mysticism. Moreover, it is well known amongst medieval scholars that the interest in private devotion and devotional aids increased during the later Middle Ages, and while the spectrum of jet objects has been rarely mentioned, it is likely that this small jet crucifix once belonged to this class of objects in the fourteenth or fifteenth century. This paper will investigate the splendor of jet, arguing that jet was both an acceptable and a desirable substitute for small devotional objects traditionally made out of more expensive or luxurious materials, such as marble, metal, and ivory.
Diana Angoso de Guzman, PhD Candidate, Department Art III (Contemporary), University Complutense of Madrid
Aura Sacra Fames: Gold in Contemporary Art
Gold’s representational capacity is dual: it can symbolize spirituality, transcendence and magic and also the exact opposite, that is, monetary value. Contemporary artists regard this highly charged tradition somewhat ambiguously. This paper provides a general introduction to what is perhaps the most hotly-debated concept in contemporary art: that of value. Through a tentative analysis of the definition of value, within an interdisciplinary framework (anthropological, philosophical and sociological), this study discusses the perceived social and economic nature of value through the introduction of gold ingots in contemporary art from 1959 until the present. In recent years, an increasing number of artists have included gold ingots in their works, be it in installations, performances or sculptures. What is the significance of these gestures? Should it be interpreted as a critique on the present economic crisis? Is it drawing attention to the perceived notion of art as an investment? Are they contesting the role of museums and the art market? Through the analysis of different examples this paper aims to examine the semantic nuances of the gold ingot. We shall chart the contemporary art scene from 1959 until the present identifying three groups (real gold ingots, simulated gold ingots, fake gold ingots) that include artworks by Yves Klein, Marcel Broodthaers, Rebecca Horn, Thomas Demand, Chris Burden and Michael Sailstorfer, among others. This study addresses two issues: that of value and the role of the art market in assigning this value.
Session 3: The Transformation of Value
Ruby Pui Yi Leung, PhD Candidate, Department of Fine Arts, University of Hong Kong
The Ink Gentleman and The Mighty General: Bamboo Culture in Yuan Dynasty China (1271-1368)
In modern scholarship, paintings of bamboo are generally regarded as metaphors for the virtuous gentleman. Discussions on the significance of bamboo in Chinese culture often start with a quote from Shijing 詩經 [Book of Odes] which praises the charms of a gentleman who happens to be in a bamboo grove. In following dynasties, scholarship reinterpreted qualities of scholarly gentlemen and bamboo aligned them with scholarly culture. While bamboo is associated with virtue, we can detect shifting definitions of virtue in different eras. Bamboo has many uses. Its prevalent use in making bows and arrows were already recognized in the Zhou-dynasty (c.1046-256BCE). In Shangshu 尚書 [Book of Documents] we find that bamboo was valued as tribute sent for the central court. The first treatise on bamboo (Zhupu 竹譜) which was written by a military commander Dai Kaizhi 戴凱之 (c.420-c.485) further identifies specific types of bamboo which can be made into weapons. A poem by Du Fu 杜甫 (712-770) comments critically on the importance of bamboo and its extensive use in warfare. By the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) we can observe that bamboo was highly valued for its military application. It was a restricted material; cutting and selling of it in public markets was theoretically forbidden. Moreover, we have records documenting that paintings of bamboo were associated with men of military valor. This paper seeks to re-evaluate the proliferation of bamboo paintings in the Yuan era by exploring alternative concepts of virtue.
Shannon Steiner, PhD Candidate, History of Art, Bryn Mawr College
The Golden Dead: Gold Glass and Bodily Salvation in the Roman Catacombs
In the fourth century CE, members of Rome’s flourishing Christian community embedded round glass bases of drinking cups in the plaster that sealed niche burials, or loculi, in the city’s catacomb cemeteries. The most elaborate of such cup bases bear luminous gold-leaf images, including portraits of Roman martyrs and truncated scenes from the New Testament, along with inscriptions that encourage the viewer to delight in life and conviviality. Not one intact late antique gold glass vessel survives, yet over 500 bases are found in museum collections worldwide. Roman gold glass represents one of few formally studied and cataloged corpuses of small objects from the catacombs, undoubtedly due its gold decoration and the modern prestige gold holds. What value, however, did these relatively small medallions of broken glass hold when they were originally repurposed to honor the dead? I argue that Roman Christians capitalized on the intense reflectivity of glass coupled with the dazzling magnificence of gold, the latter a signifier of divine presence, to cope with the radically changing physical and conceptual “deathscapes” of the late antique era. Gold glass was a funerary medium coterminous with both the advent of subterranean cemeteries and the development of a new and still unstable theory of Christian afterlife, namely the actual, physical resurrection of the dead body. Contemporary theologians confronted doubts about the plausibility of the resurrection through splendid descriptions of the radiant, spiritually glorified resurrection body, a kind of rhetoric that finds a striking parallel in gold glass. By means of the visual and symbolic appeal of its medium, iconographic themes, and viewing environment, gold glass held unique potential to mediate late antique concern over the integrity of the dead body.
Johanna Miller, MA Candidate, Art History, Tufts University
On the Wings of Conversion: Materiality and Performance in Colonial Featherworks
In pre-conquest Mexico, skilled artisans created elaborate featherworks, objects constructed by layering precisely cut iridescent feathers to produce three-dimensional effects. Such objects had both material and symbolic worth for the indigenous people of Mexico. Europeans were similarly entranced by the brilliance of the feather medium. Following the arrival of the Spanish and the attendant wave of missionaries, the featherworks were “converted” to the employ of the Church. These Christian featherworks fall into two groups: feather “paintings,” small icon-like objects depicting Christian devotional imagery, and ecclesiastical vestments, primarily bishop’s miters and infulae. There has been a growing interest in the study of these complex ritual objects. In 2009, an exhibition at the Museo Nacional de Arte in Mexico City brought together for the first time featherworks that had been made in Mexico from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. In the accompanying catalogue, the scholarship of Alessandra Russo, Gerhard Wolf, and Diane Fane raises a multitude of imminent issues surrounding the creation, reception and conservation of Mexican feather mosaics. In this paper, I intend to examine the use of the feather mosaics in religious performance in the contexts of colonial Latin America and Counter Reformation Europe. In contrast to the pre-colonial featherworks collected in the treasuries of the European elite, there is evidence that the Christian featherworks were utilized in liturgical rituals in both colonial and European settings. The splendor of these objects as an aid to conversion and a testament to the legitimacy of the Catholic Church has both physical and metaphysical ramifications in the tumultuous period following the European conquest of the New World.
John Lansdowne, PhD Candidate, Medieval Art, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University
Image Made Flesh: The Exhibition and Enshrinement of the Imago Pietatis at S. Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome
Pilgrims visiting Rome in the Jubilee Year 1450 were certain to seek out the Church of the Holy Cross to see the wondrous image of Christ. This, so they believed, was the original portrait of the Savior, made “from life” by Pope Gregory in ancient times. The object of erstwhile pilgrim desire is a Palaiologan micro-mosaic icon of the Imago Pietatis, made in the Greek-speaking East and translated to Italy after 1381. Centerpiece to what I believe to have been a Christological tableau vivant, the icon’s exotic medium and dramatic presentation in the subterranean ‘Jerusalem’ Chapel at S. Croce in Gerusalemme were unlike anything seen in Quattrocento Rome. Key to the spectacle was the icon’s enshrinement within a wood triptych reliquary cabinet [FIG 2], made in Rome ca. 1400. Here, the miniature mosaic of the dead Christ was set on display amidst the instruments of his Passion, exhibiting—and, I argue, substantiating—the fantastical scene envisioned in devotional images of the Arma Christi. The reliquary’s side-wings open to reveal a bilaterally-symmetrical grid of rectilinear niches that envelop the icon in its very own Communion of Saints. This paper seeks to give this remarkable object the scholarly attention it deserves. I argue that the visual impact of the dead Christ on display owed much to what Caroline Walker Bynum has coined the “overt materiality” of the icon and its enshrinement. Gold-leaf, glass, silver, enamel, iron, polychrome, parchment, and silk—this bricolage of heterogeneity, ornamented with conspicuously foreign motifs, flaunts wealth accumulated from the far reaches of the material world. Venerated as an image-relic and validated by its splendor, the real-presence perceived in the icon and its ensemble served to condense Christ’s Passion to a single moment and collapse spatio-temporal distance to its biblical setting in Jerusalem.