The Materiality of Devotion

From Manuscript to Print

Symposium Schedule and Presentation Abstracts

  • 9:30am-9:40am Introduction to “The Materiality of Devotion” Exhibition and Symposium– Sarah Bogue
  • 9:45am-10:45am The Materiality of Manuscripts: A Curator’s Perspective on Loose Leaves” – Lynley Herbert

    Medieval manuscripts are complex and sophisticated works of art, in which each page is designed to work in concert with the others.  When those pages are removed from their original context, they take on new lives as solitary art objects in their own right. Since at least the 19th century, booksellers often cut illuminated pages from bound books, either simply for profit, or to allow more people to have access to them. Today, these dispersed leaves can be utilized as teaching tools, or exhibited as they are in the current “Materiality of Devotion” exhibition. Yet this fragmentation of books also poses a challenge: each page represents only a piece of what was designed to be understood as a complete object.  When scholars encounter single leaves, they are faced with a mystery to be solved.  Lacking its original context, the page must be studied for its script, textual contents, size, layout, ink and pigments used, and artistic style. Each of these elements can provide clues that often allow us to reconstruct what the original book may once have been. This paper will address the challenges faced when working with single leaves, and will also demonstrate how it is often possible to rediscover their lost contexts.

  • 11:00am-11:30am Between the Page and the Statue: Illuminated Manuscripts and the Medieval Cult of the Virgin – Nicole Corrigan

    The Lyman Madonna—a medieval statue of the Virgin and Child—entered the collection of the William C. Carlos Museum with almost nothing known about it. While it is possible to piece together some basic information about its origins through connoisseurial and technical research, there is only so much you can learn from the statue alone. How medieval devotees thought about an image of the Virgin, how they used it in their prayers and ceremonies—all of this left no trace on the physical statue. But we can access and recreate the medieval devotional experience by examining manuscript illuminations in conjunction with the enigmatic Lyman Madonna. I turn to the thirteenth-century manuscript Las Cantigas de Santa María to show how its illuminations were informed by contemporary devotion to Marian statues and sought to shape future practice. I consider the various ways in which the illuminations model for viewers the proper way to perform devotion to images of the Virgin in order to reconstruct how medieval devotees might have behaved with the Lyman Madonna.

  • 11:30am-12:00pm A Technical Update on the Carlos Museum’s Virgin and Child – Brittany Dinneen

    In 2015, the Lyman family donated a medieval Virgin and Child sculpture to the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Though once richly polychromed, the wooden sculpture has suffered significant structural and surface damage, and now shows only traces of paint beneath a darkened coating. Emory Art History PhD candidate Nicole Corrigan undertook a technical study of the Virgin and Child in partnership with conservators at the Carlos Museum as a part of her Mellon Fellowship in Object-Based Curatorial Research in 2016. In addition to Nicole’s in-depth art historical investigations of comparanda, we combined a detailed visual analysis of the sculpture under both visible and ultraviolet light with microscopic and instrumental analytical techniques to characterize the materials present. The project enabled us to identify the wood, ground material, and several of the pigments utilized, while leaving unanswered questions about the identity of other pigments and the darkened coating. Recent investigations with more sensitive analytical techniques have yielded additional identifications and confirmed previous results, allowing a representative reconstruction of the original polychromy.

  • 1:30pm-2:00pm Emory’s Fifteenth-Century English Chronicle Roll: Late Medieval History Writing and Sixteenth-Century Nobility – Jenny Bledsoe

    At over 22 feet long, Emory’s fifteenth-century chronicle roll manuscript unites biblical, mythical, and royal history. The genealogical diagram and accompanying text begins with the seven days of creation, describes biblical and mythical rulers, and documents the kings (and some queens) of England, extending to Queen Elizabeth I with a sixteenth-century addition. Scholars have only begun to study the Emory roll, but it participates in a tradition of history writing—works known as universal chronicles—popular in the pre-modern world. I have recently discovered that the Emory roll is part of a family of English chronicles, which includes a manuscript owned by the University of Canterbury in New Zealand (digital and physical facsimiles of this roll are on display in the exhibit). After locating the Emory roll within the tradition of universal chronicles and the “Noah family” of manuscripts, the presentation will focus on the work of a later scribe who added a membrane to the Emory roll to update the chronicle to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The sixteenth-century scribe documents the marriages of several members of English noble families; this content will frame a discussion of the potential noble patrons and uses for medieval chronicle roll manuscripts.

  • 2:00pm-2:30pm Poetry in the Realm of Devotion: Illustrations of Celestial rhymes of Hafez – Azadeh Vatanpour

    Poetry has long been one of the ways people connected with the Divine. The poetry collection of Khwaja Sham al-Din Muhammad Hafez (1315- 1390 ACE), a renowned Iranian poet, is one of the most celebrated texts manifesting the triad relationship between divine love, mysticism, and the Scripture. Hafez is mostly known for his ghazal, a form of lyrical poems consisting of some seven to fourteen lines. Copies of these ghazals with elaborate decorations, illuminations, and illustrations have been reproduced throughout history. Hafez’s majestic poems are glorified by the quality of illuminations and artworks shown in these manuscripts. In this paper, I will show that the generous use of gold and expensive materials in creating decorative frames for poetic texts visually increases the “sacred” qualities of the poems and intensifies the reader’s spiritual feeling toward the Divine. Illuminations and artistic values become not only aesthetically pleasing but also appropriate methods for glorifying the sacredness of the poems. By doing so, poetry becomes material for devotion, transcending the literal meaning of the poetry and opening a gateway to the realm of spirituality.

  • 2:45pm-3:15pm Images and Intercession: St. Margaret of Antioch in Late Medieval Manuscripts – Ashley Laverock

    Private devotional manuscripts, including books of hours, offered lay devotees the opportunity to engage with the saints through both text and image. Rather than mere illustrations, images of saints in devotional manuscripts provided a tangible and intimate encounter with the divine. Focusing on the image of the early Christian virgin martyr St. Margaret of Antioch in the fifteenth-century manuscript Les Heures de nostre dame (Pitts MSS161), this paper will explore the significance of hagiographic imagery in manuscripts in relation to the medium and to the late medieval cult of St. Margaret. Texts and images of St. Margaret in manuscripts (whether in codex, roll, or amulet forms) relate directly to the intercession St. Margaret offers to devotees, particularly female followers, who read, hear, and hold her passion, making this medium a particularly effective intercessory tool.

  • 3:15pm-3:45pm The Nuremberg Chronicle as Entry Point to Explore the Rise of the Print – Emma de Jong

    The city of Nuremberg in modern day Germany was an important center for the development of the print, starting in the 14th century when the first paper mill north of the Alps was established in this city. This paper will use the Nuremberg Chronicle, published in said city in 1493, as a starting point to explore the rise of the print in Europe. The Nuremberg Chronicle is one of the best know incunabula (book printed before 1500) and famous for its woodcut city views. Through the Nuremberg Chronicle, this paper will explore how rise of the print ran parallel with the growing power of urban centers as well as developments in cartography and perspective.

  • 3:45pm-4:15pm The Transition of Material: Hrabanus Maurus’s In honorem sanctae crucis as Manuscript and Printed Book – Kelin Michael

    The relationship between manuscripts and printed material is complex. When the printing press was invented around 1440, it allowed material that was formerly restricted to those wealthy enough to afford manuscripts to be disseminated to a larger audience. However, this new format of creating and consuming text and image did not replace manuscripts. At times, manuscripts and printed publications of the same material were produced simultaneously. Juxtaposing printed and manuscript versions of material from the same period can shed light on why manuscripts continued to be made even after the introduction of the printing press. This paper will consider Hrabanus Maurus’s collection of carmina figurata (“figured poems”), In honorem sanctae crucis, as a case study. While the original manuscript of the work was created in the ninth century, manuscript copies were made over the course of the next eight centuries, with the last copy being made in 1600. Additionally, the first printed version of the work was published in 1503. Thus, Hrabanus’s opus provides the ideal opportunity to explore not only the transition of a work from manuscript to printed form, but also to examine the coexistence and relationship between the two different formats.

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