Metal Labor, Material Conversions: Goldsmiths in the Life of St. Denis and in Parisian Life, ca. 1300
A seated man raises a hammer to strike a metal cup placed on an anvil: these are the basic bodily gestures and material signifiers that identify metalworkers in medieval visual representation (Fig. 1). The present essay examines the labor performed by goldsmiths and the use of gold in a selection of Gothic miniatures, specifically those found in a lavishly illustrated Life of St. Denis created around 1300 for the French king Philip IV the Fair.1 As a composite portrait of a group of professionals and a type of material, my discussion asks how manuscript painters reflected—and reflected on—the creations of colleagues who, like them, were among the few artisans who handled substances of exceptional social prestige: silver and, above all, gold. To what extent did the painters’ and smiths’ enterprises coincide physically and coexist conceptually in the conversion of gold into two-dimensional images and three-dimensional objects? And how did those material transpositions echo with the conversion of currencies controlled by the money changers who were the chief purveyors of the noble metals? Finally, can such secular transmutations be associated with a central concern of the Life of St. Denis, namely the recasting of Parisians from pagans into Christians?
The Mineral and the Visual: Precious Stones in Secular Medieval Culture
Opulent jeweled objects ranked among the most highly valued works of art in the European Middle Ages. At the same time, precious stones prompted sophisticated reflections on the power of nature and the experience of mineralized beings. Beyond a visual regime that put a premium on brilliant materiality, how can we account for the ubiquity of gems in medieval thought?
In The Mineral and the Visual, art historian Brigitte Buettner examines the social roles, cultural meanings, and active agency of precious stones in secular medieval art. Exploring the layered roles played by gems in aesthetic, ideological, intellectual, and economic practices, Buettner focuses on three significant categories of art: the jeweled crown, the pictorialized lapidary, and the illustrated travel account. The global gem trade brought coveted jewels from the Indies to goldsmiths' workshops in Paris, fashionable bodies in London, and the crowns of kings across Europe, and Buettner shows that Europe's literal and metaphorical enrichment was predicated on the importation of gems and ideas from Byzantium, the Islamic world, Persia, and India.
Original, transhistorical, and cross-disciplinary, The Mineral and the Visual engages important methodological questions about the work of culture in its material dimension. It will be especially useful to scholars and students interested in medieval art history, material culture, and medieval history.
Jeff Ferrell, Gavin Morrison, and Fraser Stables
Last Picture is an anthology of photographs found by Jeff Ferrell while dumpster diving in the affluent western suburbs of Fort Worth. Ferrell is a consummate scavenger. He has been dumpster diving for years, an activity which gave rise to the book Empire of Scrounge (New York: NYU Press, 2005). As a scavenger, Ferrell’s primary motivation is to find things that are useful or valuable. His collection of discarded photographs is therefore something of an anomaly, and yet Ferrell keeps rescuing these photographs, intercepting them from their route to the landfill:
When you’re out there every day digging through dumpsters and trash piles, you realize that a lot gets lost — people’s lives, for instance. In fact most everything you find has in one way or another filtered out from the lives of those who once owned it, while still suggesting something of the pace and patterns by which they lived. An outgrown shirt, an old wrench, a box of tax returns, a garbage bag stuffed with toys — all are residues of decisions made, circumstances changed, opportunities taken or lost. But amidst all this ongoing detritus of daily life there’s one sort of item that especially stands out: the discarded photo. –Jeff Ferrell, Last Picture
The book includes a foreword by Gavin Morrison and Fraser Stables and an extended essay by Jeff Ferrell. The text provides the context for the images, how they exist as a type of byproduct from his dumpster diving and suggest some of the ways in which the archive can be read across anthropological, moral, and cultural frameworks.
Ephemeral Design and International Politics in Roman National Churches
John E. Moore
The Cambridge Guide to the Architecture of Christianity offers a wide-ranging overview of one of the most important genres of Western architecture, from its origins in the Early Christian era to the present day. Including 103 essays, specially commissioned for these two volumes and written by an international team of scholars, this publication examines a range of themes and issues, including religious building types, siting, regional traditions, ornament, and structure. It also explores how patrons and architects responded to the spiritual needs and cult practices of Christianity as they developed and evolved over the centuries. This publication is richly illustrated with 588 halftones and 70 color plates. 856 additional images, nearly all in color, are available online and are keyed into the text. The most comprehensive and up-to date reference work on this topic, The Cambridge Guide to the Architecture of Christianity will serve as a primary reference resource for scholars, practitioners, and students.
Icy Geometry: Rock Crystal in Lapidary Knowledge
Like the sea, and the watery medium with which rock crystal is identified in the Middle Ages, the history of its production during the Middle Ages ebbs and flows. From Late Antiquity to the age of the great Portuguese expansion, specific knowledge about carving the hard material, was kept a closely guarded secret in just a few centers of production. All the while, royal courts and wealthy churches were eager patrons for the luxurious objects given that rock crystal was valued as one of the most desirable and precious of all materials, ascribed mysterious origins and powers, and renowned for both rarity and clarity. This collection of essays reveals the global and cross-cultural histories of rock-crystal production in and even beyond the lands of the Mediterranean Sea. It investigates many objects and varied aspects of rock crystal such as: the physical nature and legendary as well as actual origins of the material; its manufacturing techniques and affiliations to other luxurious objects, such as cut glass and carved precious stones; legends and traditions associated with its aesthetic qualities; as well as issues concerning its varied functions and historiography. Source: Publisher
Precious Stones, Mineral Beings, Performative Materiality in Fifteenth-Century Northern Art
Materials carried the meaning of early modern art. Transformed and crafted from the matter of nature, art objects were the physical embodiment of both the inherent qualities of materials and the forces of culture that used, refined and produced them. The study of materials offers a new approach to this important period in the history of art, science and culture, linking the close study of painting, sculpture and architecture to much wider categories of the everyday and the exotic.
Drawing on new research and models from anthropology, material culture and the history of art, scholars in The Matter of Art explore topics as diverse as Inka stonework, gold in panel painting, cork platforms for shoes, and the Christian eucharist. Source: Publisher
No Innocent Bystanders: Performance Art and Audience
At a moment when performance art and performance generally are at the center of the international art world, Frazer Ward offers us insightful readings of major performance pieces by the likes of Acconci, Burden, Abramovi , and Hsieh, and confronts the twisting and troubled relationship that performance art has had with the spectator and the public sphere. Ward contends that the ethical challenges with which performance art confronts its viewers speak to the reimagining of the audience, in terms that suggest the collapse of notions like “public” and “community.”
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