Art History Symposium
Art History Symposium 2021 AwardsPresentations by the 2021 Art History Paper Competition winners Streaming Now!
Art History Symposium 2020 Winners.
Art History Symposium Abstracts:
William Russell, Graduate
1st place, $250 donated by Karen Frank
Jesus as Mother and Nuns Without Priests? Examining the Subversion of Church Hierarchy in Quirizio da Murano’s Savior
The focus of my paper, Quirizio da Murano’s Christ the Savior (Academia Galleries, Venice) dates to between 1460 and 1478, and was apparently commissioned by a nun of the Franciscan convent of Santa Chiara in Venice. Quirizio’s Savior features a feminized Christ enthroned, presenting a Eucharistic host to a cloaked woman, understood here to be a nun, kneeling at his feet. In Holy Feast and Holy Fast, author Caroline Walker Bynum introduces the concept of gendered roles surrounding food preparation and consumption with the blanket generalization that in medieval society, food production and preparation was inherently associated with the female, while the consumer was inherently male. By positioning Christ as the ‘preparer’ and bearer of the eucharistic host through his self-sacrificial act, and the nun as the celebrant, the Murano Savior provides for the inversion and subversion of social norms for the fifteenth century nuns for whom it was created. I argue that by inverting the gender roles of a mother nursing her child, the Murano Savior, effectively served to subvert the patriarchal Church hierarchy by eliminating the role of a priest altogether in his visual interpretation of the sacrament of communion. By presenting, at least allegorically, a scene in which the sisters of Santa Chiara were able to commune with Christ without the intercession of a Priest, and in inverting the gendered functionality of the body, Quirizio here is depicting Christ as mother, thus allowing the Clarissan nun that kneels at his feet unmediated access.
Leonidas Dezes, Graduate
2nd place, $200 donated by the Armstrong Family
A Hybrid Nation: The Depiction of India in the Films of Satyajit Ray
This paper discusses how director Satyajit Ray’s films present contemporary India as a hybrid nation redefined by the influence of British colonialism and its enduring legacy, through depictions of the conflict between tradition and modernity. Differing from scholars who view Ray as resistant to taking a stance on issues, or glorifying traditional and rural Indian life, this paper argues how the views and subtitles in Ray’s films reflect a complex view of Indian identity. These ideas are demonstrated through the analysis of several of Ray’s films made through the 1950-70s, beginning with Ray’s period films The Chess Players and The Music Room regarding the historical effects of colonialism, and providing context for the interpretation of contemporary Indian life. Analyzing the films The Big City and The Calcutta Trilogy, it continues with a discussion of women’s changing roles in a modernizing Indian society - one of the positive elements Ray saw as emerging from Western influence - as well as the negative forces associated with ruthless business practices of capitalism brought by the British. It concludes with an examination of Ray’s film Days and Nights in the Forest, with its depiction of the lasting effects of colonialism, particularly the influence of the English language and corporate culture in reinforcing the oppression of the colonial era, while working in tandem with the caste system to pit Indian against Indian.
Grace Baker, Graduate
Marginal Message and Monumental Meaning: The Opening Page of The Hours of Catherine of Cleves
The Hours of Catherine of Cleves is world-renowned for its lustrous and opulent decoration, even receiving high praise for “the expressive range and the breadth of artistic imagination” contained in its margins. Building on the theories of Alexa Sand and John Decker, which illustrate the visual complexity of medieval devotion, the present study argues that the margins on the opening page of The Hours of Catherine of Cleves are not only connected to the central image, but, in fact, elaborate and converse with it. That is, the visual and textual components in medieval Books of Hours represent a complex web of interwoven meaning, meant to be slowly uncovered and understood by the user through concentrated and extended devotional practice. To remove any of these factors is to weaken the understanding of medieval illumination, Books of Hours, and faith. More specifically, the visual program, which includes the Virgin and Child, a donor portrait, a rooster and owl, and various depiction of plant life all contribute to and reinforce the importance of piety and prayer, as well as refer to Christ’s crucifixion and triumphant return in the apocalypse. The complexity of the image, although ambiguous to modern viewers, was highly prized by the owner, and demonstrated her own devotion and understanding of complex theological meaning.
Nicole Cieck, Undergraduate
1st place, $200 donated by Bay Art Files
Invader Kings: Alexander, the Bier of Iskandar and the Great Mongol Shahnameh
The Bier of Iskandar is the final image in the Iskandar cycle of the Great Mongol Shahnameh. The subject of this manuscript painting is the king’s death. As a group of highly expressive mourners surround this bed-like coffin, interestingly, Iskandar is absent from the scene. His absence gives the depiction power, manufacturing the image of an ideal ruler more effectively than a portrait would.
Alexander the Great (Iskandar in Persian literature) utilized his military strength and technology to conquer the Greek world, as well as the rival Persian Empire and Asia. Centuries later, with the sacking of Baghdad in 1258 C.E., Mongols established rule in Persia, eventually forming the Ilkhanid dynasty and integrating into Islamic culture and society. In past research, both the power of illustrated history books in legitimizing conquerors and the metamorphosis of Alexander into Iskandar have been insufficiently examined.
I seek to answer how the character of Alexander has been appropriated as propaganda in the Great Mongol Shahnameh and how this appropriation reflects the political attitudes of the Ilkhanids. I investigate how the historical figure of Alexander was Islamicized and Mongolized to serve a contemporary political agenda, resulting in the creation of an archetypal king in the persona of Iskandar. Specifically, I discuss how this theme of legitimacy represents the artistic style culminating from propagandistic imagery constructed by the Ilkhanids. Through this propaganda, the Western historical figure of Alexander has metamorphosed into Iskandar, the beloved invader king.
Madeline Axlund, Undergraduate
2nd place, $150 donated by Wally Wilson
Updated Model-Making for a New Market of Manuscripts: The Calendar Imagery in the Grimani Breviary and the Trés Riches Heures
The Grimani Breviary is a masterpiece of sixteenth-century Flemish manuscript illumination. Very little is known about the Breviary before it was sold in 1520 to Cardinal Domenico Grimani by Antonio Siciliano in Rome. The identity of the original patron of the manuscript has been much debated by scholars. The argument that Grimani was the original patron is unlikely because there are no personal references such as heraldry other than the manuscript’s Italian binding, created well after Cardinal Domenico died. Some argue from circumstantial evidence that the Breviary may have been commissioned for Siciliano or Margaret of Austria, or that it was produced for an open market. Scholars have long noted that the compositions of many of the calendar pages seem to have been based on those of the even more famous Trés Riches Heures of the early fifteenth century, commissioned by the Duke of Berry. This paper points out for the first time that details in the January and February pages of the Trés Riches Heures, especially phallic imagery, have been 'cleaned up' in the corresponding calendar pages attributed to the Master of James IV of Scotland in the Grimani Breviary. This master apparently chose to eliminate imagery that had been pleasing to the Duke of Berry but could have been offensive to a new patron or prospective owner. The Master also added imagery such as a 16th century aquamanile and a small boy urinating in the snow to update the compositions for a new patron or market of buyers.
Lauren Whitaker, Undergraduate
Cabinetry Two Centuries Apart: Opening the Door to the Changing Symbolism of Material Culture
My essay examines the ways that the symbolism of objects is shaped by cross-cultural exchanges, both encouraging and being encouraged by the mobility of objects. By comparing two cabinets, with similar ornamentation, but from two different time periods, I describe the change over time in the function and therefore the significance of cabinetry in illustrating the relationship between European collectors and objects in an evolving age of material culture. Through visual and contextual analysis, with an interest in the bodily relationship between user and object as well as symbolism of visual and material elements, I conclude that the later cabinet reflects a shift towards a more nationalized material and commercial culture. I draw connections between the earlier 1652 cabinet, a product of the Melchior Baumgartner workshop in Austria, and the practice of collecting in the Kunstkammer, as a means of private self-fashioning through luxury items with perceived exoticism. The later French cabinet, in contrast, while featuring similar imagery of Roman deities and a revival of Classical decorative style, was featured in the 1862 London International Exhibition, and represented a shift towards fashioned nationalism and a further nuanced relationship with perceived exoticism.
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