CONFERENCE: ABSTRACTION BEFORE THE AGE OF ABSTRACT ART

Saturday, May 18, 2019

106 McCormick Hall, Princeton University

Organized by Elina Gertsman and Vincent Debiais and hosted at the Index of Medieval Art

Focusing on the long and rich tradition of nonfigurative art, this international symposium will explore the inception and transformation of abstraction(s) at various historical pivot points between the advent of Christianity and the interrogation of epistemological queries in the later Middle Ages. The symposium aims to introduce the concept of abstraction to the field of premodern art and redefine it as a visual structure that predicates the very nature of image-making. We seek to interrogate non-figurative forms in medieval material culture; to contextualize these forms within the contemporaneous cultural and philosophical discourses; to identify the common features that favor the emergence of abstraction specifically in the long Middle Ages; and to determine how abstraction has been used to make visible what is beyond any kind of representation. For the full schedule, click here.

Registration is free but required to guarantee seating. To register, click here.

The conference is co-sponsored by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the French-American Cultural Exchange Foundation, the Index of Medieval Art, Case Western Reserve University, and the École des hautes études en sciences sociales.

Reminder: Spring Symposium: Eclecticism at the Edges

Eclecticism at the Edges: Medieval Art and Architecture at the Crossroads of the Latin, Greek, and Slavic Cultural Spheres c.1300–c.1550

On April 5-6, 2019, the Index will co-host “Eclecticism at the Edges: Medieval Art and Architecture at the Crossroads of the Latin, Greek, and Slavic Cultural Spheres,” along with the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the Department of Art & Archaeology at Princeton University, The Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies with the support of the Stanley J. Seeger Hellenic Fund, the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture, the International Center of Medieval Art, and the Society of Historians of East European, Eurasian, and Russian Art and Architecture. This two-day symposium focuses on the art, history, and culture of Eastern Europe between the 14th and the 16th centuries .

In response to the global turn in art history and medieval studies, “Eclecticism at the Edges” explores the temporal and geographic parameters of the study of medieval art, seeking to challenge the ways in which we think about the artistic production of Eastern Europe from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries. This event will serve as a long-awaited platform to examine, discuss, and focus on the eclectic visual cultures of the Balkan Peninsula and the Carpathian Mountains, the specificities, but also the shared cultural heritage of these regions. It will raise issues of cultural contact, transmission, and appropriation of western medieval and Byzantine artistic and cultural traditions in eastern European centers, and consider how this heritage was deployed to shape notions of identity and visual rhetoric in these regions that formed a cultural landscape beyond medieval, Byzantine, and modern borders.

You can view the program here.

The symposium is free, but registration is required to guarantee seating. Please register here. For any queries, please contact the organizers at eclecticism.symposium@gmail.com.

A BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT INDEX SUBJECTS

Knight pursued by rabbit, Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris.

From time to time, we Indexers like to lift the veil, so to speak, on the cataloguing procedures and upgrades that we have undertaken online. One of our current priorities is filling out our Subject Authority records. These records are where researchers can find further information about a given iconographic subject, including the preferred term used by the Index for that subject and a brief description of the iconography, its main attributes, and its relevant cultural details.

We know that visitors to the database may use alternate names, spellings, or related terms for a particular subject during a search query, and we’re determined to help you find them. As we Indexers like to joke, one scholar’s Maiestas Domini is another scholar’s Christ in Majesty! (rim shot) It is for this reason that we supply a field for “See-From” terms, a list of alternate names and phrases that will redirect you to the preferred Index iconographic term.

Below is a sampling of our newest subject authority terms offered as an overview of our work methods, as well as a sense of where our field is heading with regard to iconography. 

NAME: COCONUT

Note: Aural method of riding in medieval Britain that consisted of banging two empty halves of coconuts together to mimic the sound of horse hooves. Nota bene: the coconut is not indigenous to the region and likely arrived due to the migratory practices of the African Swallow.   

See-Froms:

  • Equestrian, Fictive
  • Swallow, African, Transporting Tree Fruit
  • Swallow, European, Gripping It by the Husk

NAME: FRENCH PERSONS

Note: Surly Gallic individuals speaking with outrageous accents and serving Guy de Loimbard, possessor of “a” Holy Grail. Experts in deploying taunts at their enemies.

See-Froms:

  • Your Mother Was a Hamster
  • Your Father Smelt of Elderberries
  • Kaniggets

NAME: LIVESTOCK (ARMS AND ARMOR)

Note: Favored weaponry of French Persons, comprising cows, geese, and other assorted farm animals to be hurled over castle walls.

See-Froms:

  • Fetchez La Vache! 
  • Quoi?
  • Run Away!

NAME: KNIGHTS WHO SAY “NI!”

Note: Darkly-clad knights wearing helmets bearing cow horns, keepers of the sacred words “Ni,” “Peng,” and “Neee-Wom.” Those who hear them seldom live to tell the tale. Lovers of ornamental garden elements that are nice and not too expensive.

See-Froms:

  • Shrubbery
  • Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptang Zoo Boing
  • Herring
  • It!

NAME: RABBIT OF CAERBANNOG

Note: A deceptively cuddly rabbit who is a foul, cruel, and bad-tempered thing. It guards the entrance to the Cave of Caerbannog, home to the Legendary Black Beast of Arrrghhh.

See-Froms:

  • Killer Rabbit
  • Oh, It’s Just a Harmless Little Bunny, Isn’t It?

NAME: HOLY HAND GRENADE OF ANTIOCH

Note: One of the sacred relics created to “blow thine enemies into tiny bits.” Instructions for its use found in the Book of Armaments 2:9–21.

See-Froms:

  • Count to Three, No More, No Less
  • Three Shall Be the Number Thou Shalt Count
  • And the Number of Counting Shall Be Three

NAME: CASTLE ANTHRAX

Note: Castle with admittedly not a good name but possessing beds that are warm and soft and very, very big. It houses eightscore young blondes, cut off from the rest of the world with no one to protect them. These females enjoy bathing, dressing, [SCENE, OBSCAENA], making exciting underwear, [SCENE, OBSCAENA], and after [SCENE, OBSCAENA], [SCENE, OBSCAENA]. *

See-Froms:

  • Scene, Obscaena

Note from the Editors: Given our reputation as a family-friendly blog, we have decided to redact this particular authority record. To that end, we have dusted off the Index’s trusty early twentieth-century subject heading “Scene, Obscaena.” As you readers are well aware, Latin makes everything sound more modest. The cataloguer responsible has been sacked.