We are very pleased to announce that as of July 1, 2023, a paid subscription will no longer be required for access to the Index of Medieval Art database. This transition was made possible by a generous grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the support of the Index’s parent department of Art & Archaeology at Princeton University.
When an online database of Index records was first launched in the 1990s, it was as a subscription service; only those affiliated with a subscribing institution or willing to pay for a subscription of their own could access the full online records. An opportunity to rethink this model arose in 2017, when our shift to a new, non-commercial database platform lowered costs enough that, with careful budget management, the subscription fees could be progressively reduced. In 2023, bridge funding from the Kress Foundation will allow us to eliminate fees entirely, giving researchers at all levels full access to the Index database at no cost, and ensuing support from the Department of Art & Archaeology will allow us to make this transition permanent. We express our deepest thanks to both the Kress Foundation and our department for their support of this initiative.
We look forward to working with the wide range of new researchers who will gain access to our resources, and in the coming months we will offer several online training sessions to introduce the database to those who may be unfamiliar with it. The schedule and signups for these will be publicized on this blog and through the Index social media accounts. Index staff also remain available at all times for researcher questions via our online form at https://ima.princeton.edu/research-inquiries/.
We hope that this good new brightens your New Year as much as it does ours, and we look forward eagerly to sharing our resources with students and scholars from high school to retirement, as well as with public learners seeking the reliable information about medieval art and culture that has always been the goal of the Index of Medieval Art.
The Index of Medieval Art will close at noon this Friday, Dec. 23. The reading room will open to visitors on Dec. 28 and 28 and then resume its normal weekly schedule (9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday) beginning Jan. 3, 2023. As the days grow longer and winter begins, we share our best wishes for a warm, bright holiday season and promising New Year.
In November 2022 the Index of Medieval Art was pleased to award a Graduate Student Travel Grant to Johann Spillner, a doctoral candidate at the University of London to attend the Index Conference “Looking at Language.” He sends this reflection on his experience:
“It is the sign of a great conference when every paper, no matter how remote to one’s own field of interest, holds your attention. “Looking at Language,” held by the Index at Princeton this November, was certainly a great conference and I count myself lucky to have been able to attend in person due to the generous support of a travel grant from the Index. The papers which addressed, among other things, updates of language in manuscripts (Benjamin C. Tilghman); misspellings in mosaics (Warren T. Woodfin and Ludovico V. Geymonat); or fictional objects in vernacular narratives (Kathryn Starkey) were thought-provoking throughout. The presentation that has stuck with me the most is the one by Prof. Margaret S. Graves on “The Limits of Language,” in which she discussed the art historical bias towards the “talkative” artifact and served as a poignant finale to all the previous papers. Among the things that are still only possible when attending in person (apart from ingesting the excellent food provided by the Index) were the conversations during and after coffee breaks and at luncheon—here, I have to especially thank Prof. Ruba Kana’an for some enlightening and thought-provoking chats.
“While the conference alone was well worth my eight-hour transatlantic flight, the second highlight of my trip was certainly visiting the Index itself. Having only seen the online portal of the Index, the actual library and card indices have left a deep impression on me. My own research tries to address the formative power of art historical categorization and language, and standing in the Index itself, I could not help but feel that the Index, through countless years of sweat and, I imagine, a lot of tears, was the physical manifestation of that trajectory. There is something to be said for getting lost in the Index’s system and diving into the countless rabbit holes that the card index offers. While I started by looking at images of Stylites—Christian ascetics who lived out their lives atop of columns and pillars—my interest was caught by a different category of persons positioned next to various building parts: the unnamed nineteenth- and twentieth-century “staffage figures” who give a sense of scale or local color to the photographs of in-situ monuments. These do not represent a category of their own in the Index, but one can imagine the countless stories encapsulated in these photographs.
“All this is to say that my research at the Index was a joyful and stimulating journey. At this point, I would like to thank the Index of Medieval Art, and especially Pamela Patton, Fiona Barrett, and Jessica Savage for the support and their kindness that enabled me to come to Princeton. Special thanks to Jessica Savage for not only sacrificing her time and patience to teach me the ins and outs of the Index system but also accompanying me on my aberrations during my stay.”
And the Index thanks YOU, Johann, for traveling to join us and for sharing your experience with our readers. We hope to see you again soon.
Johann Spillner is a PhD candidate at the University of London, Birkbeck College in the Department of History of Art. His research focuses on Islamic architectural objects in Western museums, more specifically, what their removal, display and representation mean for the subsequent reading of these objects.
The Index of Medieval Art will welcome Princeton University and area researchers to its annual Open House on September 15 from 4:30-6:00 pm. For those farther away: we look forward to hearing about how we can help with your research this year! Please visit our Research Inquiries link with your questions.
Wishing everyone the best for the new academic year!
We are very pleased to announce that Prof. Julia Matveyeva will be joining the Index remotely in August to work on adding iconography from Ukraine’s medieval cultural heritage in the online database. Matveyeva will begin with St. Sophia in Kyiv, a UNESCO world heritage site and central medieval monument in the history of art. Legacy records of the mosaics of St. Sophia in Kyiv already exist in the print collection of the Index, as do those from Saint Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral and almost two dozen records of icons and other objects in Kyiv museums. However, scholars who are not able to travel to use the print Index on the Princeton campus have had no access to these images or their metadata, which moreover are in need of updating. By the end of the project in December, these works of art will be updated and incorporated into the online database, making them available for study by an international community of scholars, students, and lay learners.
Matveyeva is an Associate Professor at the department of Fine Arts and Design of the O. M. Beketov National University of Urban Economy in Kharkiv. Her research has been primarily focused on Byzantine iconography, especially textiles and embroidery, within the Empire and in the neighboring territories, including Kievan Rus’, Romania, Bulgaria, and Italy. Her book Decorative Fabrics in the Mosaics of Ravenna: Semantics and Cultural Context was published in 2020 and she is now working on a new project titled The Evolution of the image of the altar space: from liturgical fabrics to iconostasis in the 4th- 15th centuries. Subjects, semantics, iconography.This project was made possible by a Flash Grant from the Princeton University Humanities Council.
Please save the date for the next Index of Medieval Art conference, “Looking at Language,” on November 12, 2022. Assuming no major changes in university or government pandemic protocols, the conference will be hosted in person as well as live-streamed. It will feature eight medievalist scholars, in a wide range of specializations, who will address the many relationships between language and works of art, including the literal use and/or representation of language in creating a work; the linguistic traditions that surrounded its creation and reception, and the language now used to analyze and understand it. Speakers will include:
Ludovico Geymonat, Louisiana State University
Margaret Graves, Indiana University
Ruba Kana’an, University of Toronto
Sean Leatherbury, University College, Dublin
Sarit Shalev-Eyni , Hebrew University
Kathryn Starkey, Stanford University
Ben Tilghman, Washington College
Warren Woodfin, Queens College CUNY
The conference schedule, location details, and live stream registration link will be posted in September.
The Index of Medieval Art invites applications for a four-month, remote, part-time research position to assist in incorporating key mosaics and paintings of medieval Kyiv into the Index database. This position is made possible by a 2022 Flash Grant from the Princeton University Humanities Council and consists of a $5,000 honorarium to be directed to the scholar.
The successful applicant should have relevant training in art history, preferably with a medievalist background, and should hold a doctorate or have completed all but the dissertation. Applicants may be of any nationality, but preference will be given to a scholar whose work has been disrupted by the crisis in Ukraine. A reading knowledge of Russian and Ukrainian is preferable.
The work position will require roughly two days a week of remote work over a four-month period, beginning in summer of 2022. The successful applicant will work with the Index research staff to catalogue Ukrainian monuments, beginning with the cathedral of St. Sophia in Kyiv. They will be trained in Index norms in cataloging the monumental structure, describing the iconography of its paintings and mosaics, transcribing inscriptions, and adding bibliographic citations, Index subjects, and other metadata. Staff guidance and scans of the relevant print material will be provided. The timeline for this work is somewhat flexible but must be completed by the end of the funded period, December 31, 2022.
To apply, please send a CV and letter of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by June 1, 2022
Many here in New Jersey are admirers of Nora, the Piano Playing Cat, the Camden kitty who since 2007 has wowed music lovers worldwide with her talent at the keyboard. Her fame even inspired the Lithuanian conductor Mindaugas M. Piečaitis to compose her a “Catcerto.” If you haven’t ever heard this piece, by the way, it’s well worth a listen.
But are musical moggies really a modern phenomenon? Evidence unearthed by researchers at Princeton University’s Index of Medieval Art suggests otherwise. Manuscript illuminations from late medieval Europe clearly depict cats performing on a variety of musical instruments, from the organ and tabor to the vielle and more. Here we present a preview of findings from this pathbreaking research project, soon to appear as an article in the interdisciplinary medieval studies journal Scientia de animalibus.
Musical training of felines often began at the keyboard, allowing teachers to capitalize on cats’ natural impulse to bat at a target with their paws. Meticulous application of a featherstick to each key to be struck, along with the copious provision of treats, encouraged both musical precision and a vigorous technique on both portative and positive organs.
Further mastery of percussion came with training in the tabor, a small hand- (or paw-) held drum that is played with a stick. A small strap was used to affix the drum to the cat’s left paw while it impaled the stick with its claws. Although this technique must have been difficult to learn, the surviving images suggest that some cats mastered it so well that they could stand on their hind legs while playing.
Those cats with sufficient coordination and ambition could next be moved on to bowed instruments like the vielle, shown here. In addition to requiring vertical balance, this instrument demanded both toe dexterity and a highly refined ear, the latter fortunately not a problem for these aurally acute ailurids.
Only those cats with the highest musical ability could advance to learning the bagpipes because of the precision needed to coordinate breathing, elbow pressure, and the placement of toe pads. Among the few feline masters of this instrument was a white monastic cat named Pangur Bán, whose signature “Katzenellenbogen” performance technique is still used by pipers today. Pangur was a true polymath who was also commemorated in verse for his “joyous with speedy going” after mice in his home abbey near Reichenau. Index researchers believe that the image above may portray Pangur himself, based on his obvious mastery of tongue and paw position.
We at the Index hope that you’ve enjoyed this foray into our research on medieval feline musicians, who set the stage for Nora and the rest of today’s musical cat performers while also launching your April Fool’s Day 2022 on a truly harmonious note.
As many Index subscribers know, reducing subscription fees for the Index of Medieval Art database has been an institutional priority since the launch of its new digital platform in 2017. Because the Index budget, which supports the work of seven full-time staff members as well as a program of respected publications and conferences, relies in part on subscription revenue, such reductions have had to be gradual. But they have continued, and as we approach the five-year mark, we’re very pleased to announce that our institutional subscription fee for the coming fiscal year will be $500 per year, one third of the $1500 per annum paid by institutions when the reductions began.
We recognize that access to online resources has become increasingly important as a global pandemic and ongoing budget pressures continue to reshape teaching, learning, and research in higher education. We hope that this further fee reduction will help more institutions choose to make the Index available to their scholarly communities. Should you wish to discuss a free trial or subscription to the Index, please contact office coordinator Fiona Barrett (firstname.lastname@example.org).
On January 13-15, the Index will co-host the hybrid conference “Power, Patronage, and Production: Book Arts from Central Europe (ca. 800-1500) in American Collections” in conjunction with the exhibition “Imperial Splendor: The Art of the Book in the Holy Roman Empire, 800-1500” at the Morgan Library & Museum. The exhibition presents material that has never before been gathered together, treating topics including visual rhetorics of power in book media, the production and patronage of manuscripts, the relationship between vernacular and Classical languages, and the position of imperial cities in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The conference expands this with papers on such themes as the networked relationships among centers of production; the representation of male and female patrons; early print culture; and the role of books in key developments for liturgy, private devotion, chronicle writing, and the law. A schedule of speakers (including Index Specialist Jessica Savage) is available here.
The conference will run in hybrid form. In-person attendance is contingent on space; due to current campus public health policy, registration will be limited to Princeton University ID holders and visitors sponsored by the Department of Art & Archaeology. We cordially invite attendance on Zoom by all interested in the conference proceedings. Registration information and links can be found here.
The conference is co-sponsored with the Department of Art & Archaeology, the Center for Culture, Society and Religion, the Program in Medieval Studies, the German Department, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), Humanities Council, Delaware Valley Medieval Association and The Morgan Library and Museum. We hope many of you can join us for this event.