Online Faculty Seminar to Examine Materiality, Knowledge, and Art in the Early Modern Globe

CIC recently announced its first online seminar for faculty members in art history. Part of CIC’s long-standing Teaching European Art in Context seminar series, the new program, “Materiality, Knowledge, and Art in the Early Modern Globe, c. 1350–1650,” will be held June 22, 24, and 26, 2021. The seminar will approach works of art from the perspective of the ways objects were made and the materials that were used, looking at both works produced in Europe and those produced in other parts of the world for European audiences. The seminar will draw on the rich collections of Oberlin College’s (OH) Allen Memorial Art Museum and will be led by Oberlin’s Christina Neilson, associate professor of Renaissance and Baroque art history and chair of the art history department, and Erik Inglis, professor of medieval art history.

“This seminar will provide faculty members with a great chance to take a close look at and spend time discussing pieces from the Allen Memorial Art Museum. By exploring the significance of materials at this time—when, for instance, wood was considered to be equivalent to a human body and bronze was compared to blood—we will consider how the processes of making objects and the beliefs about materials contributed to the meanings of works of art for their original makers and their audiences,” remarked Neilson. Working with a range of materials in workshops, laboratories, and marketplaces, artisans during the period developed knowledge and techniques that paved the way for deeper understanding and research through the years of the Scientific Revolution.

Generously funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the June seminar will take place over three 90-minute virtual sessions. During the first two, participants will discuss specialized scholarship in tandem with the virtual examination of related objects in the collection: a Madonna and Child relief in plaster by Andrea del Verrocchio; a portable altarpiece made from ebony, ebonized wood, hardstones, and oil on copper, by Jacopo Ligozzi; an ivory Afro-Portuguese salt-cellar; and two Hispano-Philippine ivory reliefs. The third session will focus on related pedagogical issues, such as how to animate the classroom by addressing materiality and facture through historical recipe reconstructions, and how to find relevant works of art that are close at hand and accessible to students.

Full-time faculty members at CIC member institutions from all disciplines who have occasion to incorporate art history into their teaching are eligible to participate, upon nomination by their institution’s chief academic officer. The nomination deadline was May 7, 2021; CIC will announce the selected participants by May 14. View more information about the seminar.

Jacopo Ligozzi, The Sacrifice of Isaac, detail of Portable Altar with Carrying Case, 1608.