Padua, 24 February 2023
Palazzo Liviano, Sala Sartori
Third Seminar of the cycle “SenSArt Seminars on Medieval Art, Religion and Culture”:
Justin Kroesen (Universitetet i Bergen/Universitat de Girona – Templa Team), “The Visual, the Kinetic, and the Performative in the Development of Altarpieces Between the Twelfth and Fifteenth Centuries”
Gerardo Boto Varela (Universitat de Girona – Templa Team), “Una commemorazione sensibile. Integrazione di altare, sepolcro e pala d’altare nella Castiglia alfonsina”
Organized by Sara Carreño and Zuleika Murat
The third seminar of the cycle “SenSArt Seminars on Medieval Art, Religion and Culture” will feature specialists’ presentations on the medieval altar and its environment:
The Visual, the Kinetic, and the Performative in the Development of Altarpieces Between the Twelfth and Fifteenth Centuries
Two phases can be distinguished in the history of medieval altar decorations. From the twelfth to the early fourteenth century, developments in all parts of Western Europe largely ran parallel, with the same object types – altar frontals, panel retables, tabernacles shrines, and canopies – found throughout the Continent that feature similar forms and iconographies. The mid-fourteenth century saw a parting of the ways between southern Europe, where panel retables developed further into fixed polyptychs and retablos, and Central and Northern Europe, where tabernacle shrines evolved into altarpieces with movable wings (Flügelaltäre). This lecture presents an outline of this development comparing material from different parts of Europe and reflects on the aesthetic and liturgical implications of either type, asking what it means to see a fixed wall-like structure or a closable cabinet on the altar. This will lead to some reflections on the functions of medieval altarpieces in the light of their visual, kinetic, and performative characteristics.
Una commemorazione sensibile. Integrazione di altare, sepolcro e pala d’altare nella Castiglia alfonsina
A fragmentary relief in white marble, now preserved in a private collection, depicts with extreme subtlety the condemnation and martyrdom of Saint Catherine, bordered by an unmistakable heraldry. From this piece, which has come down to us after the wrecks of the past, it is possible to begin to unravel the historical thread and reconstruct the historical narrative of certain artistic experiences that developed in the second half of the 13th century in Castile. This relief bears witness to a line of sculptural proposals aimed at creating visual screens with commemorative and devotional responsibilities linked to the altars and tombs located at their foot, fixed both ad altar and ad imagines. The quality of the artistic forms always emphasises the moving hagiography of the martyrs. The compassion that the narration of a martyr usually manages to stimulate is combined with the expression of a filial tenderness for a king who, above all, claimed to be a suitable aspirant for the imperial crown of Christendom. Religious sentiment, the perception of artistic beauty, the commemoration of a queen and the proclamation of one’s identity and political candidacy through coats of arms are compatible attitudes. All these elements can be included under the common epithet of sensitive commemoration, explored in the early Castilian Gothic landscape.
Sponsored by the ERC-StG Project “The Sensuous Appeal of the Holy. Sensory Agency of Sacred Art and Somatised Spiritual Experiences in Medieval Europe (12th-15th century) – SenSArt”, P.I. Zuleika Murat. This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 950248).