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Symposium1968.295.jpg
Anonymous, The Virgin and Child with Saint Dominic, Saint Catherine, and Donor, second half of 14th century. Tempera on panel, 46.4 x 24.9 cm. The Clark,1968.295

Clark Symposium:
Science, Ethics, and the Transformations of Art in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries

Saturday, September 28, 2013
9:00 am

This symposium—convened by Herbert L. Kessler, Johns Hopkins University, and Richard Newhauser, Arizona State University, Tempe—examined developments in later-medieval art as part of the same continuum of transformations that were taking place in natural philosophy and moral theology.

Much has been written recently regarding the development of perspective in artistic practice. The familiar historical narrative describes a radical transformation occasioned by the reception of ancient Greek optics in the West transmitted through Arabic translations in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. But the story is more complicated. As we now understand it, Greek optical science was known during the earlier Middle Ages, and painters and sculptors experimented with perspectival effects as early as the twelfth century. In addition, Christian theories of vision since Augustine had included writings on the metaphoric association of light with God and directionality of vision correlating to morality. These ideas conditioned the ways in which Arabic science was received during the thirteenth century and eventually deployed by artists.

These interests also were played out with particular inventiveness in a major text that is still relatively unknown to most medievalists: Peter of Limoges’ Moral Treatise on the Eye. This compilation had an important influence on the development of perspective and the moralization of optics. It made the scientific discourse of Alhacen, Bacon, and others fit for use in the pulpit. As significantly, it glossed the physiology of the eye and the theories of perception in terms of Christian ethics and moralization, thereby making esoteric learning accessible to the public (including artists) through preaching. In addition to situating this recontextualization of vision during the period, the symposium seeks to draw attention to Peter’s treatise.

Participants included: Donal Cooper, University of Warwick; Dallas G. Denery, II, Bowdoin College; Samuel Y. Edgerton, Williams College; Jeffrey Hamburger, Harvard University; Herbert L. Kessler, The Johns Hopkins University; Aden Kumler, University of Chicago; Christopher Lakey, The Johns Hopkins University; Carolyn Muessig, University of Bristol; Richard G. Newhauser, Arizona State University, Tempe; Larry Scanlon, Rutgers University; A. Mark Smith, University of Missouri-Columbia.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 27

5:30    OPENING LECTURE
           HUNTER STUDIO (STONE HILL CENTER)

           “PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA’S MADONNA ENTHRONED WITH FOUR ANGELS: THE SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVE OF HER HEAVENLY PALACE”
           Samuel Edgerton, Williams College

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28

INTRODUCTIONS:
Darby English, Starr Director, Research and Academic Program, The Clark
Herbert L. Kessler, Professor, Department of Art History, The Johns Hopkins University
Richard G. Newhauser, Professor, Department of English, Arizona State University

“MORALS, SCIENCE, AND THE EDIFICATION OF THE SENSES”
Richard G. Newhauser, Arizona State University

“PREACHING AND VISION IN THE LATER MIDDLE AGES: PERFECTING MORAL EYESIGHT”
Carolyn Muessig, University of Bristol

“IS THE EXEMPLUM A MIRROR?”
Larry Scanlon, Rutgers University

“PREACHING THE PERILS OF PERSPECTIVE: VISION AND SKEPTICISM BEFORE ALBERTI”
Dallas G. Denery, II, Bowdoin College

DISCUSSION

“SKATING ON THIN EYES: HANS BELTING ON THE OPTICS OF ARABIC AND WESTERN ART”
A. Mark Smith, University of Missouri—Columbia

“SURFACE AND DEPTH: THE PLACE OF RELIEF IN MEDIEVAL ART AND VISUAL THEORY”
Christopher Lakey, The Johns Hopkins University

“SEEING THE WORLDLY WITH THE MORAL EYE: ILLUMINATED OBSERVATION AS INTROSPECTION IN THE LATER MIDDLE AGES”
Aden Kumler, University of Chicago 

“PREACHING AMIDST PICTURES: VISUAL CONTEXTS FOR SERMONS IN LATE MEDIEVAL ITALY”
Donal Cooper, University of Cambridge

“OFF LIMITS: THE ARK OF THE COVENANT AS A SITE OF TABOO AND TRANSGRESSION”
Jeffrey Hamburger, Harvard University

FENESTRA OBLIQUA: ART AND PETER OF LIMOGES’ MODES OF SEEING”
Herbert L. Kessler, The Johns Hopkins University

CLOSING DISCUSSION

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