From invention to inventory: object lessons from the courts of France

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The Courtauld Institute of Art

Vernon Square

London

WC1X 9EW

United Kingdom

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Please join us for the fourth in our series of Professorial Lectures at our new home in Vernon Square.

Professor Susie Nash, Deborah Loeb Brice Professor of Renaissance Art

In the late 14th century, the kings of France and the princes of the blood constructed, commissioned, purchased, gave, appropriated, pawned and liquidated some of the most extraordinary and magnificent objects of the late medieval period, in a dizzying range of forms and material, from metalwork, manuscripts, textiles and panel paintings to cameos, talismanic stones and giants teeth. Our knowledge of them today relies in large part on the extraordinarily loquacious, often ad vivam inventories made of these possessions, termed, collectively, ‘joyaux’. These inventories are arguably the largest body of descriptive responses to objects that we have from the late medieval period, often demonstrating, and demanding, an intimate and sustained attention to, and engagement with, visual form. This lecture will consider some of the ways in which the language, order and structure of these texts might provide insights into late medieval ways of assessing, judging and grasping things, of ‘reading’ objects, or what has been termed by Michael Baxandall, famously, the ‘period eye’. But it will also explore these inventories as objects in their own right: their often remarkable physical properties can be as revealing as the texts they contain.

Susie Nash came to The Courtauld in 1993 and has taught here on the art of northern Europe in the late medieval and renaissance period ever since. Susie has worked and published on illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, textiles, metalwork and panel painting from across northern Europe, including Spain. She is interested in how art was made, used and viewed, in the value and meaning of materials and their colour, combining evidence from primary archival and theological sources, with the physical and technical examination of the work itself. Current research projects include the production, purpose and status of inventories at the french courts c. 1360-1500; sculptural processes and practices, especially polychromy, and photography of sculpture; art produced for the courts of France c. 1400 especially for the Duke of Burgundy in Dijon at the Chartreuse de Champmol; Claus Sluter, Jean Malouel and the Early Netherlandish painter the Master of Flémalle.

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The Courtauld Institute of Art

Vernon Square

London

WC1X 9EW

United Kingdom

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