• 31 October 2014
  • 2:15 – 3:15 pm
  • British Museum

In my paper I consider how the making of works of art is taken up and thematized by artists working in Britain over the course of the Middle Ages. My interest is in how the picturing of art making in works of art rhetorically frames finished works in terms of the process of their making and in relation to the hands of their maker(s). The paper will explore how in subtle, not so subtle ways, individual works of art invited their beholders to attend to their made-ness, that is to the artifice involved in making works, and its origins in human ingenuity and imagination. While much recent art historical attention has focused on the often self-effacing role played by medieval images in mediating the ineffable and unseen, in my lecture I hope to reorient our thinking about medieval works of art towards their self-evident status as works made by human hands. The works I will discuss, all made in England at various moments within the chronology covered by the conference, offer us a range of perspectives on the powers and limitations of the human hand and imagination, as they were conceived in medieval Britain. Throughout the talk, my aim will be to draw new attention to how the making of art is thematized within works of art themselves, and how this often self-reflexive or self-critical interest in laying bare the status of the artful object as a manual work and a work of the imagination invites us to think carefully, flexibly, and ambitiously about how medieval artists and beholders conceived and celebrated art as a process, as much as a product.