Past Events

Iconography on the Edge/s: constructing space and the sacred in Anglo-Saxon England

Research Lunch – Meg Boulton

  • 26 May 2017
  • 12:30 – 2:00 pm
  • Seminar Room, Paul Mellon Centre

Black and white photograph showing display cases of artefacts and a carved pillar As is widely acknowledged, ideas of viewer, viewing and perception are an integral part of the study of art history in the Anglo-Saxon period. A central aspect of the development of visual culture in a Christian context throughout the Medieval period is the pervasive relationship between the earthly world and the heavenly kingdom. These two disparate sites of physical and metaphysical experience and imagining are linked by iconographical constants (re)imagined, (re)interpreted and (re)represented across the earthly Christian landscape and the material artworks which inscribe it. Drawing on ideas of the spatial, the temporal and the im/material, alongside a consideration of the role of the viewer, this lecture examines the forms and motifs of the constructed, carved and painted borders found across the Medieval world, exploring how the imagined space of the heavenly Kingdom was made viscerally present for the earth-bound viewer. Looking at several examples, including monumental mosaic programmes, carved stone monuments and painted pages this paper focuses on the role of marginal motifs found alongside more famous iconographic scenes. By focusing on these liminal, marginal aspects of art(works), I suggest there are a series of concrete textual, temporal and material motifs that allowed for the imagined construction and actualisation of heaven for theological informed viewers. Further, I suggest these motifs were developed in an anachronic idiom that reflects and refracts a broader imagined constant: a performative actualisation of the atemporal locus of the kingdom of heaven through the display of precious stones in the margins of ecclesiastical art.

About the speaker

  • boulton head shot

    Meg Boulton graduated from the University of York in 2013 after completing her AHRC funded PhD on the conceptualisation of sacred space in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria from the 6th-9th centuries, working with Professor Jane Hawkes. She is currently working as an independent scholar who lectures in Art and Architectural History, Visual Culture and Museology at the Oxford University’s Centre for Continuing Education and The Oxford Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. She has recently lectured for the University of Buckingham and the University of York and teaches on a study abroad programme for the University of the South and Rhodes College. She has several publications and recently co-edited a volume entitled The Art, Literature and Material Culture of the Middle Ages: Transition, Transformation and Taxonomy (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2015) and is currently working on her monograph – Visualising Jerusalem in Anglo-Saxon England.