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The Anthropology of Art in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance

Vitrine hosts month-long exhibitions dedicated to the public expression of art historical research, methods, and objects of study. Since 2006, professors and graduate students have curated installations in this display cabinet on themes as varied as Canadiana, print culture, postcards, as well as architectural drawings and models, often using original works of art by Concordia students.

The Anthropology of Art in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance

November 15 - December 15, 2014

Curated by Steven Stowell


The display mounted here shows objects currently being researched by students and the instructor of ARTH 400: Anthropological Approaches to Late Medieval and Renaissance Art.  The images display a range of art objects from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that raise questions about the social importance of art during these periods in Europe. In these art works we see how art objects not only provide aesthetic pleasure and display the skills of artists and craftsmen; rather, we see how objects are implicated in complexsocial relationships. The objects shown here shaped and facilitated relationships between groups of people, as well as become treated as socialagents. For instance, a portrait memorializes a deceased wife; a cult object is thought to contains the holy presence of a divinity; an altar piece is the devotional focal point for an association of lay people; a prayer book marks the hours of the day for its readers; a sculpture becomes a symbol of a republic.

Traditional art-historical scholarship has examined such objects in terms of patronage, iconography, artistic biography, and artistic tradition – to name only a few approaches. By integrating anthropological perspectives with the history of art, we are encouraged to think about how objects are implicated in – and play vital roles within – complex social structures. Images are seen to play important roles in the rituals of marriage, death, birth, politics and devotion, to name only a few. These objects and panels give a small glimpse into the range of socialissues pertinent to the arts in Europe in these periods.

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