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The Power and Presence of Images from Late Antiquity to Early Modernity and Beyond

Curated and designed by Yasmeen Kanaan
May 10 - June 20, 2021

The exhibition can be viewed here.

This virtual exhibition has been created by MA Art History students at Concordia University, Montreal, who are registered in a graduate seminar on the issue of “presence” in art and images from late Antiquity to the Early Modern period (taught by Dr. Steven Stowell). The images shown here are selected from students’ research papers, and the texts accompanying the images reflect the students’ work-in-progress on their research topics. This exhibition has been created to share student work with the broader university community, and in the hope of inspiring reflection on these images. The introductory texts have not, however, undergone blind peer-review by independent experts: we hope that these short writings will be read as “works in progress”, and that anyone wishing further information about these images will refer to the suggested readings, or footnotes provided. The “presence” of images is a topic that has engaged art historians for many years. The history of art offers countless examples of images that are attributed with living agency, and this phenomenon is often described as the “presence” of an image. For instance: there are many historical examples of portraits of disgraced rulers being destroyed to eliminate the memory or lingering power of that ruler; likewise, in some contexts, it is believed that a powerful icon can be offended if those near to it do not pay it appropriate respect; also, certain images are believed to respond to devotions and prayers by granting miraculous favours. This course examines various examples of this phenomenon across human history, as well as the theories that art historians and others (anthropologists, philosophers, etc.) have proposed to understand how images can take on the qualities of a living being. Focusing on images and objects created and seen in Western Europe from late antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern period (and beyond), this course has explored how images have been attributed with living "presence" by viewers.

This exhibition is entirely for educational purposes and is not for profit. Any questions or comments can be sent to Dr. Steven Stowell, Associate Professor of Art History and Undergraduate Program Director:

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