CFP: Illuminating Metalwork in St. Louis

Representations of Precious-Metal Objects in Medieval Manuscript Illumination.
43rd Annual Saint Louis Conference on Manuscript Studies, Vatican Film Library, Saint Louis University, St. Louis MO, 14–15 October 2016
Due: May 1, 2016


Manuscript illuminations frequently place special emphasis on precious-metal objects both sacred and secular, such as chalices, reliquaries, crosses, tableware, and figural sculptures. Artists typically rendered these objects using gold, silver, and metal alloys, “medium-specific” materials that contrasted dynamically with the surrounding color pigments. The visual characteristics of these depicted metal objects — lustrous yet flat, almost anti-representational — could dazzle, but perhaps also disorient, the viewer: they catch the eye while creating a fertile tension between the representation of an image and the presentation of a precious stuff, between the pictorial and the material. A gold-leaf chalice signals its real-world referent both iconically, via its shape, and indexically, via its metal material, a doubled representation unavailable to the remainder of the painted miniature. Such images can take on added complexity if intended to represent known real-world objects.

This panel seeks to take inventory of how these precious-metal objects were depicted and how they generated meaning. Possible themes include: chronological/geographical specificities in the representation of metalwork in manuscript illuminations; depictions of precious-metal figural sculpture, including idols; technique (e.g. pigment vs. leaf); the semiotics of metal on parchment; and whether we can speak of “portraits” of particular objects and/or visual “inventories” of particular collections. We welcome proposals that consider Western, Byzantine, and/or Islamic manuscript illumination from the early through the late Middle Ages.

Please send (1) an abstract of no more than one page and (2) a c.v. with current contact information by Sunday, May 1, 2016 to both panel organizers: Joseph Salvatore Ackley ( and Shannon L. Wearing ( Selected papers are to be twenty minutes in length.


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