Inclusive Object Toolkit
As powerful European nations started tracing their national origins in the eighteenth century they looked to the peoples who settled in Europe during the Middle Ages. They formulated national identity along ethnic lines and argued over racial hierarchies, in the process establishing much of the intellectual and cultural context that has gone into creating modern concepts of whiteness. These discussions helped position medieval art as a chronological step in the development of a normative Western culture.
Yet modern concepts of the Middle Ages also carried within them notions of otherness, barbarism and the primitive. In the early twentieth century exhibitions of medieval paintings carried titles like Italian Primitives, while the world's fairs presented medieval, African, Japanese or Middle Eastern art as exotic sources of inspiration for refreshing European design.
In art museums, these seemingly opposite qualities manifest in distinctive ways. Medieval galleries tend to have inconsistent, even porous geographic and temporal boundaries. In one museum, Islamic art might be adjacent to the medieval world or Ethiopian objects might be in the care of the medieval curator. In another museum, a fourteenth century Italian painting might belong to the Renaissance galleries while one from fifteenth century Belgium might be sited in the medieval galleries. Museum interpretations often assume the Middle Ages to be a familiar place requiring minimal explanation. Yet to students, and museum visitors, the Middle Ages may be a foreign country. Who is that Mary person you keep talking about? (Virgin Mary, mother of baby Jesus, Queen of Heaven etc...). Where exactly is Flanders? or Burgundy? Equally challenging are student and visitor expectations forged in popular depictions that oscillate between romantic portrayals of knights and ladies, and brutish images of poverty and inequity.
Inventing the Middle Ages
Books & Exhibitions
- Wolfgang Brückle, Pierre Alain Mariaux and Daniela Mondini eds. Musealisierung mittelalterlicher Kunst: Anlässe, Ansätze, Ansprüche, Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2015
- Nancy Netzer and Virginia Reinberg, eds. Fragmented Devotion: Medieval Objects from the Schnütgen Museum in Cologne, exh. cat.(University of Chicago Press for the McMullen Museum of Art, 2000).
- Elizabeth Bradford Smith, ed. Medieval Art in America: Patterns of Collecting 1800-1940 exh. cat. (Penn State University Press for the Palmer Museum of Art, 2006)
Select Articles and Essays
- Rachel Cohen, “Italians Come to America,” Art in America 101.9 (Oct. 2013): 148-155.
- Martina Bagnoli and Kate Gerry, The Medieval World: The Walters Art Museum (Baltimore: Walters Art Museum in association with D Giles Limited, London, 2011), articles: “What are the Middle Ages?” pp. 9-17, and “Conclusions: The Invention of the Middle Ages,” pp. 169-179.
- Nancy Netzer, "Secular/Sacred Uncovering the History of Classification," in Secular/Sacred 11th-16th Century: Works from the Boston Public Library ed. Nancy Netzer, exh. cat. (Unversity of Chicago Press for the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College, 2006)
- Laura Morowitz, “Medievalism, Classicism and Nationalism: The Appropriation of the French Primitifs in Turn of the Century France” Studies in the History of Art 68 (2005): 224-241
Gender in Medieval Art:
- Easton, Martha. "Gender and Art in the Middle Ages." Oxford Bibliographies. updated 28 September 2016. For full content access through the library's subscription.
Race in Medieval Art:
- Caviness, Madeline. "From the Self-Invention of the Whiteman in the Thirteenth Century to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" Different Visions: A Journal of New Perspectives on Medieval Art 1 (September 2008): 1-33.
- Various. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies: Special Issue on Race and Ethnicity in the Middle Ages 31.1 (2001) *resources on race in the Middle Ages, race and medievalism, and race and racism in medieval studies
- Lampert, Lisa. "Race, Periodicity, and the (Neo-) Middle Ages" Modern Language Quarterly 65.3 (2004): 391-421.*on modern racism and medievalism
There are also significant publications coming out of literary studies. For more comprehensive guides to race in medieval studies see: Geraldine Heng, "Race in the European Middle Ages" H-Net Book Channel Teaching Essay https://networks.h-net.org/node/109065/pages/1348052/teaching-essay-race-european-middle-ages & Jonathan Hsy and Julie Orlamansky, "Race and Medieval Studies: A Partial Bibliography," Postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies 8 (2017): 500-531.
Religion in the Museum
- John Reeve, "A Question of Faith: The Museum as a Spiritual or Secular Space," in Museums, Equality and Social Justice. ed. Richard Sandell and Eithne Nightingale (London: Routletdge, 2012), 125-141.
Medievalists of Color (MoC) is a professional organization of a diverse group of scholars working across the disciplines in Medieval Studies. Among several initiatives, they offer a blog as a space that centers the perspectives, experiences, and voices of scholars of color who work in Medieval Studies and provide a resources page for bibliography and pedagogy. http://medievalistsofcolor.com
Curators from the Getty Museum wanted to create a show that considered negative representations of women, Jews, Muslims, Africans and people suffering from illness in medieval art. In 2017, they started a public dialog about the exhibition on social media, and released exhibition texts for public commentary. Their work and public response to it are preserved on the Getty blog.
Various, “TPM Special Series: Race, Racism and the Middle Ages,” The Public Medievalist, starting February 7, 2017, http://www.publicmedievalist.com/race-racism-middle-ages-toc
A gathering of web-based projects that cumulatively de-center Europe: http://www.globalmiddleages.org