The 2011-2013 Bettie Allison Rand Lectures in Art | Arrayed in Splendor: Art, Fashion, and Textiles in Early Modern Europe
Lisa Monnas, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries
“All That Glitters: Cloth of Gold as a Vehicle for Display (1300-1600)”
21 February 2013, 5:30 pm
121 Hanes Art Center
The extravagant fabric known as ‘cloth of gold’ resonates throughout texts of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance, as a distinguishing feature of courtly life and of high ecclesiastical ceremonial. With the development of the European silk industry, the cloths of gold available became increasingly sophisticated both in terms of their raw materials, particularly the gold thread, and of their weaving technique. Cloth of gold not only became synonymous with leadership and power, but also, when worn on special occasions, or presented as a diplomatic gift or votive offering, it was associated with the courtesy and reverence due to exalted figures. Conversely, it could be equated with ostentation, and with the sins of pride and luxury. These various aspects are reflected in the literature, legislation and art of the day. In this lecture, we will look at the production of cloth of gold, both figured and plain between 1300 and 1550, viewed in the context of contemporary sumptuary laws, and literature, and particularly its depiction in paintings and sculpture.
Independent scholar Lisa Monnas’ work examines a wide range of subjects, including silk as a marker of social status, the material possessions of artists and their ownership of textiles as props, the involvement of painters in silk design, and the repetition and transfer of patterns. She considers the evidence of paintings not only for the veracity with which the silks are depicted but also for their value as a historic source concerning the use of fabrics, in publications such as Merchants, Princes and Painters: Silk Fabrics in Italian and Northern Painting 1300-1550 (Yale University Press, 2008). Her most recent publication, Renaissance Velvets (V&A Museum, 2012) introduces to the general reader one of the finest collections of Renaissance velvets from the Victoria & Albert Museum. Monnas was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 2001.
Through a generous gift to the UNC Arts and Sciences Foundation, William G. Rand established this lecture series in memory of his late wife, Bettie Allison Rand. This funding allows the Department of Art to bring one or more eminent art historians to UNC-CH every other year for residencies of various lengths. While they are in Chapel Hill, these scholars present a series of lectures and interact with undergraduate and graduate art history and studio art students.
Contact: Christoph Brachmann, email@example.com
Image credit: The Wilton Diptych, detail, 1395-1399, tempera on wood, National Gallery, London