The Bird’s-Eye View and the Balloonist – September 27
Cecily Hughes, a second-year doctoral student in the department of Art History and Art studying with Professor Elina Gertsman, was surprised and delighted to learn that a painting she researched and wrote about for a private dealer had just been purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Bélizaire and the Frey Children,” was painted in 1837 and attributed to the painter Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans (c.1801-1888). The New York Times ran a short video feature on the acquisition and the painting’s vexed history, a tale of the erasure and rediscovery of a Black enslaved person. While the likeness of a young Black man was featured in the original canvas, it was then painted out, only to be uncovered through later conservation. Now identified as the fifteen-year-old Bélizaire (b.1822–d. after 1860), the sitter was an enslaved domestic purchased by Frederick Frey of New Orleans, Louisiana on 16 February, 1828. Read an excerpt from Cecily’s report by clicking below.
The most recent issue of the news bulletin published by the International Center of Medieval Art has a plethora of features penned by our grad students! Claudia Haines writes about her ICMA-sponsored session, “Digital Medievalism,” at the 2023 Association for Art History Annual Conference at University College London (pp. 15-16). Rebekkah Hart offers an astute review of Riemenschneider and Late Medieval Alabaster exhibition, which just closed at the Cleveland Museum of Art (pp. 51-54). And Cecily Hughes, Reed O’Mara, Sam Truman, and Angie Verduci celebrate Prof. Gertsman’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Medieval Studies in a simultaneously heartfelt and hilarious reflection on her pedagogy and mentorship (pp. 41-43). Read these excerpts here.
Her article, “Roman Gladiator Knives: Objectification, Mascotting, and the Material Culture of Sport in Ancient Rome,” shows how pocketknives in the shape of gladiators commodified gladiators as mascots: utile bodies rather than autonomous individuals.
On July 4, 2023, Prof. Elina Gertsman delivered the annual Medieval Academy of America lecture at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, UK. Titled “Somatic Entanglements,” the plenary explored the ways that zoocephalic images in Hebrew manuscripts stage a wide variety of complex visual arguments about likeness and difference, and about humanity and animality. This lecture serves as the Academy’s showcase for the important work being done by scholars in North America. One part of Prof. Gertsman’s lecture formed the basis for her forthcoming article in Art History, the flagship journal of the Association for Art History.
Justin Willson, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Art History Leadership at CWRU/CMA, has published the article “On the Aesthetic of Diagrams in Byzantine Art,” in the July issue of Speculum, the flagship journal of the Medieval Academy of America. Bringing many new primary sources to light, the essay argues for the importance of diagrams in understanding the formal qualities of Byzantine icons.
Congratulations to Sam Truman, who has been awarded both the Samuel H. Kress History of Art Institutional Fellowship and the Chateaubriand Fellowship!