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Research Spotlight

2022 Research Awards

Statues by Caius Gabriel Cibbler, "Raving and Melancholy Madness." These originally flanked the entrance to Bethlem (popularly known as Bedlam) Hospital at Moorfields, London, from 1686 to 1815. Currently in Beckenham, London, on display at the Bethlem Museum of the Mind

Erin Johnson, 

Project: Reconstructing Power Relations in Early Modern British Medicine

In the summer of 2020, I was awarded $1,000 by the MEMS Executive Committee to help defray the costs of an initial research trip to several London archives. With the unexpected and unrelenting complications and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, that visit had to be put on hold. It was only in April of 2022 that I was finally able to embark on this research.

 On April 3, I departed for a three-week trip and arranged to visit three different archives: the British Library (BL), the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), and the Bethlem Museum of the Mind (BMM). In part because of the extensive preparatory work she had performed in advance of my visit, and thanks to the efficiency of archivists, I had a very successful trip. 

Excerpt from a 17th-century medical receipt book. Ingredients seen here, like honey and rosemary, were common

I was able to photograph materials that will form the basis of my dissertation, tentatively titled “Maternal Affects: Embodying Motherhood in Early Modern England.” These materials include those relating to the foundation and renewal of London’s Bridewell and Bethlem (the 15th-century institution that gave rise to the term “bedlam”) hospitals, Bridewell court records, unpublished sermons given to Bridewell and Bethlem’s Board of Governors, Middlesex and Westminster sessions of the peace, as well as medical manuscripts, pharmacopeia, and letters between medical practitioners and their patients.

 I was also fortunate to scan pictorial representations of Bridewell and Bethlem in their earlier forms, which give a greater sense of their imposing presence in the city landscape. These records are vital to my dissertation, which will examine the ways affective regimes and mind-body thinking of the period shaped lived experiences and the gendered nature of power dynamics in early modern London.

Bailey Sullivan
, History of Art

Project: Imaging the City in 15th Century Germany

In June 2022, I spent three weeks traveling throughout Germany. The objectives of my trip were twofold. First, to conduct visual and codicological analyses of three objects, all accounts of pilgrimage journeys—Sebald Rieter’s View of the Holy Land (after 1479), now in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich; Konrad von Grünemberg’s Bericht einer Pilgerreise ins Heilige Land (1486), now in the Forschungsbibliothek Gotha of the Universität Erfurt; and a volume of Johann Koellhoff’s Die Cronica van der hiliger Stat van Coellen (1499), also in the Forschungsbibliothek Gotha. Second, to visit the most important collections of German medieval art and view the monumental architecture of cities such as Nuremberg and Cologne. My time in the archives was thus supplemented with a full immersion into medieval and early modern German visual culture. The ensuing trip took me from the heart of Bavaria to the forests of Thuringia, from bustling German metropoles to quiet ducal palaces.

View of Nuremberg

These two research endeavors allowed me to refine my scholarly interests and dissertation topic. In particular, I focused on a longstanding interest, German city-views or Stadtansichten, and their appearance not only in manuscripts and printed books of pilgrimage journeys but also panel paintings, like Hans Memling’s Scenes from the Life of Christ and the Virgin (pictured). Jerusalem itself is an actor in this narrative—figures weave betwixt and between the city’s architectural landscape. The topography of Jerusalem guides viewers through the composition, allowing them to meditate not just on the events of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, but also on the significance of Jerusalem as the site of salvation. Viewing these cityscapes in the framework of pilgrimage, both imaginary and physical, I sought to understand how the city was “read” in its late-medieval context.

Hans Memling, Scenes from the Life of Christ and the Virgin, ca. 1480. Alte Pinakothek, Munich

The manuscripts and printed books I examined were notably influential in shaping the direction of my dissertation research. My first-hand encounter with Konrad von Grünemberg’s 1486 work, which contains numerous views of cities such as Jerusalem, Jaffa, Bethlehem, and other important pilgrimage sites, was particularly fruitful. Several of its illustrations bear a palpable semblance to woodcuts of a printed volume, also published in 1486, of another famous pilgrim’s experience in the Holy Land: Bernhard von Breydenbach’s Peregrinatio in terram sanctam. By examining the Grünemberg manuscript I hoped to determine how exactly the artist copied the woodcuts from the Breydenbach volume. In particular, I sought evidence of pouncing, a method of transferring an image from one piece of paper to another. While I found no evidence of the use of this technique, I am grateful for the opportunity to think more about the materiality of print and the materiality of manuscripts in this pivotal moment of bookmaking in the fifteenth century.

Hand-colored printed Missal, published in Venice by Lucantonio Giunta in 1508

Rheagan Martin
, History of Art

Project: Logics of and in Early Modern Print

In May, I undertook an extensive research trip to consult printed books that often exist in extremely limited numbers or as sole extant examples. In total, I visited eleven rare books repositories in Italy and Germany, which allowed me to consult devotional texts and examples of printed music produced under the aegis of Venetian publisher Lucantonio Giunta.

These texts contain a corpus of woodblocks reused in books ranging in scale from small octavo Prayer Books, to quarto Breviaries, to the largest choir books printed in the 15th century. I argue that specialist music printer Johann Emerich was aware of contemporaneous theory surrounding the arithmetical and geometrical proportions of musical scales which informed his reuse of woodblocks across the proportional scale of the printed page. Furthermore, I argue that this reuse drew upon specifically Venetian visual cultural strategies including spoliation and the print-like production of tertiary contact relics.

Rheagan in the Archiginnasio of Bologna

While in Venice I was also able to photograph paintings and works of art in key sites that are central to the first and second chapters of my dissertation. After months of negotiation, I received special permission from the Scuola Dalmata di Venezia to photograph one of their most significant paintings, St. Augustine in His Study by Venetian artist Vittore Carpaccio (1502). I argue that the in situ painting, situated next to a window in the façade, takes advantage of the conditions of natural light. In order to represent these effects, I positioned a camera on a tripod at various points throughout the space and used extended exposures to capture the painting without artificial lighting.

I also received special permission from the Vicariate of San Polo to photograph the wooden intarsia in the choir stalls of the Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, images that relate to the illuminated first folios discussed in the first chapter of my dissertation.

After returning to London in June, I completed the full draft of the final chapter of my dissertation. Additionally, I have outlined a robust introduction which will provide historical context, explain the theoretical framework and methodology, and set forth the overall thesis supported by each chapter.

Travel funding from MEMS along with earlier funding received from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation allowed me to make substantial progress toward the completion of my degree program.

Exhibit in TAMAT

Julia LaPlaca,
History of Art

Project: Getting Started with Tapestry

This past summer, I took a six-week research trip to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and England to gather material for my prelim exams, begin early dissertation research, and network. MEMS summer funding supported day trips to collections and monuments outside the city centers where I spent most of my time. I was able to see the Bayeux tapestry in Normandie, arguably the most famous medieval textile. In addition, I visited collections in Bruges, Oudenaarde, Ghent, Tournai, and Utrecht.

I had personal tours and meetings with curators at several institutions in Brussels and France, and I was also able to meet other medieval studies scholars at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, where I presented a paper titled: “Removing the 'Border Guards': Eugène Müntz and Aby Warburg on Tapestry” in a session that addressed “Rethinking 'Texts' on Textiles and Tapestries.”

Tapestry weavers at work in CRECIT

One of my most fulfilling and generative daytrips was to Tournai, Belgium. During my visit, I was able to tour two important cultural institutions for tapestry history and production. First, I went to TAMAT (Musée de la Tapisserie et des Arts Textiles de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles), where I got a personal tour from curator Béatrice Pennant. TAMAT houses ten 15-16th-century tapestries and a collection of contemporary tapestries and fiber-art pieces. I was particularly struck by one of the 15th-century tapestries in the collection and hope to feature it a dissertation chapter. The tapestries in TAMAT’s collection have not attracted much scholarly attention and are not widely published, so visiting them alerted me to their existence and has allowed me to build a foundation for researching them more back in Michigan. Béatrice and I remain in touch, and she has generously agreed to help me with any questions I may have in the future.

Béatrice also took me to CRECIT (Centre de Recherches, d’Essais et de Contrôles scientifiques et techniques pour l’Industrie Textile), the only active tapestry workshop in Belgium. The staff there showed me around their weaving studio, conservation studio, and dying laboratories. They answered my many questions and generously gave me an up-close and hands-on look at how tapestries are made. This experience gave me insight into tapestry production, which has not changed significantly since the Middle Ages. I also learned about design and production challenges facing contemporary weavers. Watching and talking to the weavers helped clarify the production process, and the photos I took there will be great teaching materials should I ever need to explain the tapestry production to students.