CfP: New Work on Spanish Illuminated Manuscripts in Honor of John William (Kalamazoo 2016)


51st International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, 12-15 May 2016

Models and Copies, Masters and Pupils: New Work on Spanish Illuminated Manuscripts in Honor of John Williams (1928-2015),

Organized by David Raizman, Therese Martin, and Julie A. Harris

Session sponsored by the International Center of Medieval Art

In the colophon to the 960 Bible from León, Spain, the scribe Florentius, dressed in clerical garb, raises a bubbling toast to his “most cherished pupil, chosen by me.” The illuminator Sanctius responds in kind to his “Master,” lifting his cup and joining in praise to Christ for their completion of this magnificent book. On folio 12 of the same manuscript, however, in a grand display filling the entire page, it is Sanctius alone who asks the reader to remember him for his individual efforts. The two figures on the bible’s omega page thus serve as a metaphor for this session, which centers on copies that depart from their models and pupils who do not always tread directly in the footsteps of their masters. Our point of departure is John Williams’s inimitable work in the field of illuminated manuscripts, particularly the Beatus Commentaries on the Apocalypse, which has inspired scholars beyond the bounds of Spanish medieval studies.

Williams broke away from his early training which held that an unprecedented image must have been based on a lost model. He came to recognize originality in medieval works of art and to highlight the previously unperceived agency of illuminators from the early Middle Ages. For this session, therefore, we seek submissions from junior or senior scholars who have questioned traditionally-held assumptions of art historical scholarship, particularly concerning illuminations that do not consistently copy their models. We are interested in the choice to deviate from an archetype, especially the ways in which such decisions give rise to provocative new questions about intentionality and audience, likeness and divergence, and scholarly innovations that lead to paradigm shifts.

Organized by three former pupils of John Williams whose own work has taken tacks their master would never have pursued—Jewish manuscripts, women as makers of medieval art, and modern design—this session on Spanish illuminated manuscripts, by both up-and-coming and established scholars, will act as the counterpart to Williams’ latest groundbreaking work: a feature-length documentary on the Beatus manuscripts, which will have a Friday-night screening at WMU. Featuring extensive commentary on the Beatus tradition, in the film John Williams guides the viewers through the development of his thinking on this monastic phenomenon, bringing it up to date with recent discoveries. Beatus: The Spanish Apocalypse was directed and produced by Scottish filmmaker Murray Grigor and Iranian-American cinematographer Hamid Shams (BBP Films, MUSE Films and Television). Grigor and Shams will attend the Kalamazoo screening and answer questions afterwards.

Further, the session and film will coincide with the presentation of William’s final book, Visions of the End in Medieval Spain: Tradition and Context of the Beatus Commentary on the Apocalypse, with a Census of Illustrated Manuscripts and Study of the Geneva Beatus (Amsterdam University Press, 2016). With the sponsorship of the International Center of Medieval Art, this session in celebration of John Williams will carry his legacy into the future by stimulating debate and continuing his practice of challenging the discipline.

Deadline: Please send a 200-word abstract, two-page CV, and completed Participant Information Form by 15 September to:

Julie A. Harris (Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, Martin (CSIC, Madrid,
David Raizman (Drexel University, <> )

Submissions that are not selected will be forwarded to the Medieval Institute to be considered for inclusion in the general sessions.

NB: Membership in ICMA is required of all speakers in this sponsored session.



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