Medieval and Early Modern Studies Festival: Meet the 'Warburg Panel'

On the 16th and 17th of June, three of the Warburg Institute's MA students will take part in the Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) Festival, as part of a 'Warburg Panel.' This year, the Festival will take place at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

We caught up with the students involved, Elena Morgana, Lalie Constantin, and Hanne Berendse, to hear more about their papers, highlights from the programme, and their time at the Warburg Institute. 

Each of you will be presenting at MEMS Festival as part of a 'Warburg Panel.' Could you tell us a little more about what this will entail? 

Elena: Whilst some of the Warburg students will be presenting separately, our panel is dedicated to ‘Authorship and Artistry in Early Modern Europe,’ with a wide-ranging selection of topics. From my own paper dealing with the authorship of specialised alchemical publishers, to the representation of minorities in the history of art, all will showcase the different areas of research that the Institute supports.

Lalie: The ‘Warburg Panel’ is intended to showcase students’ research, focusing on the agency of image-makers of different crafts and gender. My own paper considers a drawing of a hunchback boy by Annibale Carracci that, I argue, evidences an existing sixteenth-century perception of disabled people as natural beings that deserve to be included in society.

Hanne: I feel very honoured and excited to have the opportunity to represent our Institute alongside Elena and Lalie. The research I will be presenting is the topic I am working on for my Master’s thesis: the self-portraiture of female artists in Northern Italy from 1550-1620. I am particularly fascinated by self-portraits in the role of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, as Barbara Longhi and Artemisia Gentileschi painted, because of their link with ideas of virginity, piety, martyrdom, and erudition.

Are there any papers or events that you are looking forward to, and why?

E: I am interested in participating in the methodology workshop for early-career researchers, which will focus on how to conduct interdisciplinary research. Of course, I also am very much looking forward to my fellow Warburg students’ papers!

L: All the events and talks included in the programme of the festival are exciting, but I am especially looking forward to Petra Sikic’s paper ‘Pointing to Gesture: The Index Finger as a Metonymy of Gesture in Bartolomeo Passarotti’s (1529-1592) Genre Paintings.’ I am myself just starting some research on the treatment and reception of genre subjects in Northern Italy, but in the first half rather than the second, so I am eager to see how Petra Sikic will approach this topic.

H: I am looking forward to the networking events at the conference, as I am very eager to meet and connect with other people researching similar topics in the Early Modern period. I think MEMS will offer the opportunity to celebrate the beauty and complexity of the period. A panel I am personally very excited for is “Exploring Physicality: Queering the Early Modern Period,” so if you have some time on the Friday morning, I recommend checking it out!

What are you currently studying at the Warburg Institute?

New acquisitions in the Warburg Reading Room.

E: I am in the final year of my MA in Cultural, Intellectual, and Visual History. I am currently writing my dissertation on the dual spiritual and chemical significance of the ‘liquor alkahest,’ believed, by the distiller and apothecary William Yworth, to be both a universal solvent and a means to achieve purification.

L: I am a student on the MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture, during which, I have written on a variety of topics, from Parmigianino’s portraiture to the use of gold in the cult of light in Quattrocento Italian churches, and the cultural influence of Central-Asian silk on the Italian culture of the early Renaissance. I am currently starting my dissertation, which focuses on depictions (especially drawings) of domestic scenes to try to trace a ‘taste’ or artistic interest, in domesticity and ‘the everyday’ in Northern Italy in the first half of the sixteenth century.

H: I am currently enrolled full-time in the MA in Cultural, Intellectual, and Visual History. As the title implies, my research interests are broad, and I have written on early nineteenth-century German political philosophy, wooden devotional sculptures from sixteenth-century Antwerp, and fifteenth-century deschi da parto - the painted birthing trays from Siena and Florence. Currently, I am focusing on my dissertation topic, which I will be presenting at MEMS. I also have an interest in (Neo-)Latin literature, especially didactic and satirical poetry.

What have you enjoyed most about the programme so far?

E: There are many reasons as to why I have enjoyed my time at the Warburg. Some of my best memories are tied with the people I have met; the cohorts bring students of many different backgrounds and interests together, which has encouraged me to look at my research from many points of view. The lecturers are also very approachable, and make time to listen and advise you on your research questions.

Some of my best memories are tied with the people I have met; the cohorts bring students of many different backgrounds and interests together, which has encouraged me to look at my research from many points of view.

L: I have enjoyed how the variety of classes, modules, and teaching styles have extended my passion for art history toward cultural studies. I now see more clearly the diversity of material that can be analysed to unpick the ways in which past societies functioned. I also appreciate how staff continue to foster informal contact with their students. It creates an environment in which I feel that my ideas are heard and valued, and I can best learn from others.

H: How interdisciplinary it is. The in-depth modules that explore material culture and intellectual history in combination with language modules has really enriched my understanding of the Early Modern period. Being able to read sixteenth-century handwriting and understand Newton’s scientific publications in the original Latin is a treat! Also, staff are so passionate about their own research, and are always up to teach you more if you have an interest in their field. Moreover, I really appreciate how close the MA students have become over the past year. I have built up a very solid friend group that I can always count on.

What key things have you learnt while undertaking your MAs?

E: I am now more assertive when writing essays. I received training in research methodology and that really helped in building a strong argument. I also benefited from being part of a community who is so generous with their feedback and advice. The Palaeography course was also a huge help in manuscript work!

L: The MA has helped me understand myself better, and not just my research interests but also my career choices and the way I research. I have also been surprised at how much I have enjoyed the Palaeography and Language modules. In less than a year, I have gained sufficient knowledge of Italian grammar to translate Italian art-historical scholarship, which I did not expect. I knew Palaeography was going to be a useful skill, but I expected the learning process to be rather tedious, instead, it was fun and extremely rewarding. It mostly felt like playing with a jigsaw puzzle! Under the guidance of National Gallery staff, I also learnt a lot about curating: from the management of permanent collections to the organisation of temporary exhibitions.

H: I have developed independence. My lecturers have encouraged me to challenge existing literature and attribution of objects. In addition, Palaeography and Advanced Latin modules have opened up a new set of primary sources to me, which is incredibly helpful for archival and manuscript work. Finally, the MA has really shown me the importance of informal feedback. Proofreading each other’s essays and practising with book reviews in the Methods & Techniques of Scholarship module was a very good way of familiarising myself with both giving and receiving feedback from peers.

MA students in the National Gallery's Conservation Department.

In addition to MEMS Festival, are there any other projects that you have taken part in?

E: This year, I have been a Student Representative. I have enjoyed hearing about the experiences of the other SAS degrees and to be reporting for my cohort. I have also recently undertaken work experience with the University of London Press, which gave me further insight in digital publishing. I have also been able to take a peek into the behind the scenes of the Journal of the Warburg and Courtald Institutes to learn more about the submission and review processes.

The Photographic Collection, Warburg Institute.

L: I have been participating in the cataloguing of the Menil Archives of ‘the Image of the Black in Western Art’ in the Warburg’s Photographic Collection. It has been enriching to learn how images are digitalised and categorised. I will also be participating in the upcoming ‘Fragments’ Postgraduate Conference organised by the SASiety at the University of London, where I will be presenting the paper: ‘Piecing the Garment of Global Histories: the Cultural Influence of Silk in the Late Medieval Era’. Finally, since the start of the year, I have shared the position of Student Representative with one of my fellow course mates.

H: Over the past few months, I have helped develop a Neo-Latin walking tour in London, which takes those walking it along hidden and more well-known spots in the city that feature Neo-Latin texts and inscriptions. It is a collaboration between staff and PhD students from Queen Mary, the University of Oxford, UCL, and the Warburg Institute, and it was amazing to come together and think about ways to make Latin more accessible to those that have an interest in it, but less resources to be able to engage with it. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to assist during the ‘Contesting Authenticity in Literature 1200-1700’ conference in London.

Do you have any future plans in mind?

E: I will be starting a PhD in October at the University of Oxford. It will expand on my Masters dissertation, exploring how alchemical authors would approach the notion of purification in alchemy. I will especially focus on the practice happening outside of mainstream academia at the Royal Society. 

L: I would like to pursue a career either in curatorship or in learning departments since I am most passionate about increasing access to culture. I am currently looking for an assistant position for next September, once I have completed my dissertation. Alongside this MA I have been tutoring A-Level Art History which has been helpful to start formulating efficient strategies to guide non-specialists towards a better understanding of art.

H: I hope to be able to do a PhD here in the UK, as I would like to pursue a career in academia. Brexit, however, has made this difficult. In the meantime, I will make the most of the opportunities I am offered here. 

The Warburg Institute Library

Would you recommend the Institute as a place to study, and why?

E: I would absolutely recommend the Warburg to anyone who has a passion for the Early Modern period. Thanks to the varied expertise of its faculty, you will be able to home in on your topic while still gaining a comprehensive knowledge of the period. Given the small size of the Warburg and its active events programme, there will be many opportunities to get to know most of the staff and students.

L: I would recommend the Institute as a place to study for its friendliness, the genuine care of the academic staff, and its rich focus on early modern cultural studies. Notwithstanding it should be even more agreeable once the building project is complete!

I would recommend the Institute as a place to study for its friendliness, the genuine care of the academic staff, and its rich focus on early modern cultural studies.

H: Absolutely! I cannot imagine a more wonderful place to pursue a Master's degree, especially if you are interested in interdisciplinary research. The library’s ‘law of the good neighbour’ will lead you to unexpected gems and new research topics and fellow students, lecturers and other staff members are all incredibly inspiring. The Institute has really pushed me to bring out the best in myself and I would recommend everyone to experience such an uplifting environment.


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