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Conference Dates: 22-23 April 2021, Warburg Institute, University of London

In 1920 Louis Gillet, the French art historian and internationalist, published a rousing article defending the repatriation of stolen fragments from the Van Eycks’ Ghent Altarpiece from Germany to Belgium as ‘un drapeau’. His ensign of a Northern patrimony pitched as an emotive call for a different cultural ‘belonging’ post-1918 was part of a pattern. Jean Fouquet’s Melun Diptych was vaunted as both a ‘jewel’, yet the opprobrium of France. At its most charged was the identification of Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece with extreme War trauma, bodily and mental distress during its 1918-19 Munich display. Yet these Northern Renaissance ‘Afterlives’ remain under-explored. 

This symposium aims to develop new knowledge of how these and other responses to the Northern Renaissance (in the period spanning the early 1900s-1920s) become activated via objects, images and words in potently emotive contexts of reception, image transfer, and cultural memory-making to negotiate conflicts of the present.

Key areas of focus will be to consider the significance of new histories, narratives and emblems of Northern Renaissance visual, material and literary cultures, as well as Northern Renaissance cultural and religious legacies. In particular, the aim will be deeper investigation of their entwining with the cultural modernities of the early twentieth century.

Please send proposals of 300 words max, with a short biog. (150 words) to Professor Juliet Simpson, Principal Organiser (Coventry University / Warburg Institute), by 30 September 2020 (midnight BST). Applicants will be notified of outcomes in early October 2020. A publication based on the conference is planned.


The organisers gratefully acknowledge funded support for this conference from the Royal Historical Society, the Warburg Institute, and the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities at Coventry University.

Image: detail from Jean Fouquet, The Melun Diptych (c.1452). Courtesy, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin