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Seeing past and present in the glazed cloister of Park Abbey (1635-1644)

Ellen Shortell

Monday 15 January 2018, 4.30PM

Speaker: Professor Ellen Shortell, Massachusetts College of Art

History of Art Lectures

The architecture of a monastic cloister offers a particular spatial arrangement for the display of images, whether in sculpture, painting, or stained glass. The cloister space and its use allowed specific visual experiences for those who moved through it. Studies of cloisters from the 11th to the 17th centuries have noted a varied use of images, from narrative sequences to mnemonic aids.

This talk will offer a reconstruction of the cloister glazing program made for the Premonstratensian abbey of Park in Leuven, Belgium, between 1635 and 1644, which was dispersed in the 19th century to several public and private collections. Two large collections have recently been returned to the abbey and are under study prior to their reinstallation. The reconstruction of their arrangement highlights some strategic choices of subject matter from the life of the order’s founder, Saint Norbert of Xanten. The compositions drew on recently published engravings, which in turn were based on a new edition of the saint’s vita redacted from 12th-century manuscripts. Additional scenes were invented for the glazing cycle, some with references to recent events, collapsing historical time within the narrative. Their placement within the architecture was clearly strategic.

Other lectures in this series include: 

Location: Bowland auditorium, Berrick Saul building

Admission: is free of charge and open to all. No booking required.