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Murray Seminars

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The Murray Seminars on Medieval and Renaissance Art present current research by emerging and established scholars. Seminars are held three times a term and take place at 5pm in the School of Historical Studies (43, Gordon Sq., London WC1H 0PD) in The Keynes Library (Room 114), unless stated otherwise. 

Talks finish by 5.50pm to allow those with other commitments to leave, and are then followed by discussion and refreshments. These talks are supported by the Murray Bequest in memory of the department's founder Peter Murray, and are open to all. Please follow booking links to register online if you wish to attend. If you wish to join our mailing list, please contact .







  • Cecily Hennessy on ‘Mary Magdalene in Byzantium’ - A paper which examined the Early Christian and Byzantine imagery of Mary, exploring some eastern texts that contributed to forming her identity and endeavoured to understand why the two traditions, east and west, were so distinct.
  • Zoe Opacic ‘From Sacroscape to Cityscape: Images of Central European Towns in Late Medieval Sources’ 
  • Kim Woods on Speaking Sculptures - Many statues and works of sculpture made in the late Gothic and Renaissance period are represented with mouth open, as if caught in a mid-utterance. These ‘speaking sculptures’ have received remarkably little comment from art historians. What are these speaking statues meant to be saying? And what, as viewers, are we meant to ‘hear’ and respond? The aim of this paper is to begin to unravel this illusion of speech and the agency it implies.
  • Robert Maniura on Decoration and Innovation in 15-century Iberian artManiura considered the output of Jaume Huguet, the most prominent painter in Barcelona in the later fifteenth century, whose elaborate and heavily gilded works conspicuously depart from these familiar patterns. He argues that his paintings reveal a sensitivity to and creative exploitation of his materials every bit as noteworthy as that of his more famous contemporaries.
  • Dorigen Caldwell on Seeking Immortality in Cinquecento Rome - Caldwell examined debates in literary and artistic circles in mid sixteenth-century Rome around portraiture and the encapsulation of the individual. Taking as her point of departure a portrait bust of Pope Paul III, she focused in particular on the highly erudite circles which gathered around the Farnese court, exploring themes of paragone, materiality and the perpetuation of memory.
  • Joanna Cannon on redating the Frescoes by the Maestro di San Francesco at AssisiCannon revisited her often-quoted article of 1982 to argue against some of her earlier conclusions, and to explore the implications of this change of mind. Were the Franciscans always the artistic innovators in thirteenth-century Italy, or did the Dominicans sometimes lead the way?


  • Paul Davies on 'Saving the soul of Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici: Function and design in the old sacristy'This paper  asks whether he believed interment in a sacristy might help save his soul and went on to consider whether this notion affected how the sacristy was designed.
  • Pippa Salonius on 'Authority, Nature and the Image'In a society where the word of God reigned supreme, visual reminders of this chain of command were of vital importance. Images, after all, were the lingua franca of medieval Christendom, but given the abstract nature of the message, Salonius explores how its meaning was best conveyed.
  • Laura Slater on Art and political opinion in early 14th-century EnglandSlater explored the role of art and architecture in challenging political ideas and opinions in early fourteenth-century England, focussing on the activities of Queen Isabella of France during the 1320s.
  • Clare Vernon on Pseudo-Arabic in medieval southern Italy - Vernon examined the use of pseudo-Arabic motifs in the region of Puglia in southeast Italy over the course of the eleventh century.
  • Bernd Nicolai on Modes of artistic expression and representation - Nicolai examined the late-gothic west facade of Bern Minster and its extraordinary sculpted portal, considering the power of change in this and other church-building programmes in imperial cities during the fifteenth century.
  • Paula Nuttall on Low life in high society: on dance and low-life subjects in drawings by Verrochio 
  • Tom Nickson on Light and Gothic architecture - Nickson looked at the significance of light and its subsequent obscuration in Gothic Architecture: 1260, 1860, 1960 and now.
  • Zuleika Murat on ‘I have not seen more precious tombs and burials with greater pomp’: Guariento and the Tomb of Doge Giovanni Dolfin in Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice - Dr. Murat proposed a new hypothesis and a visual reconstruction of this important monument in one of Venice’s most significant locations.