Elina Gertsman, Case Western Reserve University, and Christina Normore, Northwestern University | Newberry

Elina Gertsman, Case Western Reserve University, and Christina Normore, Northwestern University

Friday, May 22, 2020

2-5 pm

Baskes Boardroom

Seminar in European Art

Nothing is the Matter: Locating God in the Cosmic Void, Elina Gertsman
Nature, medieval philosophers exclaimed in an unsteady chorus, abhors a vacuum. Guided by Aristotelian theories, scholars from Avicenna to Grosseteste rejected the possibility of the void: a locus sine corpore locato was a contradictory notion, and God, even in his omnipotence, surely could not create anything contradictory. My paper discusses a series of late medieval conceptions of nothingness, teasing out the complex interconnections among formal, empirical, and natural sciences, and the material culture of the ensuing centuries. The focus is on the thirteenth century, and on the fertility of the many cross-pollinations between observation and faith, between sciences and theology, and between the visual and the intellectual.

“Un Quarte de mere en tableau”: Revisiting the Catalan Atlas, Christina Elizabeth Normore

The so-called Catalan Atlas (BnF MS Espagnol 30) has figured prominently in recent years as a “summary of late medieval Europe’s geographical knowledge”. Yet while selected portions of the map such as its unusual depiction of the Malian ruler Mansa Musa are repeatedly reproduced, the Catalan Atlas’s over-arching logic has been largely reduced to generalities concerning its Majorcan origins. This paper offers an initial examination of larger themes that unite the Catalan Atlas’s program of texts and images, with a particular attention to its construction of a global monarchical political order and the place of faith and race within it. These are considered in light of the ties between the French royal recipients of the map and their Aragonese allies, who either commissioned it as a gift or brokered its production.