Event—Scholarly Seminars

Erin Giffin, Skidmore College & Tamara Golan, University of Chicago


Malleable Messages: When the Replica Becomes the Model

Are you there, God? It’s me, Kunst: Lukas Moser and the Late Medieval Artist

Erin Giffin and Tamara Golan

Malleable Messages: When the Replica Becomes the Model

Erin Giffin, Skidmore College

This excerpt from Erin Giffin’s book manuscript (currently entitled Translating Space: Replicas of the Holy House of Loreto) addresses the phenomenon of structural replicas becoming sources of information for subsequent recreations. The Santa Casa di Loreto, or Holy House of the Virgin Mary, was recreated extensively throughout the early modern Catholic world, due to its perception as the site of the Annunciation, Jesus’ childhood home, and the purported first church of the faith consecrated by the apostles following Christ’s ascension. Rather than cultivate a single site of pilgrimage worship, the cult at Loreto flourished through its replicas, though these recreations introduced subtly competing iconographic narratives that disseminated distinct iterations of the Santa Casa throughout the Catholic world. Taking our point of departure from a manuscript reproduction of the Santa Casa in the Newberry Collection, this presentation maps the Loretan cult’s malleable messaging and the effect of replicas upon the original.

Are you there, God? It’s me, Kunst: Lukas Moser and the Late Medieval Artist

Tamara Golan, University of Chicago

A provocative inscription runs across Lukas Moser’s 1432 altarpiece for the St. Maria Magdalene church in the small village of Tiefenbronn: “O weep, art [Kunst] weep, bewail yourself; nobody desires you anymore – alas!” This haunting lament has generated a wealth of scholarship, but its precise meaning has eluded capture. For some, it expresses despair over a decline in commissions or poor reception of his artistic style. For others, it reveals a “modern” self-consciousness that drew attention to his artistic skill and identity. In demanding his art weep and lament, I argue instead that Moser channels not the voice of the emergent early modern artist but the medieval confessor. Looking at late medieval changes to the sacrament of penance and the restorative power of tears in this process, I place the altar’s inscription and pictorial arrangement in close relation to the penitential function of the altar. Finally, my exploration of the inscription’s explicitly erotic overtones reveals how it provocatively equates painting with sex work and, in so doing, aims its confessional imperative at the artwork itself, demanding that it cast off its own tricks of artifice and illusion and transform itself into a new type of art.


This event is free, but all participants must register in advance. Space is limited, so please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.

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About the European Art Seminar

The Center for Renaissance Studies European Art Seminar considers work in art history that explores painting, sculpture, graphic art, architecture, caricature, manuscript illumination, book arts, and material culture.

The coordinators for the Seminar in European Art are Suzanne Karr Schmidt (Newberry Library), Lia Markey (Newberry Library), and Walter Melion (Emory University).

The European Art Seminar is sponsored by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.


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