Faculty Focus: Andrea Pearson presents her research in Belgium.

Over the semester break, Dr. Pearson presented aspects of her project on Netherlandish besloten hofjes (enclosed gardens, in triptych form) at a three-day international conference called “Imaging Utopia: New Perspectives on Northern Renaissance Art.” The conference took place in Belgium. It brought scholars together to discuss varieties of utopianism in celebration of the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia, the initial printing of which was achieved in Leuven. The first day of the conference focused exclusively on besloten hofjes; attendance was approximately 200. Dr. Pearson’s presentation explored utopianism in a hofje (illustrated) from a hospital in Mechelen, then the governmental seat of Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands. Dr. Pearson argued that the work helped to mediate contentious positions on female and male monastic enclosure that were taken up by the hospital’s personnel. This hofje is among seven works of the kind that are undergoing conservation after their designation as Vlaamse Topstukken (Flemish Masterpieces), a term that designates works of the highest artistic and cultural value for Belgium (Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece is also on the list). Dr. Pearson’s presentation led to an invitation to contribute to a major publication celebrating the conservation project and the permanent reinstallation of the hofjes in the newly renovated Hof van Busleyden in Mechelen in March of 2018.

In a forthcoming article Dr. Pearson argues that another hofje from the Mechelen hospital was commissioned by the parents of a blind nun, with whom they are portrayed in its painted wings. The hofje asserted meritorious status in piety that claimed salvation for all three members of the familial triad, by invoking pious practices tied not to sight but to the other senses. Such assertions were crucial, for the daughter’s visual impairment rendered her and her parents spiritually suspect. The essay, therefore, redefines sensory piety as socially persuasive. This approach departs from previous investigations on religion and the senses in this period, which focus primarily on interiority. Check out the article after its publication online this spring, in the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art (www.jhna.org)!


Mechelen, Crucifixion Hofje, ca. 1525-28, polychromed wood, silk, paper, bone, wire, paint, and other materials in a wood case, 42.9 x 35.3 x 7.7 inches. Musea & Erfgoed Mechelen, inv. BH/3, on long-term loan from the Augustinian Sisters of Mechelen.




Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Juliet Bellow to give two presentations in London in the upcoming week.

Dr. Juliet Bellow will be giving two presentations in London this upcoming week. On Monday, January 23rd, Dr. Bellow will give a paper for a study day at the Courtauld Gallery titled “Hand Dance: Drawing as Choreography in Rodin’s Cambodian Dancers.” This paper follows the approaching closing of the Courtauld Gallery’s recent exhibition “Rodin and Dance: The Essence of Movement.” Dr. Juliet Bellow’s previous catalogue essay for the Courtauld Gallery exhibition was called “groundbreaking” by Apollo Magazine, citing her suggestion that Rodin’s admiration for dance dovetailed ‘with the most radical dimensions of Rodin’s sculptural practice.’

On Tuesday January  24th, Dr. Bellow will give a talk at the Center for the Study of Dance at the University of Roehampton.  In this paper, titled “Beware of plaster: Auguste Rodin’s drawings of the Cambodian Royal Ballet,” Dr. Bellow considers why Rodin chose to privilege the pencil over the chisel to convey his perceptions of the Cambodian Royal Ballet, and how that choice affected Rodin’s carefully constructed public image.