Dr. Pearson’s latest book, Gardens of Love and the Limits of Morality in Early Netherlandish Art, has been published by the academic press Brill in The Netherlands. The study is a result of research at museums and archives in Belgium and elsewhere, and of fellowships from the Historians of Netherlandish Art and the Renaissance Society of America. After a decade of hard work, Dr. Pearson was thrilled to see the book in print!
Gardens of Love is the only book to concurrently investigate three otherwise relatively distinct areas of inquiry for the northern Renaissance: devotional imagery, garden history, and the history of the body in relation to sex, gender, and disability. This integrated approach enabled Dr. Pearson to show for the first time how images deeply advanced and sometimes resisted bodily critiques expressed in scripture, conduct literature, and even legislation: Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights was by no means an outlier after all. Indeed, an array of works in various media, including canonical paintings by Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, prints and illustrated books, and the celebrated sculptural gardens of Mechelen (besloten hofjes), contributed to this moralization. Such images helped to frame bodily status as the fundamental problem of human salvation, in which artists, patrons, and viewers alike had an interpretive stake.
Dr. Pearson embarked on two new projects while awaiting the publication of Gardens of Love. In her next book she intends to resolve enduring questions about meaning and reception in an enigmatic late-medieval German manuscript called the “Medieval Housebook.” In addition, she is collaborating with Dr. Sarah Moran at Utrecht University to digitally map heretofore unidentified networks between sites, objects, individuals, and women’s religious communities in the Low Countries over three centuries. The project will document connections, dismantle artificial temporal and geographical boundaries, and demonstrate change across the geo-historical spectrum. She has received a grant for this work from the Office of the Provost, to form a team of students to organize data in the next academic year.