What are you looking for?

Monasteries in competition
18 September
11:00 - 12:30
Korte Spinhuissteeg
Conference Room

Monasteries in competition

NIAS Seminar

In the seminar "Monasteries in Competition: manuscript production of Delft in the late middle ages", book historian Kathryn Rudy will discuss how late medieval nuns in Delft made manuscripts for the lay public.

About the Seminar

Traditional narratives about great art usually star a single genius who propelled ‘masterpieces’ into existence. The Master of the Fagel Missal, named after a large manuscript made in 1459 and 1460 (now in Trinity College Dublin), is such a figure, credited with producing one of the most impressive manuscripts of the northern Netherlands. However, the Master was actually a woman, as has been recognized since 1989. More accurately, Rudy’s initial research in Dublin shows that the ‘Mistress of the Fagel Missal’ was actually a whole group of women—Augustinian canonesses at the convent of St Agnes in Delft—not a single figure. Rudy’s close study shows that women from this convent were taught a corporate script so that their work would be indistinguishable from that of their sisters. In this way, they could streamline labour within a single manuscript project. Having studied this and other Delft manuscripts for over a decade, Rudy proposes to write the first comprehensive study of the 150+ surviving volumes, which she will demonstrate were overwhelmingly made by women in this convent and several neighbouring convents. Until now, cataloguers have over-attributed Delft manuscripts to the ‘Master of the Fagel Missal’, in order to maintain an old-fashioned ‘genius’ narrative about book production. This study will challenge the master narrative of the singular genius and to reveal evidence about the relative value of men’s and women’s work in the late middle ages, particularly the relationships between self-trained nuns’ work and professional (male) work, and the role of manuscripts in branding monastic corporations. To do this, various methods will be employed: statistical analysis of calendars, visual analysis of script and decoration, textual analysis of main and ‘filler’ texts. Aspects of production will be considered, such as the use of models and assembly-line production, in order to analyse relationships between and within convents, and develop a microeconomic model that considers how the convents divided up a stratified market of lay book buyers, whereby different convents were targeting different segments of the market, and several nuns within a convent, plus male artists outside a convent, could all contribute labour to a single manuscript.

About NIAS Seminars

NIAS Seminars are aimed to stimulate scientific cross-pollination within the NIAS academic community, but seminars are open to others who are interested. Please  if you wish to attend.