Panel 1: Metaphorical Excess
Luca D’Anselmi: Wisdom and Excessive Knowledge: Seneca’s Critique of the Liberal Arts
In the waning years of the Roman Republic, Cicero describes the fantastical construction of memory palaces (loci) that hold innumerable images (imagines). An essential component of the traditional Liberal Arts, this art of memory allows an educated orator to acquire and access encyclopedic knowledge in numerous disciplines. The philosopher Seneca, however, rejects the usefulness of this sort of memorization in his eighty-eighth epistle to Lucilius, in which he discusses the ultimate aim of education: the study of Wisdom. In contrast with Cicero, Seneca claims that truly liberating study requires a mind uncluttered and free from excessive knowledge. In this paper, I examine what Seneca thinks we ought to learn, or, less intuitively, what he thinks we should learn to forget: that is, the Liberal Arts. In short, I claim that the forgetting and evacuation of “supervacuous” knowledge has a far more prominent place in the Senecan program of education than has previously been appreciated.
Luca D’Anselmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Bryn Mawr College, currently writing his dissertation on Virgilian reception and continuation. His research focuses on Latin poetry, with specific interests in visuality and poetic style. He teaches Latin, Greek, and Humanities at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, where he chairs the department of Classical Languages. He received his B.A. in Latin from Hillsdale College in 2012 and his M.A. from Bryn Mawr College in 2014.
Jacob Eisensmith: Sumptuous Subterfuge: Painted Fabrics in Renaissance Florence
This paper examines how the rise of silk production in Northern Italy resulted in both a drastic increase of sumptuary laws and an increased attention to the depiction of textiles within paintings. Cennino Cennini’s painting treatise and a survey of early fifteenth-century Italian painting reveals a shift in technique used to represent textiles. The shift in painting technique from emulative to simulative occurred simultaneously to a rise in textile production and similarly a rise in sumptuary laws. Utilizing Florence as the primary example, I will explore how Florentines exploited the medium of painting as a means to circumvent sumptuary laws, which largely prohibited women and non-patricians from public ostentation. For some wealthy members of society one solution to this was simply to pay the fines associated with violating sumptuary laws. However, a more feasible solution was to have themselves depicted wearing clothes they were barred from legally owning. The placement of these paintings in semi-public environments, notably chapels, allowed the patron to “wear” or simulate specific velvets and brocades. Additionally, it produced a more lasting testament to their wealth and aspirations than a textile. Beyond the duplicitous depiction on the part of artists, which allowed for the subversion of sumptuary laws, the ostentatious fabrics functioned in a variety of ways within paintings. The evolution of painting technique, the significance of that change, and some of the various ways in which textiles function is investigated through the examination of works by Ghirlandaio and Gentile da Fabriano, in addition to others.
Jacob Eisensmith is a PhD student in the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. He graduated last year from Williams College with an M.A. in the History of Art. His current research focuses on Renaissance material culture as depicted in painting, to understand how the rise and significance of textiles in Italy reverberated and impacted other media of this era.
Alexander Bigman: Confronting the Complexity of Sol LeWitt’s “Location” Drawings
In most of Sol LeWitt’s instruction-based wall drawings, verbal economy gives rise to visual results of astonishing complexity. His Location works from the mid 1970s are unique in that they involve the reverse: here, the plotting of simple geometric shapes results from instructions that are incongruously extensive—often exceeding 400 words—and mind-bogglingly complicated, challenging the comprehension of all but the most gifted interpreters. These instructions are nothing if not excessive. As this paper will show, LeWitt purposely eschewed more streamlined approaches in favor of a perversely demanding process of recursion that is strikingly analogous to the elementary processes of digital computation—a fact that sheds new light on the artist’s otherwise ambiguous relationship to the Information Age aesthetics of his day. Following from this procedure, the drawings are not as simple as they seem. They too are marked by excess: described in terms of points plotted relative to one another and in turn to any given wall, their “location” is designed to be infinitely variable. Here the artist knowingly puts pressure on his own conceptualist description of his practice in terms of defined “works” rooted in discrete “ideas,” anticipating postmodern metadiscourses addressed to the inherently unstable nature of meaning that would crystallize in artistic practices of the later 1970s and after. While LeWitt’s intellectually forbidding Location drawings have received far less scholarly attention than contemporaneous works by the artist, this paper will argue that they in fact constitute a privileged site of inquiry into not only LeWitt’s larger artistic (and implicitly political) project of confronting complexity in the age of information “systems,” but also greater trajectories of later twentieth-century art.
Alexander Bigman is a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. His research focuses on minimalism, conceptual art and the post-conceptual work of the 1970s and 1980s as sites of interdisciplinary encounter and exchange, particularly with the theories and practices of architecture and photography. His article “Architecture and Objecthood: Donald Judd’s Renaissance Imaginary,” exploring the artist’s stated affinities with the work of Filippo Brunelleschi, is forthcoming in Oxford Art Journal. Current projects include studies of Robert Smithson’s mirror displacements and Sol LeWitt’s Location wall drawings from the mid 1970s, the latter of which he will be presenting at the Bryn Mawr Graduate Symposium. He earned his Bachelor of Arts at the University of California at Berkeley, where he concentrated in cognitive linguistics.
Emilia Mickevicius: Nothing Personal: Critique of Suburban and Corporate Sprawl in New Topographics, 1975
In 1975, an exhibition at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York redefined the subject of landscape photography as the built environment. Rejecting the romanticism of their modernist predecessor Ansel Adams, the ten photographers in New Topographics trained their cameras upon banal and ubiquitous tract homes, freeways, and industrial parks. They furthermore rendered this subject matter in what appeared to be a “neutral” style of low contrast, even focus, and unhierarchical compositions, which baffled viewers and critics alike. Despite the interpretive challenge New Topographics posed, however, forty years later, it is widely regarded as a watershed exhibition in photographic history.
This paper examines how the “neutral” aesthetic that New Topographics identified paradoxically critiqued suburban and corporate sprawl. The photographers deployed expressive restraint to throw a societal form of excess – unfettered expansion upon the natural landscape – into relief. For example, Joe Deal’s elevated views of the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico transformed the terrain into a patchwork of surfaces resembling a topographical map, revealing the incoherence of suburban developments. Lewis Baltz’s rigorously frontal photographs of Southern California industrial parks highlighted their monotony by placing the viewer into confrontation with their relentlessly featureless facades. “Excess” here thus figures both as subject matter and interpretive roadblock; in order to grasp the photographs’ critical message, viewers had to overcome their associations with these overly familiar surroundings.
Ultimately, my paper restores nuance to New Topographics’s “neutral” photographic aesthetic by 1) foregrounding viewer response and 2) recasting “neutrality” as a stylistic posture to critically represent excess.
Emilia Mickevicius is a sixth-year doctoral candidate at Brown University, where she specializes in the history and theory of photography and modern and contemporary art. Her dissertation is a reception-oriented study of the 1975 George Eastman Museum exhibition, “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape,” and has been supported by grants from Brown University, the Center for Creative Photography, and the Getty Research Institute.
For her MA qualifying paper at Brown, Emilia examined the reception of the photographer Robert Adams’s 1974 book The New West, and in college at the University of Chicago, she wrote her BA thesis on the photographer Paul Strand’s work in Mexico in the 1930s. Emilia has worked in several curatorial departments at the Art Institute of Chicago, and more recently at the RISD Museum. In 2015, she co-curated “Drawing Conclusions” which featured contemporary works on paper from the RISD Museum’s collection.
Panel 2: Displays of Excess
Matthew Jameson: The Story of the Shell Pits: Excessive Consumption at Tell Abraq during the Iron Age I (1,300-1,100 BCE)
The Iron Age I period (1,300-1,100 BCE) has received relatively little attention in studies of the Iron Age in Southeastern Arabia. The lack of scholarship is largely due to two factors: the paucity of excavated materials, and the misidentification of Iron Age I material as Iron Age II material. This paper looks to build on our knowledge of this period by addressing the topic of excessive consumption at the site of Tell Abraq at the end of the 2nd millennium BCE. Excavation at Tell Abraq has revealed a number of single deposit shell pits just outside of the settlement that have been radiocarbon dated to the Iron Age I period and which are evidence of large dining events. This type of deposit is new in the long history of occupation at the site and represents a shift in human engagement with the landscape. I argue that groups of mobile pastoralists partaking in the excessive consumption of shellfish outside the new Iron Age I wall are responsible for these deposits. By performing quantitative analysis on the shell remains and functional analysis of the pottery from one of these features I hope to demonstrate first the amount of meat consumed; and second how this kind of consumption both codified and reflected the identity of these mobile pastoralists.
Matthew is a PhD candidate in the department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology at Bryn Mawr College. His MA thesis explored the fortifications of Athens and Attica during the Peloponnesian and post-Peloponnesian War eras. His dissertation will examine the interaction between foreign and local groups in the Arabian Gulf during the Hellenistic period, particularly focusing on the use of ceramics in constructing identity. His other research interests include the organization of ceramic production, the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age in the Eastern Mediterranean, the archaeology of food, maritime exchange, and identity in the archaeological record. Matthew has excavated at the Bronze Age site of Gournia on Crete, at the Roman Bath at Isthmia, Golemo Gradiste in FYROM, and on the Civil War site of Gettysburg. His most recent field project is with the Bryn Mawr Excavations in the UAE, excavating the sites of Tell Abraq and Muweilah.
John Webley: Marketing the Monarch: Jewelry and Modernity in Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s Royal Portraits
In 1848 Europe was rocked by a series of revolutions that undermined the authority of its royal houses. Middle and lower class dissidents were particularly outraged by the nobility’s ostentatious displays of precious jewels, silk gowns, and expensive art. To the modern eye, monarchs appeared out of touch with the times, unable to address political, social, or technological advancements; they had become gilded relics of a bygone era. After the revolts were quelled, however, the courts of Europe entered a new period of glamour not seen since Marie Antoinette. My paper examines this unintuitive choice in Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s 1859 portrait of Queen Victoria. I argue that Winterhalter and his sitter used displays of excessive wealth in order to respond to popular concerns about modernity. My study focuses on Winterhalter’s representations of royal jewelry, examining how his novel brushwork, light effects, and color palette can be read in dialogue with contemporary political and social changes. In my discussion of Victoria’s portrait, I argue that her display of historic gems, such as the Black Prince’s Ruby, alongside pieces like the Koh-i-Noor, illustrates the stability of the nation’s past as well as its continued advancement through technological and colonial progress. The ultimate aim of this paper is to show how Victoria’s bejeweled “excesses” were an important means by which she enacted Britain’s history, culture, and future, and in doing so used diamond and pearls to visualize a new role for Britain’s monarch.
John Webley is a recent graduate of Columbia University, where he obtained his MA in art history. His thesis focused on the representation and symbolism of jewelry in Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s royal portraits. He completed his BA at Sarah Lawrence in 2012, where he studied Classical Archaeology and Russian. He also holds an MSt from Oxford University in Classical Archaeology with a focus on the Aegean Bronze Age. After graduating Columbia in May of 2017 he began work at the Dahesh Museum of Art as a research associate. His scholarly interests include the French influence on Russian jewelry, fashion, and aristocratic portraiture in the 19th century, as well as the political subtexts of Russian Orientalist art.
Roxanne Smith: Mapping the Art Collections of San Francisco’s Railroad Tycoons, 1849-1906
In this paper I will discuss the art collections of the ‘Big Four’ railroad tycoons in San Francisco in the late 19th century. The ‘Big Four’ (Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington, and Leland Stanford) were the primary investors in the Central Pacific Railroad built between 1863-1869. By the 1870s, when the ‘Big Four’ had settled into their palatial mansions and began collecting ‘pictures’, they were the richest men on the West Coast. This paper is based on my M.A. thesis work—a digital HGIS map visualizing the geographic origins of the thousands of artworks accumulated by the ‘Big Four’ during this time.
I will use the digital map to show how these San Francisco tycoons were part of an increasingly networked art market made possible by the expansion of industrial capitalism (and the railroad specifically). Not for nothing were the ‘Big Four’ known as “The Octopus” in the local press, caricatured gobbling up everything in their path. In their collecting practices, as well as their aesthetic tastes, we find an ethos of excess particular to California at the time—where the swashbuckling frontier met Gilded Age opulence.
But there is a twist in this story of material abundance—in 1906, the ‘Big Four’ mansions, and the art collections inside, were destroyed by earthquake. For my project, I have attempted to recreate the collections by digitally transcribing the scant remaining archives. In this case, we see how the tools of 21st century tech-capitalism in San Francisco can help to breathe new life into the excesses of its industrial past.
Roxanne Smith received her M.A. in Art History from Columbia University, focusing on nineteenth-century American and British visual culture. Her M.A. thesis project is a digital map of patronage and artistic migration in San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. She holds a B.A. in Art History from Kenyon College.
Lea Stephenson: Enveloped in Opulence: John Singer Sargent’s Women and the Painted Garment
In John Singer Sargent’s (1856-1925) portrayals of the Gilded Age elite, women donned luxurious garments swathed in pearls and silk. Though the artist selected specific dresses, he would often deconstruct styles in the final compositions. The paper will first consider how Sargent altered contemporary sartorial trends for a fictional reality reserved for the canvas. Sitters exert a bond with clothing reminiscent of tropes found in the novels of Henry James and Edith Wharton. The same bodily attachment to opulence and excess appeared with Gilded Age costume balls, as women dressed up as European nobility or Oriental princesses. Sargent wrapped up sitters in a sensorial play of fabrics and connotations of luxury. As precious materials worked together, the garments activated narrative connections beyond the frames of the canvas. Via deconstructed gowns, sitters could blend into the preexisting mansion interiors or collections. Bodies and magnificent objects interconnected. Walking through the collections of Fifth Avenue homes or Philadelphia estates, visitors would be struck with a multi-sensorial mix of Old Master paintings, lavish period rooms, and contemporary portraits. In these depictions and play of forms, Sargent engaged with nineteenth-century notions of attachment to objects, creating a female sitter that enveloped herself in the tactility and aesthetic power of excess. The paper separates Sargent and upper-class American women from the negative connotations of a superficial Gilded Age; instead sitters are imbued with a deep psychological bond to materials. Through intimate gowns, women entered into harmony with opulence.
Lea Stephenson is a McDermott Graduate Intern for American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. This past spring, she received her Masters in Art History from the Williams Graduate Program in the History of Art Offered in Collaboration with the Clark Art Institute. In 2015, she graduated from Tyler School of Art, Temple University with a BA in Art History. For the last two years she served as a curatorial intern at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA, working on Old Master provenance research. Her previous positions include internships at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Saint Gaudens National Historic Site, and provided research assistance for the Williams College Art History department. Focusing upon late nineteenth-century and turn-of-the-century American art, she researches the Gilded Age and the role of upper-class patrons and collections, including the Anglo-American portraits of John Singer Sargent, interiors found in the novels of Edith Wharton, and the tactile engagement with possessions. Her current work considers the ghostly afterlife of Sargent’s Madame X and how the artist clung to the painting for over thirty years. In her research, she also examines the sensorial nature of collections and cosmopolitan costumes found in American Renaissance art.
Panel 3: (Un)Acceptable Excess
Collin Hilton: Moderation in Excess: Lucretius and Aristotle on a Recursive Problem in Hellenistic Philosophy
The adage “nothing in excess” (μηδὲν ἄγαν) was extremely pervasive and productive in Greek philosophy. As Plutarch puts it, the phrase “set in motion so many philosophers’ inquiries, and so great a quantity of discourses, as if from a seed” (de E, 385d). Yet can the adage be applied to itself? Is there excessive moderation?
We might expect that the Roman philosopher-poet Lucretius, given his famous exhortations to freedom from passion or ataraxia, would not consider this an issue: what Epicurean would not want a tranquil life, like one of a calmly grazing cow? So when he describes cows as “living more peacefully” and suffering neither the “torch of wrath” that characterizes lions nor the “cold javelins of fear” that afflict deer (III.302-306), we might expect this to be a model of ataraxia for Lucretius. Yet he criticizes humans like each animal as excessive: one is too inclined to wrath (procliuius), another to fear (citius), and a third reacts to anything more gently than is fair (clementius aequo, III.311-313)—someone evidently moderate to excess.
This paper endeavors to interpret this usually overlooked, and sometimes misunderstood, passage of Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things, through comparison with the Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle characterizes virtue as “hitting the mean” between extremes (II.6.9, VI.1), but ultimately defines the happiest human life as extremely contemplative (X.7-8). Both philosophers thus place superlative value on intellectual flourishing, but Lucretius elaborates his criticism of excess moderation into his picture of philosophical growth, in which fear and anger are integral spurs toward seeking out and understanding the nature of things.
Collin is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Greek, Latin, and Classical Studies at Bryn Mawr College. He received a B.A. in Classics from New York University, and an M.A. from Bryn Mawr College with a thesis on Proclus and Hesiodic Myth. He is currently writing a dissertation on Plutarch, Plato, and philosophical myth, with particular attention to Plutarch’s On the Face in the Moon. He has presented several papers on Greek and Roman philosophy, which focused on authors such as Dicaearchus, Lucretius, and Seneca the Younger. His interests broadly include literary philosophy, ancient religion, approaches to myth, Hellenistic ethics, and the history of Platonism.
Kelly Taylor: Politics and Wine Don’t Mix: Reconciling Contradiction in Arrian’s Anabasis
Alexander the Great: temperate, fair ruler of a would-be pan-Mediterranean empire, or raging alcoholic with a penchant for Eastern-style parties? These are the two options facing the reader at the end of Arrian’s Anabasis Alexandri, when Arrian tells us that Alexander only threw large parties for his friends and that his seeming Medism was merely a political move. But! In a previous section, Arrian took time out from his usual project of lauding Alexander to write what A.B. Bosworth calls the “Great Digression,” in which Alexander is portrayed as a classic Medizing Greek. How to resolve the contradiction?
A thorough reading of the Digression sheds interesting light on this contradiction and, indeed, on Arrian’s whole project. In my paper I examine Greek and Roman historians’ approaches to portraying Medism in order to show that Arrian situates himself firmly within this tradition. Excesses and outrages at the dining table are a popular motif here: recall Pausanias (the future Medizer) laughing at elaborate Persian dining customs, or Britannicus dropping dead at the dinner table while his sister calmly continues eating. I argue that, ultimately, using the motif of Medism is a way for Arrian to talk about an issue vitally important to the Roman historian: defining good government. While Arrian has been exhaustively mined for historical details, little attention has been paid to his literary qualities or his position in the Graeco-Roman canon, and my paper shows that he does, indeed, deserve the attention.
Kelly Taylor received her BA in Classics from the University of Oklahoma and her MA from the University of Notre Dame. She is currently working on a Ph. D. at The Ohio State University. Her (far too diverse) interests include Greece and the Near/Middle East, the history of Islam, women and tragedy, and modern Greece’s relationship with European Philhellenism and the field of Classics. Her non-academic interests include making the perfect Nescafe Frappe, trying to get close to the rabbits in her neighborhood, and looking longingly at pictures from tornado season back home in the Great Plains.
Mary Somerville: Excess and Loyalty in Lucan’s Bellum Civile
Lucan’s historical epic about the civil war between Magnus Pompey and Julius Caesar, the Bellum Civile, is well-known for its Neronian aesthetic of excess, showing excessive images ranging from battle scenes which fill the sea with blood, to snake bites that turn a man into a dying scab. In this paper, I explore how excess manifests in partisan loyalties, arguing that civil war, as Lucan depicts it, emerges in part from excessive loyalty. By examining when loyalty breaks, that is, when each army mutinies against their leader, I examine excess in the leader’s own personality and style, which fosters excess in the troops’ willingness to follow, and excess in the manner in which they follow. Caesar’s army follows an excessively swift and violent leader so closely that they become excessively bloodthirsty and revolt when denied warfare. Pompey’s army follows a leader who is excessively fond of resting on his laurels; when he perishes, they revolt from their new leader, Cato, because opportunity to venerate Pompey has come to an end. Despite specific differences between each partisan group, I will demonstrate how these similar forms of excessive loyalty encapsulate two major aspects of Lucan’s epic depiction of civil war.
Mary Somerville is a PhD student in Greek, Latin and Classical Studies at Bryn Mawr College. She received her BA in Latin at Wake Forest University in 2015, and her MA in Greek, Latin and Classical Studies at Bryn Mawr College in 2017. Her Master’s thesis was about military mutiny in Lucan’s Bellum Civile, a topic she is eager to approach from the angle of excess. Broadly, her academic interest include classical literature, linguistics, and religion, though she tends to focus more specifically on Greek and Latin lyric and epic poetry, literature of the early Roman empire, and discourse in literature.
Ramey Mize: A Grisly Surfeit: Peter Frederick Rothermel’s Battle of Gettysburg: Pickett’s Charge (1870)
On the evening of December 20, 1870, audience members at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia witnessed the ceremonial unveiling of a massive canvas entitled The Battle of Gettysburg: Pickett’s Charge by Peter Frederick Rothermel (1817–1895). While initially extolled by critics for its rigorous fidelity to the historical event, the painting, following its installation in the 1876 Centennial Exposition, was ultimately condemned for this very feature. Visceral manifestations of suffering and mortality on a large scale rarely appeared in American history painting; Rothermel, however, had been charged with representing one of the Civil War’s deadliest episodes, and he accordingly elected to pack his battleground with no less than eighteen life-size corpses, many of which crowd the foreground of this colossal canvas. Instruments of the slaughter, namely rifled muskets and bayonets, litter the terrain in equal measure. This heap of flesh and metal reflects the veritable conditions at Gettysburg, as the Civil War marked the first large-scale deployment of technologically-sophisticated weapons of mass destruction. In this paper, I will explore the ways in which the Civil War’s visual culture revealed death in unprecedented, graphic detail— and how photography and illustrated journalism consequently put pressure on history painting to do the same, but with less acceptable results. Using Rothermel’s Battle of Gettysburg as a case study, I will interpret the reasons for which its realism, largely achieved through an unambiguous portrayal of war’s grisly surfeit, might have later been perceived as excessive rather than authentic.
Ramey Mize is a doctoral candidate in Art History at the University of Pennsylvania. From Atlanta, Georgia, she holds a BA in Art History from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a Master’s degree from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Her research and publications to date examine the intersection of nineteenth-century art, gender, and material culture in Europe and the United States. Previously, she has held curatorial fellowships at the Colby College Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, along with curatorial internships at UNC’s Ackland Museum, the Penn Museum, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Most recently, she co-curated the Arthur Ross Gallery’s exhibition Expanding the Audience for Art in the Nineteenth Century at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She currently serves as a managing curator for the University of Pennsylvania’s Incubation Series and as a Spotlight Gallery Educator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Panel 4: Forging Identity through Excess
Ellen Archie: The Triumph of Tryphe: Dionysian Themes on Luxury Goods from Ptolemaic Egypt
Both in the modern period and in Antiquity, Egypt has been conceived as a land of the exotic “Other,” playing foil to Greek civilization. Yet after Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt, Greeks and other foreigners were enticed to settle there seeking wealth and glory. At the center of this society were the Ptolemaic kings who incorporated many different peoples through both Egyptian ideas of divine kingship and a pervasive Hellenism. As a divine Pharaoh, the Ptolemies protected and provided for Egypt; however, they used Greek iconography– in particular, the god Dionysus– to incorporate Egyptian themes within a shared Hellenism. The tool connecting these differing traditions was the philosophy of Tryphe, Luxury, utilizing splendor and excess to allude to Dionysus and proclaim Egypt’s fertility, power, and abundance. This paper will consider luxury goods from Ptolemaic Egypt with Dionysian imagery to explore how such imagery defined those who owned and used these objects partook in the Ruler Cult, and defined both their place in Ptolemaic Egypt, and Egypt’s place in Greek Culture.
Ellen Archie is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Art History Department at Emory University. Her interests include the diffusion of Hellenism throughout and beyond the Mediterranean during the Hellenistic period as manifested in objects as well as the reception of Hellenism in later periods. She completed her B.A. at Washington and Lee University in 2014, double-majoring in Art History and Classics; her undergraduate thesis focused on revelry scenes connected to Dionysus on Kushan-period stupas in Central and South Asia. She completed her M.A. in 2017 at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and this paper is an excerpt from her Master’s thesis. In addition, she has experience working on excavations in the Athenian Agora, Selinunte, Italy, and at the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace, Greece.
Kate Dolson: Poetics of Seepage: Excess and Gender in Juvenal 6
Excess reigns in Juvenal’s infamous sixth satire. His supersized tirade against women watches with masculine horror as a whole catalogue of women exceed the limits of their bodies. The poem whirls through one form of oozing contaminant after another: piss, sweat, spit, and bile. Needless to say, the list could go on, and does for nearly 700 lines.
Juvenal’s satire is not simply a buffet of bodily excess–its vitriol aims to show the dangers of women. Over the course of the satire, the excessive, seeping female bodies corrupt and destabilize the men in the poem. These women physically leak on their husbands in every imaginable way as they cuckold them obscenely. I will argue that Juvenal uses this narrative of excess to illustrate the threat of female contamination.
Juvenal’s Satire 6 is not only obsessed with this seeping excess, it embodies it. Juvenal himself boasts that this poem goes far beyond the scope of his satiric predecessors (634-637). Indeed, it is stuffed to the point of bursting, super saturated with vignettes and over-full with textual references as well. I will suggest how the poetic body of Satire 6 most closely resembles the very women who fill its verses. Juvenal 6 does not simply contain abundant images of bursting, leaking bodies but is itself just such a body, seeping out its overflowing bile, vignette after endless vignette.
Kate is currently pursuing an M.A. in the Department of Greek, Latin, and Classical Studies at Bryn Mawr College. She received her BA in Greek and Roman Studies from Vassar College in 2013. Her interests include Silver Age Latin poetry and the depictions of women in ancient Literature.
Michelle Al-Ferzly: Enviable Possessions or Objects of Mass Consumption? The Thirteenth-Century Gemellions of Limoges
The popularization of proper noble behavior in the late twelfth and early-thirteenth century Europe was accompanied by increasing consciousness of hygienic dining practices, including handwashing before and after a meal. This awareness led to the production of handwashing utensils, such as enamel basins from Limoges, France, known as gemellions. These shallow bowls, which circulated in pairs, are frequently decorated with images of courtly life, such as hunting, dancing, or heraldry.
The size of the extant gemellion corpus largely supersedes any other group of medieval objects. However, while nearly two hundred examples of these basins exist in collections worldwide, they are largely absent from studies of medieval dining ware because previous scholars have often characterized them as objects of mass consumption. This material excess, largely unencountered in the Middle Ages, has been described as summary, repetitive, and thus of poor quality.
In contrast, I move beyond discussion of the gemellions’ lesser material appearance to consider their iconographic program. Drawing on close study of the courtly images included on these objects, I show that these visual references to noble medieval life were purposefully selected for their users to stake a claim to elevated social standing. I posit that the array of motifs such as heraldry, or generic enthroned figures, operated as contemporary imitations of less ubiquitous, higher-quality luxury objects. By virtue of their mass production, I argue that the gemellions afforded their users access to imagery typically reserved for the elite. This visual excess, I contend, operated as a token of aspirational, noble identity.
Michelle is a first-year PhD student in History of Art at the University of Michigan, where she studies the art and architecture of the Medieval Mediterranean. Her research interests include artistic cross-cultural interactions between Byzantium, the Islamic World, and Latin Europe, reception of Islamic art in the medieval west, and the circulation and use of elite portable objects throughout the Mediterranean basin. Michelle received her M.A. from Bryn Mawr College in 2016, where her master’s thesis focused on a corpus of thirteenth-century French enamel objects from Limoges, and their connection to Islamic courtly living. Her paper for the 2017 Bryn Mawr Graduate Symposium revisits the material examined in her master’s project, looking at the reasons for which these medieval objects were purposefully produced in excess.
Francesca Ferrari: Visions in the Crowd – Gendering the Masses in Weimar Modernity
How do we visualize an excess of people? What are the implications of describing some bodies as excessive? In what ways do we control the individuals whom we identify as surplus? In Crowds and Democracy (2013), cultural historian Stefan Jonsson claims that describing people as an anonymous mass undermines their value as individuals and minimizes their political agency. The consistent representations of the masses as feminine, which have contributed to shape a negative portrayal of crowds since the dawn of mass-sociology in the late nineteenth century, reinforce this notion by doubling its exclusionary implications. Throughout the twentieth century and up to the present day, many artists have visually engendered the masses by establishing undeniable relations between images of crowds and female bodies to reclaim public space as the prerogative of male individuals.
In this paper, I focus on the cultural context of the Weimar Republic. I argue that the vertiginous growth of the population around metropolitan centers like Weimar and Berlin, as well as the implementation of women’s suffrage in 1918, forced Germans to renegotiate their ideas about the role and importance of the single individual vis-à-vis public space – a renegotiation that heavily relied on a gendered framework. By analyzing representations of crowds by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, George Grosz, and Laszló Moholy-Nagy, I show that feminized representations of the masses arbitrarily labeled both crowds and women as decadent entities threatening the public order. Through a selected number of artworks, I demonstrate that the conflation of the constructs of femininity and the masses communicates an anxiety about the perceived proliferation of unwanted individuals in the public sphere, and denies the social, political, and cultural relevance of particular groups of Weimar citizens by reducing them to excess bodies.
Francesca Ferrari is a PhD candidate in Art History at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University. She holds a MA in Art History from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Art History and English Literature from the University of Lausanne. Her research focuses on the European avant-garde, with special emphasis on the artistic groups working in pre-revolutionary Russia and the Weimar Republic. In particular, she studies the visual rendition of collective bodies like crowds, nations, and mass-audiences, investigating the relation between these representations and gender. Her professional experiences include positions with the Museo d’Arte della Svizzera Italiana (Lugano, Switzerland), the Burchfield Penney Art Center (Buffalo, NY), Sotheby’s auction house (New York City), Christo and Jeanne Claude’s Floating Piers (Lake Iseo, Italy), and the Barnes Foundation (Philadelphia, PA).