Visiting Scholar Review Hedi Gearhart: Nicole Avant

For the Visiting Scholar lecture I chose to attend Heidi Gearhart’s lecture.  She is a post-doctoral fellow at the Getty Research Institute.  The title of her lecture was, “Is there Virtue in Virtuosity? Art and Skill in the Medieval Monastery”.  Her specialty was in the medieval arts.  She begins by saying that medieval art and writing is very scarce.   Gearhart then went on to talk about these “recipe books” that had no order or structure, we have no idea who read these books but think that they had something to do with the monastery.  I liked this part of the lecture because I think it is awesome that she is so interested in something that we may never know anything about.  I also thought that the intricacy of these books is amazing for how early they are in history.  It really makes you wonder where Western art would be if it wasn’t for the church who commissioned these works.

The lecture then moved to the Monastery of Cologne.  This was a center for trade and was a growing city.  St. Pantaleon Cologne was on of the main heads of the manuscripts.  Most of the manuscripts that Gearhart studies are from here, the purpose of these books is all the same.  They start with a prologue that shows the purpose of the book that is going to follow.  In the prologue we see the most impressive craftsmanship and information I think that it is amazing that these people in these early times had the means and the ability to make things like this.  I also like how much depth Gearhart went into about all of the people that were involved with the manuscript making.  It made me much more interested about the topic.

She talks about the fact that just as these manuscripts are becoming popular Theopolis takes the idea and Christianizes it.  I was intrigued by this because if the manuscripts were not Christianized before than what were the people writing about if not religion?  Normal day-to-day things?

From here the lecture mainly concentrates on Theopolis who created luxurious art.  I thought the translation of the lines of the book were fascinating.  Especially when he is talking about how the work of the artist is justified.  I like that he said that the idea of an image shows man’s potential, here we see that art is beginning to be justified throughout history.  Theopolis believes that through free will we can gain skill and through this skill we can get closer to God.  I thought all of these sections were interesting because there is an overarching theme of humility and a desire for man to always learn more because we do not know as much as the Gods.

Hugh St. Victor was the next person that we learned about in the lecture.  He wrote on the spiritual value of educations and was drawing on potential and likeness to God.  The second that she brought up that he was interested in education I thought about the fact that there seems to be an overarching theme in these manuscripts for the need for people to get education in order to be closer to God.  This was interesting to me because later in life we see this reversed in the fact that people are not granted equal opportunities to educate themselves.

I was very interested when she started talking about the manuscripts and that language puts things in the possible and not the doable- coupled with the fact that she says that someone needs freewill to do something.  He urges diligence from making pigments or picking sand we must be diligent and everything to him boils down to the fact that diligence is key.  When I think of the middle ages I do not think of someone who is diligent and being meticulous about the type of sand that they pick out.  I think more of battles and things of the like.  That is why this whole lecture was so fascinating to me.  It gave me a chance to see this time period in another light.

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