Dr Benjamin Tilghman
Visiting Research Fellow, January - May 2020
Lives of Stillness: Stasis, Persistence, and the Ecology of Medieval Art
Art historical studies of the changing contexts of objects have enriched our understanding of how the use and reception of artworks can change across contexts. These “biographies” often quickly pass over the long stretches of time during which a work stays in one place. But perhaps the stillness of art objects should not be seen as a kind of downtime, but as an essential element in their agency and meaning. As a first step toward theorizing the stasis of art objects, this talk will consider how saints and their objects were often characterized through miraculous feats of persistence in the early Middle Ages. This sanctified stillness, moreover, was often enacted within a natural world that was seen as both mutable and eternal. To think the stillness of early medieval art is to think about the relationship of humans to the larger flows of time, energy, and matter in which we exist.
Ben Tilghman is assistant professor of art history at Washington College in Maryland. He is also a member of the Material Collective, a collaborative working group of medieval art historians that explores innovative and more humane modes of scholarship. His previous research has covered the calligraphy and ornament of early medieval manuscripts such as the Book of Kells, and he has forthcoming essays on calligraphic ornaments as abstractions in early medieval Spanish manuscripts and the role of pseudoscripts in the paintings of Filippo Lippi.
Academia.edu profile: https://washcoll.academia.edu/BenjaminTilghman