Who would have thought it this time two years ago, after graduating from the University of York, I would be graduating with a Master’s degree from Oxford? I certainly didn’t. Oxford has always had this mysterious and enigmatic presence in my life. When I was smaller, I remember thinking how amazing it would be to attend and study here, but never in my wildest dreams did I actually think I would have gone there. And now I have finished!
This year has probably been one of the quickest in my life to date. My course was only 9 months long. The shortness of my degree meant that a lot was crammed into a little amount of time. This included the huge task of learning languages such as Latin and Medieval French at the same time. Whilst at times many lamented how hard, demanding, and tiring the course was – I found it incredibly interesting, and never once did I think that maybe I should have been doing something else. I loved it.
However, this year was particularly difficult for me towards the end. Less than a month before my dissertation was due, my Grandfather unexpectedly passed away. It was, and still is, one of the toughest things that I have had to experience. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of my Grandpa, and I miss him dearly. I found it very difficult to continue on when he passed, and so, in theory, I should be exceptionally happy to have graduated under the circumstances. I hope that he was looking down on us last week, and shared in the precious occasion with all the family.
Now I am back at the family home, and eagerly applying for jobs left, right, and centre. Job-hunting is l-o-n-g, and I hadn’t realised how much time goes into each application. However, my perseverance will not be diminished!
I’m also feeling very creative at the moment. Whilst studying I didn’t have the to do as much painting or photography as I would normally like to. So, whilst there is a gap in my life, this is the perfect opportunity to get painting! Keep checking out on my instragram to see what I get up to.
Here are just a few of the photos taken on my graduation, enjoy.
In January I was lucky to be given the funding from Jesus College to head over to Paris as part of my research for my dissertation. The main goal of this trip was to be able to see a manuscript that I am researching in person at the BNF (Bibliothèque Nationale de France). The actual process of getting in touch with the BNF and requesting access to the manuscript wasn’t that difficult (to my surprise!), and I was eventually granted permission to be able to see my manuscript. Despite it being only for half a day, due to the fragile nature of the manuscript and the fact that it is part of the BNF’s special collection, it was a great experience to be able to see and touch the pages that I had been long looking at only on screen.
I’m not gonna lie, and maybe only fellow medievalists will understand this, but oh my – what an amazing time I had! When my manuscript was finally brought out to me, I could feel my hands trembling. I was so excited! To be able to physically handle a manuscript from the 13th/14th century, how often do you get to do that!? (Well, actually, here at Oxford we get to do that quite a lot, but that’s beside the point…). I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting it to be the size it was, and I also wasn’t expecting the folios to be so fragile. I guess that’s what happens when you spend your time looking at objects such as these via computer screens and in books – you forget the actual materiality quality of the objects themselves. Whenever I handle manuscripts, I always try to remember the fact that these were made from living animals, the skin of cows etc. There’s something magical, albeit a little gross about this. It was also a wonderful experience just to be able to turn the pages over, mirroring the actual experience of those 13th century people looking at it. That’s another thing about studying manuscripts and other medieval objects via computers that can be unhelpful, the fact that you can also lose sight of how these objects were used, held, and experienced. I could ramble on for hours talking about how fun it was to be able to interact with an object I have grown to love and appreciate so much, but I will save you all from it.
Due to the fact that I only had access to the manuscript for half a day meant that I went a little obsessive with the amount of photos I took. But hey, I have no regrets! It was important to be able to survey each folio individually, making notes of any particular features that could not be seen on the photos that the BNF have released online.
After spending a mentally fatiguing and exciting day at the BNF, I spent the remaining days in Paris meeting up with friends and my former Au Pair family. I had such a wonderful time in Paris, not only being back in the city that I love so much, but to be able to advance in my research and be able to actually see the manuscript in person!
I have a lot of work now that I need to get on with, including some very difficult attempts at choiring my manuscript – but this is what I love, and cannot wait to get down to it.
Also, a big thank you to Jesus College for providing me with the funding to be able to make this special trip to the BNF.
It has been a while since I have managed to sit down and write a blog post, and to my lovely readers I apologise! The last few weeks have been busy, and despite all this chaos, we are finally catching the first glimpses of Spring here in Paris (aka. Printemps en Francais). It may not be April just yet, but we are indeed experiencing more rain at the moment – sigh. Moving on from weather issues…
As I mentioned, my somewhat hectic schedule has been a fun one! Two weekends ago I was blessed to have my parents come and visit me in Paris. As it was both Mother’s day on the Sunday, as well as Mum’s birthday, we made the most of the time we had together. This included venturing to the Marché aux puces de Saint-Ouen and the Puces de Vanves Marché, which both have amazing trinkets and antiques on offer. For those who don’t know my father, he has a little (‘little’ being gigantic) passion for collecting records, and so these markets were somewhat like stepping into Paradise! Albeit it overpriced compared to his usual experiences at British car-boots. We also had pre-booked tickets to go and see the ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibition that is currently on a world-wide tour. Having grown up listening to Bowie, and with a father and uncle who are big fans, I was extremely excited to attend. We were unfortunate to not be able to see the exhibition in the V&A when it was in London, with mum and I instead going to the cinema for a tour of the exhibition – without having to leave Liverpool or our seats! It was great to have my parents over, not only to celebrate my mum’s birthday and because I’ve missed them, but also to be treated out for some nice food!
During the week, I met up with Emily Guerry, one of my old tutors from York who was visiting Paris with her current students from Cambridge University. I was delighted to be able to join Emily and her pupils on some of their visits. On the Monday we met at the Musée Cite de l’architecture et du patrimoine and examined the many Romanesque and Gothic reliefs; Tuesday morning saw me join them for a visit to the Abbey de Saint-Germain which is very close to my language school; and on the Friday I headed with the group to Laon to see the fantastic cathedral (as well as going to a lovely dinner that night!). Spending much time with fellow medievalists got me all excited for getting back to further study next year and continuing researching something that I am so passionate about.
The following weekend (this one just gone) also welcomed Sally, an old friend from school. I haven’t seen Sally in person for around 3 years, and so it was awesome to see her in the flesh and not on my Skype screen. Sally is also an Au Pair, but in Berlin, so she knows the routine that I am currently in. Due to her flight arriving the same time I collect the children from school, Sally had to jump in the car and come for the ride! The plus of this was that I gave her an unconventional tour of Versailles. We spent our weekend dining out with good friends. One of the reasons why me and Sally are such great friends is that we have such similar interests, one being art and culture. So we ended up exploring the Musée d’Orsay, Musée de l’Orangerie, and the current exposition at the Éléphant Paname gallery. I also took Sally around the Sainte-Chapelle – any trip to Paris avec moi is not complete without visiting this divine beauty, and I was excited to see that all the boards covering the renovation work have been removed. En fin! I will definitely have to go back again soon with my dad’s wide-eye camera lens to try to capture this exquisite space. Although the weather was pretty rubbish during the weekend, we were blessed with blue skies on Monday morning. So, before Sally’s flight we headed off on a bike ride in Saint Cloud park to see the wonderful views of the city. Unfortunately for me, I could not get on the spare bike (it was too big for me!), and so was left with the only options of running next to Sally or to take a children’s scooter. I chose the latter. What an intense workout! Never again.
So there you have it. My March thus far, which continues to be a busy one. Tomorrow is my birthday, and on Saturday night I will be going to dinner with some great friends of mine for Thai – I have been dreaming about Thai food for so long now, and cannot wait.
The current exhibition at the Musée de Cluny offers a journey through time and space during the Middle Ages. ‘Voyager au Moyen Âge’ (‘Travelling in the Middle Ages’) hosts a variety of key aspects of travel in the Medieval period. As one walks around the exhibition, which is currently on show in the third-century Gallo-Roman thermal bathing hall, you are presented with different types of traveller, from the merchant to the pilgrim, the prince to the artist. Furthermore, the exhibition highlights the diverse reasons for travelling during this time, encompassing specific issues such as the aspiration for knowledge, the need to demonstrate visibility within specific societies and the journey of the afterlife. On show are a selection of varying objects, including tapestries and reliquaries taken on travel, to illuminated manuscripts illustrating maps of various countries. Probably the most notable artefact is displayed right in the centre of the exhibition – the fragments of a medieval boat which have been recreated to provide a tangible sense of the physical nature of such journeys and what they may have entailed.
Overall, the objects on show are interesting, and offer one an insight into the various aspects of travel during the Middle Ages. The exhibition closes on 23rd February 2015, so there’s still time left to be transported and travel through the life of a medieval voyager.
This December, Paris will host two exciting Medieval conferences, with esteemed historians travelling to the capital to give papers. Not only will these be great opportunities to meet fellow art historians and hear interesting talks, but they are free! I will be attending both, and will blog about the contents of each.
Conférences et colloques Saint-Louis et les arts en Europe, Louvre, 6th December 2014 – 10am – 18pm
In conjunction with the current exposition at the Conciergerie, on Saturday 6th December, the Louvre will present a conference pertaining the artistic patronage of Saint Louis, and his potential influence and relationships throughout Europe. Many may already be aware of the intense artistic patronage of King Louis IX during his reign, and it is often interpreted that his patronage was a means of asserting political agendas (this is part of what my BA Dissertation argued against). This one day conference is sure to be intriguing, and for those fellow Saint Louis lovers out there like myself, this is a definite conference to attend.
Having completed my BA dissertation on the decorative programme of the Sainte-Chapelle, I cannot wait to hear all about the patronage of Saint Louis. Furthermore, one paper that will be presented during this conference is by Dany Sandron (Université Paris IV-Sorbonne) titled: La Sainte-Chapelle et l’Europe : une référence polymorphe. It will be very interesting to hear the relationships between polymorphic art and architecture within the Sainte-Chapelle and contemporary European works. Straight after this, Paul Binksi (Cambridge University) will be exploring the relationship between Saint Louis and King Henry III in his paper titled: Saint Louis, Henri III et la peinture à Westminster 1260-1270. This will sure to be another fascinating talk, as additionally, last year in my ‘Death and Devotion’ module with Emily Guerry, we studied Westminster Abbey and its paintings, and the relationship between Henry III and Louis.
Micro-architecture et figures du bâti au Moyen-Âge : l’échelle à l’épreuve de la matière, Institue National d’histoire de l’art (Micro-architecture and Miniaturized representations of buildings: different scales for different materials?), 8 – 10th December 2014
6 rue des Petits-Champs ou 2, rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris
Co-organised by the National Institute of Art History, University of Nantesand the National Archives, this conference addresses issues relating to the representation of miniaturized architecture through new approaches and perspectives. It also aims to explore the ways in which ‘architecturation’ has been transfigured within art forms, and how such were affected by the changes within the production of artworks and the inherent reception of these. For many years, historians have long been interested in miniaturized representations of architecture in a variety of forms, and how such were created to portray particular concepts. For example, Marie-Thérèse Gousset demonstrated how the miniaturized architectural decoration of Romanesque censers referred to heavenly Jerusalem, thus bearing symbolic value and religious significance. However, many historians, such as Paul Binski, have argued against other historians definitions of microarchitecture, proposing focus to be brought towards associations with monumental architecture (whether ancient, contemporary, or imagined).
Due to the extensive range of studies and understanding of microarchitecture, this conference aims to engage with this shifting of the field, focusing on the examination of new corpuses of material and, therefore, new issues. A conference that will unquestionably bring up new questions to be answered.