CONFERENCE / Agency of Things. New Perspectives on European Art of the Fourteenth–Sixteenth Centuries

2015-06-10 / 18:00 - 2015-06-12 / 17:00

10–12 June 2015


Agency of Things
New Perspectives on European Art of the Fourteenth–Sixteenth Centuries

Conference co-organized by The Institute of History of Art, University of Warsaw and The National Museum in Warsaw

This two-day interdisciplinary conference seeks to investigate whether agency of things as a new research model more accurately than traditional theories and methods informs our understanding of religious, social, political and ideological systems or networks which shaped various communities (court, city, convent, pilgrim) during the period under investigation. Innovative insights into the realm of agency of artistic and non-artistic objects will be presented, including the following topics:

Scale and size of things as conditions of their agency

  • Physical and sensory agency of things
  • Animated things and things for manual handling  
  • Objects actively defining and operating within a space
  • Things used in performances, rituals, recitations and sermons
  • Craftsmanship and its role in agency of things
  • Human subjects in a process of dissemination of things
  • Emotional and psychological agency of things




/ University of Warsaw, „Stary BUW”, room 106

6 p.m. keynote lecture

  • Andrew Morrall (The Bard Graduate Centre, New York)

The Power of Nature and the Agency of Art in the Works of Jan Vermeyen and Nikolas Pfaff


/ National Museum of Warsaw, cinema room „Kino MUZ”

9.00 a.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks

  • Agnieszka Morawińska, Director of the National Museum in Warsaw

9.30–11.00 a.m. First Session

  • Kathryn Rudy (University of St Andrews)

Touching Skin. How Medieval Users Rubbed, Kissed, Inscribed, Splashed, Begrimed, and Pricked their Manuscripts

  • Sarah M. Guérin (University of Montréal)

Presentation/Representation. The Agency of Materials in the Scenic Reliquaries, circa 1300

11.15 a.m. – 12.45 p.m. Second Session

  • Barbara Baert (KU Leuven)

Agency of things and the Enclosed Gardens. A case-study on Mixed Media, Remnant Art, récyclage and gender in the Low Countries (16th onwards)

  • Elina Gertsman (Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland)

Phantoms of Emptiness: the Agency of (No)thing

  • Mercedes López-Mayán (University of Santiago de Compostela)

Art, Liturgy and Power in the 15th century: the ‘Manuscript Chapel’ of Alfonso Carrillo, Archbishop of Toledo

2.00–3.30 p.m. Third Session

  • Wim François (KU Leuven)

The Bible between Material Book and Immaterial Word

  • Karen Eileen Overbey (Tufts University)

Manual Medicine

  • Jack Hartnell (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Dexterity, Memory, and Cutting-Edge Agency in Decorated Surgical Saws

3.45–4.45 p.m. Fourth Session

  • Peter Dent (University of Bristol)

Agency, Beauty and Late-Medieval Sculpture

  • Christopher J. Nygren (University of Pittsburgh)

“Let them fall down and worship thing.” Lorenzo Valla’s Renaissance Thing Theory

5.00 p.m. keynote lecture

  • Miri Rubin (Queen Mary University of London)

Why Matter Matters



FRIDAY, 12 JUNE 2015
/ National Museum of Warsaw, cinema room „Kino Muz”

9.00 a.m. keynote lecture:

  • Jacqueline Jung (The Yale University)

The Boots of St. Hedwig: Thoughts on the Limits of the Agency of Things

10.00–11.00 a.m. Fifth Session

  • Rosa M. Rodriguez Porto (University of York)

Knighted by the Apostle Himself: Political Fabrication and Chivalric Artifact in Compostela, 1332

  • Robert Maniura (Birkbeck, University of London)

Miraculous Images

11.15 a.m. – 12.45 p.m. Sixth Session

  • Krystyna Greub-Frącz (Independent Scholar, Cologne)

The Choir Screen as Agent: A Reinterpretation of the Ghent Altarpiece

  • Emily N. Savage (University of St Andrews)

The Choir-stall as Interactive Agent

  • Jessica Barker (The Courtauld Institute of Art and Henry Moore Foundation)

Revealing and Concealing: Visibility as a Strategy of Power at the Royal Mausolea of Batalha and Westminster Abbey

2.00–3.30 p.m. Seventh Session

  • Leah Clark (The Open University)

Collecting, Exchange, and the Agency of Things in the Renaissance Court

  • Vera-Simone Schulz (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz Max-Planck-Institut)

Infiltrating artifacts. The agency of things in 14th- and 15th-century Florence

  • Evelyn Korsch (University of Erfurt)

The multilayered agency of luxury textiles. A diplomatic gift presented to the Republic of Venice in 1603

3.45–4.45 p.m. Eighth Session

  • Jaya Remond (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)

Marketing Dürer: Prints as agents of self-promotion

  • Alexander Lee (University of Oxford)

Michelangelo, Tommaso de’Cavalieri, and the Agency of the Gift Giving

5.00 p.m. Closing Remarks

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