Tuesday, May 11, 2021
ICMS session no. 138
Organizers and Chairs: Francesco Gangemi, Centro Tedesco di Studi Veneziani; Alison Locke Perchuk, California State University Channel Islands
Welcome: Francesco Gangemi
Testimonial: Jaroslav Folda, Professor Emeritus, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Concluding Discussion: Francesco Gangemi & Dorothy F. Glass
"From a Choir Screen to a Portal: Three Sculptures from San Marco, Venice"
A Madonna and Child, a kneeling Magus and Saint Joseph were placed in the lunette above the portal of the church of Santi Filippo e Giacomo, just behind the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, at the end of the fifteenth century. The statues had been carved a good two centuries earlier for the choir screen of San Marco together with a much larger cycle of sculptures in the round. Left in the Basilica are traces of the earlier display, which was dismantled for unknown reasons sometime before 1394. My paper in honor of Dorothy Glass explores this case study of Venetian recycling of a Gothic set repurposed by diminishing, but not erasing, its iconographic meaning.
"Was Lady Londonderry duped? The curious story of an Italian well-head"
The garden of an Irish country house is not a place where one expects to find a piece of Italian Romanesque sculpture. For many years it has been claimed that a stone water feature at Mount Stewart was in fact an Italian font that had been shipped to Ireland in the early years of the twentieth century. In August 2016 the author was one of a small group that went to investigate. It soon emerged that the structure was a well-head not a font, that the stone was indeed Italian and that the panels were carved in a Romanesque idiom, albeit fairly crude. The subjects were hard to interpret, one appeared to show a scene of exorcism, another man riding a lion. It subsequently transpired that three of the four scenes were related to those found on a twelfth-century water stoup in the Museo Civico in Modena, associated with the work of Wiligelmo and that the fourth panel had analogies with a capital in the Diocesan Museum in Reggio Emilia. The combination of unrelated scenes immediately demonstrated that this was a modern fabrication, evidently based on these particular museum pieces. This raises some interesting questions. Was the well actually put to use? There are rope marks but were these added fraudulently? Was the well-head a specific commission and how did the mason responsible learn about Romanesque sculptures in the Modena area? And, was it sold to Lady Londonderry, the owner of Mount Stewart, as a fake or more honestly as a modern creation?
"Quo Vadimus Nunc? Los Angeles!"
A decade ago, Dorothy F. Glass contributed to a festschrift in honor of Francesco Gandolfo with a short but prescient piece. In an endeavor to entice a reluctant European across the Atlantic, she guided our vision to the medievalizing fabric of the Big Apple — not to the better studied phenomena of the Cloisters’ architectural bricolage or Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Romantic windows, but to the ostentatiously Italian Romanesque facades of two 1920s office buildings built by the architecture firm of York and Sawyer. Like many of their peers, York and Sawyer practiced an architectural eclecticism rooted in the expanding knowledge of far-flung monuments newly available to the American public through photography and the burgeoning discipline of art and architectural history; and like many of their peers, they found inspiration in Italy’s Romanesque churches. Ten years later, we find ourselves in a very different cultural moment in which American medievalism is under urgent scrutiny as one of the innumerable ways in which the US has constructed itself as a White society — hence Glass’s prescience in thinking not of extraordinary buildings but of the ordinary world of corporate architecture. Similar phenomena can be tracked on the far edge of the continent in the coeval irruption of the European medieval and in particular the Italian Romanesque into the architecture of Los Angeles. This talk examines four “medieval Italian” structures in and around Los Angeles: the churches of St. John the Evangelist and of Santa Monica, the Great Mausoleum of Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, and the Westwood campus of UCLA, thinking about the firms who created them, the patrons who built them, and the ways in which these building have and continue to operate as historical and social signals of a White past in the multiracial, multicultural, and multiconfessional landscape of contemporary Los Angeles.