The Courtauld Gallery has launched a new programme Illuminating Objects to showcase the objects in their permanent collection that are more rarely shown. Because of their singularity in relation to the permanent displays many are known only to specialist scholars. The programme will put some of the most beautiful or interesting of these works on view for three months in the room which most relates to the object’s cultural or chronological identity.
Illuminating Objects will be run as a series of internships offered to postgraduate students at UK universities engaged in research primarily in disciplines outside history of art. The internships will be highly structured training opportunities, with students responsible for delivering their own single-object display in The Courtauld Gallery. Selecting a work from a group that matches their particular area of expertise, they will research and interpret the item, produce labels and copy for the website, as well as a blog. They will also be expected to give a lunchtime talk.
By making this an interdisciplinary programme, The Courtauld Gallery hopes to cast a different light on the objects in its care, with interns from history and literature, the sciences and theology invited to participate. In 2012/2013 The Courtauld Gallery will collaborate with SOAS, King’s College, the University of Kent, and UCL.
The first object in the Illuminating Objects series, on display from 30 October 2012 to 4 February 2013, is an impressive Orthodox cross, one of three in the collection. This intricately carved cypress wood benediction cross probably made in the renowned monastic community of Mount Athos in northern Greece, a complex of twenty monasteries, which for centuries was a centre of miniature wood carving. The intern responsible for all the Gallery and web texts is Dr Eleni Dimitriadou, a young Byzantinist, who completed her PhD at The Courtauld Institute of Art last year. Decorated with minutely carved scenes of the Old and New Testaments, it was used for the benediction of the congregation during the liturgy of the Orthodox Church. Its main body bears episodes from the Great Feasts Cycle, essentially events from the life of Christ and the Virgin, while the foliate ornaments surrounding it are carved with Old Testament narratives and images of prophets and saints.
Other areas that will be the focus of the Illuminating Objects series include Spanish lustreware ceramics, African and Oceanic wood carvings, Renaissance and later ivories, and German and Venetian glass.