Thesis: The Magdalen Fresco cycles of the Trentino, Tyrol and Swiss Grisons, c. 1300 - c. 1500
Supervisor: Dr Louise Bourdua
My research presents and contextualises a distinct cluster of fresco cycles depicting the life of Mary Magdalen in the central-eastern Alpine regions of Trentino, Tyrol and the Swiss Grisons from the late middle ages to early Renaissance. Located for the most part in the marginal rural parish ambit and reflecting the agenda of the local patron, these typically understudied cycles offer an alternate manifestation of the popularity and relevence of a major saint at this time. As such my thesis offered a corrective to the precedence placed on the role of the mendicant orders in the development and transmission of the Magdalen cult and its visual canon.
In a series of interrelated case studies, I examined the narrative mural paintings found in the churches of Dusch, Rencio, Vadena, Seefeld, Cusiano and Pontresina, as well as relevant comparative works. They shed light on a neglected but crucial area of late medieval painting, bringing to the fore their individual interpretations of the Magdalen cult but also their affinities to one another. In particular, my research establishes the possibility of diverse patronage sources, modes of image reception and access. Moreoever it documents the sophisticated handling of issues such as gender, religious drama and the relevance of the life cycle liturgies, all of which contribute to the many iconographical innovations.
In the absence of mendicant association, I suggest that the transmission of the visual cult of Mary Magdalen was made possible by itinerant artists and workshops, as well as a generational network of influence radiating from regional centres. As a result, my research contributes to a growing interest in the organisation, life and relevance of rural parish churches and particularly those in remote areas, which deserves the same critical focus that is extended to urban centres.
I am an AHRB funded graduate of the Courtauld Institute of Art (MA, 2003) and the University of Aberdeen (2001). Prior to my PhD studies, I was employed as an image librarian and documentation assistant in the National Gallery, London, and as a picture researcher in their commercial arm, National Gallery Company Ltd. My doctoral research was funded by the AHRC and two awards from the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen, before my transfer to Warwick in 2008. I was also awarded a number of small bursaries for the presentation and development of my research in the U.K. and abroad, such as the International Medieval Congress in Leeds (2007), Warwick in Venice (2008) and the Società Internazionale di Studi Francescani Assisi (2008). In October 2009, I commenced an Early Career Fellowship with the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Warwick and seminar teaching at the History of Art department.