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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dr. Alice Dailey in England

From Prof. Dailey:
Over the fall break, I traveled to England to give a scholarly talk and to pursue new research.  My first stop was Christ’s College, Cambridge, where I shared my current work on corporeality and real presence with the Medieval-Renaissance Faculty Colloquium of Cambridge University.  I was treated to a wonderful tour of Christ’s College, alma mater of John Milton and Charles Darwin.  There I saw the hall where Milton lived and sat in the beautiful room in which senior fellows of the college, like Darwin, have for centuries drunk wine, talked, made friendly wagers, and kept hand-written accounts of their consumption.  These bound ledgers, some including Darwin’s hand writing, are still stored in the room and brought out for nightly record-keeping.

Dr. Dailey in front of Fellows' Hall, where John Milton lived when he was a student at Christ's College, Cambridge.
The ledger of the Senior Combination Room, Christ's College, Cambridge.  A wager between Charles Darwin and a Mr. Baines is noted on February 23, 1837.  The two men bet a bottle of wine over the height of the room's ceiling, and Darwin lost.  His name was crossed out when he settled the bet.
After my time in Cambridge, I spent three days in London studying Michael Landy’s Saints Alive, an exhibit of contemporary collage and sculpture at the National Gallery of Art.  The exhibit features 14-foot-tall automata of well-known Christian saints and martyrs that Landy has constructed from old machinery and from body parts copied out of the National Gallery's vast collection of Renaissance religious paintings.  When set into motion, these mechanized sculptures enact their own persecutions repeatedly, some of them gradually deteriorating as the exhibit has progressed.  Landy’s sculptures are complimented by a stunning group of collages that reconfigure heads, hands, wounds, and weapons out of saint and martyr art into fantastical contraptions of penitential suffering.  My favorite piece in Saints Alive was a large pencil and paper drawing called Saint Catherine Wheels found dumped outside the National Gallery, drawn from a collage of the Gallery’s 36 partial images of Saint Catherine’s emblem, a spiked torture wheel.
Michael Landy, Saint Catherine Wheels found dumped outside the National Gallery (2013).  Pencil on paper.  National Gallery of Art, London.
Michael Landy, Saint Jerome Beats himself while contemplating Christ's Suffering (2012).  Photographic paper and watercolor pencil on paper.  National Gallery of Art, London.
My trip concluded with two other exhibits.  I saw the life-sized wax and wood funeral effigies of English monarchs collected in the Westminster Abbey museum.  The effigies date from the 14th to the 18th century and include both the original 1603 effigy of Queen Elizabeth I and the ornate wax remake dating from 1760.   Lastly, I visited the recently opened exhibit on Elizabeth I and Her People at the National Portrait Gallery, which features royal portraits; Elizabethan coins, jewelry, and artifacts; and paintings of aristocrats and subjects from Sir Walter Raleigh to John Donne.  The exhibit included three fascinating portraits that my Elizabethan Literature students have studied this semester: the full-length Ditchley Portrait, the Ermine Portrait, and the Procession Portrait.
Funeral effigies of Queen Elizabeth I, 1603 (left) and 1760 (right).  Westminster Abbey Museum.