Meaning in Materials: Looking at Medieval and Renaissance Sculpture

March 2017

The Mellon Object-Based Learning workshop at the PMA in March 2017 tackled the issue of materiality. Led by Assistant Professor Sarah Guérin, Associate Curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture Jack Hinton, and Conservators Sally Malenka and Melissa Meighan, the study day focused on ways medium both limits and enables a work’s formal and conceptual reach. Italian Renaissance bronzes were chosen as the objects of study, because of their conceptual richness and because they are robust objects intended from their inception to be handled. The workshop, held largely in Object Conservation at the PMA, offered the cohort of first-year graduate students the chance to handle these masterpieces directly. For many of the students, this was the first time handling art objects, especially those several hundred years old. For the team of profoundly object-oriented art historians, passing on their object-handling skills, and object-questioning skills, was an incredible chance to connect meaningfully with graduate students outside of their specific fields of study, and to help train a next generation of scholars who think carefully and innovatively about objects.