Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Maggie M. Williams (Associate Professor of Art History, William Paterson University)
On the Matter of Irish Crosses
March 7, 2014
English Studies Conference Room of the Graduate Center, CUNY (room 4406)

A wine and cheese reception will follow the presentation and question time.

Several hundred carved stone crosses remain standing throughout Ireland. The sculptures date to between the 7th and 12th centuries of the Common Era, and they have been the focus of scholarly attention for more than a century. Archaeologists and art historians have debated their chronology, style, and iconography, but few studies have considered the materials from which they were made—and subsequently re-made. From their origins in wooden and metalwork precursors to their current lithic state, the medieval crosses have a meaningful relationship to the prehistoric sandstone that lies under the Irish turf. In the 19th and 20th centuries, several crosses were meticulously replicated in plaster and other materials like bog oak. And, now, in the 21st century, digital technologies are allowing scholars to render those same sculptures using lasers and 3D scanning. This paper will explore the matter of Irish crosses—from wood to stone to plaster and pixels—investigating the effects that different materials might have on our understanding of the crosses’ meaning and value.