Academic Session 4: Loughborough 2017

43rd Annual Conference & Art Book Fair
Loughborough University
6th to 8th April 2017

Beyond Vision: Experiencing art through the other senses, c 500–1600


Serenella Sessini, University of Sheffield,
Laura Cristina Stefanescu, University of Sheffield,

The perception of works of art can involve more than one corporeal sense. Even though the sense of sight is at the basis of the interaction with images, the elements within a work of art can also lead to a multi-sensorial experience. Medieval and Renaissance artworks have the potential to reveal interesting insights into an otherwise hardly accessible sphere, that of perception. Through their analysis, scholars can seek to understand the feelings and reactions of contemporary viewers. Scholarly interest in the role of the senses in Medieval and Renaissance art has greatly increased in recent years, establishing a new direction in art historical research.

The aim of this session is to bring together scholars interested in exploring works of art from the audience’s perspective, and in investigating how the experience of an image can be supported by other senses in addition to vision. How does the visual perception of the viewer change when other senses are provoked by elements depicted in a work of art? Do different types of viewers respond differently to different sensory provocations? Can the engagement of the other senses assist in particular practices, such as devotion, or in everyday experiences?

The papers in our session engage with these and similar questions, focusing on case-studies that explore the multi-sensorial experience either of particular works of art or as it is revealed by contemporary textual sources.

Click here to download a .pdf of this session's paper abstracts

Mª Ángeles Ferrer Forés (Universidad Internacional de La Rioja, Spain) A Midnight Christmas Multi-sensory Experience: The Chant of the Sibyl

Samantha Chang (University of Toronto) Listening to Painting: Intersensoriality and correspondences between music and the visual arts

Alex Zivkovic (Stanford University) Penetrating the Dagulf Psalter: Ivory Covers, Tactile Engagement, and New Testament Exegesis

Julia Biggs (Independent Scholar) Aromatic Architecture: Spice boxes, olfactory memory and ritual in the early modern Jewish home

Vibeke Olson (University of North Carolina Wilmington) Touching Heaven: Sensing sacred presence in late medieval devotional art

Susan Barahal (Tufts University and School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) Early Italian Renaissance Sacred Images: The Empathic Connection