Relic, Reliquary, Materiality: Sacred Art as Design History

This seminar aims to revisit the role and function of sacred arts in the three Abrahamic faiths, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, in order to bring forward a new understanding as to the role and function of artefacts made for and used in religious contexts. By centering on the reliquary as the defining manmade sacred object, we will uncover the place of religious arts through material, design, ritual, and technique. As present-day scholarship is concerned more with the agency, presence, and ontological status of crafted artefacts rather than with their style and iconography, the seminar is set to explore how these objects raise significant questions about the nature and operation of artefacts in the world, their materiality, their ability to act or inspire action, and their relation to speech, texts, and words. Drawing on the large collections of New York City held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum, NYPL and the Morgan Library, as well as the dedicated exhibition Siena: The Rise of Painting, 1300–1350 (opening in mid-October at the MMA), we will uncover an uncharted chapter in the history of design. 3 credits. Satisfies the geocultural or chronological requirement.