Shrine of The Gospels of Saint Molaise early 20th century (original dated 1001–25), Metropolitan Museum of Art

After the Book of Kells: Insular Art in Scotland and Ireland, c. 900 to 1900

4th-5th March, 2022

Registration/tickets eventbrite page

Programme of speakers and roundtable discussions.

Organizers: Heather Pulliam, University of Edinburgh and Rachel Moss, Trinity College Dublin.

Examinations of Insular art typically focus upon the eighth and early ninth centuries; and yet, the Insular artistic tradition in Scotland and Ireland continued to flourish and develop into the early modern era. The reliquaries, monuments, and manuscripts made in the earlier period had long lives, with additions and transformations occurring across many generations and even into the twenty-first century. This material is less familiar to the general public, possibly due to antiquarian perception of it as a waning and degenerate manifestation of the art of the earlier period. As composite objects, an assemblage of parts and repairs that span centuries, they have challenged traditional ways of categorizing, conserving and valuing artworks and monuments. 

This conference shifts the emphasis to the later phases of Insular art, exploring the continuity and transformations of shared traditions evident from the medieval to modern day. Topics and questions include:

  • What do these objects, sites and collections tell us about the selective preservation, destruction, and/or display of art? What can we learn from the breaking and mending of objects? Or from the copying/appropriation, revival of objects, motifs and styles? How does this map onto shifts in religion, politics and language? 
  • What role do processes and technologies of making have on continuity and transformation of artistic traditions?
  • How did the mending, keeping, reproduction, and revival of these objects and artforms convey legitimacy, authenticity, agency?
  • What is the role of an ‘ancient place’ in relation to pilgrimage, migration, tourism, nostalgia, romanticism, or magic/agency?
  • How have the ‘keepers’ of objects and memory (hereditary keepers and historians, antiquarians, librarians, curators, academics) shaped our understanding of these works?  What is the role of history, historiography and display—from the bardic tradition (house poems, eulogies to tombs and aristocratic objects) and epigraphy to digitization and virtual exhibitions?