History of Art


Matters of Ornament in Italian Renaissance Art

17 May 2019, 5:00 pm–8:00 pm

Lecture poster

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Alison Wright


Hochhauser Auditorium
Victoria & Albert Museum

The SRS Annual Lecture will be delivered by Professor Alison Wright (UCL), in the Hochhauser Auditorium of the Victoria and Albert Museum at 5.00pm.

The South Kensington Museum was formed in a period when ornament was a ground on which profound aesthetic and societal controversies were debated.  In our own moment, the V&A’s representation of the materials of making speak to current debates on the materiality, agency and temporality of art. Thinking ornament and medium together, this lecture will draw on the museum's collections and comparative works to address Renaissance ornamenti in light of the discourse of materials. How was the generative and affective potential of ornament developed from the early fifteenth-century onwards, whether in terms of poetics and metaphor, or the capacities of metals, stone and clay?

Professor Alison Wright is Professor of Italian Art c. 1300-1550 and Head of Department of the History of Art at UCL. She joined the Department in 1993, after a BA and PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and a fellowship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her overarching book project at the time resulted in The Pollaiuolo Brothers: the Arts of Florence and Rome, 2005 and she has co-authored collected conference papers on Tuscan art and patronage and collaborated on the National Gallery exhibition Renaissance Florence: The Art of the 1470s. She curated Nameless: Anonymous Drawings of 15t- and 16th-Century Italy in 2010 and has since published on the rhetoric of the sculpted pedestal in Renaissance Italy, on sacrament tabernacles and on low relief sculpture, visibility and the sacred body. Her latest book, Frame Work: Honour and Ornament in Italian Renaissance Art was published by Yale University Press this year. It investigates the visual and ideological work of Renaissance framing in the context of ritual and the rhetoric of honour and ornament. Her current research, addressing changing aesthetic and material economies of gold in Renaissance art, continues to engage with issues of artistic practice, representation and power this time as part of a larger project on transformations of gold in western culture.