Rowanne Dean, M.A.
University of Chicago (july 2023)
PhD project: Valuing Virtuosity: Goldsmiths’ Work in Northwestern Europe, c. 1350-1500
Rowanne Dean is a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago focusing on medieval European art. Her dissertation, entitled “Valuing Virtuosity: Goldsmiths’ Work in Northwestern Europe, c. 1350-1500,” investigates how the goldsmiths’ craft shaped late medieval notions of artistic expertise and aesthetic value. Her work is guided by questions concerning periodization, naturalism and abstraction, and the “decorative” or “minor” arts. Her other projects include studies of a precious metalwork casket, made by Irish metalsmith Mia Cranwill (1880-1972) for chamber of the Irish Free State Senate, as container of a “politics of exhumation”; and of donations by English king Richard II of luxury finery to the coronation regalia that raise questions of the relations between subjects and objects in late medieval England. She received a BA in art history from Barnard College in 2017. In 2023, she is conducting research in various countries with the help of a Gerald D. Feldman Travel Grant from the Max Weber Foundation, and in July 2023 spends one month at DFK Paris.
Valuing Virtuosity: Late Medieval Goldsmiths’ Work, 1350-1500
In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, goldsmiths’ work in northwestern Europe featured never before seen techniques and iconographic programs. In cities throughout the kingdoms of France and England, the Burgundian duchies, and the Upper Rhine Valley, goldsmiths shaped and responded to quickly changing aesthetic preferences and forms of labor organization. Their small-scale objects insisted, in visual and technical terms, upon the importance of individual artistic talent and expertise. Closely examining objects alongside documentary evidence ranging from inventories and guild ordinances to poetry and pastoralia, this dissertation examines how aesthetic value in the late Middle Ages was wrought by goldsmiths’ demonstrations of their own artistic and manual aptitude or virtuosity. This study thus traces how the practices of late medieval goldsmiths shaped theories of the individual artist, critically presenting the context for the rise of the many artists working in print and painting north of the Alps c. 1500 who had originally trained as goldsmiths.