On 5-7th April 2018, project member Laura Slater attended the ‘Association for Art History’ annual conference in London, held at the Strand campus of King’s College London and The Courtauld Institute of Art. She gave a research presentation on ‘Devotional Soundscapes in the Psalter of Queen Philippa’ as part a thematic strand organised by Margit Thøfner and Tim Shephard. More excitingly, she contributed to a live musical event held at The Courtauld Gallery, organised by Dr Charlotte de Mille, founder and curator of the music programme at The Courtauld Gallery.
The programme began in the inspiring surroundings of the Medieval and Renaissance gallery, surrounded by Italian paintings by Bernardo Daddi and Fra Angelico. The singers sang directly below Lorenzo Monaco’s stunning c. 1370-1425 Coronation of the Virgin. Laura introduced the music from ‘Queen Philippa’s Psalter’.
The singers performed choral plainchant and psalms taken directly from the music found in the manuscript that she is researching for the MALMECC project, and that would have been heard by Philippa of Hainault when she attended services of the Divine Office.
This was followed by other research-informed performance pieces. Laura Stefanescu, a member of the ‘Music in the Art of Renaissance Italy’ project, introduced music that might have been familiar to the ducal court of Urbino.
After the dramatic plainchant from Queen Philippa’s Psalter, the audience enjoyed further examples of early Renaissance polyphony, with the performance of work by Francesco d’Aiolle, an important Florentine composer. He was one of the first to combine northern European sacred polyphony with distinctive Italian tones and harmonies.
The Courtauld Gallery is a wonderful collection of art, first built up by the textile magnate Samuel Courtauld and his wife Elizabeth.
In the later 1920s, Samuel and his wife were some of the first collectors of French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, at a time when this art was still controversial and often ridiculed. Advised by the art critic Roger Fry, he bought numerous works by Cezanne, Renoir, Manet and Van Gogh, including masterpieces such as Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère and Déjeuner sur l’herbe, as well as a female nude by Modigliani.
Although its collection of twentieth-century paintings includes major works by Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, German Expressionists, the French Fauves, the Camden Town Group and the Bloomsbury Group, there is much more to see from earlier periods at The Courtauld Gallery, with major works by Cranach, Rubens, Gainsborough, Claude, Van Dyck, Goya and Tiepolo. Paintings, prints and drawings, sculptures and other decorative arts, such as an impressive collection of ivories and Islamic metalwork, are all on display.