Talking About Art

Art History & Visual Studies

Talking About Art

Art History & Visual Studies

Talking About Art

Art History & Visual Studies

What is art trying to tell us?

What stories can be revealed by looking at the visual and physical qualities of objects made by people from ancient times through to the present day? In these talks members of the Department of Art History and Visual Arts discuss the paintings, sculptures, objects, and buildings that fascinate them. Travel in time and across the world, and find out why art remains central to who we are as people.

A Glass Medicine Bottle

A Glass Medicine Bottle

Why do we often use the term ‘balsam’ to describe a soothing medicine? This talk discusses a small glass bottle dating to the nineteenth century, and connects it to the use of medicinal tree resins in ancient and medieval times.Figure 1. Clear glass bottle of...

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A Brick Dome in Iran

A Brick Dome in Iran

Why is brick such an important material in the architecture of Iran, and how was it used both for structural and decorative purposes? This talk examines an elaborate dome built over the prayer hall of a medieval mosque in the town of Ardistan in central Iran.Figure 1....

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Nashtifan Windmills

Nashtifan Windmills

In a world where we are surrounded by high-tech architecture, why is it important to study and preserve different forms of vernacular architecture? This talk looks at the windmills of Nashtifan and examines the structural and functional features of these vernacular...

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Three Wooden Amulets

Three Wooden Amulets

What leads people to make protective charms and why do these objects take some many different forms? This talk examines three amulets from Afghanistan, and links them to a tradition that stretches back before the birth of Islam.Figure 1. Carved wooden amulets,...

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Two Ceramic Bowls

Two Ceramic Bowls

Why might people drill through ceramic bowls. This talk examines what drill holes might tell us about the practices of display and repair in the Medieval Islamic Middle East. Figure 1. Sherds from a decorated lead-glazed bowl, excavated in Karak, Jordan. Late twelfth...

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Two Brass Candlesticks

Two Brass Candlesticks

Why did craftsmen choose to copy the styles and techniques of earlier periods? This talk examines a pair of inlaid brass candlesticks made in Cairo, and argues that the revivalist decoration is both inventive and expressive of the spirit of the time.Figure 1. Brass...

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A Woven Rug from Jordan

A Woven Rug from Jordan

How do nomadic groups in the Middle East make their rugs? This talk examines a fragmentary flat weave rug from Jordan and considers the materials and methods involved in its manufacture.Flat weave woollen rug purchased in Jordan. Probably mid twentieth century....

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Three Conder Tokens

Three Conder Tokens

What do a druid, a mythical king, and an eighteenth-century Engish actor have in common? This talk examines the phenomenon of Conder tokens, and explains what economic circumstances brought into being this unusual form of money.Obverse faces of three copper halfpenny...

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A Silver Trade Coin

A Silver Trade Coin

Can we always trust the date we see on a coin? This talk examines one of the most famous coins ever minted, the Maria Theresa Thaler, and asks why it became so popular in countries like the Yemen. For more on the history and circulation of the Maria Theresa Thaler...

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J. M. and Jerusalem

J. M. and Jerusalem

Why did the capture of Jerusalem by General Allenby in 1917 have such an impact across the world? Explore this topic through a painting produced on the Western Front by a soldier, known only as J. M. ‘Our feet shall stand within Thy gates, O Jerusalem. Psalm CXXII.’...

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J M’s Hut

J M’s Hut

What can we learn about the identity of the mysterious J. M. by looking at his paintings and drawings? This talk examines a painting of an officer’s hut from the World War I sketchbooks by J. M.‘Little Grey Home in the Wet.’ Watercolour painting by J. M., 1917–18....

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A Greek Shadow Puppet

A Greek Shadow Puppet

Why does a famous character in a Greek popular entertainment have a Turkish name? This talk discusses a shadow puppet made in southern Greece, and looks at the ways in which this type of theatre circulated around the eastern Mediterranean region.Shadow puppets made by...

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A Woodcut Map of Cairo

A Woodcut Map of Cairo

How did printed maps communicate ideas to the readers of books in the sixteenth century? This talk surveys the information contained in an early map of Cairo and considers the ways in which it would have stimulated the imaginations of readers in the sixteenth...

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Bosra street, Syria

Bosra street, Syria

How did the arrival of Christianity and then Islam transform the Classical cities of the Middle East? This talk takes you to the historic city of Bosra in the basalt desert of Syria.view of the Mosque of Umar, Bosra.Colonnaded street in Bosra, Syriaview of the Mosque...

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Two Syrian Coins

Two Syrian Coins

What can coins tell us about the evolution of religious and political ideas in new states? This talk looks at two coins minted in the early decades of the Islamic empire in the seventh century, and considers their links to the coins made by the Byzantine empire of...

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