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Skidmore College

Marketing Renaissance art

November 5, 2013

Marketing Renaissance art

Nov. 5, 2013

Penny Howell Jolly

Art history Professor Penny Jolly will discuss a favorite topic --- images of Mary Magdalene – in the annual Art History Lecture, scheduled Wednesday, Nov. 6.

“Look! Listen! Smell! Marketing Mary Magdalene in Renaissance Art,” is the title of her talk, scheduled at 5:30 p.m. in Davis Auditorium, Palamountain Hall. Admission is free and open to the public.

According to Jolly, “The production and selling of art changed in early 16th-century northern Europe, as artists increasingly sold works to middle-class buyers at open markets. These new ‘on spec’ paintings had to be inexpensive yet engage viewers’ attention, thus allowing artists to make sales.”

She continued, “This lecture examines images of Mary Magdalene in order to explore what new pictorial strategies and inventive imagery—‘product innovations’—artists could employ to ensure ongoing appeal to customers and build new audiences.  Mary Magdalene’s ambiguously malleable character—she was both prostitute and saint—and her ability to encourage performative viewing, whether through playing her lute or sharing her perfumes, allowed her images to increase in popularity, even under these conditions of the increasing commodification of art and the tensions of the Reformation.”

Jolly teaches Skidmore's courses on medieval art from the early Christian period through the Gothic, as well as on Renaissance Italy and northern Europe. She also offers a course on the history of European dress and hair from the Renaissance through the present.  Her research focuses particularly on the 15th century, especially the work of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, and involves topics such as hair and dress; imagery involving gender, especially as related to breastfeeding, birthing and childhood; Adam and Eve narratives; and the iconography of Mary Magdalene in northern Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries.  She is writing a book tentatively titled The Pregnant Magdalene:  The Birth and Death of a Motif.

In 2006-07 Jolly received the Ralph A. Ciancio Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 2001 she was selected by her colleagues to deliver the Edwin M. Moseley Faculty Research Lecture, in which she focused on 15th-century paintings by Rogier van der Weyden of Mary Magdalene in clothing that could be construed as signifying pregnancy.

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