Seeking Transparency: The Medieval Rock Crystals
organized by Avinoam Shalem (Riggio Professor, Arts of Islam, Department of art history and Archaeology, Columbia University, NYC) and Cynthia Hahn (Professor of Art History, Department of Art and Art History, Hunter College, NYC)
Like the sea, the history of the production of carved rock crystals during the Middle Ages has its ebb and flow. From Late Antiquity to the age of the great Portuguese expansion, centers of productions of rock crystal rose and fell, and yet the specific knowledge of carving the hard material was kept a closely guarded secret. Royal courts and wealthy churches were eager patrons for the luxurious objects produced by these centers because rock crystal was valued as one of the most desirable and precious of all materials, ascribed mysterious origins and powers, and renowned for both rarity and clarity. The conference Seeking Transparency: The Medieval Rock Crystals to be held on May 19-20 at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz aims at revealing the global and cross-cultural histories of rock-crystal production in and beyond the lands of the Mediterranean Sea. It investigates varied aspects such as the physical nature of the material, its manufacturing techniques, affiliations to other modus operandi of luxurious objects, like cut glasses and carved precious stones, legends and traditions associated with its aesthetic qualities, as well as issues concerning the historiography of rock crystal.