Department of English

University of Toronto

Rulers on Display: Tombs and Epitaphs of Princes and the Well-Born in Northern Europe 1470–1670

Event date: Friday, April 26, 2019, at 1:23 PM
Location: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies Victoria College, University of Toronto (Canada)

Rulers on Display 2019

During the sixteenth and seventeenth century princes and the nobility found tomb sculpture an effective means of refashioning their identity and promoting their interests in a rapidly changing society. Enormous funds were spent on these monuments, either by the occupants themselves or by their heirs, for whom the sepulchers became a generalized marker of family status. Epitaphs were also fashioned of words, penned in ink and published as well as engraved in stone.

Poetical tributes and eulogies to rulers gave them another type of public persona. For this conference we wish to focus on the agency of these creations in the social and political arena of Northern Europe and Iberia. Previous discussions have concentrated on the culture of death and remembrance. Although these concepts are integral to any consideration of tombs and epitaphs, we want to concentrate here on their broader cultural signicance.We are interested in the ways tombs and epitaphs helped establish a viable image for leading families and facilitated participation in important networks. In which ways did tombs and epitaphs take part in the debates fostered by the Reformation and the Catholic response? How was inquiry into different religions reflected in tomb sculpture? And how did notions of presence inflect the design of and response to these monuments? In which ways did these works extoll virtues of conquest and triumph? How did monuments to military heroes, noble and commoner, evolve in this period? How did gender alter the equation? How did the tombs of the upper bourgeoisie and professional classes relate to the monuments of the nobility? How did the choice of materials affect the perception of these objects? And how did carved monuments relate to memorial representations in other media such as painting and prints?

Networks of artists, writers, academies, patrons, and their agents soon formed, and knowledge of renowned monuments spread throughout Europe, via travel and reproductive drawings and prints. What formal languages were adopted by the elite and their artists and what sort of communication was there between the different regions of Europe? Were there particular sculptors or writers who developed enduring paradigms?

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