Materials of the Illuminator’s Art: Medieval Recipes, Modern Identifications, and the Preservation of Pigments, Dyes and Metals in Medieval Manuscripts
Brodsky Series, Library Conservation, Nancy Turner, medieval manuscripts, illuminated manuscripts, library science
Joan ’67, G’68 Brodsky, William J. ’65, G’ 68
The annual Brodsky Series for the Advancement of Library Conservation is endowed through a generous gift by William J. ’65, G’ 68 and Joan ’67, G’68 Brodsky of Chicago. Beginning in 2004, the endowment has been used to sponsor programs featuring prominent library conservators that promote and advance knowledge of library conservation theory, practice, and application among wide audiences, both on campus and in the region.
Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture | Archival Science | Art and Materials Conservation | Art Practice | Book and Paper | Library and Information Science | Medieval Studies
Nancy K. Turner, Conservator of Manuscripts in the Department of Paper Conservation at the J. Paul Getty Museum, presented at the Syracuse University Libraries’ annual Brodsky Series for the Advancement of Library Conservation. The hybrid lecture, titled “Materials of the Illuminator’s Art: Medieval Recipes, Modern Identifications, and the Preservation of Pigments, Dyes, and Metals in Medieval Manuscripts,” was held on March 29, 2023, from 3:30-5:00pm in Bird Library’s Peter Graham Scholarly Commons and on Zoom.
This lecture surveys the medieval illuminators’ pigment palette across five centuries, as identified by various technical and analytical means and with reference to medieval technical treatises. The materials used by manuscript illuminators, including pigments, dyes and metals, while relatively limited in number, were deployed by illuminators in staggeringly varied ways to achieve a wide range of painterly effects over the centuries. By highlighting the high degree of mastery and deep knowledge of these materials by manuscript painters working from the tenth to the early sixteenth centuries, this lecture features new discoveries in the conservation lab and ongoing technical research that continue to reveal secrets of the illuminator’s art and inform the methods of their preservation.
Nancy K. Turner is Conservator of Manuscripts in the Department of Paper Conservation at the J. Paul Getty Museum, where she has been responsible for the care of the Museum’s collection of illuminated manuscripts since 1984. Nancy received training in book and paper conservation, including an advanced internship at the library of Trinity College Dublin.
A specialist in the conservation treatment and technical study of parchment, painted illuminations and historical bindings, she has published widely. She was a major contributor to the Fitzwilliam Museum’s exhibition catalogue Colour: the Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts edited by Stella Panayotova (Harvey Miller: 2016); updated and revised with Elizabeth C. Teviotdale Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts by Michelle Brown (Getty Publications: 2018), which won a Choice outstanding academic title award; and most recently authored “Surface Effect and Substance: Precious Metals in Illuminated Manuscripts” in Illuminating Metalwork: Metal, Object, and Image in Medieval Manuscripts (De Gruyter: 2021). Her article, “Materiality of Medieval Parchment: A Response to ‘the Animal Turn’,” was awarded the Fredson Bowers Memorial Prize in 2018 by the Society of Textual Scholars.
Nancy received her B.A. in Art History and Anthropology from Stanford University and earned an M.A. in History from UCLA.
Turner, Nancy, "Materials of the Illuminator’s Art: Medieval Recipes, Modern Identifications, and the Preservation of Pigments, Dyes and Metals in Medieval Manuscripts" (2023). Brodsky Series. 17.
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