Grupos de investigación

Resounding success of the International Conference "The Traces of the Colorful Souls: Visual

A new interdisciplinary vision of the colours of the Middle Ages is emerging at the Faculty of Education of the Complutense University of Madrid, through a project of the Una Europa Alliance.

A large part of society is unaware that the Middle Ages were a time of cultural, material and artistic splendour, in contrast to the image that some novels and television series have conveyed of these almost a thousand years in the past. The stained glass windows of Gothic cathedrals, the funerary trousseaus of kings and bishops, the objects used at court and in churches, as well as a large number of richly illuminated manuscript books are just some of the examples of the richness of medieval chromaticism that have survived to the present day. The International Conference The Traces of the Colorful Souls. Visual and Material Arts in the Chromatic Middle Ages will be held on 2, 3 and 4 March 2022 at the Faculty of Education of the Complutense University of Madrid and will address the challenge of highlighting the value of medieval colours for their time and for our contemporary society.

Ana María Cuesta Sánchez, a researcher at the Faculty of Fine Arts, coordinated this activity under the academic direction of professors José María Salvador González and Ángel Pazos López, who lead the CAPIRE Research Group, based at the UCM's Faculty of Geography and History. The initiative came from the Medieval Colors Network, a European network financed through a Seed Funding from the Una Europa alliance, and in whose direction also participates Karin Gludovatz (Freie Universität Berlin), José Filipe Pereira da Silva (Helsingin Yliopisto), Anne-Orange Poilpré (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), Mariangela Vandini (Università di Bologna) and Marek Walczak (Uniwersytet Jagielloński w Krakowie), as project leaders at their respective universities.

The event was carried out with the logistical support of the Vice-Rectorate for International Relations and Cooperation (Lola Prieto, Esther Esquivel, Cristina Saura and Marta Arregui) and the Congress Unit of the Complutense Foundation (Sonia Cáceres and Consuelo Carralero), as well as an organising committee made up of UCM professors, management technicians and trainee students. Forty-nine professors and researchers from 18 universities, study centres and museums, based in a dozen countries in Europe, Africa and America, took part. These specialists in art, history, conservation and restoration, optics, philosophy, education and chemistry characterised a plural space in languages (Spanish, English, French and Italian) and knowledge from interdisciplinary perspectives.

The inauguration, on the afternoon of 2 March, was led by the Vice-Rector for International Relations and Cooperation, Mr. Dámaso López, the Dean of the Faculty of Education, Mr. Gonzálo Jover, the Secretary of the Faculty of Geography and History, Mr. Jesús Cantera, the Director of the Medieval Colors Network, Mr. José María Salvador, and the Congress Coordinator, Ms. Ana María Cuesta. These authorities highlighted the level of commitment of the UCM to international activities and to the event, materialised in the support of three faculties and two vice-rectorates.

The opening lecture was given by Professor Andreas Petzold (The Open University), who spoke about the importance of the iconographic study of colour, providing a methodological approach that brought together the different traditions of visual studies. This was followed by a group of invited papers, which focused on the artistic and documentary dimensions of medieval colours, presented by Professors Stefanos Kroustallis (Escuela Superior de Conservación y Restauración de Bienes Culturales de Madrid), María Luisa Vázquez de Ágredos Pascual (Universitat de València) and Dobrosława Horzela (Uniwersytet Jagielloński w Krakowie).

This was followed by a panel of papers proposed by external researchers on the materiality of medieval colours, in which Miquel Àngel Herrero-Cortell (Universitat Politècnica de València), Eileen Gardiner (University of Bristol), Núria Oriols Pladevall (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya), Nati Salvadó Cabré, Salvador Butí Papiol and Trinitat Pradell Cara (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya), Eneko Tuduri (University of Nevada & University of the Basque Country), Aránzazu Llácer Peiró and María Antonia Zalbidea (Universitat Politècnica de València), Marika Snider (University of Memphis) and Tea Ghigo (University of Oxford & Ashmolean Museum). Among the topics mentioned are the use of recipe books, the application of certain pigments, as well as the vision of medieval colour from the "gaze of the other" and from neo-medievalism.

The morning of the second day, 3 March, began with talks by professors Ángel Pazos-López (Complutense University of Madrid), José Filipe Pereira da Silva (Helsingin Yliopisto), Ricardo Piñero Moral (University of Navarra) and José María Salvador González (Complutense University of Madrid). All of them, moderated by Professor Estrella Sanz, addressed different visions of the symbolic charge of colour, from its philosophical conception to its aesthetic, liturgical and Marian values, based on documentary sources of the time.

These keynote speeches were followed by a round table of shorter papers, which highlighted different visions of colour in medieval artistic materials and techniques, from the Andalusian world to different groups in Central and Eastern Europe. The speakers were Teresa López Martínez (University of Granada), Paola Pogliani and Claudia Pelosi (Tuscia University-Viterbo), Ana Isabel Calero-Castillo, Ana Cristina Coba Peña and Ana Garcia Bueno (University of Granada), Anabelle Kriznar (University of Seville & University of Ljubljana) and Teresa Espejo Arias (University of Granada).

On Thursday afternoon, guest lecturers Anne-Orange Poilpré (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) and Marek Walczak (Uniwersytet Jagielloński w Krakowie), both from the Medieval Colors Network, gave presentations on the visual discourses of Carolingian manuscripts and the presence of colour in the tombs of late medieval Polish kings in Krakow Cathedral. Their dissertations addressed the visual discourses of Carolingian manuscripts and the presence of colour in the tombs of the late medieval kings of Poland in Krakow Cathedral.  

These presentations were followed by papers by Oliver Coulson (Brown University), Nicoletta Fazio (Museum of Islamic Art of Doha), Holly Flora (Tulane University), Laura Méndez Vergel (University of Santiago de Compostela), Timothy Hunter (Magdalen College of Oxford) and Zoriana Lotut (Independent), on the symbolic and material dimensions of medieval colours.

To close the afternoon, professors Patricia de los Reyes Félix, Beatriz de los Reyes Félix and Marta Plaza Beltrán (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), Maria Alessandra Bilotta (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) and Paloma Pucci (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) gave three invited talks focusing on blue enamel and the presence of colour in medieval legal and liturgical manuscripts.

The morning of Friday 4 March, the last day of the conference, began with three presentations by four guest speakers: Ana María Cuesta Sánchez (Complutense University of Madrid), Ana García Bueno (University of Granada) and Sara Fiorentino and Donatella Tronca (University of Bologna). The use of polychromy in architectural and sculptural environments was completed with an intervention focused on coloured glass as a chromatic support.

This was followed by a session devoted to the materiality and technique of colour, with shorter oral presentations by Laia Cutrina (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Águeda Asenjo Bejarano (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), Giulia Rossi Vairo (Universidade Nova de Lisboa & Universidade de Lisboa) and Catarina Tiburcio (Universidade Nova de Lisboa), who dealt with the presence of different medieval chromatic pigments in plastic and architectural supports.

The Congress was closed at the end of the morning by the Vice-Rector for Culture, Sport and University Extension, Ms. Isabel García, the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Ms. Elena Blanch, and the Director of the Congress, Mr. Ángel Pazos. All of them highlighted the high quality of the oral interventions, the high level of internationalisation of the event (involving 18 institutions from 10 different countries from 3 continents of the world), as well as the diversity of stages in the research career of the participants (from doctoral students to professors). All acknowledged the hard work of organising an event of this nature and encouraged the members of the Medieval Colors Network to continue along the same path and to coordinate new activities in the future.

The activity could be carried out with the most exquisite care and an outstanding organisational quality perceived by all participants, thanks to the work of an organising committee made up of Irene Laviña, Fernando Pérez, Estrella Sanz, Macarena Moralejo, Alejandra Alonso, Alejandro Morán, Isabel María Lobón, Judit Faura, Miguel Lahuerta, Aurora Galisteo and Gwendal J. Martín, as well as the essential collaboration of the scholarship holders, trainees and collaborators of the CAPIRE Group of the UCM, Adriana Becerra, Lucía Cortina, Jorge Fernández, Rodrigo García, Lucía González, Irene Herranz and Sandra Pérez, to whom the Academic Secretary of the CAPIRE Group was able to convey, on behalf of the management, the most expressive thanks for their work and collaboration.


Programme of the event

Chronicle in Spanish

News in Tribuna Complutense