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Murray Seminars at Birkbeck | Colour in Cusanus

November 17, 2021 @ 10:45 am - 12:30 pm

This research paper considers how Nicholas of Cusa, the fifteenth-century polymath, sought to convey higher truths in diagrammatic form

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For Nicholas of Cusa, the fifteenth-century polymath, diagrams comprised the perfect medium with which to represent the highest truths. No less important, they were the ideal vehicle for attaining such truths in the first place. Painted according to his own instructions, not printed in black and white, Cusa’s diagrams are comparable to contemporary panel painting in the ways they employ colour to reproduce the diffusion of light through space and the interpenetration of light and dark. These phenomena are central to his theology. In functioning as operative instruments that structure thought, the diagrams invite the viewer to experience the process of seeking truth that they set out to exemplify.

A specialist in the art of the Middle Ages, Jeffrey Hamburger, the Kuno Francke Professor of German Art & Culture at Harvard University, has recently turned his attention to medieval diagrams. In addition to his work on the diagrams of Nicholas of Cusa, his recent and forthcoming publications on the topic include Diagramming Devotion: Berthold of Nuremberg’s Transformation of Hrabanus Maurus’s Poems in Praise of the Cross and The Diagram as Paradigm: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, co-edited with David Roxburgh and Linda Safran. On a separate topic, his book, The Birth of the Author: Pictorial Prefaces in Glossed Books of the Twelfth Century, just appeared last month. In the autumn of 2022, the pandemic permitting, he will deliver the Panizzi Lectures at the British Library on the topic of “Drawing Conclusions: Diagrams in Medieval Art and Thought.”


November 17, 2021
10:45 am - 12:30 pm
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