Colloquium – The Virgin of the Rocks: Artists and Writers Responding to Leonardo, c.1850 to c.1930 (2019)
The Treehouse, Berrick Saul Building, University of York, 6 December 2019
In collaboration with the National Gallery, London, the Department of History of Art, University of York, hosted a colloquium on The Virgin of the Rocks: Artists and Writers Responding to Leonardo, c.1850 to c.1930 on Friday 6 December 2020, to coincide with the ground-breaking National Gallery exhibition Leonardo: Experience a Masterpiece (9 November 2019 to 26 January 2020), co-curated by Professor Amanda Lillie and Dr Caroline Campbell (National Gallery). The colloquium was convened by Professor Lillie and Professor Liz Prettejohn (both Department of History of Art, University of York) and Professor Hugh Haughton (Department of English, University of York), and supported by YAHCs. It brought together speakers from the University and the National Gallery, as well as curators and academics from other institutions, to explore the 19th- and early 20th-century reception of Leonardo in general, and his painting The Virgin of the Rocks in particular.
Following the speakers' panels, the day closed with a round-table discussion.
'An object of fascination and enquiry from the time Mary Lamb first named the picture 'The Virgin of the Rocks' in 1805, we will be tracking down poems, drawings, paintings, essays, treatises and other traces left by the painting. How was the painting perceived by different spectators? How exactly did its reputation spread?
'The picture’s power might derive from its spiritual aura and the cult of the Immaculate Conception; or from the associations sparked by its cavernous setting among rocks and mountains; or by the lights and shadows of its chiaroscuro and sfumato.'
Panel 1 – Chair: Caroline Campbell (Director of Collections and Research, National Gallery)
Louise Pullen (Curator, Ruskin Collection, Museums Sheffield): ‘“Mountains in Miniature”: John Ruskin and Geology’
David Russell (Faculty of English, University of Oxford): ‘Ruskin and Pater on the Rocks’
Hugh Haughton (Department of English, University of York): ‘“The dark avenue” and “things occult”: Rossetti, Pater, and Freud on Leonardo’
Panel 2 – Chair: Amanda Lillie (Department of History of Art, University of York)
Lene Østermark-Johansen (Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies, University of Copenhagen): ‘“The taste for what is bizarre and recherché in landscape”: Walter Pater on the Madonna of the Rocks’
Luke Uglow (Department of History of Art, University of York): Leonardo and the Problem of Nineteenth-Century Connoisseurship: Morelli and Lermolieff or Crowe and Cavalcaselle?”’
Liz Prettejohn (Department of History of Art, University of York): ‘“Thronging it like echoes”: Our Lady of the Rocks and the Rossetti Circle’
Panel 3 – Chair: Jason Edwards (Department of History of Art, University of York)
Susanna Avery-Quash (National Gallery, London): ‘The Reception of Leonardo and Lombard Art at the National Gallery in the 19th Century’
David Alexander (Honorary Keeper of Prints, Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge): ‘Leonardo’s Reputation in Britain: The Evidence from Prints, 1750-1850’
Main image: Detail of 'The Virgin of the Rocks' by Leonardo da Vinci (c.1492-1507), oil on poplar, National Gallery collection (NG1093), https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/leonardo-da-vinci-the-virgin-of-the-rocks, used by permission as the conference banner. ©The National Gallery, London