Dual purpose

Published: March 2006

This spring, the McMullen Museum of Art has partnered with two of Boston’s largest cultural institutions to present Secular/Sacred: 11th-16th Century Works from the Boston Public Library and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, an exhibition that draws on strengths of the MFA’s private collection of medieval art, the BPL’s collection of manuscripts and early printed books, and Boston College’s medieval and early modern studies faculty.

Of some 100 objects in the exhibition—including illuminated manuscripts, tapestries, silks, stone sculptures, metalwork, paintings, ceramics, and early printed books—@BC presents 10, with the wall text developed by faculty. The exhibition, which focuses on the intersection between secular and sacred messages in medieval and early modern objects, was cocurated by a cohort of 11 Boston College faculty members, representing art history, theology, history, and French, Slavic, and Italian languages, as well as Earle A. Havens, curator of manuscripts from the Boston Public Library, and Lisa Fagin Davis, an independent scholar.

The centerpiece of Secular/Sacred is a fully illuminated 33-foot-long, 15th-century French manuscript scroll, on loan from the collection of the BPL. Created in the Loire Valley, the scroll records an illustrated history of the world from the six days of Creation through to the year 1380, detailed in 57 separate miniatures. While its original function is unrecorded, the ostensible purpose was to recount parallel histories, one sacred, the other secular. Together, with its genealogical lines of descent, the scroll also reflects claims of direct lineal association between the kings of France and England and Jesus Christ, King David, and Adam.

The exhibition is on view exclusively at the McMullen Museum, in Devlin Hall, through June 4, 2006.

This feature was posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 and is filed under Slideshows.
Captions courtesy of the McMullen Museum. BPL images courtesy of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library. MFA photographs © 2006 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.