Session 18

Dr. Julia Trinkert / Institut für Kunstgeschichte der Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf, Germany
Dr. Reinhard Köpf / Institut für Kunstgeschichte der Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf, Germany


To be [titled], or not to be [titled]? Art History and its “well-(un)known” masters…


It seems to be impossible to imagine an art history without names. In scientific practice the attribution to a “name” can significantly influence the perception and assessment of traditional works of art.
Since the beginning of the 20th century art historians – starting with Adolf Goldschmidt (1863-1944) or Wilhelm Vöge (1868-1952) – often have used to handle art works – especially medieval objects – by their mostly unknown masters (“Künstlerkunstgeschichte”). In Sweden, Johnny Roosval (1879-1965) e. g. finds himself in this tradition by documenting and classifying the inventory of medieval art on Gotland inventing names for artists such as the well-known masters “Byzantios”, “Majestatis” or “Calcarius”.

Meanwhile, art historians who deal with Gotland’s artworks still invoke these artists without knowing more than their speculative names. This applies as well to the presumptive Saxonian carver “Master of the Immaculata”, whose oeuvre might be found in Uppland and Ångermanland. Lately large exhibition projects such as “The Naumburg Master” in Naumburg 2011 or “Cranach. Meister – Marke – Moderne“ in Düsseldorf 2017 made use of this methodological approach.

The masters are dead, long live their names in the echo of art history discipline? In our session we pose the question, if this method still has a chance of entitlement in an art history methodological canon. The session should be understood as a platform inquiring both methodological and practical approaches by art historians working on artists in medieval and early-modern times (e. g. museums, monographical studies, …). Therefore, papers should consider questions such as:

  • Where is the origin of this method to be found?
  • What impact do they have on today’s research?
  • What impact do they still have on our understanding of the development process of medieval and early-modern art?
  • Which intention can be seen behind present-day’s term “Notnamen”?