Utrecht Colloquia in the Musicologies – Laura Slater, “Seeing the Music”
In recent years, there has been exciting cross-disciplinary work between art historians and musicologists, exploring the visual presentation of music in medieval devotional aids. Acting as visual cues for interior listening, reminders of sonic distraction or prompts towards a ‘sounding performance of prayer’, imagined or symbolic signs of sound have been usefully integrated into our understandings of medieval sensory perception and processes of religious meditation. Yet when art historians and musicologists study ‘psalters’, they are often still concerned with completely different types of manuscript. Art historians examine illuminated psalters made for devotional use by the laity. Musicologists focus on ferial or choir psalters designed as practical aids in liturgical performance. Unlike devotional psalters, it is standard for ferial psalters to contain extensive musical notation and additional liturgical material throughout.
This talk explores a manuscript owned by Queen Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III of England, that bridges these disciplinary divides. It is securely associated with Philippa’s ownership through heraldic evidence. Extant marks and additions confirm its personal devotional use. Yet the manuscript also contains nearly one hundred notated antiphons. Revealing aspects of Philippa’s daily religious routine and her personal devotional interests, this paper will explore the different ways in which the Psalter of Queen Philippa may have framed and evoked the experience of sacred sound. It will consider how the visual representation of sound may have enriched her religious observances, both in an intimate, individual context and in the more public arena of the royal chapel and ritual performances of queenly piety.
Laura Slater is a Fulford Junior Research Fellow at Somerville College, University of Oxford, working on the ERC-funded Music and Late Medieval European Court Cultures project. She completed her PhD in History of Art at King’s College, University of Cambridge and has since held postdoctoral teaching or research positions at Cambridge, Trinity College Dublin, UCL, York and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. Alongside published work on the cultural patronage of elite women, her broader research interests centre on the relationships between art, ideas, power and politics in medieval Britain and Europe. She is also interested in medieval responses to antiquity and the Holy Land. Her monograph, Art and Political Thought in Medieval England c. 1150-1350 was published in 2018 with Boydell & Brewer.