Object of Devotion

Medieval English Alabaster Sculpture from the Victoria and Albert Museum

March 3 - May 13, 2012

This exhibition presents sixty beautifully-carved alabaster panels and free-standing figures that were displayed in the homes, chapels, and churches of both aristocratic and non-aristocratic Christians in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Alabaster production during the Middle Ages centered on the making and selling of finely decorated, gilded and colored sculpture to churches, nobles, and owners of private chapels. More common examples, however, were intended to brighten the homes and spiritual lives of people of modest means and are now treasured as the folk art of the ordinary medieval English man and woman. Due to this range in intended audience, this assemblage of English alabasters offers an unrivalled glimpse into the spiritual lives, hopes, fears and religious aspirations of both aristocratic and non-aristocratic society during the Middle Ages. Since alabasters were sold across the Continent in large quantities, the exhibition sheds light on spirituality and culture beyond the English Channel, with English examples having been found in countries from Iceland to Italy, and Poland to Portugal.

The exhibition is organized and circulated by Art Services International, Alexandria, Virginia. It is supported by a grant from The Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

His Excellency Sir Nigel Sheinwald, formerly Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the United States of America is Honorary Patron of the exhibition.

The exhibition is brought to the Kalamazoo community in cooperation with the Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University.

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Panel of the Harrowing of Hell
Panel of the Harrowing of Hell, late 15th century, alabaster. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Panel of the Harrowing of Hell
Panel of the Adoration of the Magi
Panel of the Disposition
Figure of St. Christopher

Panel of the Fifth Sign of the Last Judgment

International Congress on Medieval Studies

The KIA's presentation of Object of Devotion celebrates the 50th anniversary of the International Congress on Medieval Studies, held at Western Michigan University annually in May. The International Congress on Medieval Studies is the world's largest annual gathering of people interested in the Middle Ages. Hosted by WMU's Medieval Institute, the Congress has always drawn many attendees from the local community, who can pre-register for free online or at the Miller Auditorium ticket office. In 2012, the International Congress on Medieval Studies takes place May 10-13; pre-registration opens in February and closes April 25.

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