The Emblem Underground – Postgraduate Edition

Luís Gomes's picture
March 25, 2021
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Digital Humanities, Early Modern History and Period Studies, Eastern Europe History / Studies, Political History / Studies, Spanish and Portuguese History / Studies

Following on from the pioneering ‘The Emblem Underground’ webinar of December 2020, The Emblem Underground – Postgraduate Edition is a scholarly event planned by Justyna Kiliańczyk-Zięba (Jagiellonian University), Filipa Medeiros (CIEC – University of Coimbra), and Luís Gomes (Stirling Maxwell Centre, University of Glasgow), moderated by Alison Adams and Laurence (Billy) Grove (Stirling Maxwell Centre, University of Glasgow).

Session 1 (4 p.m.)
Moderator: Professor Alison Adams

Magdalena Ficoń
4th year PhD, Faculty of History and Cultural Heritage, The Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow

Benedictine vows on emblems from the Benedictine Abbey in Staniatki

Benedictines and Benedictine monks take vows of obedience, fidelity to the monastic way of life (conversatio morum), and stability (stabilitas loci). These derive from the Rule of St Benedict, which was written in 529 on Monte Cassino. In 1725 Boniface Gallner innovatively presented its content using 187 emblematic engravings. His work, called Regula Emblematica Sancti Benedicti, became a model used during works on monasteries and churches' interior design. An excellent example of this is the Benedictine Abbey in Staniatki, where one can find an extensive collection of emblematic compositions relating to life in the monastery and Benedictine spirituality. This presentation will analyse and interpret those which refer to the aforementioned monastic vows.


Lucília Didier
3rd year PhD Researcher, Culture, Space and Memory Transdisciplinary Research Centre, Faculty of Letters of the University of Porto

Paula Almeida Mendes
Post-doc Researcher, Culture, Space and Memory Transdisciplinary Research Centre, Faculty of Letters of the University of Porto

E-Book edition of the incomplete manuscript of Volume III of O Principe dos Patriarcas S. Bento of Friar João dos Prazeres

Volumes I and II of Friar João dos Prazeres’ O Principe dos Patriarcas S. Bento (Prince of the Patriarchs St. Benedict), edited in 1683 and 1690 respectively, is considered to be the first Portuguese emblem book in its complete form with pictura, inscriptio and subscriptio. It inaugurates in Portugal, in an original way, the fusion between emblematic literature and the specula principum with hagiographic literature. The discovery of the autograph incomplete manuscript of Volume III, given as lost for at least two centuries, is an important contribution to Portuguese emblem studies. The manuscript is now being edited at the FLUP – CITCEM research centre with an introductory study by Lucília Didier (Emblem Literature Studies) and Paula Almeida Mendes (Hagiographic Studies).


Jakub Wolak
2nd year PhD, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences / University of Wrocław

Quincunx, typus poloniae regni and sana respublica: analysing three 1564 Polish emblems and interpreting Stanislaus Orichovius’s political programme

In my research I focus on an allegorical apocalyptic parable published as Apocalipsis Stanislai Orichovii, falsely attributed to Stanislaus Orichovius (1513-1566). Written in 1564 by Jan Dymitr Solikowski (1539-1603), who loosely collaborated with Orichovius, it was partially influenced by Orichovian Quincunx (1564), a political dialogue which was seen as promoting Catholic theocracy. However, I suspect that Orichovius did not want clerical power to be absolute, but rather to safeguard a strong centralised secular power. To examine this hypothesis, I will analyse two emblems from Quincunx and compare them with an emblem of sana republica present in the manuscripts of apocalipsis.

Session 2 (5 p.m.)
Moderator: Professor Laurence (Billy) Grove

Alex Lawrence
2nd year PhD student, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford

‘Eloquent deformity’: making an Early Modern emblem of the toucan.

I’m in the course of writing a thesis on the cultural lives of the toucan in Early Modern France. Having only recently come across this toucan-as-emblem (and with very little experience of emblematical texts), I am still unsure as to where to place this bird within my overall structure.

The South American toucan fascinated European travellers and naturalists from its ‘discovery’ in the early sixteenth century, yet it was only hesitantly transmitted into emblematical works in the following years. This talk explores the ‘Tocca – deformis facundus’ (‘Toucan – eloquent deformity’) emblem of Nicolas Caussin’s Polyhistor Symbolicus (1623), assessing how the bird was transformed into a symbolic creature. What are the salient points? Did Caussin draw on the depictions of natural-historical or ethnographic works (such as those of André Thevet or Conrad Gessner)? More broadly, how does Caussin’s bird contribute to the figuring of the toucan in the Early Modern European imagination?


Christopher Vezza
PhD 3rd Year, University of Glasgow, Stirling Maxwell Centre

From emblem to album: emblematic structures in the bimedial art of twentieth-century record sleeves

In recent decades, an increasing number of scholars (Mödersheim, Van Dongen, Grove, Russell, Rypson, Daly et al.) working in the field of Emblem Studies have implicitly grappled with Rosemary Freeman’s prescriptive claim that the emblem ceased to be important, or even died a death, after the eighteenth century. Doubtless, the original corpus emblematicum inspired by the works of North Italian jurist and legal scholar Andrea Alciato dwindled significantly, but various studies have shown that forms of emblematic discourse and emblematic text/image structures persist, albeit indirectly, in the twentieth century. This short paper seeks to give an overview of how certain original manifestations of the emblematic mode of the Early Modern period may find echo in the popular material culture of the twentieth century, specifically in the context of record sleeve art, first pioneered by New York-born graphic designer Alex Steinweiss (1917-2011). One of the key notions is that in terms of formal structure, and occasionally inner functioning, it is possible to locate a number of record sleeve designs, underpinned by text/image interaction, that bear a marked resemblance to particular manifestations of the emblematic mode of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. The paper applies this perspective to a close reading of two covers: Alex Steinweiss’ design for Paul Robeson’s Songs of Free Men (1941, Columbia) and Burt Goldblatt’s design for Carmen McRae’s Carmen McRae (1956, Bethlehem). Beyond formal comparisons with Early Modern emblematics, the paper will suggest a few tentative conclusions for such parallels. Is it simply a case of regeneratio spontanea, as Pierre J Vinken originally suggested, or might shifts in technology, in line with Marshall McLuhan and Walter J. Ong’s thinking, offer a key piece of the overriding puzzle?

Contact Info: 

Luís Gomes (Stirling Maxwell Centre, University of Glasgow)
Justyna Kiliańczyk-Zięba (Jagiellonian University)
Filipa Medeiros (CIEC – University of Coimbra)

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