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'Otherness’ in Space and Architecture

Jews, Muslims and Christians in Western European Art (1200-1650)

Maria Portmann

This conference proceeding (Sessions on "Otherness in Space and Architecture", International Medieval Conference, Leeds, 2017 and 2018) is a compilation of articles written by both young and senior scholars, who are working on the question of the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ in Christian, Jewish and Islamic cultures. The articles examine how material, ‘oriental’ objects and knowledge originating in non-Western communities helped building and strengthening the identity of Iberia’s, southern France and northern Italian nobility and its lineages. It is shown how, in the perception of Christians, the public image of Jews and Moslems became constructed as that of adversaries, while their cultural knowledge, at the same time, would be integrated into Christian culture in a paradox manner, in which the ‘self’ necessarily depends on the ‘other’ and how visual tensions in art and space have been used as symbols of power.

Since 2016 Maria Portmann is chief conservator of historic monuments and sites in the Canton of the Valais (Switzerland). Since 2019, she is a research fellow for the project COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) Action - "Islamic Legacy: Narratives East, West, South, North of the Mediterranean (1350-1750)". Between 2012 and 2016, she has been a grant holder of the Swiss National Fund for her postdoc research about "Jews and Christians in Western Art (1300-1600)." She has been in residence at the Kunsthistorisches Institut – Max-Planck Institut in Florenz (Italy), Ludwig Maximilian University and at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich (Germany) and at the University of Zurich (Switzerland). She earned her PhD at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). In parallel of her PhD (2009-2011), she was a research fellow for a Spanish National Project at the University of Málaga (Spain).