The Early Medieval Eye and Insular Art.

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The Early Medieval Eye and Insular Art.

February 18, 2021 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm


The Early Medieval Eye and Insular Art. The Codex Amiatinus, the Book of Kells, and the scholarship of Jennifer O’Reilly

Lecture by Dr Carol Farr FSA

Recent archaeological discoveries have contributed much to our understanding of the visual art created in Britain and Ireland during the seventh to ninth centuries AD, known as ‘Insular art’. The scholarship of the late Dr Jennifer O’Reilly, a historian of Insular culture, complemented the archaeological advances by articulating with precision, imagination and profound knowledge the context of Insular manuscript art, which was rooted in the Christianity of late antiquity and the early middle ages.

Focusing on two famous manuscripts, the Codex Amiatinus and the Book of Kells, I will explore connections between the new picture of Insular art that modern archaeology has provided and the early medieval eyes through which Dr O’Reilly’s scholarship enable us to see this material culture. My talk accompanies the publication in 2019 of her collected art historical essays, which I have edited with Dr Elizabeth Mullins of University College Dublin: Volume 1: The Insular Gospel Books, and Text and Image, Volume 2: The Codex Amiatinus, the Book of Kells and Anglo-Saxon Art (London, Routledge).

Remembered as a gifted lecturer and writer by her colleagues and her students, Dr Jennifer O’Reilly played a key role in establishing the degree programme in History of Art at University College Cork, where she lectured on medieval history between 1975 and her retirement in 2008. When she died in 2016, Jennifer O’Reilly left behind a body of published work in three areas of medieval studies: the iconography of the manuscript art produced in early medieval Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England; the writings of Bede and his older Irish contemporary, Adomnán of Iona; and the early lives of Thomas Becket. In these three areas she explored the connections between historical texts, artistic images and biblical exegesis shaped by the Church Fathers. Her teaching inspired generations of students, many of whom went on to complete doctorates under her supervision. In retirement she continued to write extensively, and she gave numerous public lectures, including the Jarrow Lecture and the Brixworth Lecture. She was a Member of the Royal Irish Academy and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Please note that due to COVID 19 restrictions this event may be online only. 

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February 18, 2021
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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Society of Antiquaries of London
Burlington House, Piccadilly
London, W1J 0BE United Kingdom
020 7479 7080


Society of Antiquaries of London
020 7479 7080