The OSK/NIKI Winter School 2021 ‘Cult to Art’ was suspended twice because of the Covid-19 restrictions. Fortunately, at the third attempt to organize this seminar, the Cult to Art course finally could take place as a Summer School in Florence last week. All participants were excited to leave education through Zoom behind and to experience the real thing again: study art works in their environment and have presentations in situ. During this Cult to Art seminar, which was outstandingly led by Machtelt Brüggen Israëls (UvA) and Gert Jan van der Sman (NIKI), the students focused on the artistic impact of miraculous images. As powerful images were reframed, repainted, raised on altars, veiled and unveiled, ritualized in processions, and as they became the recipients of gifts, did they transform the course of the history of art? How much do tabernacles of Orcagna, Brunelleschi, or Michelozzo owe to devotional practice? How did the style of older, venerated images interact with that of their modern interpreters, such as Antoniazzo Romano or Rubens? How were ritual routes inscribed in the urban fabric? How did miracle-working images and the votive gifts they received predicate lifelikeness? How did they impress the divine on matter and how did that affect materiality and the choice for new media such as paper, wax, and clay? Can we still consider them images before the era of Art, or are they images that enabled Art?
The OSK ReMa-students held wonderful presentations in Florence, Prato, Rome, Impruneta, Poggibonsi and Siena. Their knowledge on cult and art practices in Italy was deepened by receiving immediate feedback from Machtelt Brüggen Israëls and Gert Jan van der Sman, and by sharing observations with their fellow students. Last week in Florence may be regarded as miraculous, but let us hope that, from now on, education on site will be common practice again at OSK.