Media @ McGill

Building Spaces for the Gods: Maarten van Heemskerck’s Ancient Mediterranean

Submitted by Media@McGill on


Braden Scott


Coming down from a year that included five conference presentations of my original research, I am eager to push into dissertation writing that will include the advice, opinions, assistance, and encouragement from global scholars. A Media@McGill research fellowship certainly assists me with this procedure.

Before arriving at McGill, my goal was to research and write on the arts of antiquity and their reception in the European renaissance. This intention has not wavered, instead it has become more precise. Haarlem artist Maarten van Heemskerck (1498-1574) was prolific in the first half of the sixteenth century, and his drawings, paintings, and prints are consulted by modern art historians and archaeologists who study the visual cultures of the ancient Mediterranean in early modern Europe. After my initial research, involvement with conferences among scholars from a range of disciplines, and completion of comprehensive exams that encompassed ancient analogues in renaissance art, architectural theory, and media studies, I have been faced with three potential dissertation concentrations: Northern renaissance art as a disciplinary subject; the visual culture of antiquity in both Italian and Northern cultural spheres; and/or an anachronistic study of media theory in regards to how Heemskerck’s work has been used as a five hundred year old database. Although I do not think that each is necessarily exclusive of the other, my conference participation and conversations with other scholars have made me aware of the value that dissertations have in the art history job market, and how my approaches to my own study can aid and abet employment precarity. In the coming year, I need the time and resources to be able to research these contexts and begin writing a chapter of my dissertation.

In order to explore these avenues, I intend on participating in three conferences in the coming year: I have been accepted to speak at the Association for Art History conference in London from April 5-7, 2018. In a panel led by S. Rebecca Martin and Kimberly Cassibry titled From the Phoenicians to the Celts: Toward a global art and architectural history of the ancient Mediterranean, I will explore the movement of the granite columns on the Pantheon from Egypt to Rome. In my paper, “The Stone is the Message: Processing the Pantheon’s Portico,” I will also locate van Heemskerck’s work as a local node of ancient visual culture in the Northern renaissance by contextualising his drawing of the Pantheon within anachronistic networks of contact and exchange. I will potentially be participating in the European Association for Urban History, where I will explore the “fantastic” architecture of antiquity in a panel that has been devoted to Heemskerck; and The European Network for Cinema and Media Studies where I will propose an expanded art historical subject of “media environments” to scholars of media theory. Via these three networks of discourse, I hope to solidify some of the questions, doubts, and concerns that have accrued after discussing looser versions of my work among scholars in the past year.

These conference papers will not be simple musings, but will work together in the formation of a chapter of my dissertation that is concerned with the remediation of ancient Mediterranean art (Greek, Roman, and Egyptian) in Italy, and in turn, how antiquity travelled to Northern Europe by way of artists such as Heemskerck. Working within a department of Art History & Communication Studies has afforded me the unique bubble wherein which I can write across both art history and media studies, but I need to be able to see how my approach is received by scholars of both disciplines in avenues that are tailored to disciplinary nuances. Time is money, and reading is labour, which means that any and all financial support is integral to my ability to read, research, and present my work for feedback.

I wish to express the sincerest gratitude to Media@McGill for the generous funds that they have provided in support of my varying research endeavours, and to my outstanding advisor, Dr. Angela Vanhaelen, who encouraged me to apply for this award.