Students working outside the History of Art explore the ornate and unusual, each focusing on one object at The Courtauld that sparks their curiosity. Check out their discoveries below on our digital platform.

Metallic sculpture by Cesar
© The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London / DACS

Habitation will be displayed at The Science Museum in London in 2020, as part of the McQueens Illuminating Objects partnership while The Courtauld Gallery is temporarily closed for a major refurbishment programme. The connection to The Science Museum provides an opportunity to focus on the scientific ideas and techniques embodied in the sculpture. These were of abiding interest throughout César’s career. 

Illuminating Objects is delivered in partnership with students from disciplines outside the History of Art. Their disciplinary backgrounds have included anthropology, theology and the sciences. Partner higher education institutions are SOAS, King’s College London, the University of Kent in Canterbury, Imperial College and University College London. Illuminating Objects has been running since 2012.

One of the challenges for the Illuminating Objects Interns is to communicate their research in the Gallery and through the possibilities offered by the website and other digital channels.

The Front of the sulpture titled Habitation by Cesar

Getting in a Scrap with the Avant-Garde

Know your atoms from your alloys? Leap into the history and production methods of César’s fabulous Habitation, of 1960

painted ivory casketGlobal Union

Exotic beasts and precious materials from international trade networks define an exquisite marriage casket from seventeenth-century Germany

Venetian Glow

The Front of the sulpture titled Habitation by Cesar

How an eighteenth-century glass dish emulates bioluminescent sea creatures through expert craft techniques

Puzzling Construction

Part drinks vessel and part game, a jug that would have invited playful usage across seventeenth-century taverns and dining rooms alike

decorated frame with precious stones on the side and a painted biblical scene in the middle

Sumptuous Devotion

Pinpointing which semi-precious stones are inlaid into the frame of this portable altarpiece proves harder than you might imagine

Faith Suspended

a pendant in the form of a book

This miniature pendant from the early seventeenth century raises questions about who it was for and what holy object it held close to the wearer’s heart

Man-made Magic in Murano 

glass bowl

Learn the secrets of eighteenth-century Venetian glass-makers through this bowl, and see how they competed with Mother Nature herself

silver coffee pot

Coffee Culture

The game-changing drink became known in England from the seventeenth century via travellers to the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Isfahan. What can an eighteenth-century coffee pot recall about the ensuing social and intellectual pursuits that boomed in coffeehouses throughout the country?

carved wooden loom pulleyWeaving and Masquerade in the Côte d’Ivoire

Find out why this loom pulley is shaped like a beautiful female mask and is the object of the Guro weaver’s gaze

painted ceramic dish, with floral motivLyrical Flowers

Carnations and tulips abound: do the swirling flowers on this Iznik dish hold a deeper cultural symbolism?

elegant decorated English wine glass from 18th centuryFiligree Fancy

Get granular with the techniques and chemical components of glasses made in Venice and England

miniature picture bible Piety Reformed

A pair of German miniature picture bibles bears witness to the talents of the Küsel sisters, who produced these devotional objects while navigating a time of religious upheaval

decorated ceramic plateIllustrious Craft

Islamic and Christian heritages intertwine in this Spanish lustreware dish

wooden carved crossArtisans on Athos

The monks of Mount Athos worked painstakingly on this carved wooden cross. Can you follow the biblical stories whittled intricately across it?

Sculpture and Decorative Arts including Illuminating Objects is proudly supported by McQueens Flowers.

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