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Medieval Studies Workshop: Emilia Cottignoli (Stanford, Art History)

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Event Details:

The fall meeting of the Medieval Studies Workshop will be held Wednesday, November 29th from 2:30-4:30 PM in Pigott Hall 252.  Emilia Cottignoli (Art History) will present her work-in-progress, "Pearly stars, celestial reflections, and pendent verse: The Fountain of the Lions in the Garden of Bliss."  Professor Patricia Blessing (Art History) will offer a response to Emilia's work before we open for discussion.  All students and faculty interested in medieval topics across departments are welcome to attend!  Please find the abstract for Emilia's paper below. 


This study explores the Fountain of the Lions in the Garden of Bliss as a sovereign eye of Muhammad V and as a non-mimetic representation of his control. Converging as a center of liquidity, the basin at the center of the fountain becomes a glittering eye in this liquid waterscape as the highest point in reflection of the sky, mirroring the clouds, sun, and moon in its vessel, ingathering the distant sky in the form of reflection. Characterized by the slippage of the word ein, meaning both eye and fountain, the eye takes everything in, holding the clouds, trees, water, and sunlight in its reflections, creating the all-seeing illusion of omniscience and surveillance. Water gurgles, bubbles, and runs, interceding in four rivers like the divine rivers of Paradise, made of water, milk, wine, and honey, that join at the fountain, collect in its basin, and fall from the lips of lions in a strand of watery pearls. Inscribed into the basin itself and throughout the Alhambra, the verses of Ibn Zamrak evoke how water droplets fall like a string of pearls, catching the sunlight in each orb, becoming little luminous, shooting stars that complete their arc from lion to floor, where they are extinguished. The poet becomes the stringer of pearls, linking together dewdrops of brilliance through verse, immortalized in the renewal of water that cycles through the fountain and persists in the stone, reaffirming the power of the ruler wherever water flows. Strung pearls of words and water resonate with lanterns pendent from golden chains, evoking the Byzantine hanging lamps and polycandelon of the fifth and sixth centuries that informed the iconography of heavenly cities– Jerusalem and Bethlehem, rendered in the mosaics of San Vitale and the Great Mosque of Damascus. Baptism through illumination becomes present in the nocturnal space of these church skies, where the lantern glitters like a star, washing the visitor clean in the divine light of Allah.