Course tutor: Dr Laura-Maria Popoviciu (Curator, UK Government Art Collection)
This online short course offers an introduction to an illustrated history of bees and their cultural significance, from Antiquity through to the present day. Considered to be ‘the most honoured of animals’ by John Chrysostom, on account of their selflessness, bees have been a constant source of inspiration to writers, artists, theologians, and scientists.
This course takes an interdisciplinary approach and looks at ways in which bees have been represented, described, and understood in art, mythology, religion and science. Over the course of four sessions, we will examine visual and textual material pertaining to bees, honey and wax, and trace their history and relevance to contemporary society. We will explore visual depictions of myths associated with bees, illustrations of biblical references, scientific as well as artistic projects and commissions.
This course will enable students to make unexpected connections and associations across disciplines and historical contexts and become more confident in correlating visual and textual material. It will also encourage students to undertake future research topics of any age and concerning any subject and approach them in an interdisciplinary manner.
Each class will be taught across four 1.5 hrs classes via the Zoom platform. Each session will have time for discussion. Reading lists will be made available to registered students.
The course will take place on the following dates, all 3.30-5.00pm UK time:
Tuesday 18th July
Thursday 20th July
Tuesday 25th July
Thursday 27th July
BOOKING NOW OPEN
•Warburg Staff & Fellows / external students / unwaged £65
•SAS & LAHP-funded students £60
•Warburg Students £40
18 JULY SESSION 1: MYTH OR REALITY: ‘OF HONEY, HEAVEN SENT’
This introductory session looks at the different world myths, beliefs, and fables around bees. It will examine a range of visual and textual examples and explore questions around the beginnings of beekeeping and its evolution into the early modern period.
20 JULY SESSION 2: THE HONEY TONGUED SAINTS
This session examines the significance of bees, honey, and wax in theology. It will consider some of the texts by the Church Fathers which reference pollen and honey, as well as liturgical objects and rituals associated with bees.
25 JULY SESSION 3 BEES UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
This session looks at the first scientific attempts to observe and describe bees and their anatomy in the 17th century as well as the way in which artists have observed bees in a scientific manner, associating this practice with that of intense heavenly contemplation.
27 JULY SESSION 4 AN ALLEGORICAL FEAST OF THE SENSES
This session looks at the different ways in which bees and honey have inspired artists to explore the five senses: from biblical scenes to imprese and mythological depictions to contemporary public commissions.
image: Detail from Alfonso X of Castille, Cantigas de Santa María, ca. 1280-1284, Manuscript T-I-1, cantiga 127, folio 182R © Patrimonio Nacional. Real Biblioteca del Monasterio de El Escorial