Tracy Chapman Hamilton
Mapping the Medieval Woman
2016 - 2017 (January-June)
Tracy Chapman Hamilton currently holds the NEH Visiting Associate Professorship of Art and Art History at the University of Richmond. Her research focuses on late medieval visual culture in Europe and the Mediterranean, especially rooted in questions of gender studies, collecting, topography, and geography. How women made themselves visible through patronage is the subject of her book Pleasure and Politics at the Court of France: The Artistic Patronage of Queen Marie de Brabant (1260-1321) (Brepols 2016). She has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Kress and DuPont Foundations, and the International Center of Medieval Art.
Hamilton’s collaborative digital project, Mapping the Medieval Woman, reveals how women of the late medieval period perceived – and manipulated – the geo-political stage of Europe and the Mediterranean through their patronage of objects and buildings. This first phase of an interactive open source platform will utilize digital mapping and networking visualizations to provoke questions that disrupt modern conceptions of gender and place through these women’s material and spatial record.
Motivating and anchoring this discussion is the work of cultural geographers who claim that culture is spatial, that space is ideological, and that we can discover issues of power, identity, and social regulation within landscape. Mapping the Medieval Woman will allow us to visualize how a woman could strategically situate herself and her commissions, move her objects in a deliberate design to build her identity, and, ultimately, create a lasting legacy for herself and her family. Through digital mapping we can recreate these women’s topographic relationships to the landscape by locating their domestic, urban, and beneficent architectural commissions such as residences, gates, bridges, hospitals, and chapels. In addition, we can trace the ceremonies and processions that provided a moving backdrop for the women and the larger populations of nations and court. Network visualization will also track the trajectories of the objects – gemstones, exotic materials, jewelry, tableware, reliquaries, small-scale sculpture, clothing, and manuscripts, to name a few – they commissioned, collected, and gave away across the larger landscape of Europe and the Mediterranean. Such networks suggest that elite women had a different type of territory, one not delineated just by borders but defined also by relationships.