Issue Ten: Toward a Visual History of the Working Class (Summer 2023)

This issue edited by Diane Wolfthal is devoted to exploring those who labored in the Middle Ages (400-1530). The discipline of art history is closely tied to the art market and to wealthy donors and collectors, and for this reason has long been identified with the upper class. There are innumerable publications on medieval queens, wealthy art donors, and the luxury objects that they commissioned, but few studies concern the laboring class. Michael Uebel and Kellie Robertson have shown that in every European language the medieval word for “labour” had an “unambivalent connotation of pain, suffering, and fatigue.” Do visual images confirm this? How is labor depicted? What role does the intersection of gender, race, and class play in medieval images of laborers? How does medieval art show animals or other nonhumans who labor? Have medieval images been used to support modern ways of seeing labor and capital, production and consumption? Does the Aristotelian contempt for labor affect medieval images? Which objects were associated with the working class? Which material and immaterial qualities were associated with workers? By engaging with these concepts and questions, essays in this issue examine images of the laboring class and the objects that were part of their lives.


Diane Wolfthal
, Rice University, Introduction: Towards a Visual History of the Working Class

Layla Seale, University of North Texas, Work is Hell: Demon Laborers in Late Medieval Art

Kathleen E. Kennedy, University of Bristol, Aging Artists and Impairment in Fifteenth-Century England

Barbara Crostini, Uppsala University/Newman Institute, Gypsum and Mortar: Constructing Byzantine Builders and Craftsmen between Late Antique Practice and Medieval Exegesis

Anna Russakoff, American University of Paris, Pain Quotidien: Images of Bakers in Medieval France

Deirdre Jackson, The Morgan Library & Museum, Work and Workers in Alfonso X’s Cantigas de Santa Maria

Selena Anders, University of Notre Dame, Housing the Butcher, the Baker, and the Candlestick Maker: The Cultural Significance of Residential Façade Porticoes in Medieval Rome

Virginia Raguin, College of the Holy Cross, Windows on the Working Class

Hallie G. Meredith, Washington State University, Shaping Viewer Experience through Images of Unfinished Work: A Visual History of Making in the 4th to 8th-century CE Eastern Mediterranean

Lindsay Cook, The Pennsylvania State University, Traces of the Medieval Working Class in the Land of the Paris Cathedral Chapter