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Lumen: The Art and Science of Light, 800–1600

Available September 2024

Edited by Kristen Collins and Nancy K. Turner

Sumptuously illustrated with dazzling objects, this publication explores the ways art and science worked hand in hand in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Through the manipulation of materials, such as gold, crystal, and glass, medieval artists created dazzling light-filled environments, evoking, in the everyday world, the layered realms of the divine. While contemporary society separates science and spirituality, the medieval world harnessed the science of light to better perceive and understand the sacred. From 800 to 1600, the study of astronomy, geometry, and optics emerged as a framework that was utilized by theologians and artists to comprehend both the sacred realm and the natural world.

Through essays written by contributors from the fields of art history, the history of science, and neuroscience, and with more than two hundred illustrations, including glimmering golden reliquaries, illuminated manuscripts, rock crystal vessels, astronomical instruments, and more, Lumen cuts across religious, political, and geographic boundaries to reveal the ways medieval Christian, Jewish, and Islamic artists, theologians, and thinkers studied light. To convey the sense of wonder created by moving light on precious materials, a number of contemporary artworks are placed in dialogue with historic objects.

This volume is published to accompany an exhibition on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center from September 10 to December 8, 2024.

Kristen Collins is curator of manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Nancy K. Turner is conservator of manuscripts in the Department of Paper Conservation at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

“Among the most labile of media in medieval art, light served as a vehicle as well as a subject of representation. In works of architecture and stained glass to gleaming metalwork and gilded manuscript miniatures, medieval artists manipulated light effects not only to illuminate but also to mystify. Bringing together a dazzling array of objects and a kaleidoscope of scholarly perspectives, Lumen sheds light on medieval art and culture and shows that the Middle Ages were anything but dark.”
—Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Harvard University

272 pages
9 3/4 x 12 inches
222 color and 3 b/w illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-928-8

Getty Publications 
Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum