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Visiting scholar display gold cloth art in Hanes Art Center

For visiting scholar Lisa Monnas, all that glitters is gold.

Monnas displayed gold cloth art Thursday in Hanes Art Center as one of the art department’s Bettie Allison Rand lectures.

An expert in medieval and early modern fabric, Monnas showed guests clothing made of gold from the medieval time period.

From the early 13th century to the days of Henry VIII, Monnas unfolded a narrative of increasingly complex gold textiles featuring velvet, intricate embellishments and silver.

Although textiles are still a fairly unknown art form, Monnas said, she hopes people will realize the beauty and importance that textiles and paintings have when seen together.

“I think it’s unlikely (people) will come face-to-face with too many of these textiles,” Monnas said.

“But I’m hoping now when they see them in paintings they’ll recognize them, and it will give them an insight into what the painter is trying to do and what he’s achieved.”

Monnas is one of eight Rand lecturers on the topic “Arrayed in Splendor: Art, Fashion and Textiles in Early Modern Europe.”

She paid particular attention to textiles in the early Tudor era during her lecture.

Monnas said one of her favorite pieces is a cope worn by Henry VII. The cloak-type garment, which Monnas called an exceptional piece of weaving, was something he gave to Westminster Abbey after his death.

Christoph Brachmann, a UNC professor of art history, said Monnas’ knowledge and expertise is unmatched in her field.

“She is literally in every publication on medieval art where textiles play a certain role,” Brachmann said.

He said textiles, which are an underappreciated art form, need to be more widely recognized for its influence on early medieval times.

“If you look in the inventories of a princely court, for example, you will note that the first items, the highest ranking items, are not paintings but always tapestries and goldsmith works,” Brachmann said.

Monnas said she accidentally stumbled upon the medieval textiles and the gold cloth art form while working as a Renaissance art historian in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

She found herself recognizing fabrics worn by early-Mongols that she had seen in Italian paintings.

After making this connection, she began her life’s work.

Tatiana String, a UNC art and history professor, said she has worked with Monnas before and enjoys her work.

“She is top of her field,” String said.

“She is one of the great specialists in discussions about textiles.”

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