About: Kristen Collins

I'm associate curator in the Department of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Posts by Kristen

Posted in Art, Art & Archives, Exhibitions and Installations, Manuscripts and Books

Art and Experience in Canterbury and L.A.

Installation view of Canterbury and St. Albans at the Getty Center
Inside Canterbury and St. Albans at the Getty Center. Pages from the St. Albans Psalter, foreground: Bibliothek Hildesheim. Stained-glass panels from the Ancestors of Christ Windows, Courtesy Dean and Chapter of Canterbury

A medieval prayer book was a personal liturgical space. Small and portable, one needed only to open the book to enter. More»

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Posted in Art, Art & Archives, Exhibitions and Installations, J. Paul Getty Museum, Manuscripts and Books, Voices

Getty Voices: Living with the St. Albans Psalter

Conservator's hands holding the parchment of the St. Albans Psalter
Artwork: Dombibliothek Hildesheim. Photo: Peter Kidd

Studying a precious manuscript, page by page, illumination by illumination. More»

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      A Brief History of the Fleur-de-lis in Art

      The fleur-de-lis, a familiar symbol with varied meanings and a rather obscure origin.

      If you read the labels of objects in museums bearing the fleur-de-lis (in French, fleur de lys, pronounced with the final “s”), you might notice that they were all made in France before the French Revolution of 1789. 

      What’s less apparent is that the fleur-de-lis marks objects that bear witness to a dramatic history of monarchy, democracy, and war: they speak to the inherent power of trappings commissioned for and by France’s pre-revolutionary kings.

      Adopted as a royal emblem in France by the 1100s, the fleur-de-lis can be traced to early Frankish monarchs including Clovis I, who converted to Christianity in 496, and the renowned Charlemagne. 

      A French word, fleur-de-lis translates literally to “lily flower.” This is appropriate given the association of lilies with purity (and the Virgin Mary) and given that France has long been known as the “Eldest Daughter of the Church.” In truth, the stylized flower most closely resembles a yellow iris. 

      As a heraldic symbol used in the arms of the French monarchy, the fleur-de-lis often appears in yellow or gold tones and set on a blue shield. 

      Given its intimate royal associations, the fleur-de-lis invoked the ire of revolutionaries even before the fall of the monarchy in 1792. In addition to toppling royal statues, vandals chipped away at crowns and fleurs-de-lis adorning the façades of buildings.

      Full blog post on the Getty Iris here.

      04/28/16

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