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Gers historian could make crowd-funding history

A passion for art history is helping Gers woman Julia Faiers create history herself as she bids to become the first St Andrews Uni­ver­sity postgraduate student to crowd-fund an art history PhD. 

Ms Faiers loves 15th and 16th century art in the south-west of France but it has been neglected by historians so she decided to do the research herself as a way to promote the area’s heritage and introduce English-speakers to the
richness of this period.

She has lived near Auch with her husband and two young daughters for 10 years and the area is rich in late Medieval and early Renaissance sculpture, painting and architecture which has not yet been fully researched.

“This period captures emotion in a way other art doesn’t, particularly in sculpture. It is unfashionable to like this late medieval period, which represents predominantly religious subjects and which lacks the popular appeal of the Renaissance era of Leonardo da Vinci,” she said. “But it was a time of transition and when you examine the sculptures the expressions are astonishing.

“They transport me back to that time and I find them enchanting. Mourner sculptures, for example, which are the hooded figures around tombs, are timeless in the way they convey grief, and shows how in the Middle Ages the artist could move his audience.”

Her research will be on the d’Amboise family and its art patronage in 15th century Languedoc, with a focus on Louis I d’Amboise who was the bishop of Albi at the end of the 15th century.

“Anglophone art historians have tended to focus on medieval Paris and the ducal courts, like Burgundy. The art of medieval Languedoc is poorly represented in art history and I want my research to redress the balance.

“This is long overdue, all the more so because Unesco made Albi a World Heritage site in 2010.”

Ms Faiers, a social media manager, has a first-class art history degree from St Andrews and is learning Occitan and studying ancient and medieval script as her work in archives will mean translating the documents she finds before she can begin to work on their contents.

She is using the crowd-funding site Indiegogo to raise £5,643, half the cost of her PhD in Scotland, and one of the perks for backers will be finding the medieval Occitan name closest to your own, including the name’s history.
The Connexion would have been known as Lo Aprobencamen if it had been on sale in those days.

Other perks on the funding site range from a bespoke art history travel itinerary to an Occitan poem and a personal visit to Albi cathedral to learn about its Cathar history.

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