The Darnley jewel, a masterpiece of the goldsmith’s art on display at Edinburgh’s Holyrood Palace, has been deemed a love token, but has also been labeled an emblem of political ambition. Taking the shape of a heart, the jewel was produced at a moment (1565-75) when such objects worn by courtiers were a primary means of asserting status and proclaiming allegiances. With a deep medieval history - originally the fleshly power center of the human body, the seat of the soul, and place of memory and emotion - the heart has many aspects to offer. This illustrated lecture will show how the understanding of the heart changed during the Middle Ages, from spiritual locus of the body, to source of devotion to country, and finally, to the font of love and sentimentality.
Cynthia Hahn is Professor of Medieval Art at The Graduate Centre at The City University of New York (CUNY).