Beyond Leaves: Cultivating Knowledge in Books of Hours (1470–1520)
Clara Marie Kahn’s project examines plant images in books of hours, taking an art historical approach to explore how they shaped and conveyed knowledge about nature in late medieval and early modern Europe.
These illuminated prayer books offer an immense range of visual representations of nature. Their depictions of plants always involve engagement with the natural world, fostering multiple forms of knowledge through observation, abstraction, and the use of natural resources. Within their religious context, the books themselves cater to distinct knowledge cultures: reading practices, spiritual literacy, and aesthetic praise.
The project explores the diverse forms of knowledge conveyed by plants in prayer books to their readers, owners, and creators. Contending that these representations hold meaning beyond religious symbolism, it studies their entanglement with horticulture, botany, and political networks, further examining the reciprocity between artistic and artisanal knowledge and early modern natural science.
Clara Marie holds a BA in art history and theater studies and an MA in art history from Freie Universität Berlin. Her research focuses on the materiality and practices of illuminated manuscripts in the late Middle Ages.
Find Clara Marie's profile on the Website of the International Max Planck Research School – "Knowledge and its Resources" (IMPRS-KIR).