2014-2016 | The Enclosed Gardens of the Municipal Museums of Mechelen

In October 2014, a team of restorers started with the restoration of the seven Enclosed Gardens (Dutch: Besloten Hofjes) held by the Municipal Museums of Mechelen. The collection of seven Enclosed Gardens dates to the 16th century and belonged to the former convent of Mechelen’s Hospital Sisters. Enclosed Gardens were mainly fabricated in the city of Mechelen, though only a few survive. Because of its extraordinary coherence and uniqueness, this collection of seven Enclosed Gardens was recognised as belonging to the category of Flemish Masterpieces by the Flemish Government. The aim of the research and restoration project is to gather expertise on the conservation and restoration of comparable mixed-media objects. After restoration, three of the Enclosed Gardens were presented to the public for the first time at the prestigious and international exhibition In search of Utopia (2016) in Museum M in Leuven. By 2018, one of the main goals of the project will be achieved: The entire collection of seven Enclosed Gardens will be on permanent display in the Municipal Museums of Mechelen (Hof van Busleyden).

2012-2016 | Caput Iohannis in Disco. Object-Medium-function

During the Middle Ages, the head of St John the Baptist was widely venerated. According to biblical text, John was beheaded at the order of Herod’s stepdaughter, who is traditionally given the name Salome. His head was later found in Jerusalem. Legends concerning the discovery of this relic form the basis of an iconographic type in which the head of St John the Baptist is presented as an ‘object’. The phenomenon of the Johannesschüssel is the subject of this research project (co-sponsored by FWO, KU Leuven and the University of Vienna, 2012-2016).

Soetkin Vanhauwaert researches St John’s Head in the Low Countries under the supervision of Barbara Baert and Cyriel Stroo (KIK-IRPA).

Barbara Baert, Caput Johannis in Disco. Essay on a Man’s Head, 2012.
Barbara Baert & Sophia Rochmes (eds.), Decapitation and Sacrifice. Saint John's Head in Interdisciplinary Perspectives: Text, Object, Medium, 2017.

2013 | The Manuscript from Sawalo

Illuminare is researching and exposing the 12th century Gospels from the abbey of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux. This commonly not well-known masterpiece is being kept at the Museum Mayer van den Bergh in Antwerp. The manuscript was written and illuminated over eight hundred years ago, approximately between 1160 and 1200. The illuminator, who is known only as ‘Follower of the Master of Sawalo’, remains anonymous to this day. Nevertheless, he was active throughout the golden age of the abbey. In the final quarter of the 12th century, the quality of book illumination at the scriptorium of  Saint-Amand-les-Eaux reached its peak, and this precious manuscript may serve as an excellent witness to this. Prof. Lieve Watteeuw and Bruno Vandermeulen will study, conserve and digitize the manuscript. This project will be executed within the context of the RICH Project.

2008-2012 | The Woman with the Haemorrhage (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:24-34; Luke 8:42b-48). An Iconological Study of the Interpretation of the Haemorrhoissa in Medieval Art

This interdisciplinary research initiative (funded by the KU Leuven, 2008-2012), combining exegetical, art-historical and anthropological points of view, starts from a particular passage in the New Testament that tells the story of a “woman with an issue of blood.” The gospel relates how the so-called Haemorrhoissa is healed the very moment she touches Christ’s garment.

The iconological research into the meaning of the bleeding woman in medieval art (fourth-fifteenth century) was conducted by Emma Sidgwick and Liesbet Kusters under supervision of Barbara Baert.

Barbara Baert (ed.), The Woman with the Blood Flow (Mark 5:24-34). Narrative, Iconic, and Anthropological Spaces, 2014. Emma Sidgwick, From Flow to Face: The Haemorrhoissa Motif (Mark 5:24b-34parr) between Anthropological Origin and Image Paradigm, 2014.

2004-2008 | Mary Magdalene and the Touching of Jesus. An Intra- and Interdisciplinary Investigation of the Interpretation of John 20:17

This interdisciplinary research project (funded by FWO, 2004-2008) concentrates on one specific aspect, namely John 20:17: “Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me (or: do not touch me, Greek: mê mou haptou), because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’”, the verse that some have qualified as the most difficult verse of the fourth gospel.

The disciplines of exegesis (Reimund Bieringer), art history (Barbara Baert) and practical theology (Karlijn Demasure) collaborated in this project to investigate the meaning, reception history and present-day relevance of “mê mou haptou” in John 20:17. The element of continuity in this multidisciplinary study of John 20:17 is the theme of touching / holding / letting go. At the same time the participating researchers will also critically challenge each other’s methods and assumptions.

Barbara Baert analysed the Noli me tangere motif in the visual arts of the Middle Ages and later centuries.

Barbara Baert, «Noli me tangere». Mary Magdalene: One Person, Many Images, 2006.
Barbara Baert, To Touch or Not to Touch? Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Noli me tangere, 2013.
Barbara Baert, ‘Noli me tangere’ in Interdisciplinary Perspective, 2016.