2023 Mercer-Kesler Lecture to Focus on Symbolic and Sensory Roles of Flowers in 18th-Century Funerary Practices and Portraits

Jessica Stair, Ph.D., will present the 2023 Mercer-Kesler Lecture on Friday, April 21, at 10 a.m. in Kresge Auditorium.

Stair’s presentation is titled “The Scent of Perfection: Flowers and the Senses in Monjas Muertas.” 

A genre of funerary portraits known as monjas muertas, or death portraits of nuns, emerged during the eighteenth century in the Spanish Americas. Characterized by an overabundance of flowers surrounding withered, deceased bodies, the death portraits convey a tension between notions of decay and vitality. Through an examination of the symbolic and sensory roles flowers played in nuns’ actual funerary practices and their memorialization in portraits, this lecture considers the importance of artistic practice in representing a nun’s spiritual preparedness for the hereafter.

Stair is an artist, designer, and art historian who specializes in the art of colonial Latin America. Her research focuses on indigenous artistic and scribal practices of colonial Mexico and how new iconographies and modes of reading and writing were invented during the late-colonial period. In addition to teaching art history, Stair also teaches design courses at Meredith, drawing upon her eight combined years of teaching art and design and working professionally as a graphic designer.

The Mercer-Kesler Lecture is an annual lecture sponsored this year by Meredith’s Art Department. This lecture series is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Mercer-Kesler Fund and the Mary Stowe Gullick Fund.

The Mercer-Kesler Lecture is free and open to the public. For Meredith students, this event qualifies as an academic/cultural event in General Education.

Image information: Unknown artist, Sor Magdalena de Cristo, 1732, oil on canvas, Museo ex-convento de Santa Mónica, Puebla.

Melyssa Allen

News Director
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(919) 760-8087
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