Virtual Exhibition Space

  This catalogue is the result of a one-semester course, Celtic Art and Cultures, which sought to exploit computer technologies, to experiment with pedagogical practice, and to encourage student research projects. The class was comprised of 6 graduate students and 22 undergraduates, for all of whom Celtic art, literature, and history were new frontiers. Limiting the use of the traditional classroom lecture to once a week, the students concentrated their energies on time in the library, on discussion forums, the class listserv, and the internet. The syllabus provides a general guideline to the course, the readings, and the discussion forums.
The student catalogue is currently being edited as an independent study by Ms. Katherine Matheson, as part of an on-going effort to keep the site educational. Photo credits are being inserted as part of the editorial process. This is a purely educational site, both for those who view it and for those who are contributors.


Defining Celtic Issues and Problems

Celts and Celtic, for ideological and practical purposes, are defined broadly in this catalogue, covering a huge geographical and chronological span that incorporates many "Celtic" cultures. Traditionally, scholars have used a linguistic guideline and defined those peoples who spoke a Celtic language (P-celtic or Q-celtic) as The Celts. Recent scholarship has challenged the notion of a pan-European Celtic culture as a construct of nineteenth-century scholars.

Archaeological discoveries, whether accidental or intentional, have drastically changed scholarly notions of the material culture created and, for the most part, deposited in graves and sacred sites, by Celtic peoples. Rich finds such as the Eberdingen-Hochdorf burial provided an intact grave of an elite "Big Man" in the hierarchy of Hallstatt culture, a society typically viewed as preceding the La Tène period. Systematic archeological digs have also brought to light new patterns of commerce and exchange by focusing on pottery remains, rather than on the more spectacular gold and bronze objects.

In compiling this catalogue we were certainly aware of the many problems in defining "Celt" or "Celtic." In the interests, however, of teaching and allowing students to pursue topics that intrigued them, it was decided that Celtic would be defined in its broadest terms to include Hallstatt, La Tène on both the Continent and the British Isles within the time frame of a 1,000 years. In addition, the early Christian "Celts" (Picts, Welsh, Irish) were included in the catalogue since they continued a "celtic" artistic vocabulary and wrote down the epic tales.


Art 467, Spring 2013: Celtic Art
This online exhibition is the culmination of the work done by students in Professor Dorothy Verkerk’s Spring 2013 Art 467 (Celtic Art) course. Each exhibit consists of an essay or essays summarizing the student’s research; images of the objects that are the focus of the student’s research; and a bibliography.

"Our Ancestors the Gauls": Henri Paul Motte and the Gallic/Druidic Revival of Nineteenth-Century France

Catherine Carlisle

19th-Century Representations of Vercingetorix's Surrender

Hannah Burke

Far Beyond a Warhorse: Horse Motif on Celtic Coins of the Danube Basin

Yining Li Erin

Sequana of the Seine: The Origin and Persistence of Celtic Water Mythology

Katie Hearsey

Appropriation and Translation in Roman Gaul and Britain

Adam Harris

Cernnunos: A Contemporary Adaptation

Kaitlin Knapp

The Three Mothers

Holly Harper

Defining Irishness: The Use of Celtic Imagery in the Political Murals of Northern Ireland

Caitlyn Cooper

Contemporary American Celtic Art

Michael Lau

Changes in Perception and Self-Identification: the Symbolism of the Harp and the Carnyx

Amy Parlier

Spanish Bullfighting and the Sacred Bull: Celtic Influences in Modern Practice

Amanda Sparger

Modern Media and the Book of Kells

Sierra Smith

Medieval French and Italian Appropriation of Celtic Imagery

Breanna Ponzi

Celtic Plaid, Highland Tartans, and Scottish Identity

Rachel Kirby

Flexibility and Selection: Tracing Manx Celtic Heritage

Sydney Stegall

Saints and Satan

Camille Zimmerman

French Illustrations of Celts in François Guizot's A Popular History of France: Redefining French National Identity in Post-Ancien régime France

Maggie Howell

Lindisfarne Gospels: God in Design

Jinjing Zhang

The Sound of the Celtiberians

Andrew Wike

Chicago World's Exposition

Katherine Bailey

Distinguishing Marks: Celtic Tattooing in America

Jesse Franklin

Lights, Camera, Celtic!

Erica O'Brien

Old Ways, Pathways: Toward an Iconography of Druidry in DruidCraft Tarot

Professor Dorothy Verkerk
Celticism, Beliefs, and Customs
Celticism, Beliefs, and Customs explores how the Celts are understood by modern scholarship and popular imagination. The interpretation of archeological remains and literary descriptions of events, people, and customs are far from easy to decipher. Modern definitions of gender, barbarian, and history are powerful filters through which the graves and texts are excavated to provide us an insight into who and what were these Celtic peoples. The boundaries between science and romantic speculation are less clearly marked than scholars would like to admit. Female druids, military women, and goddesses who become saints often become entangled with modern notions of women and culture. Archeological digs, especially in how they are categorized according to gender, are often open to modern bias. These essays investigate those problems in various ways. The transformation of Brigid into St. Brigid is traced through several centuries as a singular example of a powerful goddess who becomes a powerful saint. Female druids are particularly intriguing and difficult for they are a specialized subset of a group of Celts that are already highly romanticized in popular imagination. The role of the chariot in burial and beliefs is possible because modern technology allows them to be gathered together in an ahistorical manner and examined as a whole, rather than in isolation. The juxtaposition of objects in male and female burials is enlightening for understanding what these burials can and cannot reveal about gender and the afterlife.

Death and Burial: The Afterlife in the Celtic Grave

Evan A. Gatti

St. Brigid

Anna Miller
The Power of Women in Celtic Society: Female Druids
Margaret Minor
Wagons in Hallstatt Period: Its Technology and Use
Masumi Ninomiya
Boudica and Her Daughters
Tracy Bacher
Orality and Literacy
Orality and Literacy applies the methodologies of scholars such as Walter Ong and Claude Levi-Strauss to the issue of ornamentation and abstraction that dominates the Celtic artistic vocabulary. Modern scholars, trained in a literate culture that emphasizes the category and the narrative as well as historical and linear thinking are often at a loss as to how to understand an abstract art. The art produced by the Celts embraced the non-narrative, the abstraction of human figures, and eschewed the written word until the introduction of Christianity, a religion of the book. The phalerae contain some of the most striking designs in the Celtic repertoire of artistic invention. Although some do contain depictions of the human head, they are treated as part of a larger composition, a design element rather than a narrative protagonist. The phalerae are examined for their design elements, not to trace or document a specific motif, but to attempt a greater understanding of the geometry, numerology, and cyclical thinking that created the disks. Many methodologies have been applied to the study of the early Christian manuscripts produced in Ireland or Irish influenced monasteries. The manuscripts have been placed within the continuum of pre-Christian art in an attempt to more fully understand the approach to the decoration of texts which distinguishes Insular manuscripts.
Early Insular Illuminated Manuscripts: The Merging of Oral and Literate Cultures
Elizabeth Howie
Emily Clarke-Pearson
Interaction and Syncreticism
Interaction and Syncretism raise the question of how much the Celts interacted with other cultures. Never isolated from the Mediterranean world, Celtic presence has been documented all over the European continent. The raw materials of Celtic lands provided a powerful incentive for trade, while the luxury goods of the Mediterranean were highly prized. The importation of glass and glass-working are strong indicators of status and trade contacts. Along with trade came artistic exchange. Celtic coins are adapted from popular and respected Greek models, but are always transformed into an iconographic and aesthetic vocabulary that was firmly entrenched. Although coins show a ready adaptation of Greek and Roman model, the juxtaposition of Greek and Roman representations of the "Keltoi" and "Gauls" to the self-representations of the Celts is striking. First, they rarely represent themselves and, when they do, it is in a relatively standardized manner. These essays place Celtic peoples within a broader context of the Mediterranean world.
Celtic Glass
Jason Mathes
Celtic Coins
Gloria Park
The Celts Themselves
Kasey Ashton
Celtic Iconography
Celtic Iconography delves into the animals and gods who inhabit the art and literature of Celtic cultures. Triplism, the triple motif, is found in almost all Celtic contexts and is one of the most "universal" iconographic convention. Mother goddesses and the Genii Cucullati often appear in triplicate. Many of the gods and heroes in Celtic literature had the ability to shape-shift, or metamorphose, between human and animal/bird forms, a capability that extended the power of the god or hero. Birds were particularly powerful since they moved between heaven and earth. Snakes, as well, moved between the earth and the regions below the earth. Gods such as Cernunnos, one of the few well-known pre-Roman gods, were no doubt influential because of their association with animals such as deer, boars, and snakes. Epona, another pre-roman god, is strongly associated with horses and dogs which, no doubt due to their importance in Celtic life, made her one of the most popular and significant gods in the Celtic pantheon. Metamorphosis, association and amplification are central to the repertoire of Celtic iconography.
Gundestrup Cauldron

Kee-Lee Lee

The Mabinogion and Celtic Art
Jill Taylor
Genii Cucullati
Carlie Sigel
Rhythms of Triplism: The Triple Figures of Romano-Celtic Sculpture
Shannon Egan
Feathers of Celtic Art
David Zoller


Dana Wheeles
Status and Patronage
Status and Patronage examines the types of objects that established one's credentials in this world and the next. Gift exchange and obligation were central to Celtic political hierarchies, requiring a vast amount of raw material to be transformed into status objects. From early objects found in early La Tène graves, such as the large and bulky anklets, to the late Irish brooches, jewelry did more than merely adorn. Highly ornamented sword scabbards found in the River Bann were no doubt votive offerings, obligating the deity to protect or heal the supplicant. Torcs were the Celtic symbol par excellence. In Greek, Roman and Celtic art, it is the one motif that identifies the wearer as a Celt, not a Roman or Greek. Luxury items such as mirrors, though rare on the Continent, pose interesting questions of how they were used by their patrons. Were they for display and domestic use, or only for funerary grave goods? Though coming late in Celtic history, the Pictish symbol stones remain a mystery, since their symbols have yet to be satisfactorily deciphered. Their number and rich visual vocabulary, however, do indicate that they were powerful signifiers of their patrons' ambitions.

Celtic Phalerae & Fittings: The Art of the Horseman

Andrea Bottaro

Irish Celtic Scabbards from the River Bann

Emma Cryer
The Plastic Style Anklets
Jane Duncan
Mirrors & Mystery, Art & Ambiguity
Stephanie Charns
Irish Torcs
Cathy Keller-Brown

Irish Brooches of the Early Medieval Celtic Period

Alisa Petti