The Transmutation of Patterns and the Role of Women in Insular Art

Project Details


This research project is funded by a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship and hosted at the University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh College of Art, School of History of Art). The project start and end dates are 1 September 2021-31 August 2024.

A unique, complex form of ornament developed in the Insular art of Britain and Ireland (AD 600-1100): the transmutation of patterns, whereby artists physically altered different geometric patterns (interlace, spirals, and key pattern) so that one transformed seamlessly into another. Transmutation survives not only in manuscript illuminations, stone sculptures, and metalwork, but also in textiles mainly produced by women. Through an innovative analysis of patterns’ deep, internal structures, this project will reveal for the first time how Insular artists manipulated patterns to create transmutation and how women textile makers—as sophisticated geometers—influenced the development of this remarkable artistic invention alongside men.
Effective start/end date1/09/2131/08/24


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