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Will the real Santa Claus please stand up? Janet Robson Wednesday 13 December 2017

Who is Santa Claus? The familiar image of the jolly fellow with the white beard and red suit was to a large degree the creation of American illustrator Thomas Nast in the 1860s. This lecture follows the various transformations of St. Nicholas through 1,600 years of history. Originating in Byzantine Turkey in the fourth century, the cult of ‘Nicholas of Myra’ was actually the result of two completely different Nicholases getting muddled up. In 1087, when a bunch of Italian sailors snatched the saint’s relics and took them back to Puglia, ‘Nicholas of Myra’ became ‘Nicholas of Bari’. Medieval Europe made St. Nicholas into one of the greatest miracle-workers of all time. His stories were painted everywhere. Saving poor girls from prostitution and sailors from shipwreck, rescuing boys from kidnappers, clerks from murderous innkeepers, and babies from boiling bathwater... Nicholas became the Mister Fix-It of western sainthood. Add a propensity for gift-giving, and a feastday during Advent, and what do you get...? Santa Claus. The ideal Christmas lecture! 

We are pleased to welcome back Janet Robson to give us this talk. Janet is an independent art historian with a BA in History from UCL (1980), an MA in Early Sienese Painting and a PhD in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art (1997 & 2001). She has over a decade of lecturing and teaching experience, including summer schools and public programmes, for the Courtauld, Birkbeck (University of London) and Christie's Education, as well as private study groups. She has published extensively on thirteenth and fourteenth-century Italian art as well as numerous book chapters, essays and articles in journals including the Burlington Magazine, Apollo and Art Bulletin. She has travelled and studied extensively in Italy, having held research fellowships at the British School at Rome and at Villa I Tatti (Harvard University) in Florence, and now divides her time between Assisi and London.