Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament 9462989893, 9789462989894

Abstraction haunts medieval art, both withdrawing figuration and suggesting elusive presence. How does it make or destro

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Table of contents :
Cover
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments
Preface: Withdrawal and Presence
Elina Gertsman
Part I: Abstraction / Aporia / Unknowability
1. Colour as Subject
Vincent Debiais
2. Abstraction’s Gothic Grounds1
Aden Kumler
3. Abstraction in the Kennicott Bible
Adam S. Cohen and Linda Safran
4. Back-to-Front: Abstraction and Figuration in Bosch’s Visions of the Hereafter
Robert Mills
Part II: Abstraction / Figuration / Signification
5. The Painted Logos: Abstraction as Exegesis in the Ashburnham Pentateuch
Danny Smith
6. The Sign within the Form, the Form without the Sign: Monograms and Pseudo-Monograms as Abstractions in Mozarabic Antiphonaries
Benjamin C. Tilghman
7. Ornament and Abstraction: A New Approach to Understanding Ornamented Writing in the Making of Illuminated Manuscripts around 1000
Gia Toussaint
8. The Double-Sided Image: Abstraction and Figuration in Early Medieval Painting1
Nancy Thebaut
Part III: Abstraction / Epistemology / Perception
9. Birds of Defiance: Jewelled Resistance to Modern Abstractions
Danielle B. Joyner
10. Early Romanesque Abstraction and the ‘Unconditionally Two-dimensional Surface’
Megan C. McNamee
11. Functional Abstraction in Medieval Anatomical Diagrams
Taylor McCall
12. Imaging Perfection(s) in Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts
Julie A. Harris
13. Response: Astral Abstraction
Herbert L. Kessler
14. Coda: Carolingian Art As Conceptual Art?
Charlotte Denoël
Index
Illustrations
Figure 0-1. Matzah, the Hispano-Moresque Haggadah, 1275-1324. London, British Library, Or. 2737, fol. 22r. Photo: The British Library.
Figure 0-2. ‘Matzah’, the Hispano-Moresque Haggadah, 1275-1324. London, British Library, Or. 2737, fol. 21v. Photo: The British Library.
Figure 1-1. Silos Beatus, 1091-1109. London, British Library, Add. 11695, fol. 125v. Photo: The British Library.
Figure 1-2. Urgell Beatus, c. 975. Seu d’Urgell, Museo Diocesano, ms. 501, fol. 123v. Previously reproduced in Francisco Prado-Vilar, “Silentium: El silentio cósmico como imagen en la Edad Media y la Modernidad,” Revista de poética medieval 27 (2013): 21-
Figure 1-3. Cologne Gospels, c. 1030. New York, Morgan Library, ms. 651, fols. 8v-9r.
Figure 1-4. St. Vitus Sacramentary, c. 1050. Freiburg, Universitätsbibliothek, cod. 360a, fol. 20r.
Figure 1-5. Biblical narratives on the vault, c. 1100. Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, abbey church, nave. Photo: Vincent Debiais.
Figure 1-6. Gospels of St Andrew of Cologne, end of the 10th century. Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Inv. Nr. KG 54: 213a, b, fol. 126v. Previously reproduced in Herbert Kessler, Seeing Medieval Art (Broadview Press, 2005), cover.
Figure 2-1. Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1404-1405. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 829, fol. 219v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Figure 2-2. Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale, 1346. Lyon, BM, MS fr. 182 (110), fol. 233r. Photo: IRHT, courtesy of the IRHT and the Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon.
Figure 2-3. Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1404-1405. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 829, fol. 39r. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Figure 2-4. Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1404-1405. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 829, fol. 10v. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Figure 2-5. Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1404-1405. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 829, fol. 39r. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Figure 2-6. Grandes Chroniques de France, after 1380. London, British Library, Royal MS 20.C.VII, fol. 107v, detail. Photo courtesy of the British Library Board.
Figure 2-7. Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1390-1401. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 12465, fol. 147v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Figure 3-1. Front (right) and rear (left) bindings with abstract ornament in relief, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.
Figure 3-2. Front (right) and rear (left) pastedowns, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.
Figure 3-3. Joseph Ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 119v (strapwork panel at end of Deuteronomy) and 120r (carpet page with interlace frame for bleed-through of first page with Temple impl
Figure 3-4. Joseph Ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 121v (bleed-through of carpet page with Temple implements) and 122r (carpet page with dragons in spandrels). Photo © The Bodleian Librar
Figure 3-5. Joseph Ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 122v (interlaced six-pointed star in interlace roundel) and 123r (carpet page with gold on blue strapwork forming eight-pointed stars).
Figure 3-6. Joseph Ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 317v–318r, carpet pages with micrographic interlace composed of verses from Psalms. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Ox
Figure 3-7. Joseph Ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 352r (left; strapwork panel at end of Chronicles) and, on the reverse (right), fol. 352v (carpet page preceding Psalms on fol. 353r). Ph
Figure 4-1. Hieronymus Bosch, Visions of the Hereafter, c. 1505-1515, featuring from left to right The Fall of the Damned, The River to Hell (or Purgatory), The Garden of Eden, and The Ascent of the Blessed. Oil on oak panel, each panel approx. 89 × 40 cm
Figure 4-2. Hieronymus Bosch, images on reverse of Visions of the Hereafter panels, c. 1505-1515. Source: Bosch Research and Conservation Project, http://boschproject.org.
Figure 4-3. Jan Provoost, exterior wings from Triptych with the Virgin and Child, John the Evangelist, and Mary Magdalene, c. 1520-1525. Oil on panel, 44.3 × 30.5 cm. The Hague, Mauritshuis.
Figure 4-4. Workshop of Hieronymus Bosch, exterior wings of Job Triptych, c. 1510-1520. Oil on oak panel, left wing 98.1 × 30.5 cm, right wing 97.8 × 30. 2 cm. Bruges, Stad Brugge, Groeningemuseum (on loan from Church of Saint James the Greater, Hoeke, Da
Figure 4-5. Hieronymus Bosch, detail of reverse of The Ascent of the Blessed panel from Visions of the Hereafter. Source: Bosch Research and Conservation Project, http://boschproject.org.
Figure 4-6. Hieronymus Bosch, detail of The Ascent of the Blessed panel from Visions of the Hereafter. Source: Bosch Research and Conservation Project, http://boschproject.org.
Figure 5-1. Creation, Ashburnham Pentateuch, 6th century, with 9th-century repainting. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334, fol. 1v. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Figure 5-2. God the Son, Ashburnham Pentateuch. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334, fol. 1v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Figure 5-3. Barnett Newman, Onement 1, 1948. Oil on canvas and oil on masking tape on canvas. 27 1/4 x 16 1/4” (69.2 x 41.2 cm). 390.1992. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Annalee Newman. © 2018 Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation / Artists Right
Figure 5-4. God the Son, Ashburnham Pentateuch. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334, fol. 65v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Figure 5-5. Evangelistenblatt (Evangelists), Aachen Gospels, 9th century. Aachen, Cathedral Treasury, Aachen Gospels, fol. 14v. © Domkapitel Aachen, photo: Ann Münchow.
Figure 5-6. Ascension, Tiberius Psalter, c. 1075-1150. London, British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius C VI, fol. 15r. Photo: British Library, London, UK©British Library Board. All Rights Reserved/Bridgeman Images.
Figure 5-7. God in a white cloud with red rays, Ashburnham Pentateuch. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334, fol. 76r, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Figure 6-1. Vespertinum Monogram, Silos Apocalypse, 11th century, Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain. London, British Library, Add MS 11695, fol. 4r. Creative Commons CC0 1.0.
Figure 6-2. Vespertinum Monogram, León Antiphonary, early 10th century, León, Spain. Fol. 232r, MS. 8, Archivo de la Catedral de León. Creative Commons 4.0, CC-BY.
Figure 6-3. Alpha and Maiestas Domini, St. Gregory’s Moralia in Job, early 10th century, León, Spain. Fols. 1v-2r, MS 80, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid. Creative Commons, CC-BY-NC-SA.
Figure 6-4. Colophon and Omega, St. Gregory’s Moralia in Job, early 10th century, León, Spain. Fols. 500v-501r, MS 80, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid. Creative Commons, CC-BY-NC-SA.
Figure 6-5. Vespertinum Monograms. a.) With St. Andrew, León Antiphonary, early 10th century, León, Spain. Archivo de la Catedral de León, MS. 8, fol. 39v. CC-BY; b) León Antiphonary, early 10th century, León, Spain. Archivo de la Catedral de León, MS. 8,
Figure 6-6. Vespertinum Monogram, Antiphonal of the Roman Liturgy 11th century, Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain. London, British Library, Add MS 30850, fol. 206v. © British Library Board.
Figure 6-7. Jasper Johns, Alphabet, 1959. paper on hardboard; 30.5 × 26.7 cm; ref. no. 2015.121. Art Institute of Chicago. © 2020 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.
Figure 6-8. Decorated Letters and Vespertinum Monogram, Antiphonal of the Roman Liturgy, 11th century, Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain. London, British Library, Add MS 30850, fol. 6r. Creative Commons CC0 1.0.
Figure 7-1. St. John (left) and In principio, the first words of the gospel of John (right), Reichenauer Perikopenbuch, beginning of the 11th century. Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 84.5 Aug. 2°, fol. 4v and 5r. Photo: courtesy Herzog
Figure 7-2. Donation scene with crowning of St. Wenceslas, Wenceslas’s vita, before 1006. Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 11.2 Aug. 4°, fol. 18v. Photo: courtesy Herzog August Bibliothek.
Figure 7-3 a/b. Ob honorem Sancti Martini, written as an ornamental letter maze; original (left) and overlay with word patterns highlighted (right), Codex Albeldense, dated 976. Madrid, Biblioteca Real Monasterio San Lorenzo et de El Escorial, MS D. I. 2.
Figure 7-4 a/b. Maurelli Abbatis Librum, written as an ornamental letter maze; original (left) and overlay with word patterns highlighted (right), Codex Albeldense, dated 976. Madrid, Biblioteca Real Monasterio San Lorenzo et de El Escorial, MS D. I. 2.,
Figure 7-5. Vigila illuminates the codex, Codex Albeldense, dated 976. Madrid, Biblioteca Real Monasterio San Lorenzo et de El Escorial, MS D. I. 2., fol. 22v. Photo: courtesy Patrimonio Nacional.
Figure 7-6. Codex and lector, Codex Albeldense, dated 976. Madrid, Biblioteca Real Monasterio San Lorenzo et de El Escorial, MS D. I. 2., fol. 20v. Photo: courtesy Patrimonio Nacional.
Figure 8-1. Monochrome painting and visible contours of verso image (evangelist portrait), Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 87r. By permission of The British Library.
Figure 8-2. Striped painting, Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 59r. By permission of The British Library.
Figure 8-3. Author portrait of the Evangelist Luke, Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 87v. By permission of The British Library.
Figure 8-4 Monochrome painting and visible contours of verso image (Maiestas domini), Codex Aureus of Echternach, c. 1040, Echternach. Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Hs. 156 142, fol. 2r. Image courtesy of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum.
Figure 8-5. Monochrome painting and visible contours of verso image (Maiestas domini), Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 1r. By permission of The British Library.
Figure 8-6. ‘Curtain’ page with lions, Codex Aureus of Echternach, c. 1040, Echternach. Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Hs. 156 142, fols. 75v-76r. Image courtesy of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum.
Figure 8-7. ‘Curtain’ page and visible contours of verso image (Maiestas domini), Gospels with canon tables, chapter lists, and lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Harley 2821, fol. 1r. By permission of The British
Figure 8-8. Maiestas domini, Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 1v. By permission of The British Library.
Figure 9-1. Eagle/Osprey with Fish Brooch, second half of the 6th century. Gold, silver, garnet, glass, 1.9 x 3.8 x 0.9 cm. New York City, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 17.192.176. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Figure 9-2. Raptor Brooch, c. 500-600. Gold, garnet, glass, pearl, 2.1 x 3.3 x 0.8 cm. New York City, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 17.191.165. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Figure 10-1. Charles the Bald enthroned, Codex aureus of Charles the Bald (or ‘of Saint Emmeram’), 879. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 14000, fol. 5v. Photo courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
Figure 10-2. Henry II enthroned, Sacramentary of Henry II, c. 1002-1007. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 4456, fol. 11v. Photo courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
Figure 10-3. A three-dimensional geometrical proof ‘dissolved’ into two-dimensional surfaces, Calcidius’s Commentary on the Timaeus of Plato with the ‘Brussels gloss’, late 10th century, Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België, ms. 9625-26, fol. 13r, detail. P
Figure 10-4. A picture of a cube added beside a verbal description of a cube, Boethius’s On Arithmetic, 10th century. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 6401, fol. 133v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Figure 11-1. Arteries (L) and Bones (R), c. 1200, England. Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 190/223, fols. 2v-3r. Courtesy of the Master and Fellows of Gonville and Caius College.
Figure 11-2. Male Reproductive System (L) and Stomach and Internal Organs (R), c. 1200, England. Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 190/223, fols. 4v-5r. Courtesy of the Master and Fellows of Gonville and Caius College.
Figure 11-3. Female Reproductive System (L) and Brain and Ocular System (R), c. 1200, England. Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 190/223, fols. 5v-6r. Courtesy of the Master and Fellows of Gonville and Caius College.
Figure 11-4. Initial with Womb, Bartholomaeus Anglicus, De Proprietatibus rerum (in Mantuan), 1300-1309, Mantua, Italy. London, British Library, Additional MS 8785, fol. 55v. By permission of the British Library Board.
Figure 11-5. Female Corpse with Seven-Celled Uterus, Guido da Vigevano, Liber notabilium Philippi septimi [sexti], Francorum regis, 1345, Paris (?). Chantilly, Bibliothèque du Château, MS 0334 (0569), fol. 281v. Wellcome Collection, CC BY 4.0.
Figure 11-6. Diagrams of the Muscles, Foetal Positions in the Womb, Male Reproductive System, and Female Reproductive System (L) and ‘Disease Woman’ (R), The Wellcome Apocalypse, c. 1420, Germany (?).London, Wellcome Library, MS 49, fols. 37v-38r. Wellcom
Figure 12-1. Joshua Ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design and Hebrew inscription containing Psalm 19:8-9, 1306?. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Kenn. 2, fol. 14r. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.
Figure 12-2. Joshua Ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design and Hebrew inscription containing Deuteronomy 6:24-25, 1306?. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Kenn. 2., fol. 14v. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.
Figure 12-3. Joshua Ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design, 1306?. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Kenn. 2, fol. 15r. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.
Figure 12-4. Joshua Ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design and verse count in Hebrew, 1306?. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Kenn. 2, fol. 117v. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.
Figure 12-5. Figure 12-5. Joshua Ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design, 1301-1302. Paris, Bibliothéque Nationale, Hébreu 21, fol. 265r. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Figure 12-6. Joseph Ibn Hayyim, The ‘Red Heifer’ in margin of bible text, The Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS Kenn. 1, fol. 88v. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.
Figure 13-1. Central disk of creation cupola (det.), second quarter of 13th century, Venice, San Marco, mosaic. Photo: Beat Brenk.
Figure 13-2. Creation cupola, second quarter of 13th century, Venice, San Marco, atrium, mosaic. Photo: Branislav Slantchev.
Figure 13-3. Entrance to Treasury, second quarter of 13th century, Venice, San Marco, mosaic. Photo: Herbert Kessler.
Figure 13-4. Expulsion and Work (det.), second quarter of 13th century, Venice, San Marco, mosaic. Photo: Beat Brenk.
Figure 13-5. Pier supporting central dome, (lost) face, first half of 13th century, Venice, San Marco. Photo: Venice, Archivio Fotografico della Procuratoria di San Marco.
Figure 13-6. Pacificus of Verona, Horologium nocturnum, 13th century. Venice, Biblioteca Marciana, MS Lat. VIII 22 [2760], fol. 1r. Photo: Venice, Biblioteca Marciana.
Figure 13-7. Burial scene (det.), Psalter, 14th century. Besançon, Bibliothèque municipal, Ms. 140, fol. 190r.
Figure 14-1. Christ in Majesty, the Godescalc Evangeliary, 781-783, Court of Charles the Great. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, NAL 1203, fol. 3r. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Figure 14-2. Figure II from Hrabanus Maurus, In Praise of the Holy Cross, 825-826/840-850, Fulda. Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. Reg. Lat. 124, fol. 9v. Previously reproduced in Charlotte Denoël, Make it New. Conversations avec l’art médié
Figure 14-3. Figure 11 from Hrabanus Maurus, In Praise of the Holy Cross, 847, Mainz. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, latin 2422, fol. 13v. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Figure 14-4. Sol Le Witt, Four Basic Kinds of Straight Lines and All Their Combinations in Fifteen Parts, 1969. Black ink, paper, 20.3 x 20.3 cm. Paris, collection MJS. © Sol Lewitt c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2020.
Figure 14-5. Frank Stella, Die Fahne Hoch!, 1959. 308.6 cm × 185.4 cm and the medium: enamel paint on canvas. New York, Whitney Museum of American Art. Previously reproduced in Charlotte Denoël, Make it New. Conversations avec l’art médiéval. Carte blanch
Figure 14-6. Franz Erhard Walther, Körper und Raum, 1967. Pencil, watercolor, paper, 29.6 x 21 cm. Fulda, FEW Foundation. Previously reproduced in Charlotte Denoël, Make it New. Conversations avec l’art médiéval. Carte blanche à Jan Dibbets (Paris: BnF, 2
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Abstraction in Medieval Art Beyond the Ornament

Edited by Elina Gertsman

Abstraction in Medieval Art

Abstraction in Medieval Art Beyond the Ornament

Edited by Elina Gertsman

Amsterdam University Press

The publication of this book is made possible by a grant from the Hallinan Fund at Case Western Reserve University.

Cover illustration: Figure 11 from Hrabanus Maurus, In Praise of the Holy Cross, 847, Mainz. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 2422, fol. 13v. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Cover design: Coördesign, Leiden Lay-out: Crius Group, Hulshout 978 94 6298 989 4 isbn 978 90 4854 267 3 e-isbn doi 10.5117/9789462989894 nur 684 © The authors / Amsterdam University Press B.V., Amsterdam 2021 All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the written permission of both the copyright owner and the author of the book. Every effort has been made to obtain permission to use all copyrighted illustrations reproduced in this book. Nonetheless, whosoever believes to have rights to this material is advised to contact the publisher.



Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Preface: Withdrawal and Presence Elina Gertsman

7 17

Part I  Abstraction / Aporia / Unknowability 1. Colour as Subject

33

2. Abstraction’s Gothic Grounds

55

3. Abstraction in the Kennicott Bible

89

Vincent Debiais

Aden Kumler

Adam S. Cohen and Linda Safran

4. Back-to-Front: Abstraction and Figuration in Bosch’s Visions of the Hereafter Robert Mills

115

Part II  Abstraction / Figuration / Signification 5. The Painted Logos: Abstraction as Exegesis in the Ashburnham Pentateuch

141

6. The Sign within the Form, the Form without the Sign: Monograms and Pseudo-Monograms as Abstractions in Mozarabic Antiphonaries

167

Danny Smith

Benjamin C. Tilghman

7. Ornament and Abstraction: A New Approach to Understanding Ornamented Writing in the Making of Illuminated Manuscripts around 1000

191

8. The Double-Sided Image: Abstraction and Figuration in Early Medieval Painting

213

Gia Toussaint

Nancy Thebaut

Part III  Abstraction / Epistemology / Perception 9. Birds of Defiance: Jewelled Resistance to Modern Abstractions

245

10. Early Romanesque Abstraction and the ‘Unconditionally Twodimensional Surface’

267

11. Functional Abstraction in Medieval Anatomical Diagrams

285

12. Imaging Perfection(s) in Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts

309

13. Response: Astral Abstraction

329

14. Coda: Carolingian Art As Conceptual Art?

355

Index

381

Danielle B. Joyner

Megan C. McNamee

Taylor McCall

Julie A. Harris

Herbert L. Kessler

Charlotte Denoël

Acknowledgments My utmost thanks to my contributors for their infinite patience and perseverance in the face of the pandemic, which slowed us down considerably; to the Hallinan Fund at Case Western Reserve University that made it possible for this book to be published in brilliant colour; to Erika Gaffney, who shepherded this volume with a serenity peculiar to her and her alone; to my fantastic PhD students and research assistants Russell David Green and Reed O’Mara for their heroic work on the volume; and to my beloved family, as always.

Illustrations Figure 0-1. Figure 0-2. Figure 1-1. Figure 1-2.

Figure 1-3. Figure 1-4. Figure 1-5. Figure 1-6.

Figure 2-1. Figure 2-2. Figure 2-3. Figure 2-4. Figure 2-5. Figure 2-6.

Matzah, the Hispano-Moresque Haggadah, 1275-1324. London, British Library, Or. 2737, fol. 22r. Photo: The British Library. ‘Matzah’, the Hispano-Moresque Haggadah, 1275-1324. London, British Library, Or. 2737, fol. 21v. Photo: The British Library. Silos Beatus, 1091-1109. London, British Library, Add. 11695, fol. 125v. Photo: The British Library. Urgell Beatus, c. 975. Seu d’Urgell, Museo Diocesano, ms. 501, fol. 123v. Previously reproduced in Francisco Prado-Vilar, “Silentium: El silentio cósmico como imagen en la Edad Media y la Modernidad,” Revista de poética medieval 27 (2013): 21-43. Cologne Gospels, c. 1030. New York, Morgan Library, ms. 651, fols. 8v-9r. St. Vitus Sacramentary, c. 1050. Freiburg, Universitätsbibliothek, cod. 360a, fol. 20r. Biblical narratives on the vault, c. 1100. Saint-Savin-surGartempe, abbey church, nave. Photo: Vincent Debiais. Gospels of St. Andrew of Cologne, end of the 10th century. Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Inv. Nr. KG 54: 213a, b, fol. 126v. Previously reproduced in Herbert Kessler, Seeing Medieval Art (Broadview Press, 2005), cover. Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1404-1405. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 829, fol. 219v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale, 1346. Lyon, BM, MS fr. 182 (110), fol. 233r. Photo: IRHT, courtesy of the IRHT and the Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon. Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1404-1405. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 829, fol. 39r. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1404-1405. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 829, fol. 10v. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1404-1405. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 829, fol. 39r. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Grandes Chroniques de France, after 1380. London, British Library, Royal MS 20.C.VII, fol. 107v, detail. Photo courtesy of the British Library Board.

18 19 35

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Figure 2-7.

Figure 3-1. Figure 3-2. Figure 3-3.

Figure 3-4.

Figure 3-5.

Figure 3-6.

Figure 3-7.

Figure 4-1.



Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1390-1401. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 12465, fol. 147v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Front (right) and rear (left) bindings with abstract ornament in relief, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford. Front (right) and rear (left) pastedowns, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford. Joseph ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 119v (strapwork panel at end of Deuteronomy) and 120r (‘carpet’ page with interlace frame for bleed-through of first page with Temple implements). Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford. Joseph ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 121v (bleedthrough of ‘carpet’ page with Temple implements) and 122r (carpet page with dragons in spandrels). Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford. Joseph ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 122v (interlaced six-pointed star in interlace roundel) and 123r (‘carpet’ page with gold on blue strapwork forming eight-pointed stars). Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford. Joseph ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 317v–318r, ‘carpet’ pages with micrographic interlace composed of verses from Psalms. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford. Joseph ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 352r (left; strapwork panel at end of Chronicles) and, on the reverse (right), fol. 352v (‘carpet’ page preceding Psalms on fol. 353r). Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford. Hieronymus Bosch, Visions of the Hereafter, c. 1505-1515, featuring from left to right The Fall of the Damned, The River to Hell (or Purgatory), The Garden of Eden, and The Ascent of the Blessed. Oil on oak panel, each panel approx. 89 × 40 cm. Venice, Museo di Palazzo Grimani. Source: Bosch Research and Conservation Project, http://boschproject.org.

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Figure 4-2. Figure 4-3. Figure 4-4.

Figure 4-5. Figure 4-6. Figure 5-1.

Figure 5-2. Figure 5-3.

Figure 5-4. Figure 5-5. Figure 5-6.

Hieronymus Bosch, images on reverse of Visions of the Hereafter panels, c. 1505-1515. Source: Bosch Research and Conservation Project, http://boschproject.org. Jan Provoost, exterior wings from Triptych with the Virgin and Child, John the Evangelist, and Mary Magdalene, c. 1520-1525. Oil on panel, 44.3 × 30.5 cm. The Hague, Mauritshuis. Workshop of Hieronymus Bosch, exterior wings of Job Triptych, c. 1510-1520. Oil on oak panel, left wing 98.1 × 30.5 cm, right wing 97.8 × 30. 2 cm. Bruges, Stad Brugge, Groeningemuseum (on loan from Church of Saint James the Greater, Hoeke, Damme). Source: Musea Brugge, www.lukasweb.be—Art in Flanders, photo Hugo Maertens. Hieronymus Bosch, detail of reverse of The Ascent of the Blessed panel from Visions of the Hereafter. Source: Bosch Research and Conservation Project, http://boschproject.org. Hieronymus Bosch, detail of The Ascent of the Blessed panel from Visions of the Hereafter. Source: Bosch Research and Conservation Project, http://boschproject.org. Creation, Ashburnham Pentateuch, 6th century, with 9th-century repainting. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334, fol. 1v. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. God the Son, Ashburnham Pentateuch. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334, fol. 1v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Barnett Newman, Onement 1, 1948. Oil on canvas and oil on masking tape on canvas. 27 1/4 × 16 1/4” (69.2 × 41.2 cm). 390.1992. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Annalee Newman. © 2018 Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. God the Son, Ashburnham Pentateuch. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334, fol. 65v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Evangelistenblatt (Evangelists), Aachen Gospels, 9th century. Aachen, Cathedral Treasury, Aachen Gospels, fol. 14v. © Domkapitel Aachen, photo: Ann Münchow. Ascension, Tiberius Psalter, c. 1075-1150. London, British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius C VI, fol. 15r. Photo: British Library, London, UK © British Library Board. All Rights Reserved/ Bridgeman Images.

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Figure 5-7.

Figure 6-1. Figure 6-2. Figure 6-3. Figure 6-4. Figure 6-5.

Figure 6-6. Figure 6-7. Figure 6-8.

Figure 7-1.



God in a white cloud with red rays, Ashburnham Pentateuch. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334, fol. 76r, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Vespertinum Monogram, Silos Apocalypse, 11th century, Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain. London, British Library, Add MS 11695, fol. 4r. Creative Commons CC0 1.0. Vespertinum Monogram, León Antiphonary, early 10th century, León, Spain. Fol. 232r, MS. 8, Archivo de la Catedral de León. Creative Commons 4.0, CC-BY. Alpha and Maiestas Domini, St. Gregory’s Moralia in Job, early 10th century, León, Spain. Fols. 1v-2r, MS 80, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid. Creative Commons, CC-BY-NC-SA. Colophon and Omega, St. Gregory’s Moralia in Job, early 10th century, León, Spain. Fols. 500v-501r, MS 80, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid. Creative Commons, CC-BY-NC-SA. Vespertinum Monograms. a.) With St. Andrew, León Antiphonary, early 10th century, León, Spain. Archivo de la Catedral de León, MS. 8, fol. 39v. CC-BY; b) León Antiphonary, early 10th century, León, Spain. Archivo de la Catedral de León, MS. 8, fol. 76r. CC-BY; c) , Antiphonal of the Roman Liturgy, 11th century, Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain. London, British Library, Add MS 30850, fol. 112r. Creative Commons CC0 1.0; d) in the form of the Holy Family, León Antiphonary, early 10th century, León, Spain. Archivo de la Catedral de León, MS. 8, fol. 79r. CC-BY. Vespertinum Monogram, Antiphonal of the Roman Liturgy 11th century, Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain. London, British Library, Add MS 30850, fol. 206v. © British Library Board. Jasper Johns, Alphabet, 1959. paper on hardboard; 30.5 × 26.7 cm; ref. no. 2015.121. Art Institute of Chicago. © 2020 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Decorated Letters and Vespertinum Monogram, Antiphonal of the Roman Liturgy, 11th century, Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain. London, British Library, Add MS 30850, fol. 6r. Creative Commons CC0 1.0. St. John (left) and In principio, the first words of the gospel of John (right), Reichenauer Perikopenbuch, beginning of the 11th century. Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 84.5 Aug. 2°, fol. 4v and 5r. Photo: courtesy Herzog August Bibliothek.

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Donation scene with crowning of St. Wenceslas, Wenceslas’s vita, before 1006. Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 11.2 Aug. 4°, fol. 18v. Photo: courtesy Herzog August Bibliothek. Figure 7-3 a/b. Ob honorem Sancti Martini, written as an ornamental letter maze; original (left) and overlay with word patterns highlighted (right), Codex Albeldense, dated 976. Madrid, Biblioteca Real Monasterio San Lorenzo et de El Escorial, MS D. I. 2., fol. 19r. Photo: courtesy Patrimonio Nacional. Figure 7-4 a/b. Maurelli Abbatis Librum, written as an ornamental letter maze; original (left) and overlay with word patterns highlighted (right), Codex Albeldense, dated 976. Madrid, Biblioteca Real Monasterio San Lorenzo et de El Escorial, MS D. I. 2., fol. 19v. Photo: courtesy Patrimonio Nacional. Figure 7-5. Vigila illuminates the codex, Codex Albeldense, dated 976. Madrid, Biblioteca Real Monasterio San Lorenzo et de El Escorial, MS D. I. 2., fol. 22v. Photo: courtesy Patrimonio Nacional. Figure 7-6. Codex and lector, Codex Albeldense, dated 976. Madrid, Biblioteca Real Monasterio San Lorenzo et de El Escorial, MS D. I. 2., fol. 20v. Photo: courtesy Patrimonio Nacional. Figure 8-1. Monochrome painting and visible contours of verso image (evangelist portrait), Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 87r. By permission of The British Library. Figure 8-2. Striped painting, Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 59r. By permission of The British Library. Figure 8-3. Author portrait of the Evangelist Luke, Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 87v. By permission of The British Library. Figure 8-4. Monochrome painting and visible contours of verso image (Maiestas domini), Codex Aureus of Echternach, c. 1040, Echternach. Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Hs. 156 142, fol. 2r. Image courtesy of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum. Figure 8-5. Monochrome painting and visible contours of verso image (Maiestas domini), Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 1r. By permission of The British Library. Figure 8-6. ‘Curtain’ page with lions, Codex Aureus of Echternach, c. 1040, Echternach. Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Hs.

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Figure 8-7.

Figure 8-8. Figure 9-1.

Figure 9-2.

Figure 10-1.

Figure 10-2. Figure 10-3.

Figure 10-4.

Figure 11-1. Figure 11-2.



156 142, fols. 75v-76r. Image courtesy of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum. ‘Curtain’ page and visible contours of verso image (Maiestas domini), Gospels with canon tables, chapter lists, and lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Harley 2821, fol. 1r. By permission of The British Library. Maiestas domini, Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 1v. By permission of The British Library. Eagle/Osprey with Fish Brooch, second half of the 6th century. Gold, silver, garnet, glass, 1.9 × 3.8 × 0.9 cm. New York City, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 17.192.176. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Raptor Brooch, c.  500-600. Gold, garnet, glass, pearl, 2.1 × 3.3 × 0.8 cm. New York City, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 17.191.165. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Charles the Bald enthroned, Codex aureus of Charles the Bald (or ‘of Saint Emmeram’), 879. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 14000, fol. 5v. Photo courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Henry II enthroned, Sacramentary of Henry II, c. 1002-1007. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 4456, fol. 11v. Photo courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. A three-dimensional geometrical proof ‘dissolved’ into two-dimensional surfaces, Calcidius’s Commentary on the Timaeus of Plato with the ‘Brussels gloss’, late 10th century, Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België, ms. 9625-26, fol. 13r, detail. Photo courtesy of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België. A picture of a cube added beside a verbal description of a cube, Boethius’s On Arithmetic, 10th century. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 6401, fol. 133v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Arteries (L) and Bones (R), c. 1200, England. Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 190/223, fols. 2v-3r. Courtesy of the Master and Fellows of Gonville and Caius College. Male Reproductive System (L) and Stomach and Internal Organs (R), c. 1200, England. Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 190/223, fols. 4v-5r. Courtesy of the Master and Fellows of Gonville and Caius College.

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Figure 11-3.

Figure 11-4.

Figure 11-5.

Figure 11-6.

Figure 12-1.

Figure 12-2.

Figure 12-3. Figure 12-4.

Figure 12-5. Figure 12-6. Figure 13-1.

Female Reproductive System (L) and Brain and Ocular System (R), c. 1200, England. Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 190/223, fols. 5v-6r. Courtesy of the Master and Fellows of Gonville and Caius College. Initial with Womb, Bartholomaeus Anglicus, De Proprietatibus rerum (in Mantuan), 1300-1309, Mantua, Italy. London, British Library, Additional MS 8785, fol. 55v. By permission of the British Library Board. Female Corpse with Seven-Celled Uterus, Guido da Vigevano, Liber notabilium Philippi septimi [sexti], Francorum regis, 1345, Paris (?). Chantilly, Bibliothèque du Château, MS 0334 (0569), fol. 281v. Wellcome Collection, CC BY 4.0. Diagrams of the Muscles, Foetal Positions in the Womb, Male Reproductive System, and Female Reproductive System (L) and ‘Disease Woman’ (R), The Wellcome Apocalypse, c. 1420, Germany (?). London, Wellcome Library, MS 49, fols. 37v-38r. Wellcome Collection, CC BY 1.0. Joshua ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design and Hebrew inscription containing Psalm 19:8-9, 1306?. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Kenn. 2, fol. 14r. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford. Joshua ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design and Hebrew inscription containing Deuteronomy 6:24-25, 1306?. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Kenn. 2., fol. 14v. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford. Joshua ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design, 1306?. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Kenn. 2, fol. 15r. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford. Joshua ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design and verse count in Hebrew, 1306?. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Kenn. 2, fol. 117v. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford. Joshua ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design, 1301-1302. Paris, Bibliothéque Nationale, Hébreu 21, fol. 265r. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Joseph ibn Hayyim, The ‘Red Heifer’ in margin of bible text, The Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS Kenn. 1, fol. 88v. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford. Creation cupola, second quarter of 13th century, Venice, San Marco, atrium, mosaic. Photo: Branislav Slantchev.

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Figure 13-2. Figure 13-3. Figure 13-4. Figure 13-5. Figure 13-6. Figure 13-7. Figure 14-1.

Figure 14-2.

Figure 14-3.

Figure 14-4.

Figure 14-5.

Figure 14-6.



Central disk of Creation cupola (det.), second quarter of 13th century, Venice, San Marco, mosaic. Photo: Beat Brenk. Entrance to Treasury, second quarter of 13th century, Venice, San Marco, mosaic. Photo: Herbert Kessler. Expulsion and Work (det.), second quarter of 13th century, Venice, San Marco, mosaic. Photo: Beat Brenk. Pier supporting central dome, (lost) face, first half of 13th century, Venice, San Marco. Photo: Venice, Archivio Fotografico della Procuratoria di San Marco. Pacificus of Verona, Horologium nocturnum, 13th century. Venice, Biblioteca Marciana, MS Lat. VIII 22 [2760], fol. 1r. Photo: Venice, Biblioteca Marciana. Burial scene (det.), Psalter, 14th century. Besançon, Bibliothèque municipal, Ms. 140, fol. 190r. Christ in Majesty, the Godescalc Evangeliary, 781-783, Court of Charles the Great. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, NAL 1203, fol. 3r. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Figure II from Hrabanus Maurus, In Praise of the Holy Cross, 825-826/840-850, Fulda. Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. Reg. Lat. 124, fol. 9v. Previously reproduced in Charlotte Denoël, Make it New. Conversations avec l’art médiéval. Carte blanche à Jan Dibbets (Paris: BnF, 2018), p. 105. Figure 11 from Hrabanus Maurus, In Praise of the Holy Cross, 847, Mainz. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 2422, fol. 13v. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Sol Le Witt, Four Basic Kinds of Straight Lines and All Their Combinations in Fifteen Parts, 1969. Black ink, paper, 20.3 × 20.3 cm. Paris, collection MJS. © Sol Lewitt c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2020. Frank Stella, Die Fahne Hoch!, 1959. 308.6 cm × 185.4 cm and the medium: enamel paint on canvas. New York, Whitney Museum of American Art. Previously reproduced in Charlotte Denoël, Make it New. Conversations avec l’art médiéval. Carte blanche à Jan Dibbets (Paris: BnF, 2018), p. 50. Franz Erhard Walther, Körper und Raum, 1967. Pencil, watercolor, paper, 29.6 × 21 cm. Fulda, FEW Foundation. Previously reproduced in Charlotte Denoël, Make it New. Conversations avec l’art médiéval. Carte blanche à Jan Dibbets (Paris: BnF, 2018), p. 99.

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Preface: Withdrawal and Presence Elina Gertsman Abstract Since Henri Focillon’s eloquent meditation on la vie des formes, originally published in 1939, the subject of abstraction in medieval art has been largely reduced to the study of ornament and questions of style, with occasional forays into the discussion of sacred geometry and exploration of the late Gothic hard style. The introduction outlines major themes of this collection, which seeks to reopen the question of medieval abstractions, interrogating the term itself and asking about the ways it can be fruitfully applied to pre-modern material culture. It also provides an overview of contributions, which approach the concept of medieval abstraction from a multitude of perspectives—formal, semiotic, iconographic, material, phenomenological, epistemological. Keywords: abstraction, terminology, theory, Haggadah, matzah

On folio 22r of the thirteenth-century Hispano-Moresque Haggadah (Bl Ms. Or 2373) a kaleidoscopic circular image splits open a page of text, its axial symmetry indicated by four pyramidal protrusions on four sides (Figure 0-1).1 The protrusions, which dip into the text at an angle, are placed as if to suggest movement: the riotous circle—red, gold, silver, blue—seems poised to roll off the page onto the preceding folio. There, a word panel indicates the nature of the form: ‫ מצה‬, ‘matzah’, or the unleavened Passover bread (Figure 0-2). What are we to make of this startling image? Some of its elements seem, by all measures, abstracted and abstract—at least so in their modern sense: nonrepresentational and non-denotative, the image indexes its ostensible model only inasmuch as it echoes the round form of the actual bread. This is a matzah that is not a matzah: visually divorced from its prototype, it is semiotically trussed to it through the written word. It is a form that signals the unrepresentability of what is really at stake: no longer just an element of a Seder dinner, it is the metaphorized affliction of the Jewish people, a marker of their identity, an embodiment of their longing for divine redemption. It also is, most potently, a container for the Divine

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_pref

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Figure 0-1. Matzah, the Hispano-Moresque Haggadah, 1275-1324. London, British Library, Or. 2737, fol. 22r. Photo: The British Library.

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Figure 0-2. ‘Matzah’, the Hispano-Moresque Haggadah, 1275-1324. London, British Library, Or. 2737, fol. 21v. Photo: The British Library.

Presence, what the kabbalists call the Shekhinah. The Shekhinah is a malleable vessel, void of definitive form or colour: an ever-shifting template whose shape and appearance are predicated on any given beholder’s cognitive apparatus as much as on any given projection of the divine.2 So it is with the Hispano-Moresque ‘matzah’, its interlaced form arrested in mid motion, plotting to escape both the page and the beholder’s grasp. This matzah’s emphatic abstraction is predicated on and brought into contrast with the figurative elements it comprehends: the four quadrupeds arranged around a floral form at the centre and a speckling of minute trifoliate plants against red and blue colour fields. It is, thus, also abstract in a very medieval sense, which sees abstraction not as the opposite of figuration but as its integral aspect. But the language with which we describe this form is patently post-medieval: ‘abstraction’ as a term in its application to visual culture is a phenomenon of the recent centuries. The Latin term abstractio, at least as it is known to us from the assorted writings on perception, mathematics, noetics, and universalism, as well as through a series of reinterpretations—Boethian reinterpretations of Aristotle, Aquinian reinterpretations of Boethius—means something else entirely. What this

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something else is constitutes one of the central questions of the present collection, wherein nearly every essay chafes at the confines imposed by modern vocabulary on medieval works of art: ‘ornament’, ‘decoration’, ‘abstraction’, ‘geometry’, ‘nonrepresentation’, ‘non-f iguration’, ‘stylization’, ‘non-denotation’, ‘non-mimesis’, ‘subtraction’, ‘lack’ flit in and out of these papers, here reluctantly discarded, there exultantly embraced. In this way, each essay toils, on the one hand, to disentangle present-day terms from objects at hand, and, on the other, to formulate productive ways to think through and build up concepts of what medieval abstraction might and might not be, how it might be manifested, and how it might be described. A project like this is utterly new, and yet its historiographic roots reach to the first years of the twentieth century, to Wilhelm Worringer’s Abstraktion und Einfühlung (1907; published in 1908) and Formprobleme der Gotik (1912).3 Worringer did not study medieval abstraction in any sustained way however, and neither did other luminaries of the field: not Henri Focillon in his remarkable Vie des forms (1934), which considers Romanesque painting in terms of space and/as ornament; not Ernst Gombrich in the erudite The Sense of Order (1979), where Ottonian illumination rubs shoulders with pre-Columbian sculpture. 4 When abstraction does become a focus of a continuous inquiry, the emphasis, not surprisingly, shifts to early medieval art. The writings of Victor Elbern, for instance, focus on metalwork; eschewing the question of ornament, he had written on the aniconic and the non-figurative schemata, emphasizing particularly the form of the Cross.5 Jean-Claude Bonne, conversely, has dedicated a great part of his scholarship to the question of ornament, particularly in Insular illumination, and has drawn connections between medieval visual culture and modern/contemporary art.6 Several recent studies tug the notion of abstraction in different temporal directions, towards late antiquity on the one hand, and towards Gothic art on the other.7 Of course, to fully reassess the historiography of abstract forms one would have to attend to a colossal constellation of studies, ranging from those on abstraction in medieval philosophy—such as Alain de Libera’s L’art des généralités—to those on abstraction in modern and contemporary visual culture: a patent impossibility within the scope of this unavoidably brief preface.8 Instead, in order to avoid being reductively selective here, I asked contributors to this volume to bring up and reassess as needed key studies in abstraction immediately relevant to their own essays. The resultant historiographic mosaic proves to be instructive, as from the very start the authors were given a wide-ranging brief: to approach the concept of medieval abstraction from a multitude of perspectives—formal, semiotic, iconographic, material, phenomenological, epistemological. This brief was framed by a still broader set of questions. Abstraction haunts medieval art, both withdrawing figuration and suggesting elusive presence. How does it make or destroy meaning in the process? Is it by detaching itself from matter and foregrounding the figurative?

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Is it by dissolving the figurative into matter, by calling attention to the surface and to its planar artifice? Do the figurative and the abstract collapse upon each other? In what way does abstraction represent or deny? Does abstraction suggest the failure of figuration, the faltering of iconography, and can it truly escape the semiotics of colour or form? Does medieval abstraction function because it is imperfect, incomplete, and uncorrected—and is therefore cognitively, visually demanding? Is it, conversely, precisely about perfection? Just how closely are medieval abstraction and vision connected, and to what extent is the abstract predicated on theorization of the unrepresentable and imperceptible? Is there something intrinsic about the connection between abstraction and the divine? How much can the abstract really comprehend and elide with the aniconic? Does medieval abstraction pit aesthetics against metaphysics? How, f inally, does it define its viewers, medieval and modern? The Hispano-Moresque matzah image raises three broad themes—abstraction as the untethering of image from what it purports to represent, abstraction as a vehicle for signification, and abstraction as a form of figuration—and it is these themes that give general shape to the present book. Its first part is concerned with shifting dissemblance that simultaneously denies and invites abstraction as signification. Because later medieval painting is often framed as the demise of Hiberno-Saxon abstract forms in anticipation of early modern ‘naturalism’, I wanted to open this book with a set of essays that tackle largely later medieval art, although the groundwork here is laid by Vincent Debiais’s chapter, which looks at the uses of plain colour in manuscripts and wall paintings created between the ninth and the twelfth centuries. Debiais parses our notions of the ‘figure’ and the ‘monochrome’, provocatively positing colour not as a sign for something else but rather as the very subject of the image under scrutiny—a notion heretofore limited to the discussion of modern and contemporary colour-field painting. The necessity to step away from the modern conception of abstractions is confirmed in Aden Kumler’s essay that explores the so-called reticulated grounds in Gothic illumination. Kumler focuses specifically on a framed, apparently aniconic, miniature in an early fifteenth-century copy of Guillaume de Deguileville’s Pèlerinage de l’ âme, to argue that in eschewing narrative figuration, the image functions as an exemplar and a vehicle of an explicitly medieval concept of abstraction, here in relation to Trinitarian ontology. This exceptional ontology can be no more comprehended than the divine essence of the unknowable God, communicated in the Kennicott Bible, as Adam S. Cohen and Linda Safran argue in their essay. The illuminator of this late medieval Jewish Iberian manuscript, Joseph ibn Hayyim, confronts the ineffability of seeing, reading, and grasping the biblical text through the device of abstraction, which mutates throughout the book, scattering itself across full-page compositions and side panels,

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the binding and the paste-downs. Abstraction, Cohen and Safran suggest, offers access to the indescribable God through order, beauty, and, above all, infinity. This infinity, and the unknowability of the divine, are, finally, the subject of Robert Mills’s essay, which explores Hieronymus Bosch’s Visions of the Hereafter panels, concentrating specifically on their non-figurative backs. Generally considered to imitate stony surfaces, these paintings, Mills contends, are emphatically unlike stone: their dissemblance from what they purport to represent indexes the notion of dissimilitudo between divine substance and phenomenological, sensible corporeality. Like the plain-colour surfaces discussed by Debiais, these panels call attention to their own thingness, to the liquescence of their pigment; like the evacuated image in the Pèlerinage de l’ âme and the complex mazes in the Kennicott Bible, they ask that we look through, with, and ultimately beyond the threshold of the sensible. All four essays in the first part of the book make clear that abstraction, built as it is on the slippage between signification and aporia, is predicated on figuration. The role of figuration in the semiotics of the abstract stands at the core of the second part of the volume, which looks at the way that abstraction intervenes in figurable reality as a form and a sign. Here we take a chronological step back in order to look at early medieval manuscripts that have historically been seen as hospitable grounds to abstraction of form. Danny Smith’s essay explores the seventh-century Ashburnham Pentateuch, zeroing in on four patches of pink paint variously applied over the first and the second person of God. Like Mills, who evokes Jackson Pollock’s drip canvasses to structure his argument about the materiality of Bosch’s paint, Smith looks to the language of Barnett Newman’s ideographic paintings to articulate the abstraction of the Godhead as the painterly matter of Creation itself. In turn, Benjamin Tilghman borrows from Jasper Johns to explore the semiotic instability of Vespertinum monograms, which oscillate between abstraction and figuration. Just as contributors to the first part of the volume worry the question of unrepresentabilty by focusing on the disjunction between image and prototype, Tilghman locates abstraction in the tension (and, ultimately, divorce) between lettering and its content. This tension is also explored in Gia Toussaint’s essay that takes, however, a different approach to the complex relationship between writing and figuration. Toussaint studies three distinct cases of what she calls ‘abstract ornamentation’, and posits it as both a formal and a semiotic vehicle for meaning-making. Abstraction, for Toussaint, is thus a complex union of script and ornament, activated by the artist as well as the reader-viewer. This activation—evident especially in two tenth-century carmina figurata letter mazes—is similarly the predicate of viewing practices explored by Nancy Thebaut. Thebaut looks at several eleventh-century evangeliaries produced at Echternach, which unite and juxtapose monochrome or skeuomorphic paintings on one side of the folio with figural paintings on their

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obverse. In examining such ‘monochromes’, Thebaut returns to some of the issues brought up by Debiais in his contribution, while her focus on the materiality of paint on these folios establishes a dialogue with Smith’s essay. She nonetheless arrives at a different aspect of abstraction, finding an analogy between the semiological transformation of colour fields across the folios and the ontology of the Eucharist itself predicated on transformation. If the first two parts of the book focused on essential ontological questions that tied abstraction, one way or another, to the celestial plane, the last section turns towards the natural world and to the human pursuits that define abstraction in epistemic terms, at turns poetic, at turns ecological, at turns scientific, and oftentimes fallible. The chronological range of the four essays here is less restricted, comprehending the temporal span of the first eight contributions. Danielle Joyner examines two sixth-century bird-shaped Frankish brooches as a succession of abstractions that here mean removals and withdrawals. Guided as much by Gallic poetry as by eco-critical approaches, Joyner suggests that jewelled pieces include ornithological and environmental abstractions—that is, abstraction of visual elements from real birds, and abstraction of stones and metals from the earth, as well as subsequent abstraction of animal form from these natural elements. The concept of abstraction as removal and withdrawal similarly governs Megan McNamee’s essay, which considers devotional images through the lens of mathematical treatises. McNamee turns to eleventh-century codices to problematize their planarity, framing it by contemporaneous discourses on geometry and optics: abstraction—here reduction and withdrawal of solid forms—is used as a pictorial strategy of divergence between what it is possible to clearly describe / imagine / see and what it is possible to represent. A similar kind of divergence is addressed in Taylor McCall’s piece on late medieval anatomical diagrams, which turned to abstraction of form—what she defines as a disassociation between the idea and its figuration—as a vehicle for communicating hidden physiologies. Both McNamee and McCall ultimately see abstraction as an example of failure of figuration to show what cannot be shown. The same is finally true for Harris’s essay, which explores a fourteenth-century Hebrew Bible illuminated by Joshua ibn Gaon, where, however, even abstraction falters, serving as it does as an index and a sign of human fallibility in the face of divine perfection. Like McNamee’s flat cubes and McCall’s geometricized organs, the full-page abstractions on the pages of ibn Gaon’s Bible are purposefully flawed—flawed as a way to show the failure to represent what is ultimately unrepresentable. In suggesting painting as an analogy for an impossible ontology, Harris’s essay circles back to the issues tackled in the first part of the book: those of unrepresentability and dissemblance. Discussions of unrepresentability (of the divine) and fallibility (of human sight) similarly, and not surprisingly, govern Herbert Kessler’s response to the collection

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at hand. This penultimate essay focuses on the first cupola in the atrium of San Marco in Venice, but reaches broadly to comprehend the rich variety of topics brought up by other authors: the relationships between abstraction and figuration, abstraction and imagination, abstraction and materiality, abstraction and mathematics, abstraction and ineffability, abstraction and imperfection, abstraction and perception. Kessler’s response explores the San Marco cupola within a categorically medieval framework, calling up Honorius Augustodunensis in the epigraph, and carefully parsing sources from Pope Innocent III to Albertus Magnus and from Gerald of Wales to Pacificus of Verona. Still, even though the contributors to this volume aspire to study medieval abstraction on its own terms, they must, perforce, have recourse to present-day vocabularies and present-day definitions of the abstract. In fact, the shared visual vocabularies of images separated by many centuries have given rise, in the last decade, to a multitude of studies that ask whether medieval art is modern and whether modern art is medieval.9 While these questions are emphatically not the point of this book, several authors—notably Debiais, Mills, Smith, and Tilghman—evoke modern and contemporary art practices to set up their arguments. In order to give methodological shape to these evocations, this book’s coda, written by Charlotte Denoël, explores a complex set of affinities between medieval and contemporary art. In her essay, Denoël creates purposefully a-chronic conduits between Carolingian manuscripts and twentieth-century minimalist and conceptual art, to shed light on their visual and epistemological kinship. Denoël’s coda thus serves as a fitting conclusion to the book: it does not close the subject of medieval abstraction but rather opens it anew. The range of this book might be broad, but still, to many, it will not be broad enough: essays here focus on abstraction specif ically in the medieval art of Judaeo-Christian Europe, created between the sixth and the sixteenth centuries. This scope is predicated by what I see as shared ontological, theological, and epistemological concerns evidenced in the material culture that is delimited by fairly specific temporal and environmental geographies. It is not, as I write this, a fashionable position to take, at a time when we are acutely aware of the fraught history of our field that has long privileged Western medieval art.10 To that end, a word on these geographical limitations is needed. When I originally conceived of this volume and began conversations with colleagues and friends, I was pelleted with ideas: what about Almohad ornament? Byzantine gold ground? Buddhist aniconism? After a while, as I was jotting down notes, I became uncomfortably reminded of the famous fable that all of us Soviet children learned in school: Elephant paints a landscape and, before sending it out to the exhibition, invites friends to come and look at it. Everyone likes the painting but finds something missing: Crocodile wonders where the Nile is, Seal wishes for ice and snow, and

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Pig longs for acorns. Elephant picks up his paintbrush and adds all these elements, and then some (a pot of honey, just in case Bear is in the audience). Once finished, Elephant gathers his friends again, and they proclaim, quite justly, that the painting is an utter mess.11 Still, because of my long-standing commitment and scholarly sympathy to global medieval study, I cast a wide call for papers, gathering essays on Buddhist, Christian (both Western medieval and Byzantine), Islamic, Jewish, and Hindu art. When I began the editing process, however, it became abundantly clear that in my wish to be inclusive, I was doing the volume a disservice. The set of research questions I set out to explore was watered down, transformed into a cluster of case studies that pricked the surface of these questions; where many essays (included here) cohered beautifully, some seemed to stand on their own and therefore appeared definitively othered. All edited volumes, to some extent, present a congeries of sorts, but what I had on my hands was Elephant’s mess that tried both my scholarly and moral principles. The volume had to be transformed, its focus tightened, its cultural bounds redrawn; certain essays had to go, others had to be commissioned. The majority of those writers I had to leave behind saw perfectly my quandary and generously endorsed my decision. I am as grateful to them as I am to the authors whose essays I did include, and who bore my convolutions of conscience—which remade the volume nearly from scratch and therefore took a fair amount of time—with patience and encouragement. Perhaps this book will serve as an impetus for another volume on the subject, one with a global focus. After all, in my experience, the project of medieval abstraction is not unlike the impossible matzah of the Hispano-Moresque Haggadah: rich, colourful, kaleidoscopic, it keeps expanding and turning, seemingly without end. Scholastics talked about abstraction as an intellectual process that allows one to strip facts and phenomena of their specifics, and move from the sensorial observation to an ontological understanding of the universe. In putting together this volume, I borrow from their playbook: I hope that the sum total of this collection will allow the reader to isolate the multivalent meanings of ‘medieval abstraction’ from every given essay and put them together in order to move from specifics— reticulated Gothic ground, a geometricized bird, a figureless monochrome—to something rather more general, more universal, and therefore, dare I say, rather more abstract.

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Notes 1.

2.

3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.

The Hispano-Moresque Haggadah (BL ms. Or 2737) is a Sephardic haggadah for Passover according to the Spanish rite, created between 1275 and 1324. On the manuscript, see Margoliouth, Catalogue of the Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts, vol. 4, no. 609; Metzger, ‘Two Fragments of a Spanish XIVth Century Haggadah’, pp. 25–34; Narkiss, Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts, vol.1, no. 9; vol. 2, figs. 79–104; Metzger and Metzger, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, p. 304; Zirlin, ‘The Schocken Italian Haggadah’, pp. 63–72; Gutmann, ‘The Sacrifice of Isaac in Medieval Jewish Art’, pp. 74, 85; Harris, ‘Love in the Land of Goshen’, pp. 161–80; Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art, pp. 94–95; Tahan, Hebrew Manuscripts, pp. 90–93; and Sacred: Books of the Three Faiths, p. 160 On the matzah, see especially Batterman, ‘Bread of Affliction, Emblem of Power’ as well as Batterman, ‘The Emergence of the Spanish Illuminated Haggadah Manuscript’. On movement in medieval Jewish manuscripts, see Epstein, ‘Thought Crimes: Implied Ensuing Motion in Manuscripts Made for Jewish Patrons’, pp. 84–86. Sefer ha-Zohar, 95a-b, in The Wisdom of the Zohar, vol. 3, pp. 1314–16. On the matzah image in Sephardic haggadot as the Shekhinah, see Batterman, ‘Bread of Affliction, Emblem of Power’, pp. 62–67. Batterman connects this shifting form to the varied forms of the abstracted matzah, found in various manuscripts (pp. 64–67), but stresses, however, what he sees as an association between the form of the matzah, Christian imagery, and, more specifically, the form and appearance of the Eucharistic host. See Hecker, Mystical Bodies, Mystical Meals, especially Chapter 6, on dining rituals as ‘augmentation theurgy’. Worringer, Abstraktion und Einfühlung and Formprobleme der Gotik. Focillon, Vie des forms, Chapter 2; Gombrich, The Sense of Order. Elbern, ‘Anciconica, arte’ and ‘Bildstruktur – Sinnzeichen – Bildaussage’. See, e.g. Bonne, ‘Art ornemental, art environnemental’; ‘De l’ornemental dans l’art médiéval (VIIe-XIIe siècle)’; ‘L’ornement – la différence dans la repetition’; ‘Ornementation et representation’; and ‘Une certaine couleur des idées’. For the former, see essays in Envisioning Worlds in Late Antique Art, ed. Olovsdotter; for the latter, e.g., Powell, ‘Late Gothic Abstractions’; Rau, Die ornamentalen Hintergründe; and Beyer, ‘Unding Ornament?’. From Alain de Libera’s L’art des généralités to, e.g., Goodman’s ‘Abstraction’, Damisch’s, ‘Remarks on Abstraction’, and Elger’s Abstract Art (2017). Betancourt and Taroutina, eds., Byzantium/Modernism; Nagel, Medieval / Modern; Powell, Depositions; Prado Villar, ‘Silentium’, pp. 21–43. On what Christina Normore calls ‘external pressures to produce a field of medieval global art’, see the introduction to her edited volume, Reassessing the Global Turn in Medieval Art History, p. 3. Sergei Mikhalkov, ‘Elephant Painter’ [Слон-живописец], http://basni.net/basnya/ slon-givopisets.html, accessed 3 November 2019.

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Works Cited Abstraction before the Age of Abstract Art, https://preabstract.hypotheses.org/, accessed 3 November 2019. Michael Batterman, ‘Bread of Affliction, Emblem of Power: The Passover Matzah in Haggadah Manuscripts from Christian Spain’, Imagining the Self, Imagining the Other, ed. by Eva Frojmovic (Leiden: Brill, 2002), pp. 53–89. ———, ‘The Emergence of the Spanish Illuminated Haggadah Manuscript’, Ph.D. Dissertation (Northwestern University: 2000). Roland Betancourt and Maria Taroutina, eds., Byzantium/Modernism: The Byzantine as Method in Modernity (Leiden: Brill, 2015). Vera Beyer, ‘Unding Ornament? Abgebildete Vorhänge zwischen Ornament und Figur in der niederländischen Malerei des 15. Jahrhunderts’, in Ornament: Motiv – Modus – Bild, ed. by Vera Beyer and Christian Spies (Munich: Fink, 2012), pp. 27–56, at pp. 39–42. Jean-Claude Bonne, ‘Art ornemental, art environnemental: au-delà ou en-deçà de l’image (art médiéval, art contemporain)’, Images Re-vues, 10 (2012), https://journals.openedition. org/imagesrevues/2262 (accessed 25 July 2020). ———, ‘De l’ornemental dans l’art médiéval (VIIe-XIIe siècle): le modèle insulaire’, in L’image: Fonctions et usages des images dans l’Occident médiéval: Actes du 6e International Workshop on Medieval Societies, Centro Ettore Majorana (Erice, Sicile, 17-23 octobre 1992), ed. by Jérôme Baschet and Jean Claude Schmitt, Cahiers du Léopard d’Or, 5 (Paris: Le Léopard d’Or, 1996), pp. 207–49. ———, ‘L’ornement – la différence dans la répétition’, in La variation, ed. by Christophe Carraud (Orléans: I.A.V., Association des conférences, 1998), pp. 81–99. ———, ‘Ornementation et représentation’, in Les Images dans l’Occident médiéval, ed. by Jérôme Baschet and Pierre-Olivier Dittmar, L’atelier du médiéviste, 14 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), pp. 199–212. ———, ‘“Une certaine couleur des idées” Matisse et l’art médiéval’, in Les moyen âge de l’art contemporain, ed. by Jean-Philippe Antoine, Cahiers de la Villa Gillet, 17 (Lyon: La fosse aux ours, 2003), pp. 49–84. Hubert Damisch, ‘Remarks on Abstraction’, October, 127 (2009), pp. 133–54. Alain de Libera, L’art des généralités: Théories de l’abstraction (Paris: Aubier, 1999). Victor H. Elbern, ‘Anciconica, arte’, in Enciclopedia dell’arte medievale, ed. by Angiola Maria Romanini and Marina Righetti, 12 vols. (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 1991), p. i, pp. 789–97. ———, ‘Bildstruktur – Sinnzeichen – Bildaussage: Zusammenfassende Studie zur unfigürlichen Ikonographie im frühen Mittelalter’, Arte medievale, 1 (1983), pp. 17–37. Marc Michael Epstein, ‘Thought Crimes: Implied Ensuing Motion in Manuscripts Made for Jewish Patrons’, in Manuscripta Illuminata: Approaches to Understanding Medieval and

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Renaissance Manuscripts, ed. by Colum Hourihane (Princeton: Princeton University Press/Index of Christian Art, 2014), pp. 69–86. Henri Focillon, Vie des formes (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1934). Ernst Gombrich, The Sense of Order: A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art (New York: Phaidon, 1979, rpt. 2012). Nelson Goodman, ‘Abstraction’, in Oxford Art Online (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). Joseph Gutmann, ‘The Sacrifice of Isaac in Medieval Jewish Art’, Artibus et Historiae, 8 (1987), pp. 67–89. Julie Harris, ‘Love in the Land of Goshen: Haggadah, History, and the Making of BL MS Or. 2737’, Gesta, 52, no. 2 (2013), pp. 161–80. Joel Hecker, Mystical Bodies, Mystical Meals: Eating and Embodiment in Medieval Kabbala (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005). Katrin Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art Between Islam and Christianity: The Decoration of Hebrew Bibles in Medieval Spain (Leiden: Brill, 2004). George Margoliouth, Catalogue of the Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts in the British Museum, 4 vols. (London: British Museum, 1899–1935; vols. I–III, repr. 1965). Mendel Metzger, ‘Two Fragments of a Spanish XIVth Century Haggadah’, Gesta, 6 (1967), pp. 25–34. Therese Metzger and Mendel Metzger, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages: Illuminated Hebrew Manuscripts of the Thirteenth to the Sixteenth Centuries (New York: Alpine Fine Arts Collection, 1982). Sergei Mikhalkov, ‘Elephant the Painter’ [Слон-живописец], http://basni.net/basnya/ slon-givopisets.html (accessed 3 November 2019). Alexander Nagel, Medieval / Modern: Art Out of Time (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2012). Bezalel Narkiss, Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts in the British Isles: a Catalogue Raisonné. The Spanish and Portuguese Manuscripts, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), I, no. 9; II, figs. 79–104. Christina Normore, ed., Reassessing the Global Turn in Medieval Art History (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018). Cecilia Olovsdotter, ed., Envisioning Worlds in Late Antique Art: New Perspectives on Abstraction and Symbolism in Late-Roman and Early-Byzantine Visual Culture (c. 300-600) (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019). Amy Knight Powell, Depositions: Scenes from the Late Medieval Church and the Modern Museum (Boston: MIT Press, 2012). ———, ‘Late Gothic Abstractions’, Gesta, 51 (2012), pp. 71–88. Francisco Prado-Vilar, ‘Silentium: el silencio cósmico como imagen en la Edad Media y la Modernidad’, Revista de poética medieval, 27 (2013), pp. 21–43. Bernd Rau, Die ornamentalen Hintergründe in der französischen gotischen Buchmalerei (Stuttgart: Verlag Cantz, 1975).

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Sefer ha-Zohar in The Wisdom of the Zohar: An Anthology of Texts, ed. by Isaiah Tishby, 3 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press for Littman Library, 1989), vol. 3. Ilana Tahan, Hebrew Manuscripts: The Power of Script and Image (London: British Library, 2007). Wilhelm Worringer, Abstraktion und Einfühlung: ein Beitrag zur Stilpyschologie (Munich: R. Piper, 1908). ———, Formprobleme der Gotik (Munich: R. Piper, 1912). Yael Zirlin, ‘The Schocken Italian Haggadah of c. 1400 and Its Origins’, Jewish Art, 12/13 (1986/1987), pp. 54–72.

About the Author Elina Gertsman is Professor of Medieval Art and Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan Professor in Catholic Studies II at Case Western Reserve University. She is the author of The Dance of Death in the Middle Ages: Image, Text, Performance (2010), Worlds Within: Opening the Medieval Shrine Madonna (2015), and The Absent Image: Lacunae in Medieval Books (2021); co-author of The Middle Ages in 50 Objects (2018); and editor of several volumes on performance, emotion, liminality, and animated objects. Her work has been supported by the Guggenheim, Kress, Mellon, and Franco-American Cultural Exchange Foundations as well as by the American Council for Learned Societies.

Part I Abstraction / Aporia / Unknowability

1.

Colour as Subject Vincent Debiais Abstract This chapter considers the use of plain colours in medieval manuscripts and wall paintings as evidence of abstract creation. Because they lack ‘images’, these colours cannot be analysed iconographically; because they lack ‘patterns’ or ‘motifs’, they cannot be studied as manifestations of medieval ornament. Considering the possibility of ‘abstraction’ in medieval art allows, however, for a change in focus: colour can become a sign of what escapes f iguration, revealing the essence of the subject and drawing attention to pictorial means. By exploring the notions of ‘paradox’ and ‘monochrome’, I discuss some examples of western medieval plain colour paintings created between the ninth and the twelfth centuries, and their relevance for a history of abstraction before the rise of abstract art. Keywords: figure; Gospels; abstraction; monochrome; sign; colour

Symbolic approaches to medieval visual culture often establish colour as one of the most stable and unambiguous systems of signs: colours can be coded and decoded throughout the Middle Ages as markers of dual oppositions between good and evil, pure and impure, sacred and profane, male and female, etc.1 Colours would in this context complement an image or an object, qualify its status, and give its meaning. However, recent studies devoted to the anthropology of colour in the Middle Ages—to its social function of designation, distinction, or discrimination; to its empirical properties, material and economic value; and finally to its role in the network of medieval symbolic meanings—have shown that colour sometimes functions as a sign on its own, whether alone or in its interaction with other colours.2 Nevertheless, one still resists this possibility of meaning when colour, while being a sign, does not constitute an image. This is particularly the case for plain colour fields displayed independently of any other figure, which do not imitate, evoke, or even recall stone, marble, or any other architectural device. But it is also the case of the colour fields used as background for the implementation of figures

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_ch01

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and narrative scenes, such as the long, coloured strips painted in superimposed registers in some Romanesque cycles of frescoes. Here, colour acts in the place of the image, as it also does in many manuscripts; however, are its function and status restricted to the role of a partition, or of a background? How are we to articulate the presence of colour and the depth of the image? What kind of relationship does colour induce between figures and the image as a whole? This chapter addresses the use of plain colours in medieval manuscripts and wall paintings as evidence of visual abstraction during the Middle Ages. Such colour displays have received little attention in scholarship. By focusing on the two notions of figura and ‘monochrome’, this chapter explores some examples of plain colour paintings between the ninth and twelfth centuries in Western Europe, and their relevance for a history of abstraction before the rise of abstract art.

The ‘Monochrome’ Issue We must first distinguish the use of several colours with no figures from the use of a single colour. In the first case, colours, if they withstand what Yves-Alain Bois has referred to as ‘egoism’—i.e. if their visual impact or technical display do not make their chromatic environment disappear3—can interact and produce a discourse by virtue of their contrast, harmony, or complementarity.4 In the second case, colour must act by itself, much in the same way that shade and nuance do during the early modern period and as monochrome paintings do in contemporary art.5 The term ‘monochrome’, however, is never applied to such practices for the Middle Ages.6 On the contrary, art history uses it to describe the display of a single-colour figure set against a plain, light background: sketches, for examples, or line drawings, or grisailles in manuscript and glass paintings.7 And although medieval painting rarely meets the present-day definition of monochrome—first of all, for technical reasons related to the production of colours, whose uniformity of texture and shade is difficult to obtain; second, because changing light conditions (candlelight, daylight, etc.) often led to the perception of changing shades and fluid colours8—the term ‘monochrome’ is used in the following text to designate the implementation of a single, plain colour field (bounded or not) in the manuscript or in the monumental domain. The discussion of medieval monochromes—what we can call here a ‘monochrome hypothesis’—raises two essential issues: that of the frame and that of the application (or lack thereof) of a colour on the support. To explore these two issues, let us focus on two ‘images’ figuring the celestial silence of Rev 8:1 in two manuscripts of Beatus of Liébana’s Tractatus de Apocalypsin, a famous commentary written around 785 in the north of Spain.9 These two images belong to a larger ensemble of paintings

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Figure 1-1. Silos Beatus, 1091-1109. London, British Library, Add. 11695, fol. 125v. Photo: The British Library.

depicting the moment of silence in the manuscript corpus of Beatus’s commentary, but they are the only ones that use a monochrome device. Fol. 125v in the Silos Beatus (painted around 1091–1109) presents a plain yellow field at the top of the inner text column (Figure 1-1); it is bound with a fine black edge, and is decorated with black lines on the sides and corners.10 The yellow colour has been painted directly onto the ruled writing space on the parchment, so the dry-point lines produce variations in the texture and shades of the yellow rectangle, which appears as a space of light in the centre of the page. In fol. 123v of the Urgell Beatus (dated late tenth century), the monochrome device is different (Figure 1-2).11 It also uses a frame made of a thin red line, but this edge encloses a piece of parchment that has been left blank. Ruling lines are clearly visible and only the frame makes an image appear in the manuscript—the monochrome hypothesis relies on the distinction of a surface within and without the rectangle through the device of the frame.12 One could certainly consider that the absence of any chromatic mobilization produces a phenomenon of a-chromia rather than of monochrome, but the implementation of a frame and the voluntary delimitation of an amount of material transform the parchment space into a ‘form’, with extended geometric proportions and colour, which, though not the result of any artistic gesture, builds an image of silence.13 The short text written vertically on the left of the edge, silentium zzzzzzzzz, makes this form explicit.14 These two examples attest, on the one hand, to the diff iculty of f inding in medieval practices a creative gesture based exclusively on the implementation of a plain colour. On the other hand, they show that such plain colour devices can act as ‘images’ even if no sign or pattern has been painted on the field. The stand-alone

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Figure 1-2. Urgell Beatus, c. 975. Seu d’Urgell, Museo Diocesano, ms. 501, fol. 123v. Previously reproduced in Francisco Prado-Vilar, “Silentium: El silentio cósmico como imagen en la Edad Media y la Modernidad,” Revista de poética medieval 27 (2013): 21-43.

colour in the manuscript does not play host to any figure, but its demarcation by the frame as a distinctive space creates a place of image, and so the colour becomes a figure.15 It no longer serves as the background for figurative images that would represent silence on the pages of the Silos and Urgell manuscripts; the absence of any other sign turns the colour into a prominent figure itself, able to stage and make present the biblical silence.

Colour Fields: Manuscripts By producing a place, the frame—which is often the simple result of a chromatic contrast—also produces a chromatic environment. It invites a discussion of the notion of background, both obvious and problematic in the context of two-dimensional images.16 The background is at the same time the partition separating an image from another part of the folio or wall, and the screen on which the image is projected, the space created for the display of the figures. Despite its flatness, the background allows to stage complex relations in the depth of the painted area with shapes and colours placed behind or underneath other colours and shapes. In this case, colour acts as a figure, as is best seen in the use of purple backgrounds in Carolingian and Ottonian Gospel books.17 Let us take the example of the double page at the beginning of the Gospel according to Matthew in a Gospel book painted in Cologne around 1030.18 Fol. 8v presents

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the author’s portrait (Figure 1-3): Matthew is shown writing the incipit of his text on a scroll held by an angel; he sits under a pediment surmounted by buildings and towers, which rest on two green marble columns with vegetal capitals. The entire composition is painted against a gold background in the upper part of the image, while a green strip below suggests the ground on which the furniture and columns rest. The location and display of the image are bounded on the folio by the tracing of a wide pink edge; its colour matches the colour of the pediment. This visual echoing equates the border with an architectural element that encloses the image in the centre of the page. The plain and flat coloured field in the background of the author’s portrait (present in all four evangelist portraits in the Cologne manuscript) contrasts with the projecting architecture of the pediment and with the furniture arrangement; its non-mimetic aspect seems in a certain way disconnected from the actual figuration of the writing action in the foreground, by contrast with the colour green used to display genuine material (marble and parchment).19 However, the colour field plays a vital role in the development of the visual discourse since it distinguishes the place of the material and terrestrial environment of the scribe’s action (the columns, the floor, the phylactery) from the divine and sacred content of what is written. Matthew’s gesture is akin to that of piercing the phylactery to bring out the light of the background, the light that also shapes the golden letters, the evangelist’s and the angel’s nimbus, and that diffuses on the columns. The angel’s location—he seems to arise from behind the pediment—ensures the connection between the two planes of the painting. If the colour field in the background is still non-mimetic, it is no longer non-figurative because it fully acts as an image of sacredness in the representation of the writing action. Facing Matthew’s portrait in the same manuscript, fol. 9 presents the incipit Liber generationis written on a purple background. It is framed by a double golden edge decorated with vegetal motifs and four medallions with busts. In the centre of this purple window, the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel is painted on either side of the initial L decorated with foliage and zoomorphic elements, tearing the plain colour with a vertical wound. The way the edge and ornaments have been staged against the purple, and the contrast between its colour and the colour of the letters, reinforce the presence of the plain colour in the background: it is as if the painter physically placed the alphabetic and iconic figures upon the colour field. What constituted the background in the author’s portrait is brought back to the foreground and is fixed in gold in the first words of Matthew’s Gospel. In a chromatic staging of the paradigm of the Incarnation, the purple colour field becomes the ‘place’ of the Scripture and the gold the Scripture itself: the Word (gold) becomes flesh (purple).20 The coloured field behind the letters is no longer a simple background for writing, but a figure presenting a theological reality in the interplay of contrasts and complementarities between colours.

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Figure 1-3. Cologne Gospels, c. 1030. New York, Morgan Library, ms. 651, fols. 8v-9r.

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In both images of this manuscript, the figurative reality of colour devices invites a consideration of the depth of the paintings: not as the juxtaposition of different colour fields but rather as the superposition of colours, with their phenomena of transparency, opening, and tearing. Placing images within the page and its frame is not only a matter of location upon a coloured background that would not produce anything in the shape and meaning of the painting; it is also a real disposition (in the rhetorical understanding of the word dispositio), organizing and transforming all the elements of the image into a new paradigm. In the frame, the plain colour of the background physically and intellectually merges with what has been painted on or in it. Engaging with the meaning of the monochrome backgrounds in the Cologne Gospel Book challenges the obvious flatness of medieval images and questions the very principle of what a background could be. The depth of the images is emphasized by the interplay of plain colours that can appear and disappear within a frame, that can move forward and backward according to the disposition of figures, and that can be seen through other colours. They should be regarded as successions of plans, as photographs or theatre stages. There, monochrome is not a choice par défaut but a visual device participating in the composition of the whole image. In the Cologne Gospel Book, the purple element has been staged behind the golden letters, and both colours move and act as figures in the depth of the folio.21 In the Cologne manuscript, the purple figures are used only for the incipits according to various modalities in the form and ornament of the edge, or in the calligraphic treatment of the letters; on these pages, colour acquires a figurative dimension despite the absence of figures. Nonetheless, in many other examples of Ottonian illumination, purple pages are used for various texts and images in Gospel books, as well as calendar and prayer pages in sacramentaries. Does such a diffusion of this chromatic process make colour less significant, less figurative, or more ornamental? The question should be raised even if the differences in the background colour seem to indicate a hierarchy of contents: for example, purple backgrounds are used only for the copy of the canon of the Mass in the sacramentary from St. Vitus of Monchengladbach—staging the liturgical moment of the consecration22—or St. Jerome’s preface in the Gospel book from Milan.23 If colour is not always a figure in these examples, it acts as a sign distinguishing specific parts of the manuscripts. The use of plain background colours in Matthew’s double page in the Gospel book of Cologne is a monumental example of the way that colour can indicate the nature or status of the text: here, purple and gold are the index of Christ’s dual nature. In other cases, these colours point out specific parts of the ritual or the special agency of sacramental sentences. The purple field, then, despite its diffusion, does not lose significance: instead, it physically creates a specific figurative environment for the written words.

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Figure 1-4. St. Vitus Sacramentary, c. 1050. Freiburg, Universitätsbibliothek, cod. 360a, fol. 20r.

In all these examples, colour is applied within an ornamental edge that does not contain it entirely. This edge is less a hermetic frame than a device presenting colour. Vegetal elements are meant to bring colour to the foreground and to give it a shape and order—in other words, to create a place for writing to be and to act, to participate in the design of what we have been calling a stage. Because it constitutes the environment of the text, the colour’s autonomy of meaning does not disappear because it stays behind the letters. Ottonian illumination provides many examples of colour fields continuing to act as figures in the framework of complex compositions. In the sacramentary of St. Vitus of Monchengladbach, three folios with no trace of writing follow the copy of the canon of the mass ending on fol. 20r (Figure 1-4).24 These pages have been painted with a purple colour field enshrined in an ornamental edge. Text resumes on fol. 22v, after a blank folio—with, however, a different colour arrangement. Fols. 20v–22r install colour as figures at the turning point of the manuscript between the text of the Canon and the Proper of the Mass (with Christmas liturgy beginning on fol. 22v). This break also corresponds to a switch from one hand to another in the manuscript, and it is quite tempting to explain the painting of these empty colour fields by technical conditions during the fabrication

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of the manuscript, and by the preparation of a surplus of purple pages.25 Even if this possibility cannot be completely rejected, one should nonetheless consider that such negligence in the make-up of the manuscript is unlikely. The presence of colour might have been kept to highlight both the transition and the shift in the manuscript between liturgical texts of a different nature. Colour would thus enhance the permanence of liturgy and its effect, which persists after the suspension of the Agnus Dei (ending on fol. 20r) in the same way that colour fields persist after the suspension of writing. A random ordinatio of the manuscript (with a surplus of purple folios) is not incompatible with the interpretation of colour as a means to represent the particular temporality of medieval liturgy. In other manuscripts discussed below, the same device is used through the introduction of blank folios after the canon—regardless of the composition pattern of the quires—to point out the break in liturgical texts. In the sacramentary of St. Vitus however, the omnipresence of colour and its independence from writing are a way to translate into figures the very time of the liturgy and its relation to God’s persistence in the world.26 The choice between colour and no colour between purple and blank), which stages the suspension of liturgical words, is undoubtedly meaningful for what has been represented in the manuscript through a plain colour device. We could argue that the use of colour always produces phenomena of echoes and references among painted elements in the manuscript; it is a way of making images, signs, or visual properties endure, persist, and finally be present in other images. On the other hand, we could suggest that the use of no colour produces relation between the frame and the totality of the manuscript. The skin staged in the frame physically belongs to the whole object and such a blankness is probably a way to make this wholeness all persist in the part. In the same way that plain colour is not ornament in the St. Vitus sacramentary, blankness is not emptiness. Beyond any symbolism, colour/ no colour fields should be considered as processes of figuration by synecdoche in which monochromes elaborate on the relations between what has been painted and its physical, theological, and poetical environment. In other examples from Cologne, the presence of colour inside a frame and without any trace of writing can be found in manuscripts whose particular layout cannot be attributed to an imperfect fabrication of the book. The Gradus Gospel book, for instance, begins with a window opening onto a purple colour field: no text, no image here.27 A monumental majestas Domini is painted on the verso of this folio and the contrast between the two sides is striking: the dark density and plain feature of the colour field on the recto oppose the brightness of the leaf and omnipresence of figures and text on the verso. Purple colour almost disappears for the majestas Domini, and only remains as the background for the written names of the prophets and evangelists. Fol. 1, purple on the recto, gold on the verso, anticipates the device of chrysography on the scale of the manuscript. In the depth of colour

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and in the transparency of skin, one can see through the purple colour field the mandorla of the majestas Domini painting, and glimpse the divine presence through the body.28 The aniconic feature of plain colour on the recto should thus no longer be considered as non-figurative since, beyond any symbolism, it becomes the index of Christ’s presence in the manuscript, a presence revealed on the verso of the folio with the figurative painting of the majestas Domini. A purple field framed by an ornamental edge also opens the Gospel book from Bamberg cathedral.29 In this manuscript, it stands on the recto of a folio that features, on its verso, St. Jerome dictating his prologue. Here, colour is being built in the transition from the front of the leaf to the back, and the plain feature of the purple colour field gives way to a monumental interior and exterior landscape, furnished and inhabited by the writing gesture. In the Gospel book from St. Gereon in Cologne, the purple field is painted on the folio facing the majestas Domini on fol. 13r, creating the same opposition between darkness and light as in the Gradus manuscript.30 In Gundold Gospels, a dark edge encloses a space of virgin parchment facing John the Evangelist’s portrait painted on fol. 71.31 In these examples, technical reasons and possible issues regarding the ordinatio of quires cannot explain the figurative monumentality of colour as it is staged in the manuscript. The ability of colour to stand by itself as a figure, in dialogue with the copy of texts or the figurative images, led the painters to use it as an autonomous visual object at the core of the manuscript. As a monochrome gesture, the colour field possesses a shape and a meaning despite the lack of any other figure.

Saturation and Ornament: Monumental Painting In the manuscript world, the use of plain colours differentiates specific places on the folio by establishing a disjunction between colour and colourlessness, between the inhabited space created by pigments and the relative virginity of the parchment left blank.32 The application of colour is therefore the sign of a pictorial gesture, a gesture of domestication of matter by a figure. Surrounded by a frame or not, colour fields create a space with extended and chromatic properties, a space that acts across textual, figurative, and ornamental environments throughout any given manuscript. Such a dynamic process of signification is based on the rhetorical ability of colours to create semantic links among visual elements and at different scales. Figurations by synecdoche, as in the Cologne Gospel Book and the St. Vitus sacramentary, are possible because they take place in the specific context of liturgical manuscripts, but they are mainly predicated on the ability of colours to act as figures. Therefore, monumental paintings often use the same monochrome devices in the dispositio of

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Figure 1-5. Biblical narratives on the vault, c. 1100. Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, abbey church, nave. Photo: Vincent Debiais.

the images. Little is actually known about these backgrounds, about the conditions of their implementation, and their meaning in medieval buildings. Some recent investigations in archaeology and archaeometry at Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe have shown, for example, that the large coloured areas were painted a fresco in the Old Testament cycle on the vault of the nave of the abbey church.33 Human figures, architectural frames, and natural elements were, conversely, painted a secco onto these backgrounds, building a narrative sequence of scenes. For instance, the installation of a field of colour following a white background underlines the shift from one scene to another in the cycle of Noah (Figure 1-5): in the sequence representing Noah’s drunkenness and nakedness, and Canaan’s curse, the figures are first set on a green background, then on a white field; after that, first a yellow then a green background is painted, before returning to a white field in the following scene (the construction of the Tower of Babel). In this sequence, the switch from the white background to a colour field cannot be understood as a strict iconographic index, in the sense that the use of a specific colour cannot be systematically associated with a particular environment, figure, or action (to emphasize the indoor/outdoor opposition, for example); and this is the case for all the sequences painted on the vault. Within the same scene, the use of colour, and even more the contrast between two colours, highlights a particular element within the narrative.34 This is the case in the scene representing Canaan’s curse, where the yellow/green background visually increases the opposition between the cursed son (pictured on the yellow

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background) and his two brothers, who have not seen their father’s body in the scene of Noah’s drunkenness (pictured on the green background). This is also the case in the scene figuring Abel’s murder, where the violence of Cain’s gesture and its consequences are painted against a dark brown background in contrast to the two light sequences adjoining the scene. Unlike what we saw in the manuscripts example, colour fields do not possess any depth in Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe paintings. They do not reinforce the superposition of planes but the juxtaposition of the narrative elements, and thus offer a chromatic modality for the succession of the biblical events. If colour acts as one of the means to create a specific rhythm for the narrative, it also contributes to its accentuation and tonicity.35 Moving from one colour to another allows phenomena of acceleration or, on the contrary, of dilation of narration beside the profusion of figures and other painted elements. In Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, the coloured background constitutes the continuum of the decor and its rhythmic consistency within a very complex and syncopated narration that moves from one point of the vault to another.36 Colour visually stages the time frame of history, in the same way that purple backgrounds in the manuscripts from Cologne set the time frame of liturgy on the parchment. In this sense, there is a clear contrast between the continuous colour fields shaping the ground of the scenes, and the vertical succession of backgrounds that create the different sequences of the narrative. The first few feature either light or dark lines representing vegetal or mineral elements that transform colour into a natural environment, or a pattern of thin red and yellow strips. On the contrary, backgrounds are perfectly plain and the figures standing before the colour field are first set onto the ‘soil’ in such a way that the chromatic continuity of the background of the narrative is not interrupted by the deployment of images. A clear example is the tree at the forefront of the construction of the Tower of Babel: like the human figures and the building, it seems to stand before the white-painted background at the back of the scene. Colour thus appears as the continuous epidermis of the church. It saturates the decor on certain locations, creating special ‘places of images’ according to the narrative and theological discourse painted at the vault of the nave.37 The question raised by the colour fields in the Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe wall paintings does not concern the hypothetical figurative feature of plain colours but rather whether they should be considered as part of the decorative ornamental system within the church. Should they be treated in the same way we consider the ornamental ridge running throughout the entire nave from east to west? Do they possess the same nature and function as the strips separating the two registers on each side of the vault? Can they be likened to the painted architectural elements (arches, windows)? Do they belong to the same decorative gesture that led to the painting of false marble and cut stones on the lower part of the pillars and walls?

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Is plain colour pure ornament? As the colour backgrounds in the scenes present no geometric, vegetal, or animal patterns, and because their location and format escape any systematization but visually accentuate the different rhythms of the biblical narrative, they do not belong to the main definition of ornament. Can ornament be conceived without shapes or patterns? Indeed, both the role of the colour fields in the organization of the Old Testament narrative and their relationship to the painted figures make colour act as the ‘ornament’ of the visual discourse, if we consider it from a rhetorical point of view. From this perspective, the colour of images produces the ‘colour’ of the narrative.38 The chromatic choice is neither more incidental nor more uncertain than the use of rhetorical figures in the production of a textual discourse. The absence of any representation within the colour field does not erase the ability of these background to shape the narrative. To put it simply, colourful backgrounds in the Saint-Savin paintings show that the syntax of images should also consider the analysis of plain colour fields, not because they are a technical data for the implementation of painted or carved images, but because they build a significant place for the image and because they give it a ‘colour’ in the same way that figures of speech produce a significant place in the text and grant it a poetic substance. Thus, we can no longer consider that, because it is plain or empty, or in the background of an image, colour does not contribute anything to the visual discourse. On the contrary, if we give it the rhetorical dimension it actually presents in most medieval images, colour signifies a figure of speech, and so stands at the crossroads of ornament and ‘ornamentality’, to put it in Jean-Claude Bonne’s words.39 It does not constitute the subject of the image, but it is what makes possible the image’s implementation and what reveals it, surrounds it, and gives it a particular semantic depth. This was already the case for the Ottonian manuscripts. In the opening page of Matthew’s Gospel, gold and purple are not the subject of the painting, but colours are the visual device putting the incipit Liber generationis into perspective with the entire theology of the Incarnation. In the sacramentary of St. Vitus, the subject of the painting is the canon of the Mass, and colours are a way to inscribe liturgical formulae into a specific conception of time and speech. In monumental paintings as in the manuscript domain, colours possess the agency to transform the visual discourse appealing to the rhetorical properties of order, quality, and emphasis.

Colour as Subject Looking at the use of monochrome in medieval paintings suggests the ability of colour to move from having representational properties in the visual display to becoming the subject of a pictorial action. 40 The pages showing nothing but colour

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in the manuscripts from Cologne might be evidence of such a conception, even if one cannot exclude that, with this device, Christ, figured in purple and gold, remains the ‘real’ subject displayed on the parchment. In a similar way, lime slurry or sludge on the walls of a religious buildings does not make ‘whiteness’ the real subject of the decor, but appears instead as a way of enhancing the church as the core of visual displays, functioning simultaneously as the signifier and the signified of its own presence in the shape and colour of the construction. Can medieval colour then reach the degree of significance at which it only constitutes a figure of itself? Can it attain the breaking point to refer to nothing but to what it is? A lot of research still has to be done on this topic, especially because it has to deal with a double dichotomy of figuration/non-figuration and ornamentation/narrativity. Such oppositions—too strong to belong to medieval aesthetics—do not allow us to consider the isolated and self-standing uses of colour as meaningful and figurative, just as they do not allow us to consider the uses for geometry, vegetal patterns, shadow/light contrasts, and scale effects as figurative, etc. On fol. 126v of the Gospel book from St. Andrew’s in Cologne, a large field of colour with shades of blue and green is painted and framed by an ornamental edge with vegetal patterns, as a window opening to the horizon, to the gathering of heaven and earth (Figure 1-6).41 As a landscape before the birth of landscape paintings, this image faces the evangelist Luke’s portrait on fol. 127. The simplest explanation, as for the purple backgrounds of other Cologne manuscripts, is that this chromatic device signals a missing image, a figuration that should be summoned by the spirit and triggered by the presence of God’s words in the manuscript.42 The relative emptiness of this folio would thus correspond to the blank folio facing Luke: a space to fill, in which colour is only the vehicle of a forthcoming image. Such a reading, as valid as it might seem, does not exhaust the visual devices implemented in the manuscript, and it must be considered, at least as a hypothesis, that the display of colour works here as a subject in itself, as an iconographic motif, and that it does not constitute a temporary state of visuality. Colour would be the real subject of the image and would refer to nothing but to itself. The painter would have figured colour precisely because it is at the core of the copy and illumination of the manuscript and allows for the very possibility of the book. Such a use of colour would be a creative gesture showing a profound reflexivity about the material ways of producing visuality, as deep as what can be seen in the calligraphic manipulation of letterforms, in the use of ornament, in the painting of portraits and narrative images. To attribute a figurative dimension to plain colours with no figures amounts to attributing to chromatic properties the ability to fully contain what they represent, in an intellectual movement back and forth between the idea and the visual means of its presence in the world—between the sign and its referent. This complex process, a synecdoche par excellence, is a form of abstraction in the medieval understanding

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Figure 1-6. Gospels of St. Andrew of Cologne, end of the 10th century. Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Inv. Nr. KG 54: 213a, b, fol. 126v. Previously reproduced in Herbert Kessler, Seeing Medieval Art (Broadview Press, 2005), cover.

of the term, which effectively designates a modality to reach knowledge through singular sensible elements. In the examples presented in this short chapter, plain colours are abstractions of what they represent: Christ’s dual nature, liturgical time, the act of painting itself. Monochrome areas can therefore be called abstract images, not because they are non-figurative—on the contrary, they are, ontologically, figurations—but because the process of their creation and meaning passes through the epistemological process of moving from the part to the whole, from the object to the idea. As a process, medieval abstraction leads to a general emphasis on the pictorial means and on their persistence in the final result of the works of art; in the Gospel books from St. Andrew’s in Cologne, we can say that painting as the very process of abstraction is the subject of the image. Therefore, and even if this emphasis is one of the main features of modern painting from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, and even more in abstract art from the 1930s, it is, for different reasons, already at work in Western medieval art, where it fully participates in the definition of the artist in a relationship with God. 43

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Notes 1.

2. 3.

4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.

13.

14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19.

Michel Pastoureau has already discussed the limits of such an unambiguous reading and shown how fluid medieval colours are. If symbolic, their reading and decoding should be careful and not systematic. For Pastoureau’s methodology, see Pastoureau, Figures et couleurs. For a bibliographical survey on this question, see Pulliam, pp. 3–5. I borrow the curious expression ‘egoistic colour’ from Yve-Alain Bois’s seminal but unpublished, lecture during the Paris symposium on Hubert Damish’s legacy; the lecture is available online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd0XrsAnCFQ (accessed 25 July 2020). The use of colours in heraldry and their discourse on medieval coats of arm are based on such relations between different colours; see the fundamental works by Michel Pastoureau on this question: Pastoureau, Figures et couleurs. Riout, pp. 39–44. As evidence of this, see Bath. See the variety of artistic manifestations gathered in the collective volume Aux limites de la couleur. Pastoureau, ‘Noir, gris, blanc’, pp. 16–18. On these images, see Debiais, Le silence dans l’art; Prado-Vilar, ‘Silentium’. For the context of images in the manuscripts of the Tractus de Apocalypsin, see Williams. London, British Library, Add. ms. 11695, f. 125v; on this manuscript, see Williams 2002, pp. 31–40 (n°16). Seu D’Urgell, Museo Diocesano, ms. 501, f. 123v; on this manuscript, see Vives. The Urgell Beatus copies an earlier version of the Tractatus and also borrows most of its images. The possibility of an unfinished image, blank by accident, remains for the figuration of silence on fol. 123v, even if the empty frame actually stages perfectly the idea of Rev 8:1; this is probably why this image has been left untouched at the end of the painting process. Prado-Vilar, p. 35. The image of silence in the Urgell Beatus should be put in perspective with other examples of empty frame or complex framing in medieval visual culture. See Méhu; Zchomelidse, pp. 247–53. For the implication of blankness and emptiness, see Gertsman, ‘Phantoms of Emptiness’. Prado-Vilar, p. 35. The interaction between the image and its frame has been addressed by Meyer Schapiro with the concept of ‘images-signs’; see Schapiro. The question of ‘backgrounds’ in medieval images has not been fully addressed; for a partial analysis, see Russo. See the reflections of Roger; Kessler, ‘The Eloquence of Silver’; Nees. New York, Morgan Library, ms. 651; Die ottonische Kölner Malerschule, 1967, n. 11, pp. 75–80; Ornamenta ecclesiae, 1985, v. 2, pp. 277–8. Cécile Voyer recently proposed similar interpretations for the relationships between letters, backgrounds, and architectural displays in the incipit paintings of Carolingian Gospel books; see Voyer.

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20. Nees, p. 91 comments on the Godescal Gospel and the dedicatory poem; the first verses read: ‘The golden letters were written on pages painted purple. They reveal the celestial realm through the red-colored blood of God and the shimmering joys of the starry heaven, and the Word of God, glimmering in the majestic luster, promises the sparkling reward of eternal life.’ 21. Similar remarks could be made for the other double portrait-incipit pages in the Cologne manuscript where effects of depth are systematically present, and where plain colours act as figures. 22. Freiburg, Universitätsbibliothek, cod. 360a; Die ottonische Kölner Malerschule, n. 17, pp. 103–5. 23. Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, c. 53 Sup.; Die ottonische Kölner Malerschule, n. 3, pp. 31–37. 24. Die ottonische Kölner Malerschule, p. 408. 25. Die ottonische Kölner Malerschule, p. 103. 26. Cassingena-Trevedy, p. 98 et sq. 27. Cologne, Erzbischöfliches Priesterseminar, Hs. 1a; Die ottonische Kölner Malerschule, n. 10, pp. 69–75 28. On the anthropological and theological aspects of the materiality of medieval books, see Palazzo and Kay. 29. Bamberg, Staatliche Bibliothek, Msc. Bibl. 94; Die ottonische Kölner Malerschule, n. 12, pp. 80–6; 30. Cologne, Historisches Archiv, Cod. W 312; Die ottonische Kölner Malerschule, n. 2, pp. 25–31. 31. Stuttgart, Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Bibl. 4° 2; Die ottonische Kölner Malerschule, n. 8, pp. 61–4. 32. On colourlessness, see Pastoureau, ‘À la recherche de l’incolore’, p. 245. 33. Sarrade, pp. 103–16. 34. On this use of colour, see Bonne, ‘Penser en couleurs’, pp. 355–79. 35. Debiais, ‘Du sol au plafond’, pp. 310–2. 36. Baschet, 1992, ‘Logique narrative’, p. 113. 37. Muratova, 2007, pp. 237–8 creates an analogy between ornamental coloured backgrounds; see also Jantzen, pp. 80–2 and Pächt, pp. 173–202. 38. Baschet, ‘Ornementation et structure narrative’, pp. 165–76. 39. Bonne, ‘Art ornemental, art environnemental’, p. 2. 40. On the notion of ‘subject’ for painting, see Arasse. 41. Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Inv. nr. KG 54: 213a, b, fol. 126v; Ornamenta ecclesiae, t. 2, p. 275. 42. Méhu, p. 26. 43. Moszynska, p. 15.

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Works Cited Daniel Arasse, Le sujet dans le tableau (Paris: Gallimard, 1997). Marcel Aubert, ‘Les enduits dans la construction au Moyen Âge’, Bulletin monumental, 115.2 (1957), pp. 111–17. Jérôme Baschet, ‘Logique narrative, nœuds thématiques et localisation des peintures murales’, in L’emplacement et la fonction des images dans la peinture murale du Moyen Âge. Actes du 5e séminaire international d’art mural (Saint-Savin: Centre d’art mural, 1992), pp. 103–15. ———, ‘Ornementation et structure narrative dans les peintures de la nef de Saint-Savin’, in Le rôle de l’ornement dans la peinture murale du Moyen Âge, ed. by Dominique ParisPoulain (Poitiers: CESCM, 1997), pp. 165–76. Jill Bath, ‘Signifying absence: experiencing monochrome imagery in medieval painting’, in A Wider Trecento: Studies in 13th- and 14th-Century European Art, Presented to Julian Gardner, ed. by Louise Bourdua and Robert Gibbs (Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. 5–20. Bénédicte Bertholon-Palazzo, ‘Le décor de stuc autour de l’an mil: aspects techniques d’une production artistique disparue’, Cahiers de Saint-Michel-de-Cuxà, 40 (2009), pp. 285–98. ———, ‘Traitements et apparences des surfaces murales autour de l’an mil. Joints, enduits et polychromies’, in Le Premier art roman cent ans après. La construction entre Saône et Pô autour de l’an mil. Études comparatives. Actes du colloque international de Baumeles-Messieurs et Saint-Claude (17-21 juin 2009), ed. by Eline Vergnolle and Sébastien Bully (Besançon: Presses Universitaires Franc-Comtoises, 2012), pp. 205–20. Peter Bloch and Hermann Schnitzler, eds., Die ottonische Kölner Malerschule (Düsseldorf: Verlag L. Schwan, 1967), 2 vols. Jean-Claude Bonne, ‘Formes et fonctions de l’ornemental dans l’art médiéval (viie-xiie siècle). Le modèle insulaire’, in L’image : fonctions et usages des images dans l’Ocident médiéval. Actes du 6ème international workshop on Medieval societies, Centre Ettore Majorana (Erice, Sicile, 17-13 octobre 1992), ed. by Jérôme Baschet and Jean-Claude Schmitt (Paris: Le léopard d’or, 1996), pp. 207–49. ———, ‘Penser en couleurs. À propos d’une image apocalyptique du xe siècle’, in Die Methodik der Bildinterpretation, ed. by Andrea von Hülsen-Esch and Jean-Claude Schmitt (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2002), vol. 2, pp. 355–79. ———, ‘Art ornemental, art environnemental : au-delà ou en deçà de l’image (art médiéval, art contemporain)’, Images Re-vues, 10 (2012), https://journals.openedition.org/ imagesrevues/2262 (accessed 25 July 2020). Marion Boudon-Machuel, Maurice Brock, and Pascale Charon, eds., Aux limites de la couleur. Monochromie et polychromie dans les arts (1300-1600). Actes du colloque international organisé par l’INHA et le CESR (12-13 juin 2009) (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011). Remi Brague, ‘L’anthropologie de l’humilité’, in Saint Bernard et la philosophie, ed. by Remi Brague (Paris: PUF, 1993), pp. 129–52.

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François Cassingena-Trevedy, La liturgie. Art et métier (Geneva: Ad Solem, 2007). Vincent Debiais, ‘Sons et gestes: Ekphrasis des espaces liturgiques’, Codex Aquilarensis, 30 (2014), pp. 67–82. ———, ‘Du sol au plafond. Les inscriptions peintes à la voûte de la nef et dans la crypte de Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe’, in L’image médiévale: fonctions dans l’espace sacré et structuration de l’espace cultuel, ed. by Cécile Voyer and Eric Sparhubert (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), pp. 301–23. ———, Le silence dans l’art. Liturgie et théologie du silence dans les images médiévales (Paris: Le Cerf, 2019). Elina Gertsman, ‘Phantoms of Emptiness: The Space of the Imaginary in Late Medieval Art’, Art History 41.5 (2018), pp. 800–37. Thomas Golsenne, ‘L’ornemental: esthétique de la différence’, Perspective 1 (2010), pp. 11–26. Hans Jantzen, Ottonische Kunst (Munich: Reimer, 1947). Sarah Kay, ‘Legible Skins: Animals and the Ethics of Medieval Reading’, Postmedieval, 2 (2011), pp. 13–32. Herbert L. Kessler, ‘Real absence: early medieval art and the metamorphosis of vision’, in Morfologie sociali e culturali in Europa fra Tarda Antiquità e Alto Medioevo (Spoleto: CISAM, 1998), pp. 1157–213. ———, ‘The Eloquence of Silver: More on the Allegorization of Matter’, in L’allégorie dans l’Art du Moyen Âge. Formes et fonctions. Héritages, créations, mutations, ed. by Christian Heck (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), pp. 49–67. Berthold Kupisch, ‘Les fresques romanes de Vicq’, Congrès archéologique de France, 142 (1987), pp. 337–42. Anton Legner, ed., Ornamenta ecclesiae: Kunst und Künstler der Romanik: Katalog zur Ausstellung des Schnütgen-Museums in der Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle (Cologne: SchnütgenMuseum der Stadt Köln, 1985). Isabelle Marchesin, ‘Enjeux et usages de l’Apologia à Guillaume de Saint-Thierry dans la tradition de l’histoire de l’art’, in L’Actualité de saint Bernard. Colloque des 20-21 novembre 2009, ed. by Antoine Guggenheim and André-Marie Ponnou-Delaffon (Paris: Lethielleux, 2010), pp. 213–40. Didier Méhu, ‘L’évidemment de l’image ou la f iguration de l’invisible corps du Christ (IXe-XIe siècle)’, Images Re-Vues. Histoire, anthropologie et théorie de l’art (2013), 11, https://journals.openedition.org/imagesrevues/3384?lang=en (accessed 25 July 2020). Victor Mortet and Paul Deschamps, Recueil de textes relatifs à l’histoire de l’architecture en France au Moyen Âge (Paris: Picard, 1911–1920), 2 vols. Anna Moszynska, Abstract Art (London: Thames & Hudson, 1990). Xénia Muratova, ‘L’ambiguité des fonds et les caprices des rinceaux: remarques sur les fonds ornementaux dans l’enluminure du XIIIe siècle’, in Quand la peinture était dans les livres. Mélanges en l’honneur de François Avril, ed. by Mara Hofmann and Caroline Zöhl (Turhnout: Brepols, 2007), pp. 234–45.

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Lawrence Nees, ‘Imperial Networks’, in Medieval Mastery. Book Illumination from Charlemagne to Charles the Bold (800-1475), ed. by Bert Cardon and Jan Van der Stock (Turnhout: Brepols, 2003), pp. 91–100. Otto Pächt, Buchmalerei des Mittelalters (Munich: Prestel, 1984). Eric Palazzo, ‘Le livre-corps à l’époque carolingienne et son role dans la liturgie de la messe et sa théologie’, Quaestiones Medii Aevi Novae (2010), pp. 31–63. Michel Pastoureau, Figures et couleurs. Études sur le symbolique et la sensibilité médiévales (Paris: Le léopard d’or, 1986). ———, ‘Noir, gris, blanc. Trois couleurs en mutation à la fin du Moyen Âge’, in Aux limites de la couleur. Monochromie et polychromie dans les arts (1300-1600). Actes du colloque international organisé par l’INHA et le CESR (12-13 juin 2009), ed. by Marion BoudonMachuel, Maurice Brock, and Pascale Charon (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), pp. 15–23. ———, ‘À la recherche de l’incolore. Histoire d’un horizon théorique’, in Histoire et géographie de la couleur, ed. by Pascale Dollfus, François Jacquesson, and Michel Pastoureau (Paris: Le Léopard d’or, 2013), pp. 225–48. Michel Perrin, L’iconographie de la Gloire à la sainte croix de Raban Maur (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009). Francisco Prado-Vilar, ‘Silentium: El silentio cósmico como imagen en la Edad Media y la Modernidad’, Revista de poética medieval, 27 (2013), pp. 21–43. Heather Pulliam, ‘Color’, Studies in Iconography, 33 (2012), pp. 3–14. Rabanus Maurus, In honorem sanctae crucis, ed. by Michel Perrin (Turnhout: Brepols, 1997). Denys Riout, La peinture monochrome. Histoire et archéologie d’un genre (Nîmes: Éditions Jacqueline Chambon, 1996). Patricia Roger, ‘Étude technique sur les décors de manuscrits carolingiens’, in Les manuscrits carolingiens. Actes du colloque de Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, le 4 mai 2007, ed. by Marie-Pierre Laff itte and Jean-Pierre Caillet (Turnhout: Brepols, 2008), pp. 203–17. Conrad Rudolph, The Things of Greater Importance: Bernard of Clairvaux’s Apologia and the Medieval Attitude toward Art (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990). Daniel Russo, ‘Plans, fonds, surfaces: presence visuelle et politique de l’objet à l’époque carolingienne’, in Charlemagne et les objets. Des thésaurisations carolingiennes aux constructions mémorielles, ed. by Philippe Cordez (Bern: Peter Lang, 2012), pp. 3–27. Roberto Salas and Fernando Galtier Martí, La arquitectura románica de los maestros lombardos en Aragón. Las primeras fases constructivas de la catedral de San Vicente de Rosa de Isábena (Huesca) (Saragosse: Mira, 2012). Carolina Sarrade, ‘La nef de Saint-Savin: deux ateliers, deux techniques, approche archéologique des peintures’, Cahiers de Saint-Michel de Cuxa, 47 (2015), pp. 103–16. Meyer Schapiro, ‘One Some Problems in the Semiotics of Visual Art: Field and Vehicle in Image-Signs’, Semiotica, I (1969), pp. 223–42.

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Albert Vives, ‘El Beatus de la Seu d’Urgell: descripció temàtica i artistica de los miniatures’, Urgellia, 6 (1983), pp. 453–500. Julius von Schlosser, Schriftquellen zur Geschichte der Karolingischen Kunst (Vienna: Georg Olms Verlag, 1892). Cécile Voyer, Orner la parole de Dieu. Le livre d’Évangiles et son décor (800-1300) (Paris: Garnier, 2018). John Williams, The Illustrated Beatus: A Corpus of the Illustrations of the Commentary on Apocalypse (London: Harvey Miller, 1994–2003), 5 vols. Nino Zchomelidse, ‘Liminal Phenomena: Framing Medieval Cult Images with relics and Words’, Viator, 47.3 (2016), pp. 243–96.

About the Author Vincent Debiais is a faculty member at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris. He has published extensively on medieval epigraphy and on the relations between texts and images in medieval art. His books include Messages de pierre. La lecture des inscriptions dans la communication médiévale (2009); La croisée des signes: L’écriture et l’image (800-1200) (2017); and Le silence dans l’art. Théologie et liturgie du silence dans les images médiévales (2019). In his new project, he explores abstract thinking and non-figurative images in the visual culture of the Middle Ages, focusing particularly on the use of plain colours in medieval manuscripts and wall paintings.

2.

Abstraction’s Gothic Grounds1 Aden Kumler Abstract Gothic art has usually been deemed the graveyard of medieval practices of abstraction and the infancy of an artistic ‘naturalism’ that acquires def inite form in the Renaissance. So, too, although the qualifier ‘abstract’” has often been applied to medieval works of art, art historians seem tacitly to have accepted that the theorization of abstraction is an emphatically post-medieval phenomenon. In this essay I aim to challenge both of these presumptions by closely examining an anomalous, figure-less miniature in a fifteenth-century illuminated manuscript of Guillaume de Deguileville’s Pèlerinage de l’âme. I argue that its abstraction is highly motivated and even depictive in relation to the text it accompanies, which meditates upon abstraction’s crucial role in medieval accounts of the aesthetic-intellectual grounds of human concept formation. Keywords: Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, abstractio, problem of universals, aesthetic experience, aesthetic theory

Although it is not hard to find invocations of ‘abstraction’ or descriptions of abstract forms in the abundant art-historical literature dedicated to medieval art, it is something of an open secret among historians of medieval art that we lack a strong account of the play and place of abstraction and abstract forms in the arts of the medieval period.2 To date, medievalist art historians seem tacitly and persistently to have agreed that the early and high Middle Ages afford the richest stalking ground for art historians in pursuit of medieval abstraction.3 This implicit consensus that the art of the Middle Ages was strongly shaped by practices of visual abstraction until the Gothic period has been sustained, for generations now, on formal grounds powerfully informed by post-medieval artistic practices and their critical receptions: both the art of the Renaissance and the diverse practices of abstraction in 20th- and 21st-century art play a crucial role in this formalist stock-taking. To put this in other terms, no doubt, reductively: the very formal and visual criteria by which

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_ch02

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medievalist art historians have recognized ‘abstraction’ in medieval works of art are themselves artefacts of art-historical ‘takes’ on post-medieval artistic practices.4 No doubt, this state of affairs stems from another tacit, but seemingly widespread conviction among art historians: namely, that the Middle Ages, from start to finish, had no endogenous aesthetic theory (or theories) of abstraction. As a consequence, medievalist art historians have borrowed language and concepts devised in response to post-medieval works of art produced under the varied historical conditions of 20th-century art practices, criticism, and art historiography.5 Such recourse to postmedieval criteria, concepts, and vocabularies in discussions of abstract forms and varieties of abstraction in the arts of the Middle Ages is ubiquitous; its felt necessity so powerful that it goes unremarked.6 It, nonetheless, poses significant problems. As Nelson Goodman trenchantly observed, the terms ‘abstraction’ and ‘abstract’ have been ‘used in an art context’ in a fashion that ‘runs close to paradox’.7 Following Goodman, one could distinguish between an ‘abstraction’ that designates ‘processes of image-making in which only some of the visual elements usually ascribed to ‘“the natural world” are extracted’ and ‘abstraction’ as a characterization ‘of certain works that fall only partially, if at all, into what is commonly understood to be representational’.8 Goodman is surely correct to note that while the two senses of ‘abstraction’ and ‘abstract’ are not coterminous, they have both been deployed to describe works of art that are deemed to have a ‘privative force’, be that ‘force’ construed as purificatory, reductive, or privative.9 In Goodman’s view, characterizing a work of art as ‘abstract’ in this privative sense of the term is sensical only if and when ‘it lacks a certain function or feature that is usual for and expected of [such a work] in general’.10 On this account, ‘abstraction’ or ‘abstract’ are always predicated upon what is not abstraction or not abstract, namely representation or denotation.11 Clearly, such usage will not do for medieval art.12 It is far from clear that medieval artists and audiences understood ‘representation’ to be ‘usual for and expected of’ works of art ‘in general’, along the lines envisioned by Goodman. Accordingly, any conception of abstraction in art grounded upon the perceived ‘lack’ of features and functions normatively ascribed to works of art is of little use to the analysis of medieval art. Further, it is not self-evident that medieval makers and audiences understood the abstract forms they created and encountered to be purified of, deprived of, or otherwise free from denotative or representational elements pointing beyond pictorial space (or the material form of the object) to the ‘natural’ world. Without a priori rejecting Goodman’s claim that abstraction has some ‘privative force’, I would suggest not only that many medieval works of art offer strong evidence for a dialectic, non-paradoxical relation between ‘privative force’ and a ‘generative force’, but, more broadly, that much medieval art calls into question the distinction between abstraction and representation, denotation and mimesis (writ large).

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Figure 2-1. Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1404-1405. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 829, fol. 219v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Any desire for terminological or conceptual precision concerning abstraction in the arts of the medieval period is, in my view, premature and likely misguided. Rather than taking a deductive approach to the critical project of sorting out what ‘abstraction’ is, and how it works in medieval art, I would suggest that an inductive approach is called for. The ubiquity and diversity of visual forms that strike modern art-historical eyes as abstract in works from the medieval period suggests that we would do better to inductively work from the ground up than to import or impose concepts and definitions strongly informed by post-medieval premises and aesthetic norms in a top-down, deductive fashion. A single essay cannot do justice to the abstract forms and forms of abstraction encountered in medieval works of art and the considerable challenges involved in seeing and interpreting medieval forms of abstraction and abstract forms in the wake of ‘art since 1900’. In this chapter I do not attempt that work; I will instead closely consider one late Gothic painting in its manuscript context (Figure 2-1).13 The painting examined in this essay is a late medieval participant in a long-lived medieval tradition of experimenting with and deploying abstract forms and varied

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forms of abstraction. One could, on formal grounds, compare it to other medieval manuscript paintings that similarly deploy colour, geometric form, and a bounded format as their exclusive visual-pictorial means. The miniatures painted in a copy of Books 17–24 of Vincent of Beauvais’s Speculum historiale (Lyon, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 182 [110]; dated by a colophon to 1346), for example, might seem to be an obvious comparandum (Figure 2-2).14 Such a comparison soon falters. All the framed miniatures in this manuscript take the form of internally subdivided rectangular fields filled with repeated motifs and organized, in part, by chromatic alternation; none of these paintings has an overt hermeneutic relation to the text it punctuates. In both of these respects, the miniatures in Lyon, BM, MS 182 (110) must be distinguished from the painting I will discuss: the aims, ends, and effects produced by the inclusion of abstract painted compositions in these two manuscripts are, in ways that mattered and still matter, quite distinct, despite their resemblance at first glance.15 The miniature that is the focal point of this essay is remarkable not because of its formal vocabulary and seemingly aniconic character, but because in discharging the task of illustration—a species of representation—it directly confronts and instantiates late medieval conceptions of abstraction by visual means (see Figure 2-1).

The Ravenelle Painter’s abstract painting in Paris, BnF, MS fr. 829 Many richly illuminated manuscripts containing Guillaume de Digulleville’s Pèlerinage de la vie humaine and Pèlerinage de l’âme, including Paris, BnF, MS fr. 829 (henceforth MS fr. 829), are filled with extensive series of miniatures.16 Embedded in the text, these paintings picture key moments in the poetic allegory’s recounting of the author-turned-Pilgrim’s journey through a dream landscape in which he encounters numerous inventive personifications of virtues and vices, travels the treacherous Sea of the World, meets Death and dies, and then, accompanied by an Angel-guide, continues his pilgrimage into the afterlife, visiting purgatory and the torturous ambient of Hell, and, finally, contemplating the hierarchy of heaven.17 Illuminated single-handedly by an artist whom Eva Lindqvist Sandgren has dubbed the Ravenelle Painter,18 MS fr. 829 belongs to a group of four extensively illuminated copies of the Pèlerinages made in Paris, all of which employ the same mise-en-page.19 The Ravenelle Painter participated in the painting of each of the manuscripts in this group; thus, by the time he set about his work in on MS fr. 829—dated c. 1404–1405, and so likely the last of the four to be completed—he already had considerable experience providing miniatures for the Pèlerinage de l’âme.20 Each of MS fr. 829’s two component texts—the second version of the Pèlerinage de la vie humaine (identified as the Pèlerinage du corps in the manuscript) and the

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Figure 2-2. Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale, 1346. Lyon, BM, MS fr. 182 (110), fol. 233r. Photo: IRHT, courtesy of the IRHT and the Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon.

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Figure 2-3. Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1404-1405. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 829, fol. 39r. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Pèlerinage de l’âme—opens with a pictorial frontispiece that spans the width of the text block. The remaining images painted in MS fr. 829 take the form of 203 framed column-wide miniatures that punctuate each of the poem’s columns of verse.21 These images serve as pictorial pendants to subunits of verse, visually epitomizing the narrative episodes that make up the poems’ long and involved Christian allegory. Throughout the volume, the Ravenelle Painter depicted figures, architectural elements, furnishings, and objects in a delicate semi-grisaille, whereas the densely patterned grounds of his framed miniatures are executed in opaque, polychromatic painting. These differentiated techniques, employed consistently in the manuscript’s illuminations, establish a scheme wherein allegorical-narrative action in the foreground is conveyed by visual forms delineated with an agile, at times calligraphic, line and modelled in transparent washes, which form a strong contrast to the resolutely flat, fully pigmented fields of repeating pattern that fill each composition’s negative space. The optical contrast between semi-grisaille

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Figure 2-4. Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1404-1405. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 829, fol. 10v. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

painting and opaque polychromy creates a strong distinction between figure and ground that structures each of the manuscript’s illuminations and its pictorial programme as a whole. As mentioned above, in MS fr. 829 the Ravenelle Painter largely abided by the mise-en-page already established in earlier copies of the two Pèlerinages texts. His contributions to the manuscript nonetheless reveal an intense, often quite sophisticated experimentation with the pictorial potential of frames—a potential he cultivates in a selective, and often subtle loosening of the frame’s powers of confinement. In MS fr. 829 figures and architectural elements suggestively overlap the frame, pass behind it, or else demand that the frame exceed the width of the column so as to enclose their forms (Figure 2-3 and 2-4). In the penultimate page of the manuscript (fol. 219v), however, the artist radically intervened in the manuscript’s mise-en-page and pictorially diverged from the three other copies of the Pèlerinage de l’âme he illuminated, and indeed from all

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Figure 2-5. Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1404-1405. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 829, fol. 39r. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

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other illuminated manuscripts of the text known to me (Figure 2-5).22 In the outer margin of the page, the figures of the Pilgrim and his Angel-guide are depicted in the grisaille technique that the illuminator consistently employed for foreground figures, architecture, and objects in all of the manuscript’s framed miniatures. Seated on a bench, the Pilgrim looks up and gestures to the Angel, who stands atop a pinnacle-like architectural structure above him. The Angel, both hands raised in gesticulation, does not return the Pilgrim’s gaze; his subtly torqueing form directs the reader’s attention to the adjacent text column. Within that column of text and directly next to the Pilgrim, the illuminator painted a framed miniature whose opaque polychromy contrasts strongly with the delicate figuration that occupies the outer margin. Enclosed by an outer nested frame of gold leaf outlined in black, and an inner frame painted in red pigment, outlined with black and highlighted by thin white lines, the miniature is composed of a rectangular monochrome deep blue field, overlaid with a grid of vertical and horizontal golden lines, grouped in triplets and pairs. Intersecting at right angles, these glittering lines divide the monochrome field into a 9 × 7 grid of 63 squares, each of which frames a central circular form painted in gold. Four spatular forms, alternately painted in pale blue or purple-red, are disposed in the corners of each of the grid’s square zones. Small segments of golden lines extend from the edges of each square towards the circle painted at its centre, intervening between the spatular forms.

Abstraction as ground in Gothic illuminations The framed miniature embedded in the left-hand column of BnF MS fr 829, f. 219v is at once a profoundly startling work of art and a highly conventional product of its artistic milieu (see Figure 2-1). Despite its resolutely abstract composition, to a beholder familiar with fourteenth- and fifteenth-century northern French illumination, the painting instantly calls to mind the densely patterned ‘grounds’ that fill the frames of countless miniatures produced in thirteenth-, fourteenth-, and fifteenth-century Paris. To take but one example: in an unfinished miniature preserved in a volume of the Grandes Chroniques localized to Paris and dated after 1380 (BL, Royal MS 20 C VII, f. 107v), the negative space surrounding the underdrawing of the foreground scene (a depiction of King Jean II of France making Charles d’Espagne Constable of France) is fully painted in red pigment overlaid with a grid-like structure of triplet gold lines enclosing delicate golden curling tendrils within its square compartments (Figure 2-6). Such painted, patterned ‘grounds’ were routinely employed as non-mimetic compositional elements in late medieval illuminations. Perhaps thanks to the

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Figure 2-6. Grandes Chroniques de France, after 1380. London, British Library, Royal MS 20.C.VII, fol. 107v, detail. Photo courtesy of the British Library Board.

ubiquity of this markedly non-mimetic, yet visually potent approach to negative space, the obvious abstraction of these Gothic ‘grounds’ has been overlooked by art historians, with the important, but seemingly unknown or ignored, exception of Bernd Rau’s 1975 dissertation.23 The painting in the left-hand column of MS fr. 829, f. 219v patently derives its formal vocabulary and compositional structure from the abstract ‘grounds’ painted in antecedent and contemporary illuminated manuscripts. It is, however, not a (back)ground for anything (see Figure 2-1). Occupying its rightful place within a column of verse, the miniature is nothing more or less than a fully realized abstract painting constructed with a repertoire of simple forms, alternating chromatic contrasts, and the schema of the grid. It might be objected that the miniature is an unf inished painting, or that some miscommunication or moment of incompetence caused the illuminator to place f igures in the margin that belong within the frame and to f ill the full

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extent of framed pictorial space with what ought to have been merely an interstitial patterned ground. In what follows I will show that the miniature is not unf inished, nor did it result from an artistic mistake. The Ravenelle Painter’s abstract painting is, rather, a deliberate and sensitive response to a conventional, quotidian task discharged by medieval illuminators: to create a fitting pictorial pendant to the text already inscribed on the parchment surface. Like the other images painted in MS fr. 829, the miniature has an intimate relationship with the text it accompanies.

Waking up to abstraction in BnF MS fr. 829 In the Pèlerinage de l’âme’s final narrative episode, the Pilgrim asks his Angel-guide for an explanation of how the Christian Trinity can at once be three persons and one deity. The Angel responds with a lengthy speech, which I will discuss in some detail below. Having delivered this lesson in Trinitarian ontology, the Angel abruptly ascends to heaven. As the Pilgrim-narrator relates: En ce point tantost hault vola Et vers le preuost droit ala Ais aussi comme leuil auoye24 [At this point suddenly he (the Angel) flew up and went straight to the provost (St. Michael). But as I had my eye trained (…)]25

It is precisely at this point that the Ravenelle Painter’s abstract painting intervenes in the text column of verses, interrupting the Pilgrim’s narration mid phrase (see Figure 2-5). The line of verse inscribed directly below the miniature picks up the Pilgrim’s narration without missing a beat: A lui et que le regardoye Vne clarte du lieu hautain Sur mes yeulx descendit a plain Et tantost les me fist ouurir Que cloz auoye par dormir Esueillie fu et me trouuay En mon lit dont tost me leuay Dolent que si trestost auoye Perdu et solas et joye26

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Figure 2-7. Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme, c. 1390-1401. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 12465, fol. 147v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

[(…) on him and watched him a brightness fell fully upon my eyes from a high place and immediately made me open them, (for) they had been closed in sleep. I was awakened and found myself in my bed; from which I soon got up, grieving that I had so suddenly lost pleasure and joy]

The abstract painting thus marks a crucial point in the poem: the departure of the Angel-guide, followed immediately by the descent of heavenly light that blinds the Pilgrim and jolts him out of the dream. The narrator’s mournful response to the loss of his dream is depicted in the second framed miniature painted on f. 219v. Here we see the woken narrator lying in bed and gesturing towards an open book placed on a tall lectern, presumably an evocation of the lengthy poem the dream will provoke him to write. But what are we to make of the abstract painting in the left-hand text column, a painting that interrupts the lines of verse precisely at the moment when the Angel disappears and the Pilgrim, straining to watch him go, is suddenly struck by heavenly light? Paris, BnF, MS fr. 12465, a copy of the Pèlerinage de l’âme roughly contemporary with MS fr. 829, presents us with an alternative response to the challenge of visually representing this culminating moment in the poem (Figure 2-7).27 In the miniature painted in f. 147v, we see the pilgrim lying in a bed in the lower right corner of the composition. From the concentrically nested arcs of heaven in the upper-right-hand corner of the image, paper-thin flattened folds of drapery, interleaved between celestial bands, describe the disappearing form of the Pilgrim’s angelic guide. On the

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left side of this schematic rendering of the hierarchic space of heaven, the illuminator delineated the strong diagonal descent of the celestial light that fills the Pilgrim’s vision and forces him to open his eyes. Depicting the two culminating events of the dream within a single frame, the illuminator presents us with a conventionally extrinsic perspective on the Pèlerinage de l’âme’s narrative dénouement. The Ravenelle Painter took a significantly different tack in MS fr. 829. Depicting the personae dramatis of the allegorical narrative in the margin, the artist transformed both figures into extra-textual onlookers and evacuated the previously diegetic space of the miniature of all overt narrative action. To understand the Ravenelle Painter’s recourse to abstraction in this miniature, we need to go back one folio in the manuscript, to the beginning of the Pilgrim and Angel’s discussion of the Trinity (f. 218rA). At the start of this final section of the Pèlerinage de l’âme’s narrative, the Pilgrim asks his angelic guide for assistance in understanding the ontology of the Christian Trinity: Le pelerin Iay dis ie grant merueillement Et ay eu moult longuement Comment troiz puissent estre vn Et aient vn pouoir commun Exemples en ay mains oys Maiz nul bien propre a mon aduis Nen est qui du tout saccorde A ce que on en recorde Si prie quil te veuille plaire Dire men vn exemplaire Dautre guise que nay oy28 [The Pilgrim: I’ve greatly wondered, I said, and for a long time now, how three can be one, and can have one power in common. I’ve heard many exempla, but none of them, in my view, truly and completely accord with what is recorded. Thus, I ask, if you please, tell me some exemplum of another sort than I’ve not heard before]

Although the Angel initially refuses the Pilgrim’s request, saying ‘Certes dist il moult est fol qui/ veult sauoir plus quil nappartient/ A lui et que ne lui couuient’ (‘Certainly, he [the Angel] said, he is quite crazy who wants to know more than is fitting or good for him!’), he quickly relents and offers the Pilgrim the desired Trinitarian exemplaire in the form of a lesson in looking and in abstraction.29 The Angel’s disquisition opens with a consideration of a remarkable colour, made by Nature and by Art:

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Une coulour fait nature Et aussi par auanture Art qui ensuit sa manere Maiz nature sa painture Fait meilleur et sa tainture Car elle est plust grant ouuriere Celle couleur coustumiere Est demonstrer trine chiere Et face a la regardeure Vne foiz verdeur planiere Autre rougeur monstre entiere Autre foiz deaureure Ilz sont ouuraiges de soye Aucuns ou art se employe A ouurer de telle guise Nature len mist en voye Pour ce que vest et armoye Mains oiseaulx de tel cointise Il nest nul se bien sauise Qui tel naturel maistrise Sur vn paon bien ne voye Telx plumes a ou est mise La coulour que ie deuise Rouge dor et qui verdoye30 [Nature makes a colour and so too, by chance, does Art, who follows her (Nature’s) manner; but Nature better makes her painting and her dying, for she is a greater artisan (ouuvriere). This colour is in the habit of exhibiting a threefold appearance (chiere); in front of the beholder (literally, before a look) it shows (itself) at one time fully green, at another entirely red, at another time golden. There are some works of silk in which art occupies itself with working in such a manner; Nature put her (Art) on this path because she (Nature) clothes and arms many birds so elegantly (de tel cointise) there is no one, if he looks/considers carefully, who cannot see such natural mastery upon a peacock. It possesses such feathers in which the colour of which I am speaking ( je devise) is set: red, golden, and what shimmers green]

The Angel’s lesson in Trinitarian ontology proceeds from peacock feathers and shot silk: two material stuffs that share the quality or property of iridescence. Describing human artifice as an emulation of Nature’s manere and painture, the

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Angel directs the Pilgrim to carefully consider the complex dynamic of the peacock feather and shot silk’s shifting, three-fold chromatic appearance in relation to each material’s single, integral substance. Recourse to these material examples, the Angel explains, is necessary because the Pilgrim, like all human beings, must be dottrine sensiblement (‘instructed by means of sensible things/sensibly’): Lentendement riens nen creust Se leuil hors ne len eust Et dottrine sensiblement En chetiuoisons en geust Car enfourmer ne le peust Raison par nul enseingnement Or te tieng je ce parlement Pour te donner advuisement De ce que quiers car me pleust Que fourmasses aucunement Ton chaitiuet entendement Qui plus enquiert que ne deust31 [The understanding doesn’t believe anything if the eye outwardly hasn’t sensibly (sensiblement) instructed it; (the eye) lies in misery because reason cannot inform it by any teaching. I now offer you this discourse (parlement) to give you counsel (advisement) concerning what you seek; for it would please me that you form/ develop ( fourmasses) a bit (aucunement) your wretched understanding, which inquires more than it should]

Observing that human understanding proceeds from sense data to reasoned inferences, the Angel offers the Pilgrim both material exempla and an exemplary lesson in how to inductively and analogically work from one aesthetic property they share—iridescence—to a better understanding of the Trinity’s exceptional ontology. Le roy de toute puissance Aussi—crea il substance Comme accident ou qualite Aussi puet il ordonnance Et mettre lun par plaisance Comme en lature en verite Se dont accident trinite De troiz couleurs en vnite Il a par bonnne aliance

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Aussi a il auctorite Vne substance en trinite Ordonner sens descordance En la qualite trinee Et de trois couleurs paree Qui est vne sensiblement Peut estre consideree Vne substance adouree En troiz personnes proprement Ces troiz son vn dieu seulement En unite conionttement Senz quelque riens deuisee Maiz lueil de bon entendement Y doit faire distinguement Quant la personne est nommee Rougeur verdeur doreure Afin que en soit figure La dicte couleur trinee Y peut estre sens tainture Et senz naturel painture Pour juste cause trouuee […] Et si est chose notable Que la chose appartenable A chascun singulierement Riens a lautre descordable Nest ne point desconuenable Leur estre est vn tres simplement32 [The king of all power, just as he created substance as well as accident or quality, so too he can truly put one (i.e., substance or accident) in place/order (mettre ordonnance) as in the other, according to his pleasure. If, then, in the Trinity there is the accident of three colours in one unity/entity by [means of] a good conjoining/union (par bonne alliance), so too he has the power/authority to arrange (ordonner) one substance in the Trinity without disharmony. In the quality that is triplex/triune and of three colours ornamented (paree), that is [the quality] that is one/single according to the senses (sensiblement), can be considered one substance golden/adored (adouree) in three persons, literally/

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properly. These three are only one God conjoinedly in a unity without any thing divided/separated (quelque riens deuisee), but the eye of good understanding must therein distinguish when a person (of the Trinity) is named/designated. Redness, greenness, goldenness—so that the aforementioned triune colour may be figured (Afin que en soit figure)—can, for good reason, be found there without natural dying and without natural painting (…) And it is a notable thing (chose) that the thing that can belong (chose appartenable) to each one singularly (is not) discordant to the other, nor at all unseemly; their being is one, quite simply.]

Although, in the continuation of this passage, the Angel glosses each of the three colour-aspects of feather and textile in relation to each person of the Trinity (gold for God the Father, red for Christ, green for the Holy Spirit), his exposition is framed primarily by the philosophical terminology of ‘accident’ and ‘substance’.33 The Angel’s marked use of these terms of art evokes contemporary theological discussions of the Trinity, discussions that were, at the time of the poem’s composition, profoundly shaped by debates concerning a major philosophical topic, known today as the so-called ‘problem of universals’.34 In the medieval period the problem of universals was actually a constellation of problems or questions that spanned (and were variously construed within) the interrelated philosophical ‘subfields’ of logic, metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology. Two large questions were central to the problem of universals as it was variously taken up over the course of the Middle Ages: how does the human mind form or acquire universal concepts from its experience of particular, individual existing things (existents)? How do universal properties (or features, qualities) come to be actualized or instantiated in particular, individual existents? It is the first of these questions—a central problem for epistemology and logic in the Middle Ages—that the Angel’s lesson in Trinitarian ontology overtly engages. The Angel’s recourse to the material examples of peacock feather and shot silk, and his exposition of their conceptual utility in relation to the mysterium of the Trinity, reveal him to be an up-to-date exponent of contemporary thought concerning the problem of universals construed in epistemological terms. More specifically, the Angel’s lecture indicates that he understands human beings to acquire or form concepts by means of abstractio or abstraction.35 Deeply indebted to Aristotle and Aristotelian thought, not least as it was significantly mediated by Ibn-Sīnā (Avicenna, d. 1037), medieval accounts of abstraction argued that it was intellective responses to sensory experiences of individual existents in the world that enabled human beings to inductively form universal concepts in the mind (universalia post rem). On this account, for example, a person forms a concept of ‘red’ or ‘redness’ by subjecting sensory data derived from singular red existents (this red apple, that red cloth, this appearance of blood, the red hair of

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that woman) to a process of abstraction that works from both perceived similarity and difference to intellectively isolate a given shared accident, quality, or property of each singular existent and, adjudicating its similarity to, and difference from other individual (red) existents, on the basis of this aesthetic-intellective activity to inductively form a concept of a universal (red or redness) that can be validly applied to the definition (or predication) of any red existent. For many medieval thinkers, particularly after the twelfth century, abstraction was a, if not the, fundamental epistemological activity of human beings.36 Indeed, even a selective inventory of European medieval thinkers who ascribed a significant role to abstraction in their accounts of human concept formation reads like a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of the medieval intellectual tradition: Boethius, Abelard, Robert Grosseteste, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Matthew of Aquasparta, Robert Kilwardby, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Henry of Ghent, Godfrey of Fontaines, Thomas of Sutton, Duns Scotus, James of Viterbo, Simon of Faversham, Peter Auriol, Meister Eckhart, Walter Burley, Marsilius of Inghen, Jean Buridan, William of Ockham, and Paul of Venice. To paint in very broad strokes, this diverse tradition of thought held that human beings formed concepts and with them acquired knowledge by means of abstractio. For many medieval thinkers, abstraction was profoundly and routinely grounded in aesthetic experience: it proceeded from sensory experiences of particular existing things, involved intellective acts of aesthetic discernment and distinction, and ultimately produced concepts that, in turn, allowed human beings to both make sense of, and to make sound arguments about the aesthetic world in which they lived.37 As an account of how human beings form concepts, abstractio had significant implications for a number of important ontological and epistemological questions. Among them, the question of how human beings could understand the Christian deity as being truly one and yet three differentiated persons—the very question posed by the Pilgrim to his Angel-guide—loomed large for medieval Christian thinkers.38 Confronted with the mysterium of the Trinity’s radical existential simplicity (a seeming contradiction in terms that was also a literal article of faith), medieval Christian accounts of abstraction ran into serious problems. Not only was the Trinity’s simplex yet triune being not available to the human sensorium as a sensible, extra-mental object, it was also an utterly singular, incomparable existent. How could abstraction cope with this divine unicum? What concept of ‘Trinity-ness’ or ‘Trinity-being’ could a person form given the (doctrinal) impossibility of multiple instantiations of ‘Trinity-ness’ (in contrast to the instantiation of ‘redness’ in an apple, a red cloth, the red appearance of blood, and a sunburned Socrates)? The Trinity simply could not be subjected to abstractio’s business-as-usual protocols of aesthetically grounded inductive concept formation. The aporia provoked by the being of the Trinity within epistemological accounts of abstraction implicitly underwrites the interplay of analogy and abstraction in the Angel’s discussion of how the peacock feather and shot silk can help the Pilgrim gain

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a better, if still imperfect, understanding of the being of the Trinity. Each of the three colours presented by the feather or textile can be taken as an analogic term for each of the Trinity’s three distinct persons; the iridescent occurrence of these colour aspects in a single feather or textile offers a further analogic exemplum for the Trinity’s three-in-one being.39 Subjected to the intellectual operations of abstraction, the three-fold chromatic appearance of these two material exempla—feather and shot silk—should, in turn, allow the Pilgrim to form a concept—albeit an approximate one—of three-in-one-ness. In the continuation of his discourse the Angel confronts the aesthetic-epistemological challenge of the Trinity head-on, decrying the limitations of human understanding in terms that again emphasize the aesthetic grounds of abstractio: Lors diras tu par droiture Moult est fole creature Qui de dieu comprehension Veult faire en poure closture Dentendement et masure Ou pou peut de repleccion Entendement nest que cage Et vn petit herbergage Pour comprendre la nature Dun petit oisel ramage Ou dune beste sauuage Ou de autre creature Et moult a auant grant cure Quen cage si leur faiture Et leur propre demenage Que diffinicion pure En puist donner a droiture Et que ny ait riens umbrage40 [(…) Then you will say quite rightly that a creature is quite mad who wants to comprehend God in the poor enclosure and dwelling-place (masure) of understanding where so little can be contained (pou peut de repleccion). The understanding is but a cage and a small lodging for enclosing/understanding the nature of a little forest bird or of a savage beast, or other creatures. And one takes great pains in advance to so encage their form/essence ( faiture) and their way of acting/behaving (propre demenage) so that one might rightly give a pure definition (diffinicion pure), and so that there is no obscurity.]

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The Angel’s lament focuses on abstraction’s procedures of reasoned diffinicion. According to his critical assessment, abstractio works well when confronted with the question of determining the form or essence (faiture) of finite existents such as a bird or a beast. It can encage and isolate the form or essence of such creatures, observing their behaviour and, on that basis, construct a ‘pure definition’—a phrase that evokes the differentiae medieval logicians employed, following Aristotle, Porphyry, and Boethius, to dialectically determine or define the nature of existents in categorical terms. The Trinity, by contrast, cannot be captured or classified by abstraction’s aesthetic and dialectical protocols. As the Angel explains, the Christian triune deity’s exceptional ontology exceeds the epistemological capacity of abstractive reasoning: En closture limitee Qui est fenie et bonnee Ne puet plus que son remplage Chose infine ens boutee Ny puet estre nen serre Dessayer seroit folage Se cellui nest mie sage Qui mettre le ciel en cage Veult et toute riens cree Tres fol est a grant oultrage Qui cellui qui fist louurage Veult comprendre en sa casee41 [(…) In a limited enclosure that is finite ( fenie) and bounded (bonnee) there cannot be more than its capacity (remplage). An infinite thing pushed into (it) cannot be enclosed there; to attempt this would be madness. Thus, he who wants to put heaven and everything uncreated (toute riens cree) in a cage is hardly wise. He who wants to comprehend the one who made creation (louurage) in his little household (casee) is quite insane and full of presumption.]

God—the omnipotent maker of all substance, accidents, and qualities—cannot be comprehended by human understanding, the Angel insists. The Trinity’s uncreated infinitude exceeds the finite capacity of the human mind. To attempt to force the chose infinie that is the Trinity into the closture limitee (‘limited enclosure’) of human comprehension would be madness. Emphasizing the Trinity’s infinite creative power and its status as maker of the aesthetic entirety of creation, the Angel couches his critique of humanity’s epistemological presumption and limitations in language that resonates strongly with his prior discussion of the aesthetic objects crafted by Nature and Art,

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objects that he proposed to the Pilgrim’s abstractive gaze. Indeed, considered as a whole, the Angel’s lecture at once models abstraction’s inductive eff icacy and vigorously insists upon its limitations. Responding to the Pilgrim’s need to be dottrine sensiblement (‘sensibly instructed’), the Angel invites him—and, by extension, the reader of the Pèlerinage de l’âme—to consider two aesthetic objects, only to insist that it is precisely the grounding of human understanding in aesthetic experience that makes abstraction’s power to skilfully create concepts out of sensibilia worse than useless when confronted with the uncreated, infinite, Christian creator deity. The futility of human attempts to comprehend the Trinity is given dramatic diegetic form immediately following the Angel’s speech. Having imparted his philosophical lesson on abstraction and its limits, the Angel abruptly abandons the Pilgrim, and the Pilgrim is struck by light that falls from above: a visual shock that forces him to open his eyes, to wake, and thus to lose the pleasure and joy of his dream-vision. The dream’s end gives dramatic narrative form to the philosophical-theological substance of the Angel’s last lesson. As a mode of apperception, abstraction’s reliance on aesthetic objects renders it capable of providing the Pilgrim with only an imperfect understanding of the Trinity, artfully yet approximately crafted from aesthetic experience and glossed by means of analogy. The sudden epiphanic descent of divine illumination or irradiation upon the Pilgrim, by contrast, overwhelms the allegorical figure’s sense of sight and forces the dreamer-narrator to open his eyes to the waking world. No longer the Pilgrim, evicted from the allegorical landscape of his dream, the poet-narrator is abruptly thrust once more into the sensible ‘real world’. Intervening spatially, visually, and meaningfully into the fabric of the poem precisely between the Angel’s departure and the verses that describe the luminous assault on the Pilgrim, the Ravenelle Painter’s miniature presents the manuscript’s reader-viewer with a closture limitee (‘limited enclosure’) filled with an abstract composition: a work of art that at once thematizes and responds to the verses that precede and follow it in an intensely self-reflexive fashion. Like the peacock feather and shot silk recommended to the Pilgrim by the Angel, the painting does not feature anthropomorphic forms or iconographic motifs; nor did the Ravenelle Painter depict a peacock feather or a piece of iridescent silk. Rather, he chose to paint an abstract composition whose quasi-geometric construction figures both abstractio as an epistemological operation grounded in aesthetic experience and the limits of that aesthetic-epistemological process. If the tripled golden lines that compose most of the painting’s grid subtly rhyme with the Trinitarian theme of the Angel’s lengthy speech, and if the all-over composition of the painting invites both comparison and distinction in relation to contemporary painted depictions of patterned textiles, the framed miniature as a whole cannot, I think, be convincingly interpreted as

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either a visual cipher for the Christian Trinity or as a painted simulation of an expanse of silk fabric. Like other images in the manuscript, this miniature, nonetheless, functions as an illustration of the narrative episode it accompanies. Evoking the patterned ‘grounds’ in the manuscript’s other miniatures, the painting seems to have been ‘emptied’ of the forms of singular existents—Pilgrim, Angel, and architecture all appear in the margin—and yet it is far from empty: a unified composition of coloured forms fills the frame. Significantly, the colours employed in the miniature are not precisely those mentioned in the text that precedes it: the painting is composed of red, gold, and blue, not green. The painting is clearly not a substitute or proxy for the analogic terms of iridescent feather or silk; it is, instead, a deliberated visual response to the very problem—and process—of abstraction that is the subject of the Angel’s discourse and the epiphanic disruption of the Pilgrim’s allegorical vision.42 Figuring the aesthetic-intellective progress from singular existents to universal concepts and presenting its beholder with a painting marked by the sudden absence of narrative representation, the miniature transposes the Pilgrim’s illuminated blindness and the loss of his dream-vision into the conventional vocabulary of fourteenth-century Parisian illumination. For the Pilgrim, and for the beholder of the miniature, the allegorical pilgrimage concludes with an experience of disorienting optical plenitude.

Conclusion: Gothic abstraction, hiding in plain sight The miniature painted by the Ravenelle Painter on f. 219v of MS fr. 829 is at once a striking example of Gothic visual abstraction and a painting that discharges the task of representation. Embedded within the philosophically ambitious discussion of the challenge posed by the Trinity to human understanding with which the Pèlerinage de l’âme’s dream-narrative concludes, the miniature responds to this lengthy disquisition on abstractio—the process of concept formation vigorously theorized over the course of the Middle Ages and critically expounded by the Pilgrim’s Angel-guide—by means of abstract painting. Insistently inviting comparison with (and distinction from) the painted ‘grounds’ of other miniatures in the manuscript, the miniature involves its beholder in the aesthetic-epistemological process of discovery, comparison, distinction, and judgement that medieval thinkers understood abstractio to involve. As I have tried to suggest through a close examination of one Gothic miniature in its manuscript context, the medieval period did not lack theorizations of abstraction, nor did the later Middle Ages reject or become disinterested in the making of abstract forms and abstract compositions, or in exploring what abstraction—as

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practised by artists—could accomplish. The perceived absence of theories of abstraction focused on perception and its objects in the Middle Ages is nothing more or less than a blind spot in the historical vision of art historians. 43 Discussions of abstraction as an ontological, epistemological, logical, metaphysical, and aesthetic problem represent one of the great continuities in the history of medieval thought, just as artistic experimentation and deployment of abstract forms and varied forms of visual-material abstraction amounts to a powerful, continuous—if also profoundly historically variable and contingent—current in art-making over the medieval longue durée. How medieval theories of abstraction interacted with the artistic experiments with and investments in abstraction is, however, far from clear. As Barnett Newman once quipped: ‘[…] even if aesthetics is established as a science, it doesn’t affect me as an artist. I’ve done quite a bit of work in ornithology, and I have never met an ornithologist who thought that ornithology was for the birds’. 44 The miniature that I have examined in this essay provides a striking, and strikingly obvious medieval exception to Newman’s dictum, precisely because it directly responds to a materially consubstantial textual discussion of abstraction. It is, in this respect, an exceedingly rara avis. For intellectual historians, historians of philosophy, and philosophers, one of the hallmarks of the medieval philosophical tradition is its vigorous questioning of, and theorizations (plural) of abstraction. Among art historians, by contrast, this major theoretical current—which spans the long Middle Ages from Boethius to Buridan, and beyond—remains unremarked and, as yet, unexplored. Like the abstract ‘grounds’ encountered in so many Gothic illuminations, aesthetically oriented theories of abstraction are everywhere in the medieval period once one starts to look for them. There are manifest difficulties involved in analysing how the making and beholding of abstract forms and varied forms of abstraction in medieval works of art intersected with, paralleled, or else diverged from textualdiscursive elaborations of abstraction. Nonetheless, I think the time has come for art historians to take a long, hard look at abstraction’s varied and forceful presence in the arts and theoretical discourses of the medieval period.

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Notes 1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

I wish to express my thanks to Elina Gertsman for including me in this volume and for her ‘angelic’ editorial feedback. I also owe sincere thanks to my wonderful research assistant Alexis Wells whose work made my own possible. Conversations about abstraction—medieval and non-medieval—with a number of colleagues and students in the last years have made many contributions to my seeing and thinking; I particularly wish to thank Carly Boxer, Nancy Thebaut, Christine Mehring, YveAlain Bois, Chris Lakey, Darby English, Patrick Crowley, Amy Knight Powell, Beate Fricke, and Francisco Prado-Vilar for their insights, questions, and suggestions. Focusing on ornament, decoration, and pattern, Jean-Claude Bonne has pursued a substantial and important investigation of abstract forms in medieval works of art; see, for example: Jean-Claude Bonne, ‘De l’ornemental dans l’art médiéval’; Jean-Claude Bonne, ‘L’ornement – la différence’; Jean-Claude Bonne, ‘Intrications’; Jean-Claude Bonne, ‘“Relève” de l’ornementation’; Jean-Claude Bonne, ‘Noeuds d’écritures’; Jean-Claude Bonne, ‘Ornementation et représentation’; Jean-Claude Bonne, ‘Les ornements de l’histoire’. For two significant attempts at a synthetic assessment of abstraction in medieval art that, like this volume, exclude consideration of ornament (and in which the Gothic period is, sadly, also excluded), see Victor H. Elbern, ‘Anciconica, arte’; Victor H. Elbern, ‘Bildstruktur – Sinnzeichen – Bildaussage’. This marked tendency (predominantly manifest in the use of ‘abstract’ as an adjective to characterize works of art, rather than ‘abstraction’ as a noun) can be confirmed by searching for the terms ‘abstract’ and ‘abstraction’ in Colum Hourihane, ed., The Grove Encyclopedia of Medieval Art and Architecture. Examples of this usage in relation to early and high medieval art are legion. Past attempts to characterize Gothic medieval art in relation to abstraction (variously construed) have fallen out of favour in recent decades: e.g., Wilhelm Worringer, Form in Gothic; Otto Georg von Simson, The Gothic Cathedral; Erwin Panofsky, Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism. For two recent discussions of abstraction in relation to late medieval and early modern art see Amy Knight Powell, ‘Late Gothic Abstractions’; Stefan Trinks, ‘Formen von Abstraktion im Mittelalter: Einfalten und Verschleiern in Trinitarischen Enthüllungen’. Although this point has been repeatedly raised by medievalist art historians, the current resurgence of interest in medieval forms of abstraction and ‘medieval-modern’ affinities seems to disregard these lessons already learned; for critical consideration of the modern creation of medieval ‘abstract art’, see: Madeleine Caviness, ‘Broadening the Definitions of “Art”’; Michael Camille, ‘How New York Stole the Idea of Romanesque Art’. How medieval works of art may have shaped practices of abstraction in post-medieval works of art is a different question and historical project; for two forays in this direction, see Jean-Claude Bonne, ‘Une certaine couleur des idées’; Francisco Prado-Vilar, ‘Silentium’. Already in 1937, in remarks that are still salient today, Meyer Schapiro stressed both the diversity of these historical conditions and their import: Meyer Schapiro, ‘Nature of Abstract Art’. See also the pointed remarks to this effect in Yve Alain Bois,

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7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.

13. 14.

15.

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‘François Morellet/Sol LeWitt: A Case Study’; Yve-Alain Bois, ‘François Morellet/Sol LeWitt: A Case Study Revisited’; Yve-Alain Bois, ‘On the Uses and Abuses of Lookalikes’ (also published in French as Yve-Alain Bois, ‘De l’intérêt des faux-amis’). Medievalist art historians’ invocations of abstraction seem largely to be indifferent to the very diversity of abstractions evident in artworks of the nineteenth, 20th, and 21st centuries and rarely to engage the insights of the critical art-historical literature dedicated to them. It is indeed puzzling that modern and contemporary ‘abstraction’ tout court should be invoked by medievalists, when other currents—for example, conceptual art, minimalism, and much of Joseph Beuys’s practice—arguably afford more apt points of reference on both historical and morphological grounds; for judicious forays in these directions, see Charlotte Denoël, ‘Why not do it?’ and the essays in Jean-Philippe Antoine, ed., Les moyen âge de l’art contemporain. Nelson Goodman, ‘Abstraction’. The points raised in this brief entry are further developed in Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art and Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking. Goodman, ‘Abstraction’. Goodman, ‘Abstraction’. Goodman, ‘Abstraction’. Goodman, ‘Abstraction’. One suspects that it will not do for many other species of visual abstraction, but that much larger point cannot be pursued here. For a collection of critical re-evaluations of abstraction in relation to early 20th-century art, see the essays in Leah Dickerman and others, ‘Abstraction, 1910-1925: Eight Statements’. The limitations of Euro-American modernist conceptions of abstraction are explored in Esther Pasztory, ‘Still Invisible’. I intend to return to the issue of abstraction and abstract forms in the art and thought of the medieval period, as well as in relation to art-historiographical tradition in a future study. Lyon, BM, MS 182 (110) is today the third volume of a four-volume copy of the Speculum historiale (Lyon, BM, MSS 180–183 [110]); unlike the other manuscripts in this four-volume work (i.e., MSS 180–181, 183), MS 182 seems to have been produced by a different team and also bears distinct marks of ownership; for further details, see Françoise Cotton, ‘Les manuscrits à peintures de la Bibliothèque de Lyon’, p. 283, no. 39; Charles Samaran and Robert Marichal, eds., Catalogue des manuscrits, p. 243. Although the miniature painted in f. 125v of the Silos Beatus (London, BL, Add. MS 11695) little resembles the miniature I examine in this essay it is, arguably, a better comparandum. As Francisco Prado-Vilar has elucidated, this yellow monochrome painting gives visual form to the ‘silence in heaven’ that accompanies the opening of the seventh seal in Apoc. 8:1; its abstraction is certainly denotative and textually motivated. For further discussion, see Francisco Prado-Vilar, ‘Silentium’. For the BnF’s cataloging of MS fr. 829, with bibliography, and a link to a full digital surrogate, see https://archivesetmanuscrits.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cc779395. The manuscript once belonged to Jean duc de Berry, whose ex libris inscription is preserved on the first flyleaf; upon his death, it passed to his daughter Marie de Berry, duchesse de Bourbon; for further discussion, see Colette Beaune and Elodie Lequain, ‘Marie de Berry et les livres’.

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Guillaume de Digulleville (often referred to as ‘de Deguileville’; b. 1295–d. after 1358) completed a first version of Pèlerinage de la vie humaine in 1330–1331, subsequently substantially revised by 1355; the Pèlerinage de l’âme followed in 1355–1358 and survives in both a short and long version; his Pèlerinage de Jesus Christ was completed in 1358. For further details concerning the manuscript transmissions of each text, see the Archives du littérature du Moyen Âge online (ARLIMA): https://www. arlima.net/eh/guillaume_de_digulleville.html (accessed 25 July 2020). While there exists an abundant bibliography for the Pèlerinage de la vie humaine, the Pèlerinage de l’âme and the Pèlerinage de Jesus Christ have, until recently, been neglected. For two recent correctives to this status quo, see Le Pèlerinage de l’âme de Guillaume de Digulleville (1355-1358), ed. by Marie Bassano, Esther Dehoux, and Catherine Vincent; Guillaume de Digulleville: les Pèlerinages allégoriques, ed. by Frédéric Duval and Fabienne Pomel. 18. Eva Lindqvist Sandgren, The Book of Hours of Johannete Ravenelle. Michael Camille had previously identified this artist as ‘the artist of the Berry Pèlerinages’: Michael Camille, ‘The Illustrated Manuscripts’, pp. 207–18. 19. This group of four manuscripts, each of which contains the second (authorial) version of the Pèlerinage de la vie humaine, consists of: Paris, BnF, MS fr. 377 (c. 1390); London, BL, Add. MS 38120 (c. 1400); Paris, BnF, MS fr. 1647 (dated in a colophon on f. 170v to 1403); and Paris, BnF, MS fr. 829 (c. 1400–1405). Sandgren identifies MS fr. 829 and BL, Add. MS 38120 as illuminated solely by the Ravenelle Painter: Sandgren, The Book of Hours of Johannete Ravenelle, pp. 72–78. Designating this group as the ‘deuxième famille’ of illuminated Pèlerinage de l’âme, Fréger and Legaré note that while the ‘nombreuses particularités iconographiques’ they share distinguish them from other illuminated copies of the Pèlerinage de l’âme, considerable ‘disparités’ may be noted between their individual cycles of illumination: Fréger and Legaré, ‘Le manuscrit d’Arras (BM, MS. 845)’, pp. 334–6. The group was previously identified and discussed in Camille, ‘The Illustrated Manuscripts’, pp. 207–18. 20. According to Sandgren’s meticulous study, the Ravenelle Painter was also the sole illuminator of London, BL, Add. MS 38120: Sandgren, The Book of Hours of Johannete Ravenelle, p. 75. For further discussion of the varieties of pictorial cycles devised for the Pèlerinage de l’âme, see Fréger and Legaré; Géraldine Veysseyre, Julia Drobinsky, and Emilie Fréger, ‘Liste des manuscrits des trois Pèlerinages’, pp. 425–53; Richard Kenneth Emmerson, ‘Translating Images’, pp. 275–301. 21. The iconographic subjects of the manuscript’s miniatures are inventoried in the BnF’s online cataloguing (see n16 above) and in Camille, ‘The Illustrated Manuscripts’, pp. 328–31 (Cat. no. 23). 22. To the best of my knowledge, this image has passed unremarked, save for a brief mention in Camille, ‘The Illustrated Manuscripts’, pp. 211–2. As Camille and Sandgren have observed, the Ravenelle Painter’s illuminations in Pèlerinages manuscripts are highly inventive in iconographic terms; Sandgren observes that in the two Pèlerinages manuscripts attributed exclusively to the illuminator (BnF, MS fr. 829 and BL, Add. MS 38120), the Ravenelle Painter ‘barely repeats himself […] directly copying only one motif’: Sandgren, The Book of Hours of Johannete Ravenelle, p. 75.

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23.

24.

25.

26. 27.

28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33.

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As Rau explores, patterned ‘grounds’ seem first to appear on the art-historical scene in the eleventh century, become a central feature, in combination with gold grounds, in Northern French (particularly Parisian) illumination in the thirteenth century, and become a quasi-ubiquitous feature of manuscript painting in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries: Bernd Rau, Die ornamentalen Hintergründe. For further discussion, with passing reference to the issue of abstraction, see also Xénia Muratova, ‘L’ambiguité des fonds et les caprices des rinceaux’. For an instructive consideration of gold grounds in European medieval art, with special emphasis on Gothic book illumination, see Ellen J. Beer, ‘Marginalien zum Thema Goldgrund’. MS fr. 829, f. 219vA. In transcriptions from MS fr. 829, I have retained the original orthography and line breaks, and I have silently expanded abbreviations. Italic typeface in transcriptions indicates rubricated text; capitalized and underlined letters indicate pen-flourished two-line initials marking the start of stanzas in the manuscript. The Pèlerinage de l’âme lacks a critical edition; here and below I give page and line references from Stürzinger’s 1895 publication of the text, collated from several manuscripts: Le pelerinage de l’ame, ed. by J. Stürzinger, p. 357 ll. 11,002–4. Although I have consulted Clasby’s English translation of the Pèlerinage de l’âme, I have opted to make my own prose translations from the text as it is preserved in MS fr. 829: Guillaume de Deguileville, The Pilgrimage of the Soul, trans. by Eugene Clasby. I owe Daisy Delogu many thanks for her generous and expert review and emendation of my translations; any errors or infelicities that persist are entirely my responsibility. In my translations, words supplied for the sake of clarification or fluency are set within parentheses or square brakects; italicized text in parentheses or brackets is quoted from the manuscript. MS fr. 829, f. 219vA; Stürzinger, Le pelerinage de l’ame, p. 357 ll. 11,005–13. Dated c. 1390–1401, the manuscript is signed on the same page as the miniature discussed here (f. 147vB) by Raoulet d’Orléans, one of Charles V’s preferred scribes; for the BnF’s online cataloguing of MS fr.12465 (dated 1390–1401), with bibliographic references and a link to a digitalized black-and-white microfilm of the manuscript, see https://archivesetmanuscrits.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cc43661g. See also Camille, ‘The Illustrated Manuscripts’, pp. 347–52 (Cat. no. 30). MS fr. 829, f. 218rA; Stürzinger, Le pelerinage de l’ame, p. 347 (ll. 10,731–41). MS fr. 829, f. 218rA; Stürzinger, Le pelerinage de l’ame, p. 347 (ll. 10,742–4). MS fr. 829, f. 218rB; Stürzinger, Le pelerinage de l’ame, pp. 348–49 (ll. 10,76386). MS fr. 829, ff. 218rB-218vA; Stürzinger, Le pelerinage de l’ame, p. 349 (ll. 10,787–98). MS fr. 829, f. 218vA-B; Stürzinger, Le pelerinage de l’ame, pp. 350–51 (ll. 10,799–846). ‘A dieu le pere est donnee/ Aussi com couleur doree/ Car roys est qui/ tousiours dure/ Dieu le filz a prins liuree/ De vermeil bien tainturee/ En son sang et sa mort dure. Maniere de verdoyement/ Et de vn gay confortement/ A le saint esperit sens fable/ Il esclarcist lentendement/ Et leuil de lame vrayement/ Et y est medicinable.’ (To God the Father is given/attributed, [something] like a golden colour, for he is king who always endures. God the son took a livery of red, well dyed in his blood and his hard death. Truly, the holy spirit has a manner of shimmery green-ness and of a gladdening comforting quality. It truly illuminates the understanding and the

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eye of the soul and is medicinal for them): MS fr. 829, f. 218vB; Stürzinger, Le pelerinage de l’ame, p. 351 (ll. 10,829–40). 34. The ‘problem of universals’ defined a crux (or rather, an imbricated set of cruxes) for medieval philosophers and played a significant role in a number of cognate debates, not least concerning the relation of language to reality and the extra-mental existence of non-singulars, topics vigorously contested by proponents of nominalism and realism. My discussion here is, necessarily, highly generalized. The following offer accessible introductions, with further references: Gyula Klima, ‘Natures: The Problem of Universals’; Claude Panaccio ‘Universals’; Gyula Klima, ‘The Medieval Problem of Universals’. For an illuminating discussion of the ‘problem of universals’ in relation to another late medieval French allegorical poem, see Daisy Delogu, ‘Cognition and Conversion’. 35. To readers wishing to explore further the philosophical complexity of ancient and medieval accounts of abstraction, from a vast (largely philosophical) literature, I recommend Alain de Libéra, La querelle des universaux; Alain de Libéra, L’art des généralités; and Paul Spade, A Survey of Mediaeval Philosophy (Version 2.0), n.p. (Ch. 23, 37–40, 45, 47, 51–52, 57–60). 36. Medieval proponents of the position that human beings form concepts by means of abstractio by no means subscribed to a single account of how this process worked. Further, there were, in the period, other accounts of how human beings possess knowledge of non-singulars, not least a neo-Platonic tradition that upheld a descending process of ontological emanation from universalia ante rem (universals in the divine mind) to universalia in re (existing exemplifications of those universals in the world) to universalia post rem (exemplifications of these universals in the divinely created human mind). On this account, human concept formation required some kind of divine assistance, which, following Augustine, was frequently identified as divine illumination: for a helpful introduction, see Robert Pasnau, ‘Divine Illumination’; Klima, ‘The Medieval Problem of Universals’, § 5. As de Libéra has explored, many medieval thinkers attempted to reconcile the Aristotelian and neo-Platonic accounts: de Libéra, La querelle des universaux. Albertus Magnus, for example, attempted a synthesis of these two accounts that proved influential: Panaccio ‘Universals’, pp. 388–9. The necessity of divine illumination may indeed be evoked in the Pèlerinage de l’âme by the eruption of divine light that blinds the Pilgrim and abruptly terminates his dream-vision; I regret that I cannot further explore this point here. 37. I cannot here address the important thirteenth- and fourteenth-century debates, stimulated most famously by the arguments of Duns Scotus and Ockham, concerning the distinction of abstractive from intuitive cognition; see Robert Pasnau, ‘Cognition’; Katherine Tachau, Vision and Certitude in the Age of Ockham. 38. The following offer a range of perspectives, with further references: Marilyn McCord Adams, ‘Universals in the Early Fourteenth Century’; Christophe Erismann, ‘The Trinity, Universals, and Particular Substances’; Marta Borgo, ‘Universals and the Trinity’; Richard Cross, ‘Two Models of the Trinity?’, Steven Marrone, The Light of Thy Countenance. 39. As the passage above makes plain, because the Angel glosses these three chromatic aspects of feather and fabric in relation to each of the three persons of the Trinity in

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40. 41. 42. 43.

44.

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specific ways, the specific terms of the colour analogy play a hermeneutic role in the Angel’s lesson as well. MS fr. 829, f. 219rA; Stürzinger, Le pelerinage de l’ame, p. 354 (ll. 10,928–45). MS fr. 829, f. 219rB; Stürzinger, Le pelerinage de l’ame, p. 355 (ll. 10,958–69). I thank Elina Gertsman for urging me to think further about the choice of colours in the painting and their divergence from the text. It should be noted that the salience of the philosophical tradition has largely been ignored by art historians working on 20th- and 21st century practices of abstraction; Hubert Damisch, exceptionally, alludes to this blindspot, in passing, in ‘Remarks on Abstraction’. The earlier intellectual history is examined in David Morgan, ‘Concepts of Abstraction in French Art Theory from the Enlightenment to Modernism’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 53 (1992), pp. 669–85; David Morgan, ‘The Enchantment of Art: Abstraction and Empathy from German Romanticism to Expressionism’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 57 (1996), pp. 317–41; David Morgan, ‘The Rise and Fall of Abstraction in Eighteenth-Century Art Theory’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 27 (1994), pp. 449–78. Barnett Newman, ‘Remarks’, p. 247.

Works Cited Marilyn McCord Adams, ‘Universals in the Early Fourteenth Century’, in The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Disintegration of Scholasticism, 1100-1600, ed. by Norman Kretzmann et al. (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 411–39. Jean-Philippe Antoine, ed., Les moyen âge de l’art contemporain, Cahiers de la Villa Gillet, 17 (Lyon: La fosse aux ours, 2003). Marie Bassano, Esther Dehoux, and Catherine Vincent, eds., Le Pèlerinage de l’âme de Guillaume de Digulleville (1355-1358): Regards croisés: Actes du colloque Paris-Nanterre, 29-30 mars 2012, Répertoire iconographique de la littérature du Moyen Age. Les Études du RILMA, 5 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014). Colette Beaune and Elodie Lequain, ‘Marie de Berry et les livres’, in Livres et lectures de femmes en Europe entre Moyen Âge et Renaissance (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007), pp. 49–65. Ellen J. Beer, ‘Marginalien zum Thema Goldgrund’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 46 (1983), pp. 271–86. Yve-Alain Bois, ‘François Morellet/Sol LeWitt: A Case Study’, in Künstlerischer Austausch = Artistic exchange: Akten des XXVIII. Internationalen Kongresses für Kunstgeschichte, Berlin, 15.-20. Juli 1992, ed. by Thomas W. Gaehtgens, 3 vols. (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1993), ii, pp. 305–18. ———, ‘François Morellet/Sol LeWitt: A Case Study Revisited’, October, 157 (2016), pp. 161–80. ———, ‘On the Uses and Abuses of Look-alikes’, October 154 (2015), pp. 127–49.

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———, ‘De l’intérêt des faux-amis’, Les Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, 135 (2016), pp. 3–23. Jean-Claude Bonne, ‘De l’ornemental dans l’art médiéval (VIIe-XIIe siècle): le modèle insulaire’, in L’image: Fonctions et usages des images dans l’Occident médiéval: Actes du 6e International Workshop on Medieval Societies, Centro Ettore Majorana (Erice, Sicile, 17-23 octobre 1992), ed. by Jérôme Baschet and Jean Claude Schmitt, Cahiers du Léopard d’Or, 5 (Paris: Le Léopard d’Or, 1996), pp. 207–49. ———, ‘Intrications (à propos d’une composition d’entrelacs dans un évangile celto-saxon du VIIe siècle)’, in Histoires d’ornement: actes du colloque de l’Académie de France à Rome, Villa Médicis, 27-28 juin 1996, ed. by Patrice Ceccarini, Actes et colloques, 57 (Paris/Rome: Klincksieck/Académie de France à Rome, 2000), pp. 75–108. ———, ‘Les ornements de l’histoire (à propos de l’ivoire carolingien de saint Remi)’, Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 51 (1996), pp. 37–70. ———, ‘L’ornement – la différence dans la répétition’, in La variation, ed. by Christophe Carraud (Orléans: I.A.V. Association des conférences, 1998), pp. 81–99. ———, ‘Noeuds d’écritures (le fragment I de l’Evangéliaire de Durham)’, in Texte-image, Bild-Text, ed. by Sybil Dümchen and Michael Nerlich (Berlin: Technische Universität Berlin, Institut für Romanische Literaturwissenschaft, 1990), pp. 85–105. ———, ‘Ornementation et représentation’, in Les Images dans l’Occident médiéval, ed. by Jérôme Baschet and Pierre-Olivier Dittmar, L’atelier du médiéviste, 14 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), pp. 199–212. ———, ‘“Relève” de l’ornementation celte païenne dans un évangile insulaire du VIIe siècle (les Évangiles de Durrow)’, in Ideologie e pratiche del reimpiego nell’alto Medioevo: 16-21 aprile 1998, Settimane di studio del Centro italiano di studi sull’alto Medioevo, 46, 2 vols. (Spoleto: Centro italiano di studi sull’alto Medioevo, 1999), ii, pp. 1011–53. ———, ‘“Une certaine couleur des idées” Matisse et l’art médiéval’, in Les moyen âge de l’art contemporain, ed. by Jean-Philippe Antoine, Cahiers de la Villa Gillet, 17 (Lyon: La fosse aux ours, 2003), pp. 49–84. Marta Borgo, ‘Universals and the Trinity: Aquinas’s Commentary on the Book I of Peter Lombard’s “Sentences”’, Documenti e studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale, 18 (2007), pp. 315–42. Michael Camille, ‘The Illustrated Manuscripts of Guillaume de Deguileville’s Pelerinages 1330-1426’ (unpublished PhD diss., University of Cambridge, 1984). ———, ‘“How New York Stole the Idea of Romanesque Art”: Medieval, Modern and Postmodern in Meyer Schapiro’, The Oxford Art Journal, 17 (1994), pp. 65–75. Madeleine Caviness, ‘Broadening the Def initions of “Art”: The Reception of Medieval Works in the Context of Post-Impressionist Movements’, in Hermeneutics and Medieval Culture, ed. by Patrick J. Gallacher and Helen Damico (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989), pp. 259–82. Françoise Cotton, ‘Les manuscrits à peintures de la Bibliothèque de Lyon, Essai de catalogue’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1965 (May–June), pp. 265–320.

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Richard Cross, ‘Two Models of the Trinity?’, The Heythrop Journal, 43 (2002), pp. 275–94. Hubert Damisch, ‘Remarks on Abstraction’, October, 127 (2009), pp. 133–54. Daisy Delogu, ‘Cognition and Conversion in Alain Chartier’s Livre de l’Espérance’, New Medieval Literatures, 19 (2019), pp. 243–74. Charlotte Denoël, ‘Why not do it?’, in Make it new. Conversations avec l’art médiéval. Carte blanche à Jan Dibbets, ed. by Charlotte Denoël and Erik Verhagen (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2018), pp. 40–53. Leah Dickerman et al., ‘Abstraction, 1910-1925: Eight Statements’, October, 143 (2013), pp. 3–51. Frédéric Duval and Fabienne Pomel, eds., Guillaume de Digulleville: les Pèlerinages allégoriques, Collection Interférences (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2008). Victor H. Elbern, ‘Anciconica, arte’, in Enciclopedia dell’arte medievale, ed. by Angiola Maria Romanini and Marina Righetti, 12 vols. (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 1991), i, pp. 789–97. ———, ‘Bildstruktur – Sinnzeichen – Bildaussage: Zusammenfassende Studie zur unfigürlichen Ikonographie im frühen Mittelalter’, Arte medievale, 1 (1983), pp. 17–37. Richard Kenneth Emmerson, ‘Translating Images: Image and Poetic Reception in French, English, and Latin Versions of Guillaume de Deguileville’s Trois Pèlerinages’, in Poetry, Place, and Gender: Studies in Medieval Culture in Honor of Helen Damico, ed. by Catherine E. Karkov (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 2009), pp. 275–301. Christophe Erismann, ‘The Trinity, Universals, and Particular Substances: Philoponus and Roscelin’, Traditio, 63 (2008), pp. 277–305. Émilie Fréger and Anne-Marie Legaré, ‘Le manuscrit d’Arras (BM, MS. 845) dans la tradition des manuscrits enluminés du Pèlerinage de l’âme en vers: Spécificités iconographiques et milieu de production’, in Guillaume de Digulleville: les Pèlerinages allégoriques, ed. by Frédéric Duval and Fabienne Pomel, Collection Interférences (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2008), pp. 331–47. Nelson Goodman, ‘Abstraction’, Oxford Art Online (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), https://doi.org/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T000257 (accessed 05 December 2018). ———, Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols, 2nd ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1976). ———, Ways of Worldmaking (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1978). Guillaume de Deguileville, The Pilgrimage of the Soul = Le Pèlerinage de l’ame, trans. by Eugene Clasby, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 471 (Tempe: ACMRS Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2017). Colum Hourihane, ed., The Grove Encyclopedia of Medieval Art and Architecture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/ acref/9780195395365.001.0001/acref-9780195395365 (accessed 25 July 2020). Gyula Klima, ‘Natures: The Problem of Universals’, in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 196–207.

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———, ‘The Medieval Problem of Universals’, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. by Edward N. Zalta (Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2017) https://plato. stanford.edu/archives/win2017/entries/universals-medieval/ (accessed 25 July 2020). Alain de Libéra, La querelle des universaux: de Platon à la fin du Moyen Age, Des travaux (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1996). ———, L’art des généralités: Théories de l’abstraction (Paris: Aubier, 1999). Steven Marrone, The Light of Thy Countenance: Science and Knowledge of God in the Thirteenth Century, Studies in the history of Christian Thought, 98 (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2001). David Morgan, ‘Concepts of Abstraction in French Art Theory from the Enlightenment to Modernism’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 53 (1992), pp. 669–85. ———, ‘The Enchantment of Art: Abstraction and Empathy from German Romanticism to Expressionism’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 57 (1996), pp. 317–41. ———, ‘The Rise and Fall of Abstraction in Eighteenth-Century Art Theory’, EighteenthCentury Studies, 27 (1994), pp. 449–78. Xénia Muratova, ‘L’ambiguité des fonds et les caprices des rinceaux: Remarques sur les fonds ornementaux dans l’enluminure du XIIIe siècle’, in Quand la peinture était dans les livres: Mélanges en l’honneur de François Avril, ed. by Mara Hofmann and Caroline Zöhl, ARS NOVA: Studies in Late Medieval and Renaissance Northern Painting and Illumination (Turnhot/Paris: Brepols/Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2007), pp. 235–45. Barnett Newman, ‘Remarks at the Fourth Annual Woodstock Art Conference’, in Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Interviews, ed. by John Philip O’Neill and Mollie McNickle (New York: Knopf, distributed by Random House, 1990), pp. 242–47. Claude Panaccio, ‘Universals’, in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Philosophy, ed. by John Marenbon (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 385–402. Erwin Panofsky, Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism (New York: New American Library, 1976). Robert Pasnau, ‘Cognition’, in The Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus, ed. by Thomas Williams (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 285–311. ———, ‘Divine Illumination’, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. by Edward N. Zalta (Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2015), https://plato.stanford.edu/ archives/spr2015/entries/illumination/ (accessed 25 July 2020). Esther Pasztory, ‘Still Invisible: The Problem of the Aesthetics of Abstraction for PreColumbian Art and Its Implications for Other Cultures’, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, 19/20 (1990/1991): pp. 104–36. Amy Knight Powell, ‘Late Gothic Abstractions’, Gesta, 51 (2012), pp. 71–88. Francisco Prado-Vilar, ‘Silentium: el silencio cósmico como imagen en la Edad Media y la Modernidad’, Revista de poética medieval, 27 (2013), pp. 21–43. Bernd Rau, Die ornamentalen Hintergründe in der französischen gotischen Buchmalerei (Stuttgart: Verlag Cantz, 1975).

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Charles Samaran and Robert Marichal, eds., Catalogue des manuscrits en écriture latine portant des indications de date, de lieu ou de copiste, t. VI, Bourgogne, Centre, Sud-Est et Sud-Ouest de la France (Paris: CNRS, 1968). Eva Lindqvist Sandgren, The Book of Hours of Johannete Ravenelle and Parisian Book Illumination around 1400, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Figura, ns 28 (Uppsala: Uppsala University Library, 2002). Meyer Schapiro, ‘Nature of Abstract Art’, Marxist Quarterly, 1 (1937), pp. 77–98. Otto Georg von Simson, The Gothic Cathedral: Origins of Gothic Architecture and the Medieval Concept of Order (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988). Paul Spade, A Survey of Mediaeval Philosophy, Version 2.0 (1985), https://pvspade.com/ Logic/docs/The%20Course%20in%20the%20Box%20Version%202_0.pdf (accessed 25 July 2020). J. Stürzinger, ed., Le pelerinage de l’ame de Guillaume de Deguileville, Roxburghe Club Publications, 127 (London: Nichols and Sons, 1895). Katherine Tachau, Vision and Certitude in the Age of Ockham: Optics, Epistemology, and the Foundations of Semantics, 1250-1345, Studien und Texte zur Geistesgeschichte des Mittelalters, 22 (Leiden/New York: Brill, 1988). Stefan Trinks, ‘Formen von Abstraktion im Mittelalter: Einfalten und Verschleiern in Trinitarischen Enthüllungen’, in Formwerdung und Formentzug, ed. by Franz Engel and Yannis Hadjinicolaou, Actus et Imago (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016), pp. 19–49. Géraldine Veysseyre, Julia Drobinsky, and Emilie Fréger, ‘Liste des manuscrits des trois Pèlerinages’, in Guillaume de Digulleville: les Pèlerinages allégoriques, ed. by Frédéric Duval and Fabienne Pomel, Collection Interférences (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2008), pp. 425–53. Wilhelm Worringer, Form in Gothic, trans. by Herbert Read, Rev. ed. (New York: Schocken Books, 1964).

About the Author Aden Kumler is the Professur für Ältere Kunstgeschichte at the University of Basel. The author of Translating Truth: Ambitious Images and Religious Knowledge in Late Medieval France and England (2011), she has written on topics ranging from illuminated manuscripts to the medieval origins of the waffle. She is currently completing a book that examines the mutually emulative material forms and theorizations of coins, seals, and the eucharist over the medieval longue durée.

3.

Abstraction in the Kennicott Bible Adam S. Cohen and Linda Safran Abstract With several different kinds of decoration, the sumptuous Kennicott Bible (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Kennicott 1) is a fertile book for exploring the deployment of abstract art in a late medieval illuminated manuscript. Completed in La Coruña (northwestern Iberia) in 1476, the complete Bible comprises 453 folios and is noted especially for its rich, non-figural ‘carpet’ pages. An analysis of the historical and art-historical background and use of such devices, especially in the context of the full range of decorative features in the book itself, offers insight into how the artist, Joseph ibn Hayyim, exploited and manipulated an abstract mode to communicate ineffable ideas about entering, reading, and seeing the Bible text and beyond. Keywords: Abstraction, David Kimhi, Hebrew Bible, Joseph ibn Hayyim, Moses ibn Zabara, Sephardic

The Kennicott Bible (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Kenn. 1) is widely considered one of the greatest examples of Hebrew manuscript illumination, replete with figural and abstract decoration.1 Comprising 459 folios of very fine parchment, the Bible text (fols. 9v–437v) is framed on fols. 1r–8v and 438v–444r by a grammatical treatise, the Sefer Mikhlol (Book of Perfection) by Rabbi David Kimhi (or Qimhi, also known by his acronym as the Radak, c. 1160– c. 1235).2 Both texts were copied in square Sephardi script by a famous scribe, Moses ibn Zabara, who also provided the Masoretic notes (traditional, detailed lexigraphic information) on each Bible page.3 The volume was furnished with marginal, columnar, and full-page abstract devices by Joseph ibn Hayyim. Unusually, the scribe (fol. 438r) and the artist (fol. 477r) both provided colophons, the latter in anthropomorphic and zoomorphic letters possibly added after the book was bound.4 The scribal colophon states that the book was completed at La Coruña, in the province of Galicia in north-western Spain, on 24 July 1476, for ‘Isaac, son of the honorable, esteemed Don Solomon of Braga’. Perhaps Isaac was connected to the lucrative cloth trade in La Coruña; he must have

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_ch03

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Figure 3-1. Front (right) and rear (left) bindings with tooled and stamped abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.

been very wealthy to commission, or at least receive, such a luxurious book.5 The book is preserved in its original box of tanned goatskin over oak with stamped and tooled geometric patterns on all sides and, on both paste-downs, painted designs by Joseph ibn Hayyim.6 The box binding is one of six surviving specimens made, apparently in Lisbon, for late fifteenth-century Sephardic manuscripts (Figure 3-1).7 A relationship between Joseph ibn Hayyim and a scribe named Abraham ibn Hayyim, attested in southern Portugal in 1462, has largely been discounted, along with the possibility that the Kennicott Bible was copied in Spain but illuminated in Portugal.8 No other Hebrew manuscripts are associated with medieval Galicia, however, which underscores the exceptional status of the book. The Kennicott Bible imitates certain features of the Cervera Bible (Lisbon, Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, MS 72), completed in Catalonia in May 1300 and known to have been in La Coruña in the fourteenth century.9 Like Kennicott, the Cervera Bible encloses the mostly two-column scriptural text in a grammatical treatise by David Kimhi (in this case, Sefer ha-Nikud, or Book of Vocalization), also written in two columns inside elaborate architectural frames.10 Both volumes insert decoration at the end (and sometimes the beginning) of each biblical book, with additional ornamentation to mark each parashah (weekly portion of the Pentateuch) and psalm. In addition, the colophons of the two artists are similarly zoomorphic (although Cervera’s is black and white rather than coloured); Kennicott’s scribal colophon echoes the abbreviations from Isaiah used by the scribe of Cervera; and

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certain figural illustrations in the later book (in particular, that of Jonah and the fish) clearly imitate the earlier work. Yet the Kennicott scribe and artist did not slavishly copy the model from Cervera: the biblical recensions differ,11 and Joseph ibn Hayyim also relied on other exempla, in multiple media, along with his own imagination. The most notable divergence from the Cervera model is Kennicott’s heightened interest in abstract embellishment, immediately evident in the way the extensive micrographic Masoretic notes completely eschew figural form and the greater number of full-page abstract decorations. Our focus in this essay is the fully abstract features of the Kennicott Bible, setting aside both the abundant figural decorations and inventive marginalia found in the architectural frames of the grammatical treatise, the weekly biblical readings, and the Psalms, which in many cases contain recognizable creatures or symbols. In the absence of explicit medieval Hebrew definitions of ‘abstract’ or ‘abstraction’, we turn to the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines the adjective ‘abstract’ as something separated or removed (from the Latin abstrahere, ‘drawn from’). Definition 3b, ‘Of art etc.: free from representational qualities’, is the most relevant: what is removed is recognizable or naturalistic figural and vegetal imagery. This abstract imagery takes several forms in the Kennicott Bible: framed pages composed of colourful geometric interlace (often called ‘carpet’ pages); horizontal, full-column, or smaller interlace panels; and blank leaves of unadorned parchment.12 It includes all sides of the binding; both of the book’s paste-downs, despite the presence of tiny flowers and eagles (Figure 3-2); fols. 119v–120r (Figure 3-3); fols. 121v–122r, although there are dragons in the ‘spandrels’ of fol. 122r (Figure 3-4); fols. 122v–123r (Figure 3-5); fols. 317v–318r, in which the interlace patterns are formed from micrography (Figure 3-6); and fols. 352r and 352v (Figure 3-7). Much of this decoration is dominated by girih (Persian for ‘knot’) patterns and geometric strapwork and stars, rather than vegetal forms or arabesques (called ataurique in the Iberian peninsula).13 Such geometric, ‘Islamicizing’ interlace patterning is usually called mudéjar, but that problematic term will not be used here.14 For our purposes, it is sufficient to acknowledge that this type of abstract decoration was, according to María Feliciano and Leila Rouhi, ‘a common aesthetic language in medieval Iberia’,15 one accessible to artists and patrons of all faiths. We argue that abstract devices in the Kennicott Bible were gateways to God that helped make the book a vehicle for focused contemplation of divinity. Potential sources for Joseph ibn Hayyim’s abstract interlace pages include artesonado (‘wooden ceilings’), marquetry doors, textiles, and carpets, many of which feature repeating geometric designs.16 After examining a wide range of geometric decoration in those media, however, we conclude that they are not as close to the Kennicott Bible as books and bindings, including Jewish, Christian, and Islamic books: detailed comparanda are provided in the appendix. Some Jewish

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Figure 3-2. Front (right) and rear (left) paste-downs, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.

Figure 3-3. Joseph ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 119v (strapwork panel at end of Deuteronomy) and 120r (‘carpet’ page with interlace frame for bleed-through of first page with Temple implements). Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.

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Figure 3-4. Joseph ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 121v (bleed-through of ‘carpet’ page with Temple implements) and 122r (carpet page with dragons in spandrels). Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.

Figure 3-5. Joseph ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 122v (interlaced six-pointed star in interlace roundel) and 123r (‘carpet’ page with gold on blue strapwork forming eight-pointed stars). Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.

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Figure 3-6. Joseph ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 317v–318r, ‘carpet’ pages with micrographic interlace composed of verses from Psalms. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.

Figure 3-7. Joseph ibn Hayyim, abstract ornament, the Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1, fols. 352r (left; strapwork panel at end of Chronicles) and, on the reverse (right), fol. 352v (‘carpet’ page preceding Psalms on fol. 353r). Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.

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Bibles—including the Cervera Bible, which we know Joseph used—already included such pages. In Cervera, two folios between Kimhi’s grammatical treatise and the book of Genesis feature interlace patterns with an eight-pointed star at the centre. These pages, however, are drawn in red ink but otherwise left uncoloured; the impression is that they were never finished, but, in any event, they do not seem to have inspired any of the abstract decoration in Kennicott. The Farhi Bible, copied by Elisha Crescas between 1366 and 1382 (private collection; formerly Jerusalem, Sassoon Collection, MS 368), contains 30 consecutive pages with non-figural decoration in its first volume, which comprises a grammatical treatise and Hebrew dictionary.17 This has not been published in its entirety, but the available images reveal that these pages include two lines of golden Hebrew display text and are surrounded by micrography and floral embellishments; as far as we can tell, they are not as abstract as the Kennicott pages. Many earlier Sephardic Bibles contain pages with non-figural decoration. Two manuscripts now in Paris—Bibliothèque nationale de France (hereafter BnF), MS hébr. 20, dated 1301, and MS hebr. 21, dated 1301–1302—were copied in Tudela by Joshua ben Abraham ibn Gaon of Soria. The scribe and Masoretor of the Cervera Bible, Joshua ben Abraham, has also been identified as the hand of several other manuscripts.18 Both of these Paris manuscripts have ‘carpet’ pages that resemble one or more in the Kennicott Bible: the strapwork mesorah on fol. 1v of MS hébr. 20 is reminiscent of Kennicott fols. 317v–318r, and the interlace on fol. 9v of MS hébr. 20, like the strapwork on fols. 1v, 265r, and 368v in MS hébr. 21, is somewhat similar to that on Kennicott fols. 123r and 352r. None of these comparisons is exact, however, and there is no good reason to limit comparanda to Spanish and Portuguese Hebrew books. Several pages, in fact, more closely resemble the compositions and geometric patterns found in Qur’an manuscripts, as detailed in the appendix. If books were bound or sold in common urban ateliers, or even in neighbouring ones (medieval craft workshops tended to be grouped in a single quarter), artists such as Joseph ibn Hayyim could have seen both the bindings and the contents of non-Jewish books. In their original Islamicate contexts, abstract girih patterns of the sort seen in the Kennicott Bible almost certainly evoked the unity (tawhīd) and infinity of God (Qur’an sura 57:3). Qur’ans ‘offer compositions that radiate from a central point, forming numerous polygons and creating the illusion of infinity’, and such pages at the beginning and end of the Qur’an ‘invite the reader to enter into the spirituality of the book’.19 They do not represent the divinity, of course, but framed geometric panels are implicitly extensible ad infinitum; they are only arbitrarily finite. Yasser Tabbaa asserts that ‘geometric ornament reflected the ordered universe, whose atomistic and occasionalistic structure was created and sustained by divine intervention, and stimulated passion for the divine creator’.20 The idea that the universe was composed of geometric shapes by the divine architect ultimately comes from

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Plato;21 geometry was a key to understand the cosmos. Composed of elements that endlessly repeat and return, Islamicizing interlace patterns reflect the infinity, oneness, and beauty of God. Such patterns can also be meditative tools, dissolving the physicality of the page to facilitate consideration of the spiritual realm. The abstract elements in the Kennicott Bible, which simultaneously suggest beauty, perfect order, and infinity, also provided access to God through the biblical books. Interlace in particular often appears on thresholds in medieval art, where the patterns repel malign forces and provide protection.22 The Bible text especially requires safeguarding in the form of correct reading: this is the function of Kimhi’s grammatical treatise, which bookends and thus protects the Kennicott Bible from careless or deliberate misconstrual. The biblical text was sacred and perfect, and every letter had to be written precisely (this also applies to the Qur’an).23 Jewish sages held that the universe was created by means of the 22 Hebrew letters.24 In a commentary on the Torah written in Spain by Bahya ben Asher (1255–1340), the 22 letters are symbolic of the 22 parts of the universe: wind, water, fire, the seven fixed stars, and the 12 signs of the zodiac. These letters in the Hebrew alphabet also are symbolized by the 22 parts of the human body: head, heart, kidneys, seven orifices of the body, twelve organs.25

The Bible was also analogous to the lost Temple; several deluxe Sephardic Bibles are called in their colophons a mikdashyah, literally, the sanctuary of the Lord, which explains why so many depict the Temple implements (fols. 120v–121r in Kennicott).26 Profiat Duran, a Catalonian grammarian (1360–1412), wrote that Bible study is true worship (avodah) of God in the absence of the Temple.27 He asserts that ‘one should always study from beautifully made books that have elegant script and pages and ornate adornments and bindings’, to stimulate the soul and improve one’s memory.28 Reading the Bible reveals it to be a ‘thinking machine’, a vehicle for anagogical ascent.29 By extension, reading the Kennicott Bible in conjunction with Kimhi’s grammatical aid was simultaneously a devotional and a contemplative act that promised a closer relationship with God. Its abstract features played a critical role in that process. It is evident that the abstract pages in Kennicott were not placed randomly, for in every case they mark important transitions in the book, which is itself introduced by an abstract pattern of intersecting circles on the front of the box binding. Fol. 9r divides Sefer Mikhlol from the beginning of Genesis and is the first blank folio. At this point in the book, the presence of a blank page might not occasion any notice; it could simply be to separate the Sefer Mikhlol from the biblical text, or to begin the latter on a verso rather than a recto. Later instances of the blank pages reveal, however, that this blank space was a deliberate and meaningful choice,

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as discussed further below. The text of Deuteronomy ends at the bottom of the first column on fol. 119v, and Joseph ibn Hayyim filled the entire second column with nested interlace. Although the pattern is relatively simple, the fact that it is entirely abstract is in marked contrast to what is found in the Cervera Bible (fol. 118v), Kennicott’s most direct model. There, the empty second column is filled with an architectural structure containing a Masoretic note and a recumbent lion; the contrast signals the artist’s predilection for abstraction at key transitions in Kennicott. This tendency continues on fol. 120r in Kennicott, where a carefully constructed colourful interlaced pattern frames the sanctuary implements depicted on the next page (fol. 120v), which show through the translucent parchment (Figure 3-3). According to Nancy Turner, manuscripts conservator at the J. Paul Getty Museum, this ‘bleeding’ may well have been immediate, particularly in the case of the dark ground for the gilding; other colours may have been slower to bleed through, but in all other cases of ‘bleed-through’, the artist left the verso empty, which suggests that he deliberately laid out fol. 120r to frame the shadowy forms on fol. 120v.30 The effect is that of a portal providing a preliminary and partial view of the figured ritual implements that are fully revealed ‘within’ when the page is turned. Moreover, only the candelabrum and censers are framed, not the nonbiblical lion pedestal that supports them. The artist’s desire to frame the Temple implements only pertained to ‘entering’ the Temple to view its objects; the reverse (fol. 121v) of the second page of implements (fol. 121r) was left blank (Figure 3-4). The absence of any framing device here, after the full array of Temple implements had been viewed, shows that inserting the abstract interlace frame was a deliberate strategy to heighten the anticipation of seeing the sacred vessels depicted. The three pages that follow (fols. 122r–123r) are a cluster of abstractions that serve to close the preceding Pentateuch and introduce the book of Joshua (Figures 3-4 and 3-5). The first, featuring colourful circular strapwork with paired dragons in the corners, strongly resembles the paste-downs of the book box, especially the one at the end, reinforcing the sense that this page was conceived to ‘close’ the Pentateuch unit of the Bible. Fol. 122v is a six-pointed strapwork star enclosed by an interlace circle, executed in a palette limited to red and blue. The entire design is encompassed within the circular space created on fol. 122r, and the effect is that of a telescoping or diminution of the preceding page, as if Joseph was seeking a way to avoid a blank page here without impinging on either the exuberant, gilded page on the reverse or the facing fol. 123r, with its alternating horizontal and vertical strapwork that contrasts with the circular designs of fols. 122r–v. Fols. 122r, 122v, and 123r are essentially versions of the ‘carpet’ pages found in many medieval manuscripts. They are called that because such pages resemble ‘oriental’ rugs, and, in Northumbrian manuscripts like the Lindisfarne Gospels, they may have been inspired by prayer mats used by Muslims and Christians. As Michelle

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Brown initially suggested, and as the British Library website reiterates, ‘Prayer mats help prepare worshippers for prayer. They also help prepare them before they move onto holy ground. In the Lindisfarne Gospels the carpet pages play a similar role, preparing the reader for the Gospel message.’31 Christopher de Hamel notes that ‘[T]urning a group of carpet pages is like lifting layers of precious textiles before revealing the sacred text’.32 Many medieval manuscripts contained actual fabric curtains sewn over selected illuminations.33 The effect of the full-page decoration is akin to that of textiles even if the actual motifs more closely resemble extant manuscript pages and bindings. Curtain-like pages may have evoked the fabric that protected contemporary Torah scrolls,34 or the veil of the vanished Temple. Turning such a page is like opening a curtain into a new realm—a new part of the Bible and a new part of God’s infinite universe. With the densest concentration of abstraction in the book, the pages on fols. 122r–123r represent the first and most critical fulcrum of the Kennicott Bible as its readers worked through the abstract veils that cloaked and revealed the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua.35 The text of Joshua begins on fol. 124v, after two blank folios that follow the series of abstract pages. Leaving the first of these blank was mostly a practical decision: the gilding and deep blue colour of fol. 123r bleeds through and would have inhibited the writing of text, and even adding further decoration here would have undercut the effect of the pale interlace shadow that could be seen as a final end to the unit of decorative pages.36 Yet Moses ibn Zabara could have begun the text of Joshua on fol. 124r; deliberately leaving that page blank and starting on the verso made the beginning of Joshua parallel the beginning of Genesis, which was also preceded by a blank recto and begun on its verso. And as was the case with the Pentateuch, abstract and blank pages were manipulated to frame the next units of the Bible. In the Hebrew canon, the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings are known as the Former Prophets; they are distinguished from the Latter Prophets, which comprise Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets. In the Kennicott Bible, there is a long gap between the decorative pages that mark the end of the Pentateuch and the next set at the end of the minor prophets. The text of the last of these, Malachi, ends after half of the second column on fol. 317r, and Joseph ibn Hayyim filled the remainder of that column with a simple strapwork pattern, much as he did at the end of the Deuteronomy text. But within the long stretch of the Former and Latter Prophets, there is another visual and conceptual break: blank pages on most of fol. 220r and all of 220v, between Kings and Isaiah. Already in the Cervera Bible a distinction was made at this point with a pair of decorated arcades—the first with birds perched atop crocketed gables (fol. 216r), the second with vegetal arabesques in the spandrels (fol. 216v)—devoid of any text. But Joseph ibn Hayyim dispensed not only with arches but also with any decoration at all, even in a place where we might have expected the kind of abstract decoration used in

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other parts of the Kennicott Bible to mark the transition from one biblical unit to another. The reason may be twofold. On a simple level, abjuring abstract ornament here allowed the Former and Latter Prophets to be understood as a single, undivided unit. At the same time, the blank pages on both sides of fol. 220, which are quite conspicuous in a book that is otherwise lavishly decorated and which do not seem explicable for any scribal reasons, link the beginning of Isaiah to the beginnings of Genesis and Joshua, which are also preceded by blank pages.37 What makes these biblical books different from those that are concluded or preceded by a panel or page of geometric decoration? They all begin momentously with an implication of vast future promise: God’s creation of heaven and earth; Joshua being granted entry into the land of Israel denied to Moses; and Isaiah’s ‘vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem’, in which he addresses the nation, ‘Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!’ (Is. 1:1), echoing the opening words of Genesis, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ Isaiah’s opening page, and indeed his whole prophetic book (apart from red penwork and an enlarged letter on fol. 240v, at Is. 56:10), lacks colourful adornment, especially notable in the Masorah; despite the explicit verbal link with Genesis, the restrained decoration suggests that the prophet, or more pointedly the artist and reader, cannot fully visualize, and therefore cannot really know, the colour and beauty effected by God’s creation. The Kennicott Bible’s blank folios signal divine promise, which is left to the reader’s imagination.38 Among medieval Jewish manuscripts produced in Spain, only the Sarajevo Haggadah (National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina), made in Barcelona about 1350, depicts the days of Creation, beginning with a highly abstract juxtaposition of black and white that becomes increasingly populated with figures as the process of divine creation unfolds.39 This unknown artist’s experiment with reifying the unimaginable was not repeated, and Joseph ibn Hayyim preferred the radically empty page. The blank folios encourage the reader to pause and reflect on the enormity of the moment that follows. The exceptional status of Joshua and Isaiah is further emphasized by the inclusion of quotes from only those two books in the scribal colophon that appears later in the Bible. 40 The text of the final prophet, Malachi, ends as noted above, with half a column of strapwork, and the entire Prophets section closes on fols. 317v–318r, with the opening of abstract interlace that marks the transition between two major units in the Bible (Figure 3-6). These pages are formed of micrographic excerpts from the book of Psalms. Psalms does not follow immediately, however; it is preceded by Chronicles, which ends on fol. 352r with an interlace panel that fills the mostly empty space of the second column (Figure 3-7). On the reverse is a full-page circle of strapwork framed in a peacock pattern (fol. 352v). Evoking as it does the rear paste-down of the book box, this page is meant to signal the close of one book (Chronicles) and the opening of another (Psalms).

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Within the book of Psalms, there is an additional notable use of abstraction. Distinctive two-column decorative panels appear on fols. 360r, 366r, and 370r, following Psalms 41, 72, and 89, respectively. These stand out in a biblical book that is otherwise adorned only with small motifs in the margins. Cecil Roth proposes that Psalm 90 (fol. 370r) received special treatment because it bears the superscription ‘A prayer of Moses, a man of God’, and Joseph ibn Hayyim was paying a compliment to the scribe, Moses ibn Zabara. 41 This seems unlikely for several reasons. First, Moses features in other psalms, including three times in Psalm 106, even if his name does not appear in the ‘title’. 42 Second, the Kennicott scribe (by leaving space) and the artist (by adding decoration) regularly used columnar decoration to emphasize the ends of biblical books, not the beginnings. We should therefore look at Psalm 89 rather than 90 for an explanation—one that will also clarify why two additional psalms, neither of which name Moses, also received elaborate abstract embellishment. As Bezalel Narkiss and Aliza Cohen-Mushlin note, these three decorative passages mark three of the traditional divisions of the Psalms into five (they say four) books. 43 But we must ask, in that case, why the other two traditional divisions are not also marked: there is no special abstract panel at the end of Psalm 106 or 150. What immediately precedes the special non-figural panel in Psalms 41, 72, and 89, however, and only these three, is the repeated doxology ‘Amen and Amen’. 44 Moses ibn Zabara therefore left several centimetres of space before beginning the next psalm for Joseph ibn Hayyim to enhance this special ending with a blast of colourful decoration. After Psalms are the remaining biblical books—Proverbs, Job, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra— concluding with Nehemiah on the bottom of fol. 437v. Immediately thereafter, occupying a quarter of the first column on fol. 438r, is the scribe’s colophon, under which Joseph added a two-column-wide foliated rectangle in which are nestled several smaller rectangles. This is a more elaborate version of the device that ends many of the books in both the Kennicott and Cervera bibles; it often contains Masoretic notes about the preceding biblical book. Here, the central rectangle is filled with a rich blue swirling foliate decoration, a quasi-abstract decoration that closes both the Bible text and the scribal colophon attached so intimately to it. Based on the patterns in the Kennicott Bible, we might expect some grand abstract pages to follow the end of the biblical text, but instead the manuscript continues on the verso of the scribe’s colophon with the rest of the richly arcaded Sefer Mikhlol (fols. 438v–444r). There was certainly room for decorative pages, or at least a blank folio at this point, because at the end of this quire are three blank pages (fols. 444v–446v). Even more curious is the fact that an entire new quire follows (fols. 446–453), all of whose pages are blank except for the artist’s fantastical colophon on fol. 447r. It is not clear why there are so many blank pages at the end

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of the book; it has been suggested that there was a miscalculation in the number of pages needed at the end, or that the book was unfinished. 45 Space may have been left for family records, or perhaps Moses ibn Zabara and Joseph ibn Hayyim needed to finish the book in a hurry. Written and illustrated at the same time that Sephardic presses began to print Hebrew books, just sixteen years before the Jews were expelled from Spain, the Kennicott Bible represents a high point in Jewish artistic creativity. 46 As we have demonstrated, one of the facets of the book that demonstrates its richness and complexity is the way that the scribe and especially the artist deployed a range of abstract devices to enhance the work and guide the user’s experience of it. We are unaware of any Jewish texts that articulate a theory of the abstract that might be applied to the Kennicott Bible. Rather, it is the internal construction and use of the book that suggests how it might have been conceived and perceived. Joseph ibn Hayyim drew from a range of stylistic and iconographic motifs, particularly Islamicizing geometric designs that, by the end of the fifteenth century, seems to have been recognized as traditionally and pervasively Jewish and Iberian; its connotations of luxury and status would not have been lost on Isaac of Braga, the recipient of the book.47 Yet, in close cooperation with Moses ibn Zabara, Joseph ibn Hayyim went well beyond his sources. In particular, in the Kennicott Bible’s rich box binding and throughout its 459 folios, Joseph exercised remarkable artistic ingenuity to create both beautiful and blank pages whose abstractions helped transform the Bible into a vehicle for contemplating the perfection and infinity of its divine author.

Appendix: Detailed list of comparanda We propose the following as the best comparisons for the abstract pages in the Kennicott Bible and its box binding, which echoes the geometric motifs inside. 48 Front cover (Figure 3-1): a small circle whose perimeter is the centre for five intersecting circles, all enclosed in a larger circle linked to a rectangular frame filled by two loops. The interstices of all the circles are filled with short stamped rope motifs. —no strong comparisons, but there are multiple overlapping arcs (eight, not five) on a book cover from the Maghreb, fifteenth century. 49 Front paste-down (Figure 3-2): this interlace pattern is same as the columnar panel at the end of Genesis (fol. 35v), which also marks the opening of Exodus.50 —front cover of a copy of a late thirteenth-century kabbalistic text written in Toledo in 1490–1495;51 thirteenth-century guild ordinances in a fifteenthcentury binding;52 a Moralia in Job of the fifteenth century;53 gilded binding of a

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Qur’an copied by the Almohad emir al-Murtada, dated 1256;54 a Nasrid wooden door, second half of the fourteenth century, recently sold at Christie’s.55 Fol. 120r, an interlaced frame for the menorah and Temple implements on the verso (Figure 3-3): this pattern is the same as the outer border of Kennicott fols. 440v–441r and the panel above the arches on fol. 442r. —Cervera Bible, roundels on fol. 336v and above the text columns on fol. 447v.56 Fol. 122r, circular strapwork with paired dragons in the corners (Figure 3-4): —Farhi Bible, p. 52;57 a Bible copied in Catalonia c. 1470;58 a Qur’an made in Córdoba in 1143;59 upper cover of a breviary for use of Toledo, late fifteenth century;60 a thirteenth-century copy of Rashi’s biblical commentary with illuminations added in Iberia (Castile?) in the fifteenth century.61 Among the closest analogues is the interlaced matzah depicted in the Golden Haggadah of c. 1340;62 the major difference between the matzah image and the Kennicott abstraction is that the former depicts a tiny wooden door at the centre. Fol. 122v, a six-pointed strapwork star enclosed by an interlace circle (Figure 3-5): —Kennicott Bible, fol. 297r; Qur’an from Bust, Afghanistan, dated 1111–1112;63 back and front doublures of the kabbalistic text copied in Toledo in 1490–1495.64 Fol. 123r, alternating horizontal and vertical strapwork (Figure 3-5): —no outstanding comparisons, but cf. a Qur’an page, possibly from Valencia, c. 1200, sold at Sotheby’s in 2018;65 and a page of interlaced Masorah in a Toledan Bible of 1260, the so-called Damascus Keter, although this page is surrounded by an inscription in display script.66 Fols. 317v–318r, the two micrographic ‘carpet’ pages (Figure 3-6): —generic resemblance to two pages in the Cervera Bible, fols. 9v–10r,67 and those in MS hebr. 1314, fols. 3v–4r.68 Fol. 352r, a panel of framed interlace, marking the end of Chronicles, that fills the intercolumnar space (Figure 3-7): —BnF, MS hébr. 21, fol. 1v;69 a Nasrid limestone panel from Granada, probably fourteenth century, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.70 Fol. 352v (Figure 3-7), a circle of strapwork framed in a peacock pattern, not unlike fol. 297r: —BnF, ms. hébr. 20, fol. 9v;71 a Qur’an in the Khalili Collection, MS 288, made in Spain or North Africa, c. 1250–1350.72 Rear paste-down (Figure 3-2): —Kennicott Bible, fols. 122r (Figure 3-4) and 352v (Figure 3-7); upper cover of BL, Davis 656, a breviary for the use of Toledo, late fifteenth century.73 Back cover and tail (Figure 3-1): rectangular strapwork patterns —very close to those on the binding of the Cincinnati Pentateuch;74 the back cover of the kabbalistic manuscript copied in Toledo in 1490–1495;75 both covers of a Latin liturgical work printed in Toledo in 1486 and likely bound soon after.76

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Head: a diagonal grid pattern of scalloped-edge diamonds composed of multiple tooled strokes that evoke weaving (or brickwork?). —no precise comparisons, although the overall pattern calls to mind the diagonal stucco grids that form scalloped diamonds (that shelter stylized vegetal forms) on the end walls of the Samuel Halevi Synagogue in Toledo, c. 1357–1361;77 the exterior brick patterns on the Giralda (bell tower, former minaret) at Seville, late twelfth century; and a panel of the stuccoed pulpit in the Sala de la Limosna, Huesca Cathedral, fourteenth century (?), although here the diamonds enclose a stylized vegetal form.78 A more schematic, un-tooled irregular-diamond grid is on two pages of Sefer Mikhlol inside the Kennicott manuscript (fols. 443v–444r).

Notes 1.

2.

3.

4.

We are grateful to César Merchán-Hamann, director of the Bodleian Library’s Leopold Muller Memorial Library and curator of Hebraica and Judaica at the Bodleian, for permitting us to study the Kennicott Bible for several days in August 2019 and for discussing it with us personally. https://hebrew.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/catalog/manuscript_2 (accessed 28 July 2020); digitized at https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/inquire/p/ce9cd74f-8818-403b-b64469c16779ea0a (accessed 28 July 2020). It was reproduced in a two-volume facsimile: Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, https://www.facsimile-editions. com/en/kb/ (accessed 28 July 2020). See also Narkiss, Hebrew Illuminated Manu­ scripts, pp. 152–9; Avrin, ‘Illuminated Hebrew Manuscript Facsimiles’, pp. 191–3; Ortega-Monasterio, ‘Some Hebrew Bibles’, pp. 96–100; and Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art, pp. 212–9. There are 453 numbered folios plus six additional ones marked as, e.g. fol. 143a, for a total of 459. Published dimensions vary: 300 × 235 mm is the size given by Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, p. 85; 295 × 230 in Sirat, Hebrew Manu­ scripts, p. 54; 298 × 240 in Ortega-Monasterio, ‘Some Hebrew Bibles’, p. 97; 318 × 229 in Afonso, ‘Biblia Kennicott’, p. 113; 275 × 225 in Clarkson, ‘The Kennicott Bible’, p. 32. Obviously, the folios vary in size, although no authors acknowledge this: the page opposite the back paste-down corresponds with Sirat’s dimensions; the page opposite the front paste-down is 290 × 225 mm. For Sefer Mikhlol, see Chomsky, David Kimhi’s Hebrew Grammar; and Talmadge, David Kimhi. Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art, p. 215; Penkower, “Masorah” and Text Criticism; and http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2008/western-orientalmanuscripts-l08241/lot.22.html (accessed 28 July 2020). On Masorah, see Penkower, “Masorah” and Text Criticism; and Stern, The Jewish Bible, esp. pp. 68–78. The scribe’s colophon says: ‘I, Moses, the son of Rabbi Jacob ibn Zabara the scribe, wrote and vocalized [i.e., punctuated] and masoreted and corrected these twentyfour books in one volume, and I completed it on the fourth day [Wednesday], the third day of the month of Av [in] the year “I will bring them to my holy mountain”

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7.

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[Isaiah 56:7; year 236] of the sixth millennium [24 July 1476] here in the town of Coruña, and I comprised it in 37 quires, and a sign for them is “if only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river” [Isaiah 48:18; first word ‫ = לוא‬37. For the dear youth Isaac, son of the honourable, esteemed Don Solomon of Braga, may his soul rest in Eden. The Lord, may he be exalted, grant that he [Isaac] study it and his children and his children’s children until the end of all generations, as it is written, “let not this Book of Torah cease from your lips and meditate on it day and night, so that you are careful to do everything written in it etc.” [Josh. 1:8] And may they come to produce many books, in order to fulfill “and furthermore, my son, be admonished: of making books there is no end” [Eccles. 12:12]. Amen, so shall it be Lord.’ The shorter artist’s colophon says: ‘I, Joseph ibn Hayyim, painted and completed this book.’ Translation by Adam S. Cohen; cf. the slightly different versions in Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, p. 15; Silvestri, ‘Le Bibbie ebraiche della penisola iberica’, pp. 138–9; Penkower, ‘Masorah’ and Text Criticism, pp. 273–4; and Ortega-Monasterio, ‘Some Hebrew Bibles’, p. 100. For the possible addition of the colophon after binding, see Matos, ‘The MS. Parma 1959’, p. 48, citing Avrin, ‘The Sephardi Box Binding’, p. 34. Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, p. 94; Stern, ‘The Hebrew Bible’, p. 272. For Jewish involvement in textile weaving and trade, see Mann, ‘Textiles Travel’. Avrin, ‘The Sephardi Box Binding’, pp. 32–7, with detailed description of all sides of the binding and the paste-downs; Avrin, ‘Illuminated Hebrew Manuscript Facsim­ iles’, p. 192; Clarkson, ‘The Kennicott Bible’; Matos, ‘The MS. Parma 1959’. Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible (p. 51), say that Joseph may have designed the paste-downs, but the work is too crude to have been executed by him and was likely done by the binder. The back paste-down gives the impression of being unfinished; unlike the front, the strapwork was not gilded or carefully detailed in white and black pen. It is possible that Joseph ibn Hayyim was the binder as well as the artist: Matos, ‘The MS. Parma 1959’, p. 48, contradicting Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, p. 87. Avrin, ‘The Box Binding in the Klau’; Avrin, ‘The Sephardi Box Binding’; and Matos, ‘The MS. Parma 1959’, pp. 5, 47–9. The book received an additional leather slipcase, possibly in Germany, presumably after the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492: Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, pp. 88–9; Avrin, ‘The Sephardi Box Binding’, pp. 36–7; Avrin, ‘The Box Binding in the Klau’, p. 34, n. 7; and Clarkson, ‘The Kennicott Bible’, p. 44 (with colour photo). The book boxes crafted in Yemen at the same time were unknown to Leila Avrin, who studied the fifteenth-century Sephardic box bindings. An example from Sanaa (housing a Pentateuch dated in its colophon to 1515) is online at http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2007/western-manuscripts-l07240/lot.32.html (accessed 28 July 2020); its geometric strapwork cover is worn, but still visible. Both the Iberian and Yemenite box bindings were preceded by examples from Kairouan dated to the ninth century, and even earlier Islamic book boxes are known from texts. Déroche, Islamic Codicology, pp. 261–3 (Type 1).

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8.

9.

10. 11. 12.

13. 14.

15. 16.

17.

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Abraham ibn Hayyim is associated with a collection of recipes titled ‘The Book on How to Make Colors’, written in Portuguese using Hebrew characters, preserved in Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, MS 1959 (formerly De Rossi 945), but he may actually be the author of a Masoretic text bound with that treatise. Blondheim, ‘An Old Portuguese Work’; Cruz and Afonso, ‘On the Date and Contents’; and Matos, ‘The MS. Parma 1959’. For Portuguese Hebrew manuscripts, see Afonso, ‘Bíblia Kennicott’; Afonso, ‘A “Escola de Lisboa”’; Afonso and Moita, ‘Tradition and Modernity’; Afonso and Moita, ‘A iluminura judaica portuguesa’; and Moita, ‘O livro hebraico português na idade média’. Despite the reasonable scepticism of Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, p. 79, Matos, ‘The MS. Parma 1959’, p. 49, has recently stated: ‘Hence, we believe that it should be considered the possibility of the text of the Kennicott Bible having been copied in La Coruña and the manuscript subsequently bound (and perhaps illuminated) in Portugal.’ A childbirth is recorded in La Coruña in December 1375 (fol. 450v) and another, probably in the same family and in the same place, in 1439 (fol. 451v). Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, p. 18. The Cervera Bible is online at http://purl. pt/23405 and https://www.wdl.org/en/item/14158/ (accessed 28 July 2020); and see, most recently, Ramos, Afonso, and Moita, ‘A Bíblia de Cervera’. The Bible text is always in two columns, except for the songs, Psalms, Proverbs, and Job. Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, p. 25. Ortega-Monasterio, ‘Some Hebrew Bibles’, p. 97. General discussions of abstract art include Schapiro, ‘Nature of Abstract Art’; Mosquera, Craven, and Kattau, ‘Meyer Schapiro’; and Park, ‘Abstraction’; see also the other contributions to this volume. We consider certain blank pages abstract for reasons discussed below. For girih, which originated in the late eleventh century, see Necipoğlu, The Topkapı Scroll, pp. 9, 92–109; and Tabbaa, The Transformation of Islamic Art, p. 78 and passim. Mudéjar comes from an Arabic word for ‘those left behind’, referring to Muslims in newly conquered Christian territories; beginning in the nineteenth century, it came to refer to Islamic-looking arts made for non-Muslim, especially Christian, patrons. For critical responses to the term mudéjar, see Feliciano and Rouhi, ‘Introduction’; and Streit, ‘Monumental Austerity’, pp. 259–64. A short introduction to Islamic patterns can be found in the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/geom/hd_geom.htm (accessed 28 July 2020). Feliciano and Rouhi, ‘Introduction’, p. 327, n. 19. Partearroyo, ‘Almoravid and Almohad Textiles’; Frojmovic, ‘Jewish Mudejarismo’; Mills, ‘Mirror Image’; and Rodríguez Peinado, ‘Modelos orientales’. For other artistic models of the Kennicott Bible, scholars have shown, for example, that Joseph ibn Hayyim imitated Central European playing cards for numerous motifs, although these may have been transmitted via Ashkenazic book illumination. See Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, p. 81; and Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art, pp. 213–4, both citing Edmunds, ‘A Note on the Art’; and Edmunds, ‘Kennicott Bible’. Mintz, ‘Carpet Pages’; some images at http://cja.huji.ac.il/browser. php?mode=set&id=881 (accessed 28 July 2020).

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18.

19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24.

25.

26. 27. 28. 29. 30.

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del Barco, ‘Joshua ibn Gaon’s Hebrew Bibles’. See also del Barco, Bibliothèque nationale de France, pp. 112–20, 124–30. MS hébr. 20 is digitized at https://gallica. bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b90027611/ (accessed 28 July 2020) and MS hébr. 21 at https:// gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8538800c/ (accessed 28 July 2020). Given the number of manuscripts produced in a very short time, there must have been a Hebrew workshop in Tudela around 1300. del Barco, ‘Joshua ibn Gaon’s Hebrew Bibles’, pp. 274–5. Vernay-Nouri and Berthier, Enluminures en terre d’Islam, p. 26; also Baer, Islamic Ornament, p. 125: geometric ornament ‘was one of the means of creating coherence and infinity’. Tabbaa, The Transformation of Islamic Art, esp. Chapter 4, ‘The Girih Mode: Vegetal and Geometric Arabesque’, quote from p. 101. See also Grabar, The Mediation of Ornament, esp. Chapter 3; and Necipoğlu, The Topkapı Scroll, pp. 92–109. See, e.g. Timaeus 44e–47d, 54e–55d; and Republic 521e. Kitzinger, ‘The Threshold of the Holy Shrine’; Kitzinger, ‘Interlace and Icons’; Trilling, ‘Medieval Interlace Ornament’; and Bücheler, Ornament as Argument, Chapter 2, esp. pp. 61–63. Shalev-Eyni, ‘Tradition in Transition’, p. 557. Yehudah Halevi, Sefer Kuzari 4:32: ‘The twenty-two letters are divided into three groups, viz. three mothers, seven double, twelve single [consonants]. The three mothers are alef, mem, shin. They cover a great and profound secret; for from them emanate air, water, and fire by means of which the universe was created. The groupings of these consonants united with the order of the macrocosm and the microcosm, viz. man, and the order of time into one line, called “true witnesses”, viz. universe, soul, year. This also demonstrates that the one order is the work of a oneMaster, who is God. […] The giver of forms, designs and order, however, has placed in them all a unique wisdom, and a providence which is in complete harmony with this uniform order, and is visible in the macrocosm, in man, and in the arrangement of the spheres. It is this that is called the “true witnesses” of His Oneness, viz. universe, soul, year.’ https://www.sefaria.org/Sefer_Kuzari.4.26?vhe=Kitab_al_Khazari_[Judeo-Arabic]&lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en (accessed 28 July 2020). Long before Yehuda Halevi, Sefer Yetsirah made the same claim. Torah commentary by Rabbi Bachya ben Asher, Shemot, 25:31:4, https://www. sefaria.org/Rabbeinu_Bahya%2C_Shemot.25.31.4?ven=Torah_Commentary_ by_Rabbi_Bachya_ben_Asher,_trans._Eliyahu_Munk,_1998.&lang=bi (accessed 28 July 2020). Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art, pp. 83, 136; Stern, The Jewish Bible, p. 100; and Stern, ‘The Hebrew Bible’, pp. 265–6. Stern, ‘The Hebrew Bible’, p. 267. Stern, ‘The Hebrew Bible’, p. 270. Visi, ‘Early Ibn Ezra Supercommentaries’, p. 334, citing Mary Carruthers for the term thinking machine. E-mail correspondence with Nancy Turner, 14 March 2019. The significance of text bleeding through a blank medallion in the thirteenth-century Kalsheim Bible is discussed in Gerstman, ‘Phantoms of Emptiness’, p. 808.

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31. 32. 33.

34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43.

44. 45. 46. 47. 48.

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http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/features/lindisfarne/carpetpages.html (accessed 28 July 2020); and Brown, The Lindisfarne Gospels, pp. 312, 320–21. For ornament as threshold, see above, note 22. De Hamel, The Book, p. 45; cited in Bücheler, Ornament as Argument, 63. Sciacca, ‘Raising the Curtain’. Although we are unaware of evidence for this practice in Sephardic Bibles, Christopher Clarkson, who conserved the book, identified tannin stains on some folios that may suggest the presence of loose (not stitched) textile veils inserted into some pages. Clarkson, ‘The Kennicott Bible’, p. 48. For the Sephardic Torah wrapper and mantle, see Yaniv, ‘From Spain to the Balkans’, esp. pp. 414–9. Patterned mantles are visible in the Sarajevo Haggadah, fol. 34r; Mann, ‘Textiles Travel’, p. 50; and Sijarić, The Sarajevo Haggadah. In the Cervera Bible, the text for the book of Joshua (fol. 119r) begins immediately on the next folio after the end of Deuteronomy (fol. 118v). Fol. 123v is the only place that the artist did not add the quire number (in this case yud [‫]׳‬, equivalent to ten) in the lower-left corner to indicate to the binder the prop­ er sequence of quires; presumably, the multiple ‘carpet’ pages served that purpose. The most cogent discussion of blank spaces in medieval manuscripts is Gerstman, ‘Phantoms of Emptiness’. For a comparable case of eschewing Creation imagery in a Christian Bible, see Gerstman, ‘Phantoms of Emptiness’, p. 808 and Plate 7. Kogman-Appel and Laderman, ‘The Sarajevo Haggadah’; and Sijarić, The Sarajevo Haggadah. See above, note 4. Roth, ‘A Masterpiece’, p. 363: ‘no doubt a delicate allusion to the name of the scribe’; followed by Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, pp. 51, 75. Psalms 77, 99, 103, 105, and 106. Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, p. 51. As David Kimhi noted in his commentary on Psalms, Jewish sages drew a parallel between the Five Books of Moses and the Five Books of Davidic psalms. Book I comprises Psalms 3–41; II, Psalms 42–72; III, 73–89; IV, 90–106; and V, 107–150. For this division, which was also followed by such Christian exegetes as Gregory of Nyssa, see, e.g. Wilson, The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter; Wilson, ‘Evidence of Editorial Divisions’; and McCann, ‘The Shape and Shaping of the Psalter’. Ps. 72 has an additional summary line, ‘This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse’. Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, pp. 29–30. Stern, ‘The Hebrew Bible’, p. 275. Frojmovic, ‘Jewish Mudejarismo’; and Shalev-Eyni, ‘Tradition in Transition’. We do not think that the use of such a stylistic mode was either a challenge to Christianity or a return to an imaginary golden age of convivencia. Both covers are marred by the later insertion and removal of metal studs in a pattern that paid no heed to the relief. Inexplicably, the Bodleian digitization (see above, note 1) does not include the back cover or the head, and neither is illustrated in the facsimile volume either. The tail is visible in the digitization’s final image of the rear paste-down. Part of the back cover is shown in colour in Clarkson, ‘The

108 

49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61.

62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68.

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Kennicott Bible’, p. 43, Ill. 10. Black-and-white images of the binding and later case are in Avrin, ‘The Sephardi Box Binding’, Plates 1–11. The facsimile volume is bound in accurate (if overly pristine) copies of all six sides. Bosch, Carswell, and Petherbridge, Islamic Bindings and Bookmaking, p. 154, cat. no. 49. Baer, Islamic Ornament, p. 46, states that overlapping compass-drawn circles were especially popular in medieval Islamic metalwork. Berlin, Museum für Islamische Kunst, I.860. This paste-down, like the back one, has been marred by the insertion and then removal of studs to protect the binding. BnF, MS hébr. 819; https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10545890r/f1.image (accessed 28 July 2020). Hueso Rolland, Exposición, no. 26, https://ddd.uab.cat/record/75030 (accessed 28 July 2020). Hueso Rolland, Exposición, cover ill. and no. 31, https://ddd.uab.cat/record/75030 (accessed 28 July 2020). BL, MS Or. 13192. Khemir, ‘The Arts of the Book’, p. 123; and Ganz, ‘Clothing Sacred Scriptures’, p. 38. https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/a-large-nasrid-wooden-door-spain-second1879674-details.aspx (accessed 28 July 2020). http://purl.pt/23405 or https://www.wdl.org/en/item/14158/ (accessed 28 July 2020). Mintz, ‘Carpet Pages’, Plate 3. BnF, MS hébr. 1314, fols. 3v–4r, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105399940 (accessed 28 July 2020); and Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art, pp. 206–10. Istanbul, University Library, MS A6755, fol. 3a; Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art, Fig. 1. BL, Davis656, http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/bookbindings/ (accessed 28 July 2020). Madrid, Fundación Lázaro Galdiano, MS 15646, fol. 22v, http://www.bibliotecalazarogaldiano.es/mss/i15646l.html (accessed 28 July 2020); and Alfonso et al., Biblias de Sefarad, pp. 369–70, http://www.bne.es/es/Micrositios/Exposiciones/Biblias/Exposicion/seccion8/Obra10.html?origen=galeria (accessed 28 July 2020). The majority of this manuscript is in Seville: http://www.bne.es/export/sites/BNWEB1/es/Micrositios/Exposiciones/Biblias/resources/img/Obra61.pdf (accessed 28 July 2020). BL, Add. MS 27210, fol. 44v, https://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ record.asp?MSID=19108&CollID=27&NStart=27210 (accessed 28 July 2020). On this image, see esp. Batterman, ‘Bread of Affliction’. BnF, MS ar. 6041, fols. 1v–2r, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8433296d/f2.image (accessed 28 July 2020). BnF, MS hébr. 819; https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10545890r/f304.image (accessed 28 July 2020); Garel, ‘Une reliure mudéjar’; and Metzger, ‘Les manuscrits hébreux’. http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2018/arts-of-the-islamic-worldl18223/lot.5.html (accessed 28 July 2020). Jerusalem, Jewish National and University Library, MS Hebr. 4o790, fol. 155r; ShalevEyni, ‘Tradition in Transition’, pp. 536–8, Figure 2. http://purl.pt/23405 or https://www.wdl.org/en/item/14158/ (accessed 28 July 2020). https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105399940 (accessed 28 July 2020); and Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art, pp. 206–10. See also del Barco and Héricher, ‘L’art de la micrographie’.

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69. 70. 71. 72.

https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8538800c/ (accessed 28 July 2020). https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/2011.182/ (accessed 28 July 2020). https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b90027611/ (accessed 28 July 2020). https://www.khalilicollections.org/collections/islamic-art/khalili-collection-islamicart-part-two-of-a-four-part-quran-qur288/ (accessed 28 July 2020). 73. http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/bookbindings/ (accessed 28 July 2020) (Davis656); https://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/record.asp?MSID=18649&C ollID=99&NStart=656 (accessed 28 July 2020) for the manuscript. 74. Cincinnati, Klau Library, MS 2. Narkiss and Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, p. 87; and Avrin, ‘The Box Binding in the Klau’. 75. BnF, MS hébr. 819. https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10545890r/f305.image (accessed 28 July 2020); Garel, ‘Une reliure mudéjar’; and Metzger, ‘Les manuscrits hébreux’. 76. Valladolid, Biblioteca de Santa Cruz, U/Bc IyR 140. Confutatorium errorum contra claues ecclesie nuper editorum, http://uvadoc.uva.es/handle/10324/29029 (accessed 28 July 2020); Garel, ‘Une reliure mudéjar’, p. 808. See, in general, Michelet, A Loan Exhibition; Piel sobre tabla; and Carpallo Bautista, ‘Estructuras decorativas’. 77. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ancient-art-civilizations/judaism-art/a/ medieval-synagogues-in-toledo-spain (accessed 28 July 2020). 78. Cabañero Subiza, ‘Los talleres de decoración’, Figs. 1–2, dates the pulpit to the fourteenth century (p. 33).

Works Cited Luís Urbano Afonso, ‘A “Escola de Lisboa” de iluminura hebraica’, in ‘Fiat Lux: Estudo sobre manuscritos iluminados em Portugal’, special issue, Invenire: Revista de Bens Culturais da Igreja (2015), pp. 74–81. ———, ‘Bíblia Kennicott’, in O livro e iluminura judaica em Portugal no final da Idade Média, ed. by Luís Urbano Afonso and Adelaide Miranda (Lisbon: Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, 2015), pp. 113–4. Luís Urbano Afonso and Tiago Moita, ‘A iluminura judaica portuguesa tardo-medieval’, in O livro e iluminura judaica em Portugal no final da Idade Média, ed. by Luís Urbano Afonso and Adelaide Miranda (Lisbon: Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, 2015), pp. 53–66. ———, ‘Tradition and Modernity in Portuguese Hebrew Book Art of the Late 15th Century’, in Portuguese Studies on Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts, ed. by Maria Adelaide Miranda and Alicia Miguélez Cavero (Barcelona: Federation Internationale des Institutes d’Études Medievales, 2014), pp. 169–89. Esperanza Alfonso et al., eds., Biblias de Sefarad (Madrid: Biblioteca Nacional de España, 2012). Leila Avrin, ‘The Box Binding in the Klau Library Hebrew Union College’, Studies in Bibli­ ography and Booklore, 17 (1989), pp. 26–35.

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———, ‘Illuminated Hebrew Manuscript Facsimiles’, Ars Orientalis, 20 (1990), pp. 189–95. ———, ‘The Sephardi Box Binding’, in Library Archives and Information Studies, ed. by Dov Schidorsky, Scripta Hierosolymitana 29 (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1989). Eva Baer, Islamic Ornament (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998). Javier del Barco, Bibliothèque nationale de France: Hébreu 1 à 32; Manuscrits de la bible hébraïque, Manuscrits en caractères hébreux conservés dans les bibliothèques publiques de France, 4 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011). ———, ‘Joshua ibn Gaon’s Hebrew Bibles and the Circulation of Books in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Periods’, in Patronage, Production, and Transmission of Texts in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Cultures, ed. by Esperanza Alfonso and Jonathan Decter (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014), pp. 267–97. Javier del Barco and Laurent Héricher, ‘L’art de la micrographie hébraique en Espagne à la fin du XVe siècle’, Rivista di Storia della Miniatura, 14 (2010), pp. 163–73. Michael Batterman, ‘Bread of Affliction, Emblem of Power: The Passover Matzah in Haggadah Manuscripts from Christian Spain’, in Imagining the Self, Imagining the Other: Visual Representation and Jewish-Christian Dynamics in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, ed. by Eva Frojmovic (Leiden: Brill, 2002), pp. 53–90. Antonio Carpallo Bautista, ‘Estructuras decorativas en las encuadernaciones mudéjares’, Biblioteca Nacional de España, 2013, https://www.slideshare.net/bne/estructurasdecorativas-en-las-encuadernaciones-mudjares-antonio-carpallo-bautista (accessed 28 July 2020). D.S. Blondheim, ‘An Old Portuguese Work on Manuscript Illumination’, Jewish Quarterly Review, n.s., 19.2 (1928), pp. 97–135; additional notes in 20.1 (1929), 89–90, and 20.3 (1930), pp. 283–4. Gulnar Bosch, John Carswell, and Guy Petherbridge, Islamic Bindings and Bookmaking: Catalogue of an Exhibition, The Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago, May 18–August 18, 1981 (Chicago: Oriental Institute Museum, 1981). Michelle P. Brown, The Lindisfarne Gospels: Society, Spirituality and the Scribe (London: British Library, 2003). Anna Bücheler, Ornament as Argument: Textile Pages and Textile Metaphors in Medieval Manuscripts (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019). William Chomsky, David Kimhi’s Hebrew Grammar (Mikhlol), Systematically Presented and Critically Annotated (New York: Bloch, 1952). Christopher Clarkson, ‘The Kennicott Bible’, Collection Management 31.1–2 (2007), pp. 31–56. Also published in The Changing Book: Transitions in Design, Production, and Preservation, ed. by Nancy E. Kraft and Holly Martin Huffman (Binghamton: Haworth Information Press, 2006), pp. 31–56. António João Cruz and Luís Urbano Afonso, ‘On the Date and Contents of a Portuguese Medieval Technical Book on Illumination: O livro de como se fazem as cores’, The

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Medieval History Journal, 11.1 (2008), pp. 1–28; repr., Ciarte: A Ciência e a Arte, http:// ciarte.pt/artigos/200801.html (accessed 28 July 2020). Christopher De Hamel, The Book: A History of the Bible (London: Phaidon, 2001). François Déroche, Islamic Codicology: An Introduction to the Study of Manuscripts in Arabic Script, trans. by Deke Dusinberre and David Radzinowicz, ed. by Muhammad Isa Waley (London: Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, 2005). Sheila Edmunds, ‘A Note on the Art of Joseph Ibn Hayyim’, Studies in Bibliography and Booklore, 11 (1975–1976), pp. 25–40. ———, ‘The Kennicott Bible and the Use of Prints in Hebrew Manuscripts’, in Atti del XXIV Congresso Internazionale di Storia dell’Arte, Bologna, 10–18 settembre 1979, Part 8, Le stampe e la diffusione delle immagini e degli stili, ed. by Henri Zerner (Bologna: CLUEB, 1983), pp. 23–9. María J. Feliciano and Leila Rouhi, ‘Introduction: Interrogating Iberian Frontiers’, Medieval Encounters, 12.3 (2006), pp. 317–28. Eva Frojmovic, ‘Jewish Mudejarismo and the Invention of Tradition’, in Late Medieval Jewish Identities: Iberia and Beyond, ed. by Carmen Caballero-Navas and Esperanza Alfonso (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 233–58. David Ganz, ‘Clothing Sacred Scriptures: Materiality and Aesthetics in Medieval Book Religions’, in Clothing Sacred Scriptures: Book Art and Book Religion in Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Cultures, ed. by David Ganz and Barbara Schellewald (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019), pp. 1–46. Michel Garel, ‘Une reliure mudéjar’, Revue française d’histoire du livre, 37 (1982), pp. 805–10. Elina Gertsman, ‘Phantoms of Emptiness: The Space of the Imaginary in Late Medieval Art’, Art History, 41.5 (2018), pp. 801–37. Oleg Grabar, The Mediation of Ornament (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992). Sabiha Khemir, ‘The Arts of the Book’, in Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain, ed. by Jerrilynn D. Dodds (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992), pp. 114–25. Ernst Kitzinger, ‘Interlace and Icons: Form and Function in Early Insular Art’, in The Age of Migrating Ideas: Early Medieval Art in Britain and Ireland; Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Insular Art held at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh, 3–6 January 1991, ed. by R. Michael Spearman and John Higgitt (Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 1993), pp. 3–15. ———, ‘The Threshold of the Holy Shrine: Observations on the Floor Mosaics at Antioch and Bethlehem’, in Kyriakon: Festschrift für Johannes Quasten, ed. by Patrick Granfield and Josef A. Jungmann (Münster: Aschendorff, 1970), vol. 2, pp. 639–47. Katrin Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art between Islam and Christianity: The Decoration of Hebrew Bibles in Medieval Spain (Leiden: Brill, 2004). Katrin Kogman-Appel and Shulamit Laderman, ‘The Sarajevo Haggadah: The Concept of Creatio Ex Nihilo and the Hermeneutical School Behind It’, Studies in Iconography, 25 (2004), pp. 89–127.

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Vivian B. Mann, ‘Textiles Travel: The Role of Sephardim in the Transmission of Textile Forms and Designs’, in From Catalonia to the Caribbean: The Sephardic Orbit from Medieval to Modern Times; Essays in Honor of Jane S. Gerber, ed. by Federica Francesconi, Stanley Mirvis, and Brian M. Smollett (Leiden: Brill, 2018), pp. 43–59. Débora Marques de Matos, ‘The MS. Parma 1959 in the Context of Portuguese Hebrew Illumination’ (PhD diss., University of Lisbon, 2011). J. Clinton McCann, ‘The Shape and Shaping of the Psalter: Psalms in Their Literary Context’, in The Oxford Handbook of the Psalms, ed. by William P. Brown (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 350–62. Thérèse Metzger, ‘Les manuscrits hébreux et leurs reliures: la reliure du ms. hébr. 819 de la Bibliothèque Nationale à Paris’, Revue française d’histoire du livre, 37 (1982), pp. 349–70. Julie Michelet, A Loan Exhibition of Islamic Bookbindings, Oriental Department, The Art Institute of Chicago, March 20 to May 20, 1932 (Chicago: Art Institute, 1932), https://babel. hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015033590954&view=1up&seq=1 (accessed 28 July 2020). John Mills, ‘Mirror Image’, Hali, 195 (Spring 2018), https://hali.com/news/mirror-image/#share (accessed 28 July 2020). Sybil Mintz, ‘Carpet Pages of the Spanish-Hebrew Farhi Bible’, in The Medieval Mediterranean: Cross-Cultural Contacts, ed. by Marilyn J. Chiat and Kathryn L. Reyerson (St. Cloud: North Star Press, 1988), pp. 51–56. Tiago Alexandre Asseiceira Moita, ‘O livro hebraico português na idade média: do Sefer he-Aruk de Seia (1284–85) aos manuscritos iluminados tardo-medievais da “Escola de Lisboa” a aos primeiros incunábulos’ (PhD diss., University of Lisbon, 2017). Gerardo Mosquera, David Craven, and Colleen Kattau, ‘Meyer Schapiro, Marxist Aesthetics, and Abstract Art’, Oxford Art Journal, 17.1 (1994), pp. 76–80. Bezalel Narkiss, Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts in the British Isles: Catalogue Raisonné (Oxford: Oxford University Press for the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the British Academy, 1982). Bezalel Narkiss and Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, The Kennicott Bible, 2 vols. (London: Facsimile Editions, 1985). Gulru Necipoğlu, The Topkapı Scroll: Geometry and Ornament in Islamic Architecture; Topkapı Palace Museum Library MS H. 1986 (Santa Monica: Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1995). Teresa Ortega-Monasterio, ‘Some Hebrew Bibles in the Bodleian Library: The Kennicott Collection’, Journal of Semitic Studies, 62.1 (2017), pp. 93–111. Stephen Park, ‘Abstraction’, The Chicago School of Media Theory (2003), https://lucian. uchicago.edu/blogs/mediatheory/keywords/abstraction-2/ (accessed 28 July 2020). Cristina Partearroyo, ‘Almoravid and Almohad Textiles’, in Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain, ed. by Jerrilynn D. Dodds (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992), pp. 104–13.

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Jordan S. Penkower, ‘Masorah’ and Text Criticism in the Early Modern Mediterranean: Moses ibn Zabara and Menahem de Lonzano (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University Magnes Press, 2014). Laura Rodríguez Peinado, ‘Modelos orientales en la ornamentación textil andalusí: siglos XIII–XV’, in ‘Estudos sobre têxteis históricos/Studies in Historical Textiles’, ed. by A. Serrano, M.J. Ferreira, and E.C. de Groot, special issue, Conservar Património, 31 (2019), pp. 67–78. Piel sobre tabla: Encuadernaciones mudéjares en la BNE, exhib. cat., Madrid, 12 March–19 May 2013 (Madrid: Biblioteca Nacional de España, 2013). José A. Ramos, Luís Urbano Afonso, and Tiago Moita, ‘A Bíblia de Cervera: um manuscrito sefardita iluminado?’, Cadernos de Estudos Sefarditas, 14 (2015), pp. 171–202. Francisco Hueso Rolland, Exposición de encuadernaciones españolas: siglos XII al XIX; Catálogo general ilustrado (Madrid: Fototípias de Kalmeyer y Gautier, 1934), https:// ddd.uab.cat/record/75030 (accessed 28 July 2020). Cecil Roth, ‘A Masterpiece of Medieval Spanish-Jewish Art: The Kennicott Bible’, Sefarad, 12.2 (1952), pp. 351–68. Meyer Schapiro, ‘Nature of Abstract Art’, Marxist Art Quarterly, 1.1 (1937), pp. 77–98. Christine Sciacca, ‘Raising the Curtain on the Use of Textiles in Manuscripts’, in Weaving, Veiling, and Dressing: Textiles and Their Metaphors in the Late Middle Ages, ed. by Kathryn M. Rudy and Barbara Baert (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007), pp. 161–90. Sarit Shalev-Eyni, ‘Tradition in Transition: Mudejar Art and the Emergence of the Illuminated Sephardic Bible in Christian Toledo’, Medieval Encounters, 23 (2017), pp. 531–59. Mirsad Sijarić, ed., The Sarajevo Haggadah: History and Art, commentary vol. by Shalom Sabar (Sarajevo: National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2018). Stefania Silvestri, ‘Le Bibbie ebraiche della penisola iberica: committenza, produzione e diffusione tra I secoli XIII e XVI’ (PhD diss., Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, 2013). Colette Sirat, Hebrew Manuscripts of the Middle Ages, ed. and trans. by Nicholas de Lange (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). David Stern, ‘The Hebrew Bible in Europe in the Middle Ages: A Preliminary Typology’, Jewish Studies, an Internet Journal, 11 (2012), pp. 235–322, http://www.biu.ac.il/JS/JSIJ/11-2012/ Stern.pdf (accessed 28 July 2020). ———, The Jewish Bible: A Material History (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017). Jessica Renee Streit, ‘Monumental Austerity: The Meanings and Aesthetic Development of Almohad Friday Mosques’ (PhD diss., Cornell University, 2013). Bernabé Cabañero Subiza, ‘Los talleres de decoración arquitectónica de los siglos X y XI en el Valle del Ebro y su reflejo en el arte mudéjar’, in Arte mudéjar en Aragón, León, Castilla, Extremadura y Andalucia, ed. by María del Carmen Lacarra Ducay (Zaragoza: Institución ‘Fernando el Católico’ [C.S.I.C.], 2006), pp. 31–63. Yasser Tabbaa, The Transformation of Islamic Art during the Sunni Revival (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001).

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Frank Ephraim Talmage, David Kimhi: The Man and the Commentaries (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975). James Trilling, ‘Medieval Interlace Ornament: The Making of a Cross-Cultural Idiom’, Arte medievale, 9.2 (1995), pp. 59–86. Annie Vernay-Nouri with Annie Berthier, Enluminures en Terre d’Islam: entre abstraction et figuration (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 2011). Tamás Visi, ‘The Early Ibn Ezra Supercommentaries: A Chapter in Medieval Jewish Intellectual History’ (PhD diss., Central European University, 2006). Gerald H. Wilson, The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter (Chico: Scholars Press, 1985). ———, ‘Evidence of Editorial Divisions in the Hebrew Psalter’, Vetus Testamentum, 34 (1984), pp. 337–52. Bracha Yaniv, ‘From Spain to the Balkans: Textile Torah Scroll Accessories in the Sephardi Communities of the Balkans’, Sefarad, 66.2 (2006), pp. 407–42.

About the Authors Adam S. Cohen is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Toronto. His research and publications focus primarily on the intersection of ideas and practices as expressed in medieval illuminated manuscripts. He is the author most recently of Signs & Wonders: 100 Haggada Masterpieces (2018) and, with Linda Safran and Jill Caskey, Art and Architecture of the Middle Ages: Exploring a Connected World, forthcoming from Cornell University Press. Linda Safran is an associate fellow at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto. She has published most extensively on art in medieval southern Italy. She is currently co-editing a book on Byzantine, Western medieval, and Islamic diagrams that emerged from a Dumbarton Oaks symposium and, with Adam S. Cohen and Jill Caskey, is co-author of a textbook, Art and Architecture of the Middle Ages: Exploring a Connected World, forthcoming from Cornell University Press.

4. Back-to-Front: Abstraction and Figuration in Bosch’s Visions of the Hereafter Robert Mills

Abstract Attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, Visions of the Hereafter is a group of four panels that depict the ascent of worthy souls to heaven and the descent of the damned to hell. Exteriors of these panels, which feature grounds painted uniformly in red and green before being spattered with a profusion of white blotches, have recently been called ‘surprisingly abstract’ and so have come to serve as an index of the paintings’ seeming modernity. Simultaneously, these images have been compared with late medieval marble-imitation techniques. I use the Visions of the Hereafter to interrogate the relationship between abstraction and figuration in medieval thought. How might the exterior paintings serve as a springboard to contemplation? And how do they signify beyond the time of their creation? Keywords: Hieronymus Bosch, abstract expressionism, marble, dissemblance, imagination

Visions of the Hereafter is a celebrated group of paintings attributed to Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450–1516), which depict, across four panels, the ascent of worthy souls to heaven and the descent of the damned to hell (Figure 4-1). Usually assigned a relatively late date in the artist’s career, the panels are documented as being in Venice just a few years after they were probably made. A notice by the noble art connoisseur Marcantonio Michiel, in a posthumously published diary entry, is usually taken to be the earliest written reference to the work. Michiel describes seeing two paintings in the collection of Cardinal Domenico Grimani in 1521: one a depiction of hell with a ‘gran diversità de mostri’ (‘great diversity of monsters’) and another, by the same hand, described as ‘La tela delli Sogni’ (‘the canvas of dreams’).1 Five centuries later, the panels returned from Venice to Bosch’s home town, ’s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, where they featured in the hugely popular

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_ch04

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Figure 4-1. Hieronymus Bosch, Visions of the Hereafter, c. 1505-1515, featuring from left to right The Fall of the Damned, The River to Hell (or Purgatory), The Garden of Eden, and The Ascent of the Blessed. Oil on oak panel, each panel approx. 89 × 40 cm. Venice, Museo di Palazzo Grimani. Source: Bosch Research and Conservation Project, http://boschproject.org.

Visions of Genius exhibition at the Noordbrabants Museum in spring 2016, one of two major retrospectives marking the fifth centenary since the painter’s death.2 The point of departure for this essay will not be the better-known images on the front of the Visions of the Hereafter panels. The most frequently reproduced scene in modern publications is the picture known as The Ascent of the Blessed, which shows naked souls being borne by angels towards the mouth of a vast, illuminated tunnel in the sky, at the end of which is a shadowy figure whose form is almost entirely obscured by the heavenly aura. Connections have long been made between this particular image and modern-day reports of ‘near-death experience’ because of the resonances between Bosch’s picture and the testimonies of dying individuals who are recalled to life and report a sensation of moving through a tunnel towards a point of light.3 But another dimension to these panels has also recently come to serve as an index of their supposed modernity, namely the images painted on the backs of each (Figure 4-2). These feature a ground layer painted evenly in hues of red or greenish-black, then splashed and splattered with white paint, before being coated with a final wash of translucent colour. 4 On one level, the paintings in question are eminently ‘Bosch-like’, generating meaning through a proliferation of imagery that places them on a par with some of the artist’s better-known works, such as The Garden of Earthly Delights or The Haywain. Just as these other pictures

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Figure 4-2. Hieronymus Bosch, images on reverse of Visions of the Hereafter panels, c. 1505-1515. Source: Bosch Research and Conservation Project, http://boschproject.org.

brim with multiple depictions of people, animals, monsters, and objects, leading to their occasional characterization as Wimmelbilder, the backs of the Visions of the Hereafter panels are overloaded with painted marks that superficially betray similarities with the ‘busy picture’ format. Yet the images on the reverse also appear to be unlike anything else in the painter’s oeuvre, replacing representational forms with an array of visual marks that seemingly eschew precise figuration. The authors of the Dutch exhibition catalogue therefore called attention to the exterior images’ ‘surprisingly abstract, almost modern’ status.5 And inevitably, not long after the exhibition opened, notices began circulating in reviews and on social media inviting comparisons with Jackson Pollock.6 Such responses are partly a function of the fact that for most viewers, these paintings indeed possess a presence that is fundamentally new. Aside from a few specialists and conservators, after all, no one had actually seen them either in reproductions or in a gallery setting until they went on show in 2016. The exhibition at the Noordbrabants Museum was underpinned by a major research programme, the Bosch Research and Conservation Project (brcp), which, among other things, facilitated the restoration of these particular paintings in 2015.7 Previously, when exhibited in Venice, only the images taken to be the main, ‘interior’ scenes were displayed publicly. Prior to the recent restoration, the ‘exterior’ images—covered in thick layers of dirt, glue, and varnish; enclosed in modern supportive frames; and, in the case of The Fall of the Damned, boarded over and almost completely lost—bore witness to the work’s

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Figure 4-3. Jan Provoost, exterior wings from Triptych with the Virgin and Child, John the Evangelist, and Mary Magdalene, c. 1520-1525. Oil on panel, 44.3 × 30.5 cm. The Hague, Mauritshuis.

more limited possibilities for display.8 But in ’s-Hertogenbosch, possibly for the first time in centuries, viewers were able to appreciate the images painted on these so-called ‘backs’ or ‘reverses’.9 Pointedly, the Visions of the Hereafter group was also the last thing that visitors saw before leaving the exhibition, one of four works in a concluding section representing ‘The End of Days’.10 Just as the accompanying catalogue sets out to identify Bosch simultaneously as a craftsman embedded in a late medieval tradition and as a ‘genius’ artist who broke loose from the techniques, forms, and imagery of his time, so the work’s placement within the exhibition itself announced its role as a portal to the modern world.11 Working against this acknowledgement of the paintings’ presence and contemporaneity is the observation that, as announced in both the exhibition catalogue and the more detailed catalogue raisonné that was published to coincide with the 2016 celebrations, Bosch ‘probably intended to imitate red porphyry and green serpentine marble—costly types of stone used since classical antiquity to pay tribute to the highest power’.12 There is plenty of evidence to recommend this interpretation, notably the existence of numerous precedents and parallels in f ifteenth- and

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Figure 4-4. Workshop of Hieronymus Bosch, exterior wings of Job Triptych, c. 1510-1520. Oil on oak panel, left wing 98.1 × 30.5 cm, right wing 97.8 × 30. 2 cm. Bruges, Stad Brugge, Groeningemuseum (on loan from Church of Saint James the Greater, Hoeke, Damme). Source: Musea Brugge, www.lukasweb.be—Art in Flanders, photo Hugo Maertens.

sixteenth-century painting.13 One thinks, for example, of the technique deployed in the marbled panels below Fra Angelico’s Madonna of the Shadows in the dormitory corridor of the monastery of San Marco, Florence, which triggered memories in the mind of art historian Georges Didi-Huberman of paintings by none other than Jackson Pollock.14 Or there are the marbled shutters on smaller altarpieces such as a triptych by the Bruges painter Jan Provoost (c. 1465–1529), commissioned a few years after Bosch’s death, which deploy the same combination of green and red (Figure 4-3); or the exterior wings of the contemporaneous Job Triptych (Figure 4-4), the interior scenes of which were probably completed in Bosch’s own workshop.15 This kind of marbling technique was not exactly rare during the decades in which Bosch was working. Marbled backgrounds and backs had featured in sacral panel painting in Italy since at least the fourteenth century, while in northern Europe, Jan van Eyck and his followers pioneered the representation of imitation marble frames as surrounds for private portraits as well as representations of marble on

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the reverses.16 Thus, if the painter of the Visions of the Hereafter panels was indeed aiming for this effect (whether that painter is the man identified as ‘Bosch’ or a workshop assistant), it arguably places him closer to his contemporaries than the perceived resonances with abstract expressionism superficially imply. Then again, pursuing the connection further, it is possible to imagine other dimensions to these painted evocations of stony surfaces. Jeffrey Cohen has written eloquently of the challenges stone presents to human modes of periodization and temporal framing. ‘Conveying within its materiality the thickness of time’, Cohen writes, ‘stone triggers the vertigo of inhuman scale’.17 Perhaps it follows that the fictive marbles (if that is indeed what they are) hold out the promise of a lithicinduced perspective on the universe. Within a geological scale of time, the painter effectively establishes himself as contemporary with the images’ beholders in any era, evoking stone as a means of inviting viewers to contemplate beyond human timescales. References to red porphyry and green serpentinite therefore resonate with the larger theme of afterlife and the end of days that is at issue in this group of paintings. The stony portraits on the other sides of Bosch’s Visions of the Hereafter panels potentially offer a rebuke to the habitual anthropocentrism of looking. Marble also has the capacity to invoke a more specific range of reference. If Jan van Eyck’s marbled backs and frames endow the portraits they embellish with a sense of timeless monumentality, from the early Middle Ages to the Renaissance, stone was also credited with the capacity for vitality and movement. Thus, the wave-like patterns of marble floors or walls in buildings such as Hagia Sophia generate what Bissera V. Pentcheva has termed a marmor aesthetic in the interior décor of Byzantine churches, calling on the etymological links in Greek language between the words for marble and glitter, and the verb ‘to quiver’.18 The perceived vibrancy of such materials is emphatically non-anthropomorphic, allowing beholders to recognize the presence of the metaphysical in the phenomenal world itself. Evocations of marble in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century painting conversely rely on human artifice and illusion to convey their meanings, deliberately making reference to the visual and physical properties of certain types of stone. Yet they too are designed to call to mind the liquidity, luminosity, and non-linear temporalities of their referents. Purple porphyry, most prized of all among ancient marbles, was further imbued with iconographic significance as a vehicle of both imperial and spiritual triumph, its colour invoking the sacrificial blood of Christ and martyrs.19 Abbot Suger of Saint Denis (c. 1081–1151), drawing on the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite, had advocated substances such as polished stone and gems, transformed by human artistry, as triggers to heavenly contemplation.20 The assumption that the backs of the Visions of the Hereafter panels represent a deliberate attempt at marbling gives rise to a number of questions. Would Bosch or his workshop assistants (or, for that matter, the artist’s patrons or original audiences)

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actually have seen objects or buildings decorated with high-quality marbles in their lifetimes? And would the creator of these images have possessed the skills required to produce images that convincingly resemble real marble? Or is it possible to discern other goals, besides artful illusionism, in such pictures? Circumstantial arguments have occasionally been made in favour of a northern Italian sojourn for Bosch in the early 1500s, which could perhaps have given him the opportunity to see the marble revetments used to adorn buildings such as St. Mark’s basilica in Venice.21 A more likely context in which the artist and his contemporaries would have potentially come into contact with these esteemed substances was the medieval portable altar, which sometimes incorporated pieces of red porphyry or serpentinite. Extant examples consist of a small slab of stone that has been laid over a wooden core, before being framed and held together by metal mounts or casings.22 The stone plaques were smoothed and polished, but otherwise devoid of decoration, while the frames in which they were set were commonly embellished with small-scale figural scenes or ornament. This aesthetic distinction between frame and stone served to underscore a separation between earthly vision, grounded in the perception of human-made resemblances to the known world, and the invisible and unspeakable domain of God. The configuration therefore highlighted both marble’s suitability as a noble support for the performance of Mass and its status as a figurative stand-in for what lies beyond the field of human vision, namely the invisible body of Christ.23 The stones incorporated into portable altars were admittedly much smaller in scale than the paintings on the reverses of Bosch’s panels, but the portable altar represents one location in which the maker of these works might conceivably have encountered real marble. Notwithstanding these possibilities, however, the artist’s primary experience of these materials would likely have been in the guise of their fictive reproduction in paintings by some of Bosch’s Netherlandish predecessors and near contemporaries such as Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Robert Campin, and Jan Provoost. This may well explain the distinctly unmarble-like properties of the Visions of the Hereafter ‘marbles’ when viewed in reasonably close proximity (Figure 4-5). If the images on the exteriors were designed to be mimetic in some way, then it is worth recalling that they were likely imitations of imitations—simulacra of sorts—whose relationship to ‘real’ stone cannot decisively be established. Given that at least two of the paintings are documented as being in Venice not long after Bosch’s death, they were possibly painted to please a patron or buyer with tastes developed south of the Alps.24 It has even been suggested that the ‘marbling’, while undeniably early in date, is not original, and was added only after the panels came into the possession of Cardinal Grimani.25 Again, however, the fact that the images do not evoke marble directly or in a convincingly illusionistic manner suggests that we also need to consider alternative possibilities.

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Figure 4-5. Hieronymus Bosch, detail of reverse of The Ascent of the Blessed panel from Visions of the Hereafter. Source: Bosch Research and Conservation Project, http://boschproject.org.

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At this juncture, it is worth returning to the question raised above concerning the quality of the paintings’ execution. If the creator of the reverses is envisaged as one of Bosch’s assistants rather than Hieronymus himself, it might be assumed that this individual did not possess the skills required to produce a convincingly illusionistic representation of marbled surfaces. There is at least one other example of a work produced in Bosch’s workshop, the aforementioned Job Triptych (see Figure 4-4), upon whose exterior wings paintings were applied that were designed to imitate stone, probably shortly after the triptych left ’s-Hertogenbosch. Although these images likely did not originate in Bosch’s workshop, as such, a comparison with the Visions of the Hereafter images is instructive. Aesthetically, indeed, the contrast could not be starker. The Job Triptych exteriors feature four escutcheons bearing coats of arms that seem to hover, artfully, above the red faux-marble surface in a virtuoso display of trompe l’oeil; the painter’s use of shadows and a variegated palette contributes to the illusion that these are real blocks of stone. By contrast, the images on the outside of the Visions of the Hereafter panels are significantly flatter and largely devoid of illusionistic qualities. The painter has deployed a more limited range of colours and it is difficult, especially when seen close up, to be persuaded that the object in question is anything other than a painted surface. As much as the Visions of the Hereafter paintings may have been intended, on one level, to evoke the speckled surfaces and shimmering luminescence of polished stone, the blotches and splatters on coloured grounds also insistently call to mind the liquidity and mobility of paint. From a modern perspective, of course, this might be interpreted as an index of the artwork’s self-referentiality—a deliberate strategy on the artist’s part. But we need to ask whether the Visions of the Hereafter paintings were similarly designed, at the outset, to convey a ‘nonfigurative’ aspect, or whether they were conversely intended, like the Job Triptych panels, to evoke only marble. Intriguingly, the recent catalogue raisonné published by the brcp and an accompanying volume of technical studies each incorporate reproductions of details from the Visions of the Hereafter reverses as the books’ endpapers.26 This evokes a tradition of lining printed books with marbled endpapers that is emphatically post-medieval. In so doing, the publication harnesses the images’ decorative potential—their ability to function as aesthetically pleasing backdrops or frames to the volume’s internal contents. But the gesture also signals the potential of these images to operate outside the time of their making, effectively drawing attention to the complex and impure temporalities of these paintings. One of the keys to unlocking the temporal heterogeneity of painting, says Didi-Huberman, is that spark of recognition when objects from the past seemingly transcend the time of their creation—for instance, the surprise of discovering in the corridor of a fifteenthcentury convent a series of paintings that fleetingly call to mind twentieth-century action painting. Rather than being the ‘horrible sin that every qualified historian

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sees in it’, such anachronisms may even be imbued, Didi-Huberman surmises, with the ‘rhythmic pulse’ of method.27 But as with the Fra Angelico paintings that provide Didi-Huberman with his critical touchstones, the capacity of the images on the reverses of the Visions of the Hereafter paintings to register a sense of presence and contemporaneity has less to do with their similarities to marble, their visible resemblance to existing forms, than with their appreciable dissimilarity to stony surfaces. For while the paintings could indeed conceivably be interpreted as producing a certain marble-like effect when viewed from afar (for instance, if one were to look at them from the back of a chapel or a large room within a Venetian palazzo), even at a distance of a few metres the eye is also drawn to the sheer materiality of these images as a medley of paint on paint. More so than the Provoost and Job Triptych marbled panels—more so even, perhaps, than Angelico’s fictive marbles—the exterior images of Bosch’s Visions of the Hereafter group subject figuration to the play of strangeness, an intensity of form and colour that Didi-Huberman has termed ‘dissemblance’.28 Standing a short distance away from the images, indeed, this resolutely dissembling force is even more readily apparent: the sense of movement of the painter’s hand is palpable, as he drips, throws, or blows dollops of paint across the panel’s surface. Homing in on the painting added to the reverse of The Ascent of the Blessed (see Figure 4-5), for example, we are confronted with a series of large spots of white-ish pigment. Each spot branches off from the central focal point into a series of streaks that travel in multiple directions, as if the paint has been propelled vigorously through a piece of straw. Other thin streaks and lines of dots appear to have been created by dripping, flicking, or throwing diluted paint from a loaded brush (or perhaps a stick) directly across the coloured ground. And in the green-tinted glaze that was applied across the entire surface once the white spots had been added, it is possible to discern traces of the paint’s application: thick, textured brushstrokes can be seen descending lengthways up or down the panel.29 From one perspective, these signs of movement—which indexically evoke aspects of the work’s own making—could be viewed as betraying the painter’s relative lack of skill in conveying a convincing semblance of marble. The surface of serpentinite is characteristically flecked with spots, or veined, in varying shades of green and white, as in the painting on the back of Bosch’s panel. But the image does not, ultimately, create the effect of a trompe l’œil illusion akin to the Job Triptych exterior wings (see Figure 4-4). As such, the Latin term subtilis (‘refined’), used by ancient and medieval writers to positively evaluate fine workmanship and craft, would not readily apply in this instance.30 Evaluated in Didi-Huberman’s terms, however, as drawing the visible order towards dissemblance, such artworks could be said to possess virtuosity of a different kind. The disconcerting lack of correspondence between these fictive marbles and real marble effectively opens them up to a wider set of meanings, a blossoming

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of mindful speculation on the part of the beholder. The blotches of paint on Bosch’s panels are not iconic, as such: they do not clearly and unambiguously resemble observable things in the known world. But their indexical character, as a record of the transient act of painting, potentially brings into play associations with such entities as sparkling stars, a shower of meteors, fiery sparks, or any number of other luminous and evanescent entities. The interpretive openness and variety associated with such images induce what Mary Carruthers, citing ekphrastic accounts of aesthetic delight in medieval writings, has termed a ‘polyfocal perspective’.31 This is a type of figuration that operates not by representing otherworldly phenomena visibly, as such, but by alluding to the capacity of natural phenomena such as stones or celestial bodies to index a non-visual domain, a sphere of mystery and enigma, that lies beyond the threshold of the visible. Dissemblance also had theological significance, in other words, naming God’s location outside the field of human vision. Didi-Huberman’s analysis of the term is rooted in the concept of dissimilitudo, which, within medieval exegetical practice, referred to the non-resemblance between phenomenal and divine entities. No less an authority than Augustine of Hippo, citing Plato, puts it thus in his Confessions: You gave a shock to the weakness of my sight by the strong radiance of your rays, and I trembled with love and awe. And I found myself far from you ‘in the region of dissimilarity’ [in regione dissimilitudinis] and heard as it were your voice from on high.32

Ultimately, however, notwithstanding the negative connotations to Augustine’s formulation, dissimilitude is also a springboard to contemplation; the gaze is drawn, in Didi-Huberman’s words, ‘beyond the eye […] into the terrible or admirable regions of the imaginary and the phantasm’.33 Just as dissemblance was a privileged means, in medieval exegesis, of rendering bodies mysterious, disrupting the domain of visual resemblance in order to draw the natural order towards the supernatural, so religious painting was destined to follow ‘the paradoxical path of dissemblant similitudes […] figures that are not valued for what they represent visibly, but for what they show visually, beyond their aspect, as indexes of the mystery’.34 The blotches and spots of paint in Fra Angelico’s frescoes possess an indexical intensity, as material traces, that lead precisely in this direction. So too, I argue here, might the paintings on the reverse of Bosch’s Visions of the Hereafter group be interpreted as taking the viewer on such a mental journey. A stream of mystical thought originating in Flanders in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, associated especially with the work of Jan van Ruusbroec, is worth citing against this backdrop. Ruusbroec noted a three-stage process of spiritual attainment in which the soul ascends from worldly desire to a mind unencumbered

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with images to a sense, finally, of inward union with God.35 Connections have sometimes been made between Bosch’s celestial ‘tunnel’ in the Ascent of the Blessed painting and the mystical light Ruusbroec associates with God, but the image on the other side also has the capacity to register the irresistible attractions of divine light evoked in Ruusbroec’s writings. It would be easy enough to return these pictures to their theological and historical contexts, boxing them in with reference to statements by authorities such as Ruusbroec and Saint Augustine. But what would be the upshot of taking seriously the recent (and hitherto somewhat facile) reception of this group of paintings as an exercise in abstraction? Pursuing the concept that is this volume’s focus, it is worth emphasizing that abstractness is not a pure, singular, or universal category. According to Briony Fer, writing about twentieth-century experiments with abstraction, the term ‘abstract’ as it is currently deployed is both too inclusive, in the sense that it ‘covers a diversity of art and different historical moments that really hold nothing in common except a refusal to figure objects’, and too exclusive, in the sense that it imagines a world of resemblances (whether to geometric shapes, naturally occurring patterns, or some other ideal form) ‘which is hermetically sealed from a world of representation outside it’.36 But the antithesis conventionally assumed between abstraction and figuration is clearly inadequate when applied to the exterior images on the Visions of the Hereafter panels, as indeed when it is used to describe much art produced in recent decades (a point Fer makes forcefully with reference to the work of artists such as Gerhard Richter and Rachel Whiteread).37 What we see when we look at the images on the other side of Bosch’s Visions of the Hereafter paintings is representational, in the sense that it was presumably intended—and is frequently interpreted—as alluding to the physical qualities of polished stone. However, if, as I am arguing, viewers are simultaneously confronted with a dazzling array of streaks and drips and blotches that call attention to the images’ own materiality—their status as dripped surfaces, their insistent thingness—then these works are also palpably abstract. They challenge us to pin down what we see, to identify what exactly is represented, to link what we see securely to some referent in the ‘real world’. Viewers encounter a field of blindness as much as vision, disturbance as much as order. A category sometimes paired with abstraction in accounts of modernist and contemporary art is fantasy. The idea that spectators can read ‘almost anything’ into an abstract picture, that they project onto it their fantasies, that abstraction activates less determined and more open modes of interpretation, is regarded as the promise but sometimes also the flaw of abstract art.38 Art of any kind engages viewers in fantasy, of course. The more obviously figurative images on the interiors of the Visions of the Hereafter panels have the capacity to generate multiple meanings in the mind’s eye. The devils in the pictures identified as representing infernal regions,

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Figure 4-6. Hieronymus Bosch, detail of The Ascent of the Blessed panel from Visions of the Hereafter. Source: Bosch Research and Conservation Project, http://boschproject.org.

or the angels in the images evoking the garden of paradise and the ascent to heaven, have the appearance of ‘real’ beings, located in a terrestrial landscape, albeit based on elements (such as animal body parts) that do not exist together in reality. But the darkest zones of hell and the brightest zones of heaven are tantalizingly withheld from view. Bosch’s famous tunnel of light in the Ascent of the Blessed painting is a case in point. A figure often interpreted as a guardian angel, leading two souls, has been painted in heavy impasto to create the effect of a visible entity disappearing into a blinding light; meanwhile, the swirling vortex of blue-white paint surrounding the circle of creamy white itself veers away from precise figuration and towards abstraction. Viewed up close, indeed, as the digital images produced by the brcp now allow us to do (Figure 4-6), spectators are confronted with a dense network of brushstrokes and craquelure that divert attention from the representational dimensions of Bosch’s picture and towards its insistent materiality. Yet this effect arguably also causes the committed viewer to reflect, with renewed attention, on the possibilities that exist beyond the threshold of the visible. It is little wonder that the earliest documented reference to the paintings, Michiel’s 1521 notice, refers to the heavenly scene as a canvas of ‘dreams’. Twentieth-century abstraction was similarly shaped by a tension between material transcendence and the desire not to erase the material conditions of painting. The modernist artist Kazimir Malevich put the spiritual-material opposition under

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pressure thus: ‘things […] disintegrate into a multitude of things, whose investigation will prove that these disintegrated things also in their turn disintegrated into independent things and bore a mass of new links and relations with new things, and so on ad infinitum’.39 Paintings are terrestrial things that potentially lose their substance, gesturing towards ethereality, without necessarily discarding their insistence on their own manufactured status and unyielding materiality. It is worth asking whether a sixteenth-century viewer would have viewed the ‘backs’ of the Bosch panels as correspondingly generative by virtue of their resolute thingness: material vehicles that stimulate contemplation of the unfamiliar, the invisible, and the unknowable. To what extent were they, too, perceived as engendering a space of fantasy and infinite projection? It is beyond the scope of the present study to supply a detailed introduction to the mental faculties that late medieval thinkers believed to conjure up images in the mind’s eye. With the proviso that this is a complex and varied subject, however, and at the risk of over-intellectualizing Bosch’s milieu, the resonances with the Visions of the Hereafter panels seem readily apparent. In the later Middle Ages, theories of cognition were energetically debated, philosophers investing imagination with new authority as a bridge between sense and reason. For thinkers such as Albertus Magnus and his student Thomas Aquinas, writing in the thirteenth century, phantasma were conceived as signs formed by images, which in turn facilitate mnemonic recall. Information acquired from sensory encounters (especially through the eyes) enters the brain via the faculty of imaginatio, where it takes the form of these ‘mental images’. Furthermore, Albert reflected on the Aristotelian concept of phantasia, an intellectual faculty which he interpreted as a distinct higher power of imagination, whose function was to rearrange sensory encounters in ways that do not necessarily correlate to the world as it really is. This notion of phantasia as a site for invention and the projection of fantasy resonates closely with the modern definition of imagination. Of course, as a lively faculty that can lead the mind astray, phantasia risks distracting the soul, turning it away from true knowledge of God towards chimeras or images derived from mundane earthly sources. These caveats aside, however, medieval philosophers also affirmed phantasms and their links to matter as necessary elements in the mind’s ability to ruminate and to remember. 40 In late medieval literature, of course, image-based cognition is often associated with its capacity to hamper reason. One thinks, for example, of Chaucer’s Merchant’s Tale, in which the protagonist, January, decides to take a wife; this decision is shaped by the mental images that impress his soul. A comparison is made between the thoughts of shapely maidens that nightly parade through January’s mind and a voyeur who sets up a mirror in a common marketplace to see figures pacing by; ‘this was his fantasye’, the narrating Merchant declares.41 However, theories of phantasms were also realized practically in such contexts as devotional writings on the life of

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Christ, which, in keeping with Abbot Suger’s view that gazing upon material things such as gems, glass, or marble can be a springboard to meditation, acknowledged a positive dimension to image-based devotion. Texts such as the immensely popular Meditations on the Life of Christ, associated with Bonaventure, drew on the power of the imagination to instigate a process of mystical transport, impelling devotees from Christ’s humanity to his divinity. As a sensible being himself, Christ was, in Bonaventure’s view, uniquely placed to aid the mind in its progression from sensory to intellectual cognition. Identifying God as the immediate, if ever elusive, object of intellect, the theologian therefore promoted Christ as the means through which intelligible content could be derived from sensible things, including images.42 The purpose of abstraction was therefore, as Michelle Karnes helpfully describes it, ‘to strip away the material chaff from the intelligible wheat’.43 Bonaventure himself described the process by which Christ illuminates the intellect via data derived from imagination and the senses as one of ‘abstraction and purification’ (abstractionem et depurationem), Christ assuming the function of ‘our ladder’ from earthly to eternal things due to his triply corporeal, spiritual, and divine make-up. 44 Late medieval manuscripts, such as a remarkable fifteenth-century prayer book in the British Library, catalogued as MS Egerton 1821, arguably take these theories to their logical conclusion: after three pages painted in black with large drops of blood trickling down the page, a series of woodcuts surrounded by verses from the Rosary of the Virgin are followed by an extraordinary double-page opening in which the entire surface of the parchment is coloured blood red, dotted with innumerable wounds, before further similar pages onto which additional woodcuts have been pasted. Christ’s multiple wounds are abstracted, in the sense that they have lifted out of the context of a discernible body—even as the corpus on which those wounds were inflicted arguably lingers in the guise of the fleshy parchment on which the blood-red pigment has been repeatedly, even obsessively, inscribed. 45 Kathryn Rudy has recently described in some depth the circulation of imagery such as the Wound of Christ and Nail of the Passion in the fifteenth-century Low Countries, focusing on how, in such depictions of the arma Christi, Christ’s Passion is similarly reduced to ‘bold abstraction’, confronting viewers with ‘an array of geometric forms, which demand to be narrativized’; imagination is required to configure these abstract shapes as aids to contemplation. 46 A crucial distinction needs to be drawn, however, between these Passion images in late medieval manuscript culture and the images painted on the reverses of Bosch’s panels. The wounds and drops of blood in arma Christi images, or those laboriously inscribed on the parchment in Egerton 1821, are rightly described as ‘abstracted’ in the sense that they have been removed from the body that is their source; they are, nonetheless, still recognizable as wounds and blood, identifiable in the context of late medieval piety as a visible and quantifiable record of Christ’s

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sufferings. The splotches of paint on the backs of the Visions of the Hereafter group are, by contrast, not simply abstracted but fundamentally abstract. They are not a specific representation made less specific: they are potentially something else entirely. This is not to say that these images eschew mimeticism completely. But their status as imitation marbles is ultimately less significant than their potential as surfaces that engender experiences of dissemblance and mystery. In the words of Didi-Huberman, writing about Angelico’s coloured blotches: ‘They are there to show infinitely more than they offered to be discerned. The less they offer to be discerned, the more they free meaning.’47 Additional contexts could be invoked here. The use of gold ground in medieval and Renaissance religious painting, especially in Italy, for example, similarly functioned as a check on the notion of representation as straightforward mimesis. 48 Other techniques for framing visionary images and thereby distinguishing them from the mundane world of visible matter included surrounding a scene in tracery, architectural niches, or arches, or scaling holy figures such as the Virgin and Child disproportionately in relation to their settings. 49 Analogously, the interior scenes of Bosch’s Visions of the Hereafter are characterized by a strong differentiation between foreground and background. Lone human figures in three of the panels operate as framing devices, which indicate that what we see is not simply a painting but also a stimulus and stand-in for visionary experience.50 In The Ascent of the Blessed, two naked souls flanked by angels looks upwards, their hands outstretched in gestures of prayer or astonishment; another soul, accompanied by an angel in a bright red tunic, similarly mirrors the upward gaze of his celestial companion to the right of the scene representing The Garden of Eden. Meanwhile, the picture showing the punishment of wicked souls in a rocky landscape representing hell or (more likely) purgatory features a figure in the foreground, goaded by a demon, who holds his head in despair or agony—a gesture that echoes the downward drift of the damned in the other infernal scene. These figures act as stimuli for spectators external to the paintings, enabling them to transport themselves mentally into the realms of the unseen. The issue I have set out to answer in this essay is whether the paintings on the backs of those same panels were also intended to move viewers into a more imaginative, perhaps even imageless domain. If they can be interpreted as ‘abstract’ in some way, what specific role has abstraction played in heightening the pictures’ visionary potential? Keeping these questions in mind, let me conclude with the following hypothesis: the paintings added to the exteriors of Bosch’s Visions of the Hereafter panels were themselves conceived as a sort of contemplative spur, complementing the better-known interior scenes in their capacity to displace the visible into the domain of invisibility. Indeed, it is perhaps a measure of this capacity to generate meditative possibilities that these paintings call to mind

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twentieth-century experiments with abstraction. If, in this particular instance, the focus of meditation is not self-evidently Christological, it remains the case that viewers can potentially be transported from matter to intellectual and supernatural content via the power of the imaginary. Another conclusion also presents itself at this juncture: the perceptual enigma viewers are potentially invited to contemplate in the Visions of the Hereafter finds a counterpart in the enigmas that characterize modern-day scholarship on the paintings. Questions remain about the arrangement and function of Bosch’s work, after all. Although it has recently been established that the boards for each of the four panels were sawn from the same trees, doubts have been cast on whether the paintings belonged together initially.51 So, for instance, drawing on Michiel’s apparent reference to just two items (or, as he calls it, ‘canvases’) in Grimani’s palace in Venice in 1521, arguments have sometimes been made that the infernal and heavenly scenes on the panel fronts would originally have formed the wings to two separate triptychs rather than a single polyptych.52 Another possibility is that the paired panels were connected to one another by hinges, forming wings to a large central panel or three-dimensional altarpiece, as with certain other large altarpieces from this time.53 It is postulated that the subject of the ‘lost’ central panel or sculptural ensemble would likely be related to the Last Judgement or Second Coming of Christ. Yet another theory is that the panels were not intended to be displayed side by side but in pairs, one above the other, used as wings enclosing some other central object, such as a relic cabinet, astronomical clock, or wall niche. The curators of the Visions of Genius exhibition at the Noordbrabants Museum deemed this to be the ‘most logical arrangement’, given that larger altarpieces usually had figurative images on both sides and would therefore be able to operate as a focus for devotion even on days when the shutters were closed.54 I am personally less convinced by this particular explanation, on the grounds that the supposedly more ‘abstract’ images on the panel exteriors were arguably just as susceptible to devotional meanings as the more ‘figurative’ scenes painted on the inside of the altarpiece shutters, as seen on The Garden of Earthly Delights, with its exterior grisailles.55 But the truth is that it will never be possible to deal conclusively with all the questions around these paintings; instead, it might be worth speculating how their very open-endedness can be a stimulus to thought. The exterior images on Bosch’s Visions of the Hereafter are not just decorative supplements, framing the content analogous to the way endpapers function in a book; nor are they simply implicated in mimesis, producing the effect of a stony marble surface. Rather, they seem designed to operate both as a spiritual conundrum and contemplative tool, grounds for bountiful meditation. The so-called ‘backs’ to Bosch’s paintings are thus also effectively the ‘fronts’. They, too, at least in theory, could be taken up as starting points in a meditative journey into the unrepresentable and invisible unknown.

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Notes 1.

2.

3.

4. 5. 6.

7. 8.

This essay originated from my department’s ‘Past Imperfect’ series in 2016, and was further developed for events at the University of Southern California in 2017, Cambridge University in 2018, and Princeton University in 2019. I am very grateful to audiences on each of these occasions for their invaluable comments and suggestions, notably Barbara Baert, Paul Binski, Vincent Debiais, Natasha Eaton, Hanna Hölling, Herbert Kessler, Rose Marie San Juan, and Allison Stielau. Thanks, also, to Lauren Rozenberg for research assistance; to Andrew Hammond for an illuminating conversation about Bosch and abstract expressionism; and to Elina Gertsman for her razor-sharp editorial comments.  Michiel, Notizia d’opere di Disegno, p. 77. The panels are usually dated on stylistic and compositional grounds to the final decade of Bosch’s career, between 1505 and 1515. See further Ilsink and Koldeweij, Hieronymus Bosch, p. 174; Ilsink et al., Hieronymus Bosch, Painter and Draughtsman: Catalogue Raisonné (hereafter, Ilsink, Catalogue Raisonné), p. 310; Maroto, Bosch, p. 313; Slatkes, ‘Hieronymus Bosch and Italy’, p. 339. Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of Genius (’s‐Hertogenbosch, Noordbrabants Museum, 13 February–8 May 2016), catalogue ed. by Ilsink and Koldeweij; Bosch: the 5th Centenary Exhibition (Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 31 May–11 September 2016), catalogue ed. by Maroto. For instance, the painting is reproduced in van Lommel, Consciousness Beyond Life, p. 28, in a section describing the ‘tunnel experience’ of death; and a section of Engmann, Near-Death Experiences, pp. 3–5, is devoted to assessing whether the painting provides historical evidence of the phenomenon. See also Binski, Medieval Death, pp. 164–5; Reuterswärd, ‘Hieronymus Bosch’s Four Afterlife Panels’, p. 31; Valarino, On the Other Side of Life, p. 203. Ilsink and Koldeweij, Hieronymus Bosch, p. 174. Ilsink and Koldeweij, Hieronymus Bosch, p. 174. See, e.g., Cook, ‘Devil in the Detail’; and a Tweet by Wim Honders (Twitter handle @agfaclack) on 28 March 2016 declaring ‘Hieronymus #Bosch painting like Jackson #Pollock. Surprising #verso of heaven & hell. #exhibition #DenBosch #mustsee’, https://twitter.com/agfaclack/status/714497911212613632 (accessed 23 October 2016). Ilsink, Catalogue Raisonné, pp. 11, 308–14. See the condition reports in Ilsink, Catalogue Raisonné, p. 308; Hoogstede et al., Hieronymus Bosch, Painter and Draughtsman: Technical Studies (hereafter, Hoogstede, Technical Studies), pp. 253–5, 261–3. The frames obscuring the edges of the ‘imitation stone’ images masked non-original bevelling, suggesting that the paintings originally covered a more extensive area; in addition, each of the Visions of the Hereafter panels have at some point been cropped on both the top and bottom. In 2008, the paintings were moved from the Palazzo Ducale to the Palazzo Grimani and, around 2009–2010, they were placed in a large wall-mounted vitrine that prevented the exterior images from being seen; the vitrine was still in situ—albeit empty—at the time of writing and the paintings currently feature in an exhibit at

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the Gallerie dell’ Accademia of Bosch’s works in Venice. The current display, first mounted shortly before the 2016 exhibition in ’s-Hertogenbosch, shows the works in four interconnected vitrines, created after the conservation treatment of the reverses in 2015, that enable both sides of the panels to be viewed. 9. ‘Backs’ and ‘reverses’ are the words the Dutch curators use to describe them: Ilsink and Koldeweij, Hieronymus Bosch, p. 174; Ilsink, Catalogue Raisonné, pp. 103, 308. 10. Catalogue entries 48–51, in Ilsink and Koldeweij, Hieronymus Bosch, pp. 159–74. 11. For a classic argument characterizing Bosch’s art as a bridge between medieval and modern art, see Koerner, ‘Hieronymus Bosch’s World Picture’. 12. Ilsink and Koldeweij, Hieronymus Bosch, p. 174. See also Ilsink, Catalogue Raisonné, pp. 103, 308. 13. For a comprehensive survey, see Dülberg, Privat porträts, pp. 116–27. 14. Didi-Huberman, ‘Before the Image, Before Time’. See also Didi-Huberman, Fra Angelico, pp. 1–2, 30. 15. On the Jan Provoost triptych, see Ron Spronk, catalogue entry 28, in Martens, Brugge en de Renaissance: van Memling tot Pourbus, II, pp. 46–8. On the Job Triptych, see further Ilsink and Koldeweij, Hieronymus Bosch, pp. 146–7; Ilsink, Catalogue Raisonné, pp. 392–400; Hoogstede, Technical Studies, pp. 328–35. 16. Dülberg, Privat porträts, pp. 116–20. 17. Cohen, Stone, pp. 23–4. 18. Pentcheva, Hagia Sophia, pp. 121–49. For different interpretations, see also Barry, ‘Walking on Water’; Carruthers, The Experience of Beauty, pp. 136–7, 151–4; Flood, ‘God’s Wonder’; and Mitchell, ‘Believing is Seeing’. Flood explores genealogical connections between the arts of late antiquity and the rise of abstraction in early twentieth-century Euro-American art, notably a common embrace of marble veneers in buildings to produce ornamental or even figural effects—an argument that resonates with the themes of the present essay. 19. Butters, The Triumph of Vulcan, pp. 41–51, 85–6. 20. Butters, The Triumph of Vulcan, p. 99, citing Abbot Suger’s De administratione. See also Carruthers, The Experience of Beauty, pp. 39–41. 21. Bosch’s Italian journey is hypothesized in Slatkes, ‘Hieronymus Bosch and Italy’, based especially on putative Italianate elements in another work documented as being in Venice from at least the seventeenth century, a triptych showing in its central panel the crucifixion of a female or ambiguously gendered saint identified as Wilgefortis or Liberata. 22. See, for example, the portable altar of Abbot Begon in the Treasury of Conques, c. 1100; or that of Countess Gertrude, c. 1045, now in the Cleveland Museum of Art (1931.462), which contain plaques of red porphyry; or the mid-twelfth-century Gregorius altar now in the treasury of St. Servatius, Siegburg, which incorporates a piece of green serpentinite. For further examples, see Didi-Huberman, Fra Angelico, pp. 91–8. 23. Méhu, ‘L’évidement de l’image’. 24. See note 1. 25. See Reuterswärd, ‘Hieronymus Bosch’s Four Afterlife Panels’, p. 35 n8, though the brcp assumes that both ‘backs’ and ‘fronts’ were created in the same workshop.

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26. The better preserved of the two red images, on the back of The Garden of Eden, is used as the front and back endpapers in Ilsink, Catalogue Raisonné; reproductions of the green image on the back of The Ascent of the Blessed embellish the inside covers of Hoogstede, Technical Studies. At the beginning and end of each volume, a detail from the painting in question is repeated twice over—once as it appears in life and once in reverse. This seems designed to echo the ancient technique of book-matched marble, as discussed in Barry, ‘Walking on Water’; Flood, ‘God’s Wonder’. 27. Didi-Huberman, ‘Before the Image, Before Time’, p. 42. 28. Didi-Huberman, Fra Angelico, p. 3 and passim; Didi-Huberman, Confronting Images, p. 201. 29. Hoogstede, Technical Studies, p. 255. 30. On subtilis, see Carruthers, The Experience of Beauty, pp. 188–9. 31. Carruthers, The Experience of Beauty, pp. 151–5, 187. 32. Augustine, Confessions 7.10.16, trans. by Chadwick, pp. 123–4. The same passage is quoted in Didi-Huberman, Fra Angelico, p. 46; and Didi-Huberman, Confronting Images, p. 212. On the origins and transmission of the expression regio dissimilitudinis in antiquity and the Middle Ages, see also Courcelle, ‘Tradition neo-platonicienne’; Javelet, Image et ressemblance, I, pp. 266–85, II, pp. 228–43. 33. Didi-Huberman, Fra Angelico, p. 4. 34. Didi-Huberman, Fra Angelico, pp. 5–6. Didi-Huberman also stresses the liturgical dimensions to Fra Angelico’s act of casting a rain of pigment on the monastery walls: ‘this stream of coloured spots doesn’t resemble very much from the point of view of appearance; conversely, it resembles quite precisely a process—a gesture of motion, even consecration, that it re-enacts (in other words re-actualises, makes concrete again) more than it imitates’ (Confronting Images, pp. 201–3). 35. Combe, Jerome Bosch. See also Maroto, Bosch, pp. 314–6; Silver, Hieronymus Bosch, pp. 357, 415 n56. 36. Fer, On Abstract Art, 5. 37. On the inadequacy of the abstraction/figuration opposition for understanding modern and contemporary art, see Fer, On Abstract Art, especially ‘Postscript’, pp. 153–68. 38. Fer, On Abstract Art, 10. 39. Malevich, ‘God Is Not Cast Down’, pp. 194–5. For a more detailed investigation of the modernist tension between transcendence and truth to materials in connection with late Gothic panel painting, and specifically fifteenth-century depictions of drapery, see Powell, ‘Late Gothic Abstractions’. 40. I have relied, for my summaries in this paragraph, on Karnes, Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition; see especially pp. 54–61 on Albertus Magnus and Aquinas. Albert conveys his views on phantasms and imagination in his treatise on Averroes’ long commentary on Aristotle’s De anima: Albertus Magnus, De anima III.3.3, in Alberti Magni opera omnia 7.1. On phantasms in the thought of Augustine, Albert, and Aquinas, see also Carruthers, The Experience of Beauty, pp. 50–3, 70–3. For a compelling introduction to the medieval concept of imagination as invention, see Gertsman, ‘Phantoms of Emptiness’, pp. 813–8.

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41. 42.

43. 44. 45.

46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55.

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Chaucer, ‘Merchant’s Tale’, line 1610, in Riverside Chaucer, ed. Benson, p. 158. See further Collette, Species, Phantasms, and Images. For a comprehensive overview of Bonaventure’s philosophy of imagination, see Karnes, Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition, pp. 63–140. Bonaventure was Aquinas’s contemporary and, as Karnes demonstrates, the two thinkers had a shared understanding of the faculty. Karnes, Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition, p. 87. Bonaventure, 1 Sent. XXXIX.i.ii, ad. 2, in Opera omnia I:689, as cited in Karnes, Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition, 88. On Bonaventure’s contributions to medieval aesthetic thought, see also Carruthers, The Experience of Beauty, pp. 199–205. See further Lowden, ‘Treasures Known and Unknown’; Thebaut, ‘Bleeding Pages, Bleeding Bodies’. There are indications that book came from the Carthusian house at Sheen, though the litanies also indicate that it was made for a woman in Kent. Lowden has counted some 540 wounds on the bloodiest page opening, folios 6v to 7r. Rudy, Rubrics, Images and Indulgences, pp. 55, 59. Didi-Huberman, Fra Angelico, p. 100. Campos, Gold-Ground Italian Painting; Kim, Groundwork. Harbison, ‘Visions and Meditations’. For the ‘sources’ of the Visions of the Hereafter panels in late medieval visionary literature, as well as a pair of panels by Dirk Bouts representing the Fall of the Damned and Earthly Paradise (1468), see Silver, Hieronymus Bosch, pp. 348–50. For the dendrochronological evidence, see Ilsink, Catalogue Raisonné, pp. 58, 310–1; Hoogstede, Technical Studies, p. 253, 255. Maroto, Bosch, p. 313. Ilsink, Catalogue Raisonné, pp. 308–310; Maroto, Bosch, p. 313. Ilsink and Koldeweij, Hieronymus Bosch, p. 174; Ilsink, Catalogue Raisonné, p. 310. Arguments for other arrangements are summarized in Silver, Hieronymus Bosch, p. 415 n52. For an intriguing analysis of these grisailles as representing the zone of the Neutral, a borderline thought on the edge of colour that contemplates an ‘originary indistinction’, see Barthes, The Neutral, pp. 49–52.

Works Cited Albertus Magnus, De anima, in Alberti Magni opera omnia, VII, Part 1, ed. by Clemens Stroick (Münster: Aschendorff, 1968). Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions, ed. and trans. by Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991). Fabio Barry, ‘Walking on Water: Cosmic Flows in Antiquity and the Middle Ages’, The Art Bulletin, 89.4 (2007), pp. 627–56. Roland Barthes, The Neutral: Lecture Course at the Collège de France (1977–78), trans. by Rosalind E. Krauss and Denis Hollier (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005).

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Paul Binski, Medieval Death: Ritual and Representation (London: British Museum Press, 1996). Bonaventure, Opera omnia, vol. 1: S. Bonaventura commentaria in quattuor libros sententiae magistri Petri Lombardi, I: In primum librum sententiae (Grottaferrata: Typographia Collegii S. Bonaventurae, 1882). Suzanne B. Butters, The Triumph of Vulcan: Sculptors’ Tools, Porphyry, and the Prince in Ducal Florence, 2 vols. (Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1996). Cristian Campos, Gold-Ground Italian Painting: From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance (Florence: Scala, 2011). Mary Carruthers, The Experience of Beauty in the Middle Ages (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). Geoffrey Chaucer, Riverside Chaucer, ed. by David Benson, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987). Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015). Carolyn P. Collette, Species, Phantasms, and Images: Vision and Medieval Psychology in ‘The Canterbury Tales’ (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001). Jacques Combe, Jérome Bosch (Paris: Pierre Tisné, 1946). William Cook, ‘Devil in the Detail: The Visions of Hieronymus Bosch’, BBC Arts (16 February 2016), http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/5K9g2tjJD5svn38KhZd8Mlx/ devil-in-the-detail-the-visions-of-hieronymus-bosch-at-500 (accessed 23 October 2016). Pierre Courcelle, ‘Tradition neo-platonicienne et traditions chrétiennes de la “région de dissemblance” (Platon, Politique, 273d)’, Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Âge, 24 (1957): pp. 5–33. Georges Didi-Huberman, ‘Before the Image, Before Time: The Sovereignty of Anachronism’, trans. by Peter Mason, in Compelling Visuality: The Work of Art in and out of History, ed. by Claire Farago and Robert Zwijnenberg (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), pp. 31–44. ———, Confronting Images: Questioning the Ends of a Certain History of Art (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005). ———, Fra Angelico: Dissemblance and Figuration, trans. by Jane Marie Todd (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). Angelica Dülberg, Privat porträts. Geschichte und Ikonologie einer Gattung im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert (Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag, 1990). Birk Engmann, Near-Death Experiences: Heavenly Insight or Human Illusion? (Cham: Springer, 2014). Briony Fer, On Abstract Art (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1997). Finbarr Barry Flood, ‘“God’s Wonder”: Marble as Medium and the Natural Image in Mosques and Modernism’, West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, 23.2 (2016), pp. 168–219.

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Elina Gertsman, ‘Phantoms of Emptiness: The Space of the Imaginary in Late Medieval Art’, Art History, 41.5 (2018), 800–37. Walter S. Gibson, ‘Bosch’s Dreams: A Response to the Art of Bosch in the Sixteenth Century’, The Art Bulletin, 74.2 (1992), pp. 205–18. Craig Harbison, ‘Visions and Meditations in Early Flemish Painting’, Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, 15.2 (1985), pp. 87–118. Luuk Hoogstede, Ron Spronk, Robert G. Erdmann, Rik Klein Gotink, Matthijs Ilsink, Jos Koldeweij, Hanneke Nap, and Daan Veldhuizen, Hieronymus Bosch, Painter and Draughtsman: Technical Studies (Brussels: Mercatorfonds, 2016). Matthijs Ilsink and Jos Koldeweij, eds., Hieronymus Bosch: Visions of Genius (Brussels: Mercatorfonds, 2016). Matthijs Ilsink, Jos Koldeweij, Ron Spronk, Luuk Hoogstede, Robert G. Erdmann, Rik Klein Gotink, Hannake Nap, and Daan Velhuizen, Hieronymus Bosch, Painter and Draughtsman: Catalogue Raisonné (Brussels: Mercatorfonds, 2016). Robert Javelet, Image et ressemblance au douzième siècle, de saint Anselme à Alain de Lille, 2 vols. (Paris: Letouzey & Ané, 1967). Michelle Karnes, Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011). David Young Kim, Groundwork: The Field of Renaissance Painting (forthcoming). Joseph Leo Koerner, ‘Hieronymus Bosch’s World Picture’, in Picturing Science, Producing Art, ed. by Caroline A. Jones and Peter Galison, with Amy Stanton (New York/London: Routledge, 1998), pp. 297–323. John Lowden, ‘Treasures Known and Unknown in the British Library’ (2–3 July 2007), published online as British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts virtual exhibition, http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/TourKnownC.asp (accessed 30 December 2018). Kazimir S. Malevich, ‘God Is Not Cast Down’ (1922), in Essays on Art, 1915–1928, 2 vols., trans. by Xenia Glowacki-Prus and Arnold McMillin, ed. by Troels Andersen (Copenhagen: Borgen, 1968), I, pp. 188–223. Pilar Silva Maroto, ed., Bosch: The 5th Centenary Exhibition (Madrid: Museo Nacional del Prado, 2016). Maximiliaan P.J. Martens, ed., Brugge en de Renaissance: van Memling tot Pourbus, 2 vols. (Ghent: Ludion, 1998). Didier Méhu, ‘L’évidement de l’image ou la figuration de l’invisible corps du Christ (IXe – XIe siècle)’, Images Ré-vues: Histoire, anthropologie et théorie de l’art, 11 (2013), http://journals. openedition.org/imagesrevues/3384 (accessed 19 July 2019). Marcantonio Michiel, Notizia d’opere del disegno nella prima metà del secolo XVI esistenti in Padova, Cremona, Milano, Pavia, Bergamo, Crema e Venezia scritta da un Anonimo di quel tempo, ed. by Jacopo Morelli (Jacopo Morelli: Bassano, 1800).

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John Mitchell, ‘Believing is Seeing: The Natural Image in Late Antiquity’, in Architecture and Interpretation: Essays for Eric Fernie, ed. by Jill A. Franklin, T. A. Heslop, and Christine Stevenson (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2012), pp. 16–41. Bissera V. Pentcheva, Hagia Sophia: Sound, Space, and Spirit in Byzantium (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2017). Amy Knight Powell, ‘Late Gothic Abstractions’, Gesta, 51.1 (2012), pp. 71–88. Patrik Reuterswärd, ‘Hieronymus Bosch’s Four Afterlife Panels in Venice’, Artibus et Historiae, 12.24 (1991), pp. 29–35. Kathryn M. Rudy, Rubrics, Images and Indulgences in Late Medieval Netherlandish Manuscripts (Leiden: Brill, 2017). Larry Silver, Hieronymus Bosch (New York/London: Abbeville Press, 2006). Leonard Joseph Slatkes, ‘Hieronymus Bosch and Italy’, The Art Bulletin, 57.3 (1975), pp. 335–45. Nancy Thebaut, ‘Bleeding Pages, Bleeding Bodies: A Gendered Reading of British Library MS Egerton 1821’, Medieval Feminist Forum, 45.2 (2009), pp. 175–200. Evelyn Elsaesser Valarino, On the Other Side of Life: Exploring the Phenomenon of the NearDeath Experience (New York: Plenum Press, 1997). Pim van Lommel, Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience, trans. by Laura Vroomen (New York: HarperCollins, 2010).

About the Author Robert Mills is Professor of Medieval Studies and Head of the History of Art Department at University College London. He is the author of Suspended Animation: Pain, Pleasure and Punishment in Medieval Culture (2005), Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages (2015), and Derek Jarman’s Medieval Modern (2018). Mills’s recent work explores questions of animality and sovereignty in medieval art.

Part II Abstraction / Figuration / Signification

5.

The Painted Logos: Abstraction as Exegesis in the Ashburnham Pentateuch Danny Smith

Abstract Four patches of pink paint obscure images of God in the Creation miniature of the sixth-century Ashburnham Pentateuch. These interventions, wrought upon the figures of both God the Father and God the Son, have been interpreted as iconoclastic adoptionist additions. By contextualizing this act of would-be iconoclasm within the larger framework of Carolingian theology, this essay focuses on the f igure of God the Son, arguing that reduction of Christ to a daub of pink paint transforms him from a visible f igure to an abstract Logos. Borrowing both from the language of Alcuin of York and abstract expressionist painter Barnett Newman, I propose that these patches equate God the Son with the painterly matter of creation: an anti-adoptionist message expressed in abstract painting. Keywords: colour-f ield; creation; abstraction; adoptionism; image theory; iconoclasm

In the first full-folio illumination of the sixth-century Ashburnham Pentateuch (BNF, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334), the scenes of the Creation narrative of Genesis 1:1–10 unfold sequentially against a rich purple ground (Figure 5-1).1 The story is depicted by the four acts of divine separation: heaven from earth, dark from light, celestial water from terrestrial water, and terrestrial water from land. Although miniscule captions narrate each element of the folio, the illuminations themselves are largely abstract: heaven is rendered as a striated swoop of blue and pink, earth as a rectangle of muddy brown.2 Beside each of these elemental scenes of Creation is a standing, nimbed figure who gestures at the scene beside him. Each of the four figures is labelled omnipotens, but they are not all the same. Although damage to the manuscript has somewhat obscured the four figures, the distinction among them remains clear. Three—those on the upper right and on the upper and lower

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_ch05

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Figure 5-1. Creation, Ashburnham Pentateuch, 6th century, with 9th-century repainting. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334, fol. 1v. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

left—are bearded and aged depictions of God the Father. The fourth, beside the separation of water and land on the lower right, is visibly younger, his posture more active and frontal than the others, his face rounded and beardless: this is God the Son (Figure 5-2). Beside each figure is a loose field of colour, a patch of washy pink. A fifth splotch of the same pink is visible above the celestial water. These areas

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Figure 5-2. God the Son, Ashburnham Pentateuch. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334, fol. 1v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

of pink, however, are not original to the scene’s composition. Added in the ninth century, when the manuscript was in the collection of a monastic library in Tours, the daubs of colour are overpainting concealing five elements of the miniature: three images of God the Son, one image of God the Father, and a depiction of the Spirit of God hovering over the celestial waters in the form of an angel or dove (what Genesis describes as the ‘spirit of God’).3 In its original form, the miniature clearly presented all three persons of the Trinity at the first moments of Creation. Today the manuscript depicts God the Father and God the Son, but beside each is a void of colour—roughly the size and shape of the visible figures. The question of how to interpret these later pools of pink on the Pentateuch’s Creation miniature is a complicated one. Although it is tempting to see them as iconoclastic—an attempt by a later hand to deface the manuscript and bring it in line with an exegetical interpretation that included only one Person of God, that of God the Father, at Creation—the enduring presence of both God the Father and God the Son on the folio resist such a reading. 4 Other scholars have concluded that the overpainted God the Father on the lower right might simply by an error by a would-be iconoclast, who overpainted the wrong figure.5 But it is unlikely that such an act of iconoclasm, and especially such an erroneous one, would have

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taken place in Tours, a major centre for Carolingian manuscript production and a hub for doctrinal debate.6 Instead, the overpainting can be read as a deliberate choice by the later illuminator: to reaffirm the presence of the entire Trinity at Creation, not by leaving God the Father and God the Son visible in the Creation miniature, but by presenting all three elements of the Godhead as abstracted clouds of pink paint. Although such a notion of abstraction—the use of aniconic form and colour as a tool to convey what might be too mysterious to depict outright—was understood and practiced in ninth-century Touronian manuscript illustration, it was most clearly articulated centuries later by the Abstract Expressionist painter Barnett Newman for an exhibition he organized in 1947 at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York. The show, called The Ideographic Picture, brought together eight painters from the Parsons Gallery stable, all of whom were actively making large, colourful, abstract images. Newman described these artists, including himself, Mark Rothko, and Ad Reinhart, as painters for whom ‘shape was a complex living thing, a vehicle for an abstract thought-complex, a carrier of the awesome feelings he felt before the terror of the unknowable’.7 Abstract art, Newman proposed, was designed neither to hide or obscure facts, nor to create a ‘purist illusion, with its overload of pseudo-scientif ic truths’. 8 Rather, he proposed, an abstract painting functioned as what he called an ideograph, a ‘character symbol or f igure which suggests the idea of an object without expressing its name’.9 Ideographic abstractions, like Newman’s 1948 canvas Onement 1 (Figure 5-3)—a single orange line vertically bisecting an otherwise uninterrupted expanse of reddish umber ground—offered an aesthetic experience of the otherwise unknowable. In the case of Newman’s Onement 1, the work portrayed unity and division in a visceral way, fields of colour ruptured by an angry line, that figurative imagery simply could not. The work did not demand a particular response from its viewers but permitted them to imagine themselves into the field of colour before them.10 Despite the physical and temporal distance between Barnett Newman and the anonymous Touronian overpainter of the ninth century, both, I argue, rely on painting in formless colour to convey the mysterious and the ineffable. My purpose here is not to compare the two painters but instead to use Newman’s definition of an abstract ideograph to shed light on the perplexing problem of why the Touronian overpainter left the Creation scene as it appears today. Newman’s definition provides the language to look again at the Ashburnham Pentateuch—not simply to link it with Newman’s work on purely aesthetic or isomorphic grounds but to consider how it might have functioned in the ninth century as a kind of abstract, ideographic painterly exegesis very much of its own time: as an image of Trinitarian consubstantiality at Creation.

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Figure 5-3. Barnett Newman, Onement 1, 1948. Oil on canvas and oil on masking tape on canvas. 27 1/4 × 16 1/4” (69.2 × 41.2 cm). 390.1992. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Annalee Newman. © 2018 Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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The Pentateuch, now in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, is one of the earliest extant illustrated biblical manuscripts. Nineteen full-folio miniatures survive alongside four of the five books of the Pentateuch—the Book of Numbers is only fragmentary and Deuteronomy is missing entirely.11 Its dating and attribution remain a subject of debate, with some scholars arguing for a Roman origin for the manuscript and others for a Northern Italian origin, possibly even a commission by Galla Placidia.12 However, by the late eight century the Pentateuch had come to the Carolingian city of Tours.13 It was in this period, when the Pentateuch was likely in the library of St. Gatien, that a Carolingian illustrator painted over portions of the full-folio illumination of the Creation narrative, covering behind clouds of washy pink paint three figures of God the Son, one of God the Father, and the descending angel or dove that represented the Holy Spirit.14 Although Carolingian scribes annotated and emended the Vulgate text of the Pentateuch, and even sketched a few figures in the margins of the illuminated folios, the overpainted figures in the Creation miniature are the only evidence of what might be considered intentional damage to the manuscript’s illuminations.15 None of the other nineteen surviving full-folio miniatures were similarly retouched by later hands. In its original composition, the Ashburnham Pentateuch’s Creation miniature featured a relatively standard sixth-century interpretation of Genesis—presenting full figural imagery of God the Father and God the Son side by side. Before the overpainting, God the Father and God the Son were depicted creating the world together. Beside each of the four separations that begin the text of Genesis God the Father gestures, his hand pointing across the figure of his son to the nascent elements of Creation. The scenes correspond closely to the text of St. Ambrose’s fourth-century Hexaemeron, an account of the six days of Creation, in which he describes God creating the world through Christ: ‘Therefore in the beginning, that is, in Christ, God created the heavens and the earth, because through him (per ipsum) all things are made and without him was made nothing that was made.’16 The figures on the page were arranged beside each other so that, in every instance, God the Father pointed through God the Son towards his act of creation, literalizing the Ambrosian metaphor. Although the form of the Holy Spirit was included in the illumination, descending over the celestial water, the miniature’s composition, like Ambrose’s commentary, emphasized the Binity—God the Father and God the Son—as the primary agents of Creation.17 The Ambrosian understanding that both persons of the Binity were present at Creation met opposition in the eighth century by a group of theologians on the Iberian Peninsula who argued against the notion that Christ’s divinity predated his mortal life. Their doctrine, known as adoptionism, held that Christ had been born a mortal man and was ‘adopted’ into divinity upon his death and resurrection.18 Contrary to the Ambrosian description of Creation that argued for an eternally

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divine God the Father and God the Son, adoptionists interpreted the Creation narrative in Genesis as the work of God the Father alone. Because adoptionism was a movement that circulated roughly contemporaneously to the Pentateuch’s ninth-century overpainting, some scholars have ventured that this painting might have been an attempt to revise the manuscript to reflect an adoptionist view of Creation and that the overpainted God the Father and the visible God the Son in the lower left corner of the folio might simply reflect an oversight by an iconoclastic adoptionist.19 In all four pairs, it is the leftmost of the two figures that remains on the page and the rightmost that was overpainted. In the miniature’s lower right corner, however, the original illustrator placed the figures to the right of the scene of earth separating from water, rather than on the left of the Creation scene as they are in the three other examples. Correspondingly, the positions of the persons of God were swapped, placing God the Son on the left and God the Father on the right. This switch maintains the Ambrosian metaphor begun by the other three pairs of figures—whereas in the other three, God the Father gestures to his left across God the Son at a moment of Creation, on the lower right God the Father stands to the right and gestures leftward, his hand pointing across God the Son to the separation of earth and water (See Figure 5-1). Even today, after centuries of wear and damage to the manuscript, the remaining figure on the lower right of the page is visibly distinct from the other three figures on the page. Despite the swapped positions of God the Father and God the Son, it is at best highly unlikely that an iconoclast took up a brush to permanently efface the presence of God the Son from the Creation miniature but neglected to confirm that the figure he concealed was actually God the Son. Indeed, the same would-be iconoclast left another image of God the Son in the same manuscript. On fol. 65v of the Pentateuch, God the Son stands beardless and haloed—just like the figure in the Creation miniature—beside the Angel of Death in the scene of the tenth plague of Passover (Figure 5-4). A damaged text beside this figure reads: ‘Here is the Lord […] firstborn of Egypt.’20 Any adoptionist who sought to efface God the Son from the Creation scene would certainly have removed his likeness from the Passover miniature as well. Moreover, although adoptionism was a prominent doctrine in the period and the cause of significant theological debate, few—if any—definite examples of artworks damaged or revised to reflect adoptionist doctrine survive.21 Beyond this perplexing ‘mistake’, art historians agree that the manuscript’s overpainting most likely took place while the manuscript was in Tours. As Narkiss argues, the pink shade used to overpaint the miniature is consistent with a Carolingian hue used in other bibles produced in Tours, and particularly in the First Bible of Charles the Bald, produced in 846.22 In the early ninth century, Tours housed several major monastic libraries, including St. Gatien, Marmoutier, St. Martin, and St. Julien, and their scriptoria produced as many as two full illuminated manuscripts every year.23

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Figure 5-4. God the Son, Ashburnham Pentateuch. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334, fol. 65v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

An inscription, written on the fifth folio of the Pentateuch in a Carolingian hand reads ‘sancti gaetani’, identifying St. Gatien as one possible home of the manuscript in Tours.24 Scribes and illustrators there clearly scrutinized the manuscript. The Vulgate text was emended, damaged folios were repaired, and missing folios were clearly labelled in the same Carolingian script as the sancti gaetani inscription.25 In Tours, the Creation scene itself was also scrutinized: outlines of the individual elements were traced with a stylus, a process that left marks still visible from the recto side of the folio.26 A scribe or illustrator even sketched a model of the figure of God the Father in the margin on the lower left of the page, just beyond the frame of the illumination itself (see the left side of Figure 5-1). While adoptionism flourished in Spain, the doctrine was vilified in Tours. The Touronian abbot Alcuin, sponsored by Charlemagne and speaking on behalf of the entire Frankish church, issued a full-throated condemnation of the belief.27 At the

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794 Council of Frankfurt, Carolingian theologians officially denounced adoptionism and declared two of its most vocal proponents, the Spanish bishops Elipandus of Toledo and Felix of Urgell, as heretical.28 Five years later, before a council of Carolingian nobles and theologians in Aachen, Felix of Urgell was subjected to a days-long debate with Alcuin himself, who methodically argued for Christ’s innate divinity.29 Following the debate, Felix recanted his position and was sentenced to a life imprisonment in Lyon.30 In 796, Alcuin was made abbot in Tours and he served in the city until his death in 804.31 But if a Touronian illustrator took brush to ink to overpaint the manuscript in the ninth-century without the pretext of adoptionist doctrine, what might have motivated such an act? Although in the eleventh century the Pentateuch’s illuminations were copied in a cycle of frescoes decorating the nave of the church of St. Julien in Tours, the manuscript does not appear to have been particularly influential in either the textual or visual production of the well-known Touronian bibles of the ninth century.32 However, as Herbert Kessler has argued, Carolingian scribes and illustrators often ‘augmented their venerable sources’, revising late antique texts to reflect contemporary theological discourse.33 It was likely with this same exegetical aim that the Touronian overpainter concealed the five images of persons of God from the Creation miniature. Rather than effacing or destroying the images—as would be expected of an iconoclast—the overpainter acted as a scribe might, offering a kind of visual emendation to the scene. Critically, however, he did this without recourse to language or to figural imagery, instead introducing a level of spiritual complexity to the scene by rendering five of its elements as a kind of abstract ideograph. The overpainter took an earlier manuscript that had stressed the primacy of the Binity and carefully revised it to reflect the presence of the Trinity at Creation. In doing so he not only modified the scene to fit the Carolingian understanding of Creation—rather than the rival adoptionist notion—but he did so by means of a complex visual metaphor: crafting an exegetical argument not in words or pictures, but in abstract colour. For Carolingian theologians, the function of images in depicting sacred ideas and biblical events was the subject of vigorous debate.34 Images, and particularly icons or images of the divine, were the subject of extensive discussion at the Council of Frankfurt in 794. Charlemagne had called the council for two purposes, both to issue a formal condemnation of adoptionism and to address the Byzantine Second Council of Nicaea, which had officially ended the policy of Byzantine iconoclasm. Begun by 726 and approved by an edict of Leo II at the Council of Hieria in 754, iconoclasm was a doctrine explicitly banning the use and veneration of images in devotional worship, for fear that icons or figural images could mistakenly lead believers to idolatrously worship the images themselves.35 In 787, at Nicaea, the Byzantines repudiated this edict, carefully articulating that icons and images could

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play a role in devotional practice because they served as carriers of or conduits to the divine, but that images must never be adored as though they were, themselves, divine.36 The acta of the council that reached the Carolingian lands, however, garbled the Byzantine statement and quoted it as declaring, ‘I receive and embrace honourably the holy and life-giving images according to the service of adoration which I pay to the consubstantial and life-giving Trinity.’37 It was this mistranslation that Carolingian theologians addressed at Frankfurt, mistakenly believing that the Byzantine council had called for the idolatrous devotion of images as though they were divine. At Frankfurt, the Western Church roundly condemned the Byzantines as heretical and penned a response to the mistranslated acta. As part of this Carolingian response to Nicaea delivered at Frankfurt, Theodulf of Orléans presented a sweeping and doctrinaire treatise, formally entitled the Opus Caroli Regis.38 Theodulf’s text, which is often known as the Libri Carolini, took a somewhat ambiguous stance on the role of images.39 Although he decried the mistranslated Byzantine position as idolatrous and heretical, Theodulf also cautioned against the use of images in scriptural teaching. Images, he argued, should serve purely as decoration or should depict unambiguous historical things (res gestae).40 When images purported to show sacred things (res sacratae), Theodulf argued, they simply fell short. No man-made image could sufficiently illustrate the power of the divine. For Theodulf, any image or picture was, by nature, merely an artificial likeness. Borrowing from St. Augustine, Theodulf described such images as likenesses (similitudinis), or hollow representations of what they purported to show.41 When clearly understood as artificial, pictures could serve a purpose—either pleasing the eye or recounting historical fact—but when images purported to depict sacred things, he feared, viewers might mistake the man-made likeness for the sacred things depicted, as the mistranslated text from Nicaea proposed. Such likenesses, Theodulf countered, could never portray the depth and mystery of res sacratae. Were one to regard an image of Christ and declare it to be the Son of God, he wrote, it would be not only a lie but also a sin: ‘since no image can be compared to Christ in nature, none can possibly be compared to him in name’. 42 Any man-made attempt at a representational image of the Son of God would always be just that, simply a picture of the Son of God. On the other hand, sacred things—those designed by God himself—ran no such risk of confusing the faithful or failing to convey their holiness. Instead, they clearly conveyed the power of their divine subjects. The clearest example of a res sacrata, the Ark of the Covenant, was an object designed by God and assembled—according to his command—by human hands. As such, the Ark itself was not an artificial likeness but a conduit to its true divine creator. Theodulf described the Ark as an image of divine provenance that ‘radiat[ed] forever with holy and excellent mysteries and glow[ed] with sacraments’. 43 This permanent aura of the mysterious

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made it crucially different from ordinary pictures or images. Instead of simply illustrating an easily comprehensible image of holiness, the mysteriousness of the Ark embodied it. As Celia Chazelle has argued, for Theodulf the Ark was a ‘visible sign of a spiritual truth’. 44 Presaging the language with which Barnett Newman would describe abstract ideographic painting more than a millennium later, Theodulf described the Ark as no mere picture but ‘a most sacred prefiguration of future mysteries’. 45 What Theodulf articulates in the Libri Carolini is that artificial, figural imagery is fundamentally insufficient to convey the depth and complexity of spiritual subjects. 46 But while Theodulf feared the misleading potential of lifelike or representational pictures, Alcuin, his contemporary, did not fully reject the notion that a sense of mystery or divinity could be conveyed by visual means. Abstraction, particularly abstract colour, Alcuin espoused, could create an image capable of conveying spiritual truth without ever depicting it directly. In his commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Alcuin compared Christ to a flood of colour superimposed upon the figural lines of Mosaic law. This ancient law provided an underdrawing to be enlivened by the overwhelming beauty of Christ. Commenting on Hebrews 10:1—‘Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of those things’47—Alcuin wrote: Just as before one examines a picture whose lines are in shadow in and one would wish to see the meaning of what is drawn, it is the shadow that is seen and not the image: but just as flowers are soaked in such colours that they would seem to fill beyond their lines, the image is made. 48

Like Theodulf, Alcuin argued that Mosaic law was a historical thing, a concrete fact that could be depicted representationally, even if its lack of Christian revelation left it merely a picture whose lines are in shadow. But, unlike Theodulf, Alcuin contended that Christ’s divine revelation, foretold by this historical image, could also be conceived of visually, not as a figural image but as an overwhelming colour, like the hue of a flower. For Alcuin, colours (colorum) represented the necessary addition to make an otherwise indistinct image legible to a viewer, akin to the revelatory light of Christ. Alcuin returned to this notion of prefiguration frequently, writing in a letter to a pupil that Christ had been ‘foretold in the prophets and revealed in the scriptures’. 49 Other manuscripts produced in Tours contemporary to the overpainting display an interest in this same theme of scriptural supersession. As Paul Dutton and Herbert Kessler illustrate, the poetry of the First Bible of Charles the Bald—whose biblical frontispieces bear a similar shade of pink to the Ashburnham Pentateuch overpainting—presents the New Testament as the fulfilment of an Old Testament that was merely ‘a shadow or an outline’.50 To

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literally depict this supersession, the illustrators of the First Bible of Charles the Bald collapsed narratives from the Old and New Testament in the same scenes, for example, depicting Moses as the Apostle Paul.51 In turn, a Touronian illustrator might certainly have turned directly to Alcuin’s colourful metaphor, rendering Christ as an overflowing colour superimposed over the bounds of a representational image. Indeed, echoing Alcuin’s metaphor of flooding colour, the overpainter did not efface the figures beneath the five patches of pink but covered them, leaving their concealed outlines on the page to this day.52 This tension between the figures left visible and those visibly overpainted beside them in the illumination reflects Alcuin’s notion of supersession as an overflowing of abundant colour—leaving a scene in which a Christological presence visibly floods the bounds of an image. Indeed, for a Carolingian illustrator, pink would have been the ideal colour to convey such a Christological presence. Pink, Alcuin argued, represented a shade closely linked to the Son of God, its admixture of red and white combining the white of purity and divinity with the blood red of humanity and Christ’s suffering on earth. In his commentary of the Song of Songs, Alcuin likened the description of the ‘white and ruddy’ beloved to Christ himself, arguing that Christ should be represented as ‘white because [he is] without sin but ruddy because of the blood of his passion’.53 Indeed, as Kessler has argued, a cloud of pink in illustrated Carolingian bibles would often serve as a visual reminder of Christ’s presence in a scene in which he was not representationally depicted. In the Aachen Gospels—a manuscript roughly contemporary to the ninth-century overpainting of the Ashburnham Pentateuch—a scene of the four evangelists alludes to Christ by means of a pink cloud filling the sky in the uppermost register of the image (Figure 5-5).54 Critically, this wash of colour does not figuratively render Christ, as the kinds of pictures of the Son of God that concerned Theodulf might, but instead acts like Newman’s abstract ideograph, pointing to an idea without depicting it outright. Christ’s presence in the scene is felt by a viewer confronted with the pink sky, but no viewer could confuse the hue for the actual Son of God. This association of the colour pink with Christ was hardly unique to Alcuin; the twelfth-century Glossa Ordinaria—a widely influential compilation of patristic biblical glosses and annotations—compared the salvation of Christ to the ‘surging pink’ of a new dawn, ‘revealing as the sun does’ to those whose ‘eyes are prepared to see the splendour when the resurrection of the Lord shines’.55 The pink patches of the Ashburnham Pentateuch render Alcuin’s metaphor literally, washing over representational images of five persons of God in a cloud of crepuscular pink. However, unlike the pink cloud of the Aachen Gospels, the overpainted elements of the Pentateuch do more than merely stand in for an absent Christ. The surging pink applied by the Carolingian overpainter unites all three Persons of God, covering God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit in a wash of abstract colour: the Christological

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Figure 5-5. Evangelistenblatt (Evangelists), Aachen Gospels, 9th century. Aachen, Cathedral Treasury, Aachen Gospels, fol. 14v. © Domkapitel Aachen, photo: Ann Münchow.

pink of Alcuin’s metaphor therefore links all three persons of God here and conveys not only Christ’s presence but also the presence of the entire Trinity at Creation.56 This visual depiction of Trinitarian equality reflected one of the most potent rhetorical strategies that Alcuin had marshalled against the Spanish adoptionists. In 794, in advance of the Council of Frankfurt, Frankish theologians sent a letter

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denouncing adoptionism to the Spanish bishops. The letter, likely written by Alcuin, forcefully asserted Christ’s divinity ‘before all ages’ and argued that the Trinity itself consisted of the Holy Spirit, which had emerged from God the Father and God the Son.57 This assertion relied on a standard Carolingian addition to the text of the 381 Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, a fundamental profession of faith central to the Mass. To the Latin text of the creed—which declared a faith ‘in the Holy Spirit, Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the father’—Carolingian theologians included the word filioque, ‘and the Son’.58 The insertion of this term into the Creed had originated in the sixth century and was a standard part of the Carolingian Mass, although it would not be officially included in the Roman Rite until 1014.59 While eventually the term filioque would be a major driver of schism between the Eastern and Western churches, to Alcuin the term represented a fundamental backstop against the heresy of adoptionism. Its inclusion in the creed established Christ’s divine nature as timeless and essential to the Trinity itself, not something established upon his ‘adoption’ by God.60 Most critically, however, it asserted that all three elements of the Trinity were equal, eternal, and indivisible. Alcuin echoed this emphasis on Christ’s innate divinity and the identity of the Trinity in de Fide Sanctae Trinitatis et de Incarnatione Christi, a tract written after he had returned victorious from his debate with Felix in Aachen to his seat in Tours. Unlike his scathing letter to the Spanish bishops, de Fide served as a kind of corrective for misguided adoptionists, in which Alcuin refined his anti-adoptionist rhetoric.61 In it, Alcuin forcefully reiterated the importance of Trinitarian sameness, pointing again to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed to argue that all three persons of God were not simply equal but were of the same substance.62 Quoting the Greek text of the creed, Alcuin stressed that Christ was begotten, not made (gentium, non factum) and that he was of one substance with his father (consubstantialem in the Latin text or ὁμοούσιον in the Greek).63 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, God made this in Christ, who is the Son of God, who is the Word of God, who is the virtue and the wisdom of God, as is said in Psalms: Thou has made all things in wisdom. But he is always the same as the son, who is always God and who is always in God, before all things: for this reason Father and Son are ὁμοούσιον […] It is said, truly, that they are of substance, of virtue and wisdom, but there are not, however, three virtues nor three wisdoms but one virtue and one wisdom, Father and Son and Holy Spirit are only as one substance and one omnipotence and all of the substance of the divine.64

For Alcuin, this consubstantiality represented both a fundamental element of Trinitarian doctrine and a powerful weapon against adoptionism. Consubstantiality was the fundamental proof that Christ was begotten, not made, and, as a

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foundational element of the Trinity itself, could not have been a man adopted into divinity. Alcuin’s insistence that the three parts of the Trinity represented equal and indivisible elements of a sacred whole was echoed finally in a hymn with which Alcuin closed his text. Written in the second person, as though in direct address from a catechumen to the Trinity, the hymn exhorts: Be present true light, Father God omnipotent (omnipotens). Be present light of lights, Son and Word of God, God omnipotent. Be present Holy Spirit, Father and Son together, God omnipotent. Be present one God omnipotent, Father and Son and Holy Spirit.65

Powerfully, Alcuin’s hymn turns the complex theology of his de Fide into a personal appeal to the Trinity itself, an entreaty to one unified God composed of three equal and indivisible elements to be present to a believer. The overpainted folio of the Ashburnham Pentateuch performs this personal prayer, making the three elements of the Trinity present on the page in abstracted, consubstantial clouds of washy pink. The scene, in fact, almost reflects a direct response to the exhortation of Alcuin’s hymn: the three elements of the Trinity are made present and consubstantial on the page as clouds of colour. And like the text of Alcuin’s letter, which describes Christ as Wisdom and God the Father as having ‘made all things in Wisdom’, the overpainted page of the manuscript uses its colourful, abstract allusion to Christ as a vehicle to refer to the entire Trinity—Christ’s abstracted form becomes the means by which all three persons of the Trinity are ‘depicted’ in the folio. The overpainter’s Christological pink not only makes present and consubstantial Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on the page, but it makes this consubstantiality visible through an allusion to Christ. What is left in the illumination, then, is a kind of representation of the unrepresentable—an image that does not purport to show the Trinity but that allows viewers to ponder it for themselves as their eyes trace the clouds of pink overpaint. Indeed, presenting the unrepresentable divinity concealed from human eyes behind a cloud is a common trope in scripture and one that Carolingian illuminators relied on frequently. In Acts 1, as Christ ascends to heaven in the presence of his gathered disciples, he informs them that they will be his witnesses ‘in all the ends of the earth’ at the restoration of Jerusalem. ‘After he said this’, the text continues, ‘he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight’.66 In Acts, the cloud serves a double role—it both conceals Christ from the sight of his disciples and provides a visible entity, a concrete symbol fit for mortal eyes of the invisible divine that it conceals. Illuminators often depicted the scene quite literally: showing Christ rising into a cloud that obscured his face or upper body and left his lower body visible. A miniature depicting the Ascension in the eleventh-century

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Figure 5-6. Ascension, Tiberius Psalter, c. 1075-1150. London, British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius C VI, fol. 15r. Photo: British Library, London, UK©British Library Board. All Rights Reserved/Bridgeman Images.

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Figure 5-7. God in a white cloud with red rays, Ashburnham Pentateuch. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334, fol. 76r, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Tiberius Psalter (British Library Cotton MS. Tiberius C.vi), for example, shows an image of Christ whose head is fully enveloped in a swooping cloud but whose feet and legs still dangle within our sight (Figure 5-6).67 As Meyer Schapiro and Robert Deshman have argued, in such examples the progression from the visible Christ in his earthly form to the invisible and ineffable Christ beside his father is emphasized by the half-disappearing Christ: viewers of the manuscript, like the apostles, are left to watch as Christ is taken from their literal sight.68 Later miniatures of the Ashburnham Pentateuch echo this theme of a cloud concealing the unrepresentable divine. Above the full-page miniature of the Transmission of the Law to Moses on fol. 76r, God the Father is depicted as a fraction of a haloed head engulfed in a bright white cloud emitting rays of deep red. Below the scene, a scribe has written: ‘God is in the cloud’ (Figure 5-7).69 The image and its accompanying caption provide a kind of visual gloss that helps to clarify the overpainted scenes of the Creation miniature. The Transmission scene is rendered in representational images: the fractional figure of God the Father is obscured by a depiction of an actual cloud, not merely a wash of colour. In the Creation miniature, a similar phenomenon is at work, but now even the vehicle by which the divine is concealed—the cloud of paint—is rendered abstractly rather than as a figural likeness. For a reader to have correctly interpreted this abstracted scene of Creation, then, simply reading the figural images would have been insufficient.

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In order to fully understand the illumination, the viewers of the overpainted manuscript must model the appeal of Alcuin’s hymn, understanding the Trinity present before them in their imagination prompted by both the figural and the abstract elements on the page. Alcuin described this imaginative faculty of sight in a letter to his pupil Fridugisus.70 Borrowing from Augustine’s popular notion of sight as a tripartite structure of vision in which body, spirit, and intellect function as distinct elements, Alcuin wrote: There are three ways of seeing things: One is corporeal, another symbolic, and the third is mental. Corporeal vision means to see with the eyes of the body. Symbolic vision means that, the body’s eyes having nothing to do with it, we perceive in spirit alone through some act of imagination […] Mental sight means that we consider with the liveliness of the mind alone, as when we read in the Scriptures ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. The letters are read by means of bodily sight and the neighbor is called back to the spiritual imagination, and love is seen by the mind’s understanding alone.71

In the scene, the painted persons of God are visible to corporeal vision. God the Father and God the Son are figural and untouched by the later overpainter. Beside them, their abstracted companions are seen symbolically. God the Son and God the Father are symbolically rendered in clouds of paint in a metaphor—the divine concealed by a cloud—that is explained in the Transmission of the Law miniature. But it is only through the application of mental sight, as Alcuin describes it, that the entire Trinity becomes ‘visible’ on the page as a viewer imagines what is alluded to by patches covering Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Another student of Alcuin, Hrabanus Maurus, argued that this kind of a mental process, in which images spur a viewer to contemplate the Trinity with their spiritual imagination rather than depicting it outright, was indeed the only way the divine concept could be understood.72 Pondering the interconnection between the swathes of pink, a viewer can engage in a process of mental sight—much like the one Barnett Newman described centuries later to witness ‘the terror of the unknowable’.73 Yet for a reader of the Ashburnham Pentateuch, it was not a terrifying mystery to which the ideographic overpaintings of the miniature alluded but the sacred and eternal mystery of the Trinity made visible through the addition of a particularly Christological abstraction.

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Notes 1.

2.

3.

4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

While the early history of the manuscript remains somewhat incomplete, scholars have used the somewhat unusual grammar of the Vulgate text and structure of the Pentateuch’s illustrations to propose a number of feasible sites, including Northern Italy, Spain, or North Africa, for the manuscript’s origin. Dorothy Verkerk, however, provides a persuasive codicological and stylistic argument that the Pentateuch was produced in Rome at approximately the end of the sixth century. Verkerk, ‘Biblical Manuscripts in Rome’, pp. 97–120. See also Verkerk, Early Medieval Bible Illumination, pp. 125–83. Captions for each element of the scene are written in a faint hand: ‘Here is the Lord where he created heaven and earth’ (hic d[ns] / ubi cre/avit / cae/lam et ter/ram); ‘here is where he created light and darkness’ (HIC UBI CREAVIT LUCEM ET TENE/ BRAS); ‘[here is] where he separated water from water’ ([HIC] UBI SEGRAGAVIT AQUAS AB AQUIS); ‘here is the earth where it is separated from the waters under heaven’ (HIC TERRA UBI SEGREGA/TA EST AB AQUAS SUB CAELO). The captions are transcribed in Bezalel Narkiss’s companion volume to the 2003 facsimile edition of the Pentateuch. See Narkiss, Biblia de Tours, pp. 329–30. Otto von Gebhardt, the earliest writer to comment on these patches, actually argued that the patch itself represented the ephemeral holy spirit, see von Gebhardt, The Miniatures of the Ashburnham Pentateuch, p. 11. However, Bezalel Narkiss’s investigation of the folio under ultraviolet light has revealed a form concealed beneath the paint. While today it is difficult to fully ascertain, Narkiss proposes that the form of the Spirit of God was either rendered as a descending dove or as an angel. See Narkiss, ‘Towards a Further Study’, pp. 52–8, in which he reconstructs both potential forms. In the facsimile commentary (which includes a reproduction of the scene under ultraviolet light), he concludes that the Spirit of God likely took the form of an angel, and Narkiss, Biblia de Tours, pp. 331–3. Dorothy Verkerk agrees that the angel is the likeliest form of the original composition; see Verkerk, Early Medieval Bible, p. 70. On its status in Tours by the ninth century, see Lowe, Codices Latini Antiquiores, p. 49. Narkiss for one proposes the scene might have been the work of an iconoclast. See Narkiss, ‘Further Study’, p. 58. And Dorothy Verkerk suggests that the overpainted God the Father figure might have been an error on the part of a scribe or illustrator intending to cover all four figures of God the Son; see Verkerk, Early Medieval Bible, pp. 70–1. On the status of the Pentateuch in Tours by the ninth century, see Lowe, Codices Latini Antiquiores, p. 49. On the manuscript production of Tours, see Ganz, ‘Mass Production of Early Medieval Manuscripts’, pp. 53–62. Newman, ‘The Ideographic Picture: January 20 – February 8, 1947’. Newman, n.p. Examples of this kind of ideographic abstraction include Newman’s own biblically influenced paintings Onement 1 (1948), Genesis – the Break (1946), and The Word I (1946). See Bois, Painting as Model, pp. 188–92. The Century Dictionary entry for ‘Ideograph’, quoted in Newman, n.p. Bois, Painting as Model, pp. 188–90.

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11. 12.

13. 14.

15. 16.

17. 18. 19.

20. 21.

22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28.

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Narkiss, Biblia de Tours, p. 327. Narkiss offers Galla Placidia as a possible patron for the manuscript in fifth-century Ravenna; see Narkiss, Biblia de Tours, pp. 339–40. See note 1 for Verkerk’s proposal of a later, Roman source for the manuscript. Because my argument focuses primarily on the later overpainting of the text, I leave aside the question of the Pentateuch’s original date. Lowe, Codices Latini Antiquiores, p. 49. Narkiss, the first to study this overpainting directly, dates it to the later ninth century, based on the similarity between the pink-coloured brushwork and other Carolingian manuscript illuminations produced in the period in Tours in Narkiss, ‘Towards a Further Study’, pp. 47–60. See also Narkiss, Biblia de Tours, pp. 318–9 and Verkerk, Early Medieval Bible, pp. 62–71. Verkerk, Early Medieval Bible, p. 66. ‘In hoc ergo principio id est, in Christo, fecit Deus coelum et terram; quia per ipsum omnia facta sunt, et sine ipso factum est nihil’. My translation. Ambrose, Exameron, p. 32. On the influence of Ambrosian theology on the Pentateuch’s original illuminator, see Narkiss, Biblia de Tours, pp. 402–11. See Narkiss, Biblia de Tours, pp. 408–12. The doctrine is also frequently referred to as Spanish adoptionism. The standard survey is Cavadini, The Last Christology of the West. On Alcuin’s role in the debate, see Dales, pp. 59–93. Narkiss argues that the overpainting was likely the work of an adoptionist—possibly even one working in Tours; Narkiss, ‘Further Study’, p. 58. Dorothy Verkerk argues that the overpainting was done in response to adoptionism by a Touronian illuminator who might have mistakenly overpainted the God the Father figure, see Verkerk, Early Medieval Bible, pp. 70–1. HIC D[OMIN]O… /BE.. /R… /RE PRE/MO/GENI/TUR E/GY/PTI/OR/U/M. Narkiss, Biblia de Tours, p. 368. One example of adoptionist iconoclasm that has been proposed is the effacement of God the Son from the 109th psalm (fol. 127v) of the Stuttgart Psalter (Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart, Bibl. fol. 23), although the relatively late date of the manuscript for the adoptionist controversy (only produced in the 820s in Paris, several decades after adoptionists had been condemned at Aachen and Felix imprisoned) complicates this proposal. Dodwell, The Pictorial Arts of the West, p. 79. On the Psalter’s iconography and the scene of the psalm, see Frede and Mütherich, ‘Der Inhalt Des Bilder’, p. 131. Narkiss, Biblia de Tours, p. 319. Narkiss, ‘Further Study’, p. 48. On the manuscript produced for Charles the Bald, see Dutton and Kessler, The Poetry and Paintings. Ganz, ‘Mass Production of Early Medieval Manuscripts’, p. 53. On the larger theological context of ninth-century Tours, see Dutton and Kessler, The Poetry and Paintings, pp. 21–44. Narkiss, Biblia de Tours, p. 319. Narkiss, Biblia de Tours, p. 318–9. Narkiss, ‘Further Study’, p. 51. Chandler, ‘Heresy and Empire’, p. 510. On Alcuin’s role at the Council, see Bullough, Alcuin, pp. 419–31.

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29. Alcuin’s public arguments were largely those outlined in a series of anti-adoptionist tracts he had prepared, directed against Felix himself, after the Council of Frankfurt. See Alcuin, Liber contra haraesim Felicis. 30. Dales, Alcuin, p. 68. 31. On Alcuin’s time in Tours, see Chélini, ‘Alcuin, Charlemagne et Saint Martin de Tours’, pp. 19–50. 32. On the influence of the Ashburnham Pentateuch on Alcuin’s Vulgate edition of the bible, see Dales, Alcuin, pp. 149–53 and McKitterick, ‘Carolingian Bible Production’, pp. 63–77. On the frescoes at St. Julien, see Cahn, ‘A Note’, pp. 203–7. Grabar, ‘Fresques romanes copiées’, pp. 326–41. 33. Kessler, ‘The Christianity of Carolingian Classicism’, p. 29. 34. On the function of images in Carolingian theology, see Noble, Images, Iconoclasm, and the Carolingians; Chazelle, The Crucified God in the Carolingian Era; Kessler, ‘“Facies Bibliothecae Revelata”’, pp. 553–84. Reprinted in Kessler, Spiritual Seeing, pp. 149–89. See also Freeman’s collected essays on Theodulf of Orleans in Freeman, Theodulf of Orleans. 35. Barber, Figure and Likeness. 36. On the Carolingian response to Nicea, see Noble, pp. 155–206. 37. Noble, p. 171. 38. Freeman, ‘Theodulf of Orleans’, pp. 663–705. 39. Chazelle, ‘Images, Scripture and the Church in the Libri Carolini’, pp. 52–76. Freeman, ‘Scripture and Images’, pp. 163–88. 40. Chazelle, ‘Matter, Spirit, and Image’, pp. 164–70. 41. Theodulf describes images as likenesses which contain an equivalence of the thing depicted. OCR 1.8. His use of the term similitudinis comes from Augustine, who similarly describes representational images; see Chazelle, p. 171 fn. 46 and Noble, p. 187. One the role of Augustinian image theory in shaping Theodulf’s text, see Chazelle, ‘“Not in Painting but in Writing”’, pp. 1–22. 42. ‘Sicut enim imago quaelibet Christo in natura coaequari nequit, ita etiam in nomine coaequari minime poterit’. Theodulf, OCR 4.1. See also Noble, p. 202 and pp. 220-21. 43. ‘Semper sanctis et excellentibus radiant mysteriis et rutilant sacramentis’. Theodulf, OCR 1.15, quoted in Chazelle, p. 170. 44. Chazelle, ‘Matter, Spirit, and Image’, p. 170. 45. ‘Ob futurorum mysteriorum sacratissimam praefigurationem’. Theodulf, OCR 1.15, quoted in Chazelle, ‘Matter, Spirit, and Image’, p. 170. 46. Noble, pp. 226–30. 47. Hebrews, 10:1, NRSV. 48. ‘Usquequo enim veluti in pictura aspiciat quis lineamenti umbrarum, significans quid pingere velit, umbra quaedam est, et non imago: si enim flores ipsos quis colorum intinxerit, et imposuerit super lineamenta, tunc imago efficitur’. Alcuin, Expositio in epistolam Pauli apostili ad Hebreos. PL 100.1076. See also Kessler, ‘“Hoc Visibile Imaginatum Figurat Illud Invisibile Verum”’, p. 296. 49. Alcuin, Letter 130 in Stephen Allott, trans., Alcuin of York, p. 135. 50. Dutton and Kessler, pp. 64–5. 51. Dutton and Kessler, p. 65.

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52.

Which Narkiss observed when viewing the miniature under ultraviolet light. Narkiss, Biblia de Tours, pp. 331–3. ‘Dilectus meus candidus et rubicundus ex millibus. Candidus quia sine peccato, rubicundus sanguine passionis’. Alcuin, Compendium in Canticum Canticorum. PL 100:655. See also Dales, p. 160. Kessler, ‘Hoc Visibile’, pp. 298–300. ‘Consurgens roseam praemittit auroram, ut tanus splendor praeparis oculis posset videri, cum tempus Dominicae resurrectionis illuxit’. PL 114:21. Also quoted in Kessler, ‘Hoc Visibile’, p. 299. The question remains, however, why only one image of God the Father is overpainted in the scene and not two (which would leave an equal number of images of each God the Father and God the Son). I would argue, however, that by choosing to leave only one image of God the Son, on the lower right, the Carolingian overpainter is responding to the manuscript’s original composition. As mentioned, the lower-right pair of persons of God is the only one of the four in the original miniature in which God the Father was on the right and God the Son on the left; the Carolingian overpainter perhaps followed the lead of his predecessor by keeping that pair distinct from the other three. A portion of the letter is reproduced in Dales, p. 72. The sentiment echoes points addressed by Alcuin in his Liber contra haeresim Felicis; see Cavadini, Last Christology, pp. 28–38. Dales, pp. 72–3. Noble, p. 175. See also Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, pp. 296–301. Noble, p. 175. The extended history of the inserted term filioque is recounted in Siecienski, The Filioque. On the purpose of Alcuin’s text, see Cavadini, ‘The Sources and Theology’, pp. 123– 46, particularly pp. 128–30. See also Knibbs and Matter, de Fide Sanctae, p. XIII. Matter, ‘A Carolingian Schoolbook?’, pp. 145–50. Dales, p. 99. Matter, p. 149. Kelly, p. 296. ‘In principio fecit Deus caelum et terram, id est in Christo fecit Deus qui est Filius Dei, qui est uerbum Dei, qui est uirtus et sapoentia Dei, eicut dicitur in Psalmo: Omnia in sapientia fecisti. Sed ipse idem Filius ante omnia semper est et semper Deus et semper in Deo: idcirco ὁμοούσιον Pater et Filius […] Illa uero, id est “uirtus” et “sapientia” substantialia sunt; ideo Pater uirtus et sapientia, et Filius uirtus et sapientia, et Spiritus Sanctus uirtus et sapientia—non tamen tres uirtutes nec tres sapientiae, sed una uirtus et una sapientia, Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sacntus, sicut una substantia et una omnipotentia et alia quae de substantia diuinitatis dicuntur’. Alcuin, de Fide, 2.15, in Knibbs and Matter, pp. 76–7. ‘Adesto lumen uerum, Pater omnipotens Deus. Adesto lumen de lumine, uerbum et Filius Dei, Deus omnipotens. Adesto Sabcte Spritus, Patris et Filii concordia, Deus omnipotens’, in Knibbs and Matter, p. 138. Acts 1:8-9, NRSV.

53. 54. 55. 56.

57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64.

65.

66.

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67. Deshman, ‘Another Look at the Disappearing Christ’, pp. 518–46 and Schapiro, ‘The Image of the Disappearing Christ’, pp. 133–52, rpt. in Schapiro, Selected Papers III, pp. 267–87. 68. In particular, Deshman, pp. 543–6. 69. ‘D(OMIN)N(U)S IN NUBE’. Narkiss, Biblia de Tours, p. 372. 70. Fridugisus, sometimes spelled Fridegisus or Fredegisus (d. 834), who succeeded Alcuin as Abbot in Tours, is best known for his De nihilo et tenebris, a theological attempt to understand the underlying substance of nothingness and darkness. Although the two men remained close, Alcuin took issue with Fridugisus’s text. See Dales, pp. 211–2. 71. ‘Tria sunt genera visionem: unum corporale, aliud spiritale, tertium intellectual. Corporale est quod corporseis oculis videtur. Spiritale est quod, remota corporali visione, in spiritu solo per imaginationem quandam cernimus, sicut forte dum quidlibet ignote oculus perspicimus, statim eius rei imago formatur in spiritu, set prius non apparet illa spiritalis imagination, quam corporalis adlata sit intuitio. Intellectuale est quod sola mentis vivacitate consideramus, veluti dum scriptum legimus: “diliges prodium tuum sicut te ipsum.” Litterae autem corporali visione leguntur, et Proximus spiritali imaginatione remoratur, et dilectio sola mentis intellegentia’. Alcuin, Letter 135, MGH, EKA 2, translated in Noble, p. 225. On the role of the imagination in vision more broadly in Carolingian art, see Kessler, Spiritual Seeing, pp. 149–189. On the Augustinian roots of the tripartite structure described by Alcuin, see Miles, ‘Vision’, pp. 125–42. 72. Kessler, ‘Hoc Visibile Imaginatum’, p. 294. 73. Newman, ‘The Ideographic Picture’, n.p.

Works Cited Alcuin, Compendium in Canticum Canticorum, ed. by J.-P. Migne, Patrologia cursus completes: Series latina (Paris: Migne, 1841–1855), vol. 100, pp. 639–64. ———, de fide Sanctae Trinitatis, ed. by Eric Knibbs and E. Ann Matter. De Fide Sanctae Trinitatis et de Incarnatione Christi: Quaestiones de Sancta Trinitate, Corpus Christianorum. Continuatio Mediaevalis 249 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2012). ———, Epistolae, ed. by Ernest Duemmler. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Epistolae Karolini Aevi, 2. (Berlin: Apud Weimmanos, 1905.) Partially trans. by Stephen Allott, Alcuin of York, c. A.D. 732 to 804: His Life and Letters (York: W. Sessions, 1974). ———, Expositio in epistolam Pauli apostili ad Hebreos, ed. by J-P Migne, Patrologia cursus completes: Series latina (Paris: Migne, 1841–1855), vol. 100, pp. 1031–85. ———, Liber contra haraesim Felicis, rev. by Gary Blumenshine. Liber Alcuini Contra Haeresim Felicis. Studi e Testi (Bublioteca Apostolica Vaticana) 285 (Vatican City: Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, 1980). Ambrose, Exameron, ed. by C. Schenkl, Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Latinorum (Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1866), 32:1.

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Charles Barber, Figure and Likeness: On the Limits of Representation in Byzantine Iconoclasm (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002). Yve-Alain Bois, Painting as Model (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990). Donald A. Bullough, Alcuin: Achievement and Reputation: Being Part of the Ford Lectures Delivered in Oxford in Hilary Term 1980 (Leiden: Brill, 2004). Annabelle Simon Cahn, ‘A Note: The Missing Model of the Saint-Julien de Tours Frescoes and the Ashburnham Pentateuch Miniatures’, Cahiers Archéologiques, 16 (1966), pp. 203–7. John C. Cavadini, The Last Christology of the West: Adoptionism in Spain and Gaul, 785-820 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993). ———, ‘The Sources and Theology of Alcuin’s “De Fide Sanctae et Individuae Trinitatis”’, Traditio 46 (1991), pp. 123–46. Cullen J. Chandler, ‘Heresy and Empire: The Role of the Adoptionist Controversy in Charlemagne’s Conquest of the Spanish March’, The International History Review 24, no. 3 (2002), pp. 505–27. Celia Martin Chazelle, ‘Amalarius’s Liber Off icialis: Spirit and Vision in Carolingian Liturgical Thought’, in Seeing the Invisible in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages: Papers from “Verbal and Pictorial Imaging: Representing and Accessing Experience of the Invisible, 400-1000”, ed. by Giselle de Nie, Karl Frederick Morrison, and Marco Mostert. Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy, 14 (Turnout: Brepols, 2005), pp. 327–57. ———, The Crucified God in the Carolingian Era: Theology and Art of Christ’s Passion (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001). ———, ‘Images, Scripture and the Church in the Libri Carolini’, in Proceedings of the Patristic Medieval and Renaissance Studies Conference (Philadelphia: Villanova University Press, 1994), pp. 52–76. ———, ‘Matter, Spirit, and Image in the Libri Carolini’, Recherches Augustiniennes 21 (1986), pp. 163–84. ———, ‘“Not in Painting but in Writing”: Augustine and the Supremacy of the Word in the Libri Carolini’, in Reading and Wisdom: The De Doctrina Christiana of Augustine in the Middle Ages, ed. by Edward D. English. Notre Dame Conferences in Medieval Studies, no. 6 (South Bend: Notre Dame University Press, 1995), pp. 1–22. Jean Chélini, ‘Alcuin, Charlemagne et Saint Martin de Tours’, Revue d’histoire de l’église de France 47 (1961), pp. 19–50. Douglas Dales, Alcuin: Theology and Thought (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co, 2013). Robert Deshman, ‘Another Look at the Disappearing Christ: Corporeal and Spiritual Vision in Early Medieval Images’, The Art Bulletin 79, no. 3 (1997), pp. 518–46. Paul Edward Dutton and Herbert L. Kessler, The Poetry and Paintings of the First Bible of Charles the Bald. Recentiores (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997). Ann Freeman, ‘Scripture and Images in the Libri Carolini’, Setimane di studio dell’centro italiano per il medioevo 41 (1994), pp. 163–88. ———, ‘Theodulf of Orleans and the Libri Carolini’, Speculum 32, no. 4 (1957), pp. 663–705.

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David Ganz, ‘Mass Production of Early Medieval Manuscripts: The Carolingian Bibles from Tours’, in The Early Medieval Bible: Its Production, Decoration, and Use, ed. by Richard Gameson. Cambridge Studies in Palaeography and Codicology, 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 53–62. Oscar von Gebhardt, The Miniatures of the Ashburnham Pentateuch (Göttingen: Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, 1883). André Grabar, ‘Fresques romanes copiées sur les miniatures du Pentateuque de Tours’, Cahiers archéologiques 9 (1957), pp. 326–41. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, 3rd ed. (New York: D. McKay Co, 1972). Herbert L. Kessler, ‘The Christianity of Carolingian Classicism’, Convivium 3, no. 1 (2016), pp. 22–39. ———, ‘“Hoc Visibile Imaginatum Figurat Illud Invisibile Verum”: Imagining God in Pictures of Christ’, in Seeing the Invisible in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages: Papers from “Verbal and Pictorial Imaging: Representing and Accessing Experience of the Invisible, 400-1000”, ed. by Giselle de Nie, Karl Frederick Morrison, and Marco Mostert. Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy, 14 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005), pp. 291–302. ———, Spiritual Seeing: Picturing God’s Invisibility in Medieval Art (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000). ———, The Illustrated Bibles from Tours. Studies in Manuscript Illumination, no. 7 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977). ———, ‘Hic Homo Formatur: The Genesis Frontispieces of the Carolingian Bibles’, The Art Bulletin, 53, no. 2 (1971), pp. 143–60. E.A. Lowe, ed., Codices Latini Antiquiores: A Palaeographical Guide to Latin Manuscripts Prior to the Ninth Century, vol. V (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1934). E. Ann Matter, ‘A Carolingian Schoolbook? The Manuscript Tradition of Alcuin’s de Fide and Related Treatises’, in The Whole Book: Cultural Perspectives on the Medieval Miscellany, ed. by Stephen G. Nichols and Siegfried Wenzel. Recentiores (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996), pp. 145–50. Rosamond McKitterick, ‘Carolingian Bible Production: The Tours Anomaly’, in The Early Medieval Bible: Its Production, Decoration, and Use, ed. by Richard Gameson, Cambridge Studies in Palaeography and Codicology, 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 63–77. J.-P. Migne, ed., Glossa Ordinaria, Patrologia cursus completes: Series Latina (Paris: Migne, 1841–1855), vols. 113–114. Margaret Miles, ‘Vision: The Eye of the Body and the Eye of the Mind in Saint Augustine’s “De Trinitate” and “Confessions”’, The Journal of Religion 63, no. 2 (1983), pp. 125–42. Bezalel Narkiss, Biblia de Tours: también llamado Pentateuco de Tours o de Ashburnham, vol. Suppl. (Valencia: Patrimonio Ediciones, 2003). ———, ‘Towards a Further Study of the Ashburnham Pentateuch’, Archives Archeologiques, 1969, pp. 47–60.

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Barnett Newman, The Ideographic Picture, in ‘The Ideographic Picture: January 20 – February 8, 1947’, Betty Parsons Gallery, 1947 (Betty Parsons Gallery records and personal papers, circa 1920–1991, bulk 1946–1983), Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Thomas F. X. Noble, Images, Iconoclasm, and the Carolingians (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012). Franz Rickert, Studien Zum Ashburnham Pentateuch: Paris, Bibl. Nat. NAL. 2334 (Bonn: Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, 1986). Meyer Schapiro, ‘The Image of the Disappearing Christ: The Ascention in English Art around the Year 1000’, Gazette Des Beaux-Arts 6, no. 23 (1943), pp. 133–52. Edward Siecienski, The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010). Theodulf, Opus Caroli Regis (Libri Carolini), ed. by Ann Freeman, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Hanover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1998), Conc. 2, Suppl. 2. Dorothy Verkerk, Early Medieval Bible Illumination and the Ashburnham Pentateuch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). ———, ‘Biblical Manuscripts in Rome 400-700 and the Ashburnham Pentateuch’, in Imaging the Early Medieval Bible, ed. by John Williams. The Penn State Series in the History of the Book (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999), pp. 97–120.

About the Author Danny Smith is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University, where he studies architecture and the built environment in late medieval Europe. His current projects include a forthcoming article on vision and surveillance in Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s fourteenth-century Palazzo Pubblico frescoes in Siena and a translation of Victor Hugo’s 1832 essay Guerre Aux Demolisseurs. Danny has held curatorial positions at the Williams College Museum of Art and the deCordova Sculpture Park + Museum.

6. The Sign within the Form, the Form without the Sign: Monograms and PseudoMonograms as Abstractions in Mozarabic Antiphonaries Benjamin C. Tilghman Abstract Mozarabic liturgical manuscripts often feature an elaborate marker at the beginning of new antiphons. These large, complex figures appear at first glance to be display initials of the sort familiar from other early medieval deluxe manuscripts, but they are in fact not initials in the normal usage, as the words next to them contain all their letters. Often referred to as ‘Vespertinum monograms’, the forms are usually assumed to be complex presentations of the abbreviation ‘VPR’ marking off the beginning of a new chant. This essay examines the wavering nature of the Vespertinum monograms as letter, image, ornament, and abstract form, and considers how this might help us understand the relationship between form and sign in the early Middle Ages. Keywords: monogram; semiotics; calligraphy; Spain; antiphonary; Mozarabic

MS Additional 11695 in the British Library is widely known as the ‘Silos Beatus’, an important survivor of the commentaries on the Apocalypse by Beatus of Liébana.1 But the volume as currently bound opens with four leaves from an older manuscript, fragmentary survivors of what had once been a richly decorated antiphonary.2 One of the four leaves preserves a fragment of the text on both its sides (fol. 1r–v), while the other three feature full-page compositions: two versions of the Cross of Oviedo (fols. 2v and 3v), the single word LUX (fol. 4v), and a monogram representing the word vespertinum (fol. 4r, Figure 6-1). The last of these is a highly unusual composition that might be more appropriately seen not so much as a linguistic sign, but as an abstract composition that happens to take the form of a monogram. This essay will consider how this composition, and others in closely related manuscripts, can serve

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_ch06

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Figure 6-1. Vespertinum Monogram, Silos Apocalypse, 11th century, Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain. London, British Library, Add MS 11695, fol. 4r. Creative Commons CC0 1.0.

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as an entry into the complex relationship between abstraction and signification within calligraphic practice in the early medieval period. Language is a technology of abstraction that relies for its functioning on the description of the world through arbitrary signs and consequently makes possible the conceptualization of phenomena that are difficult, if not impossible, to understand through direct, concrete experience. Writing is commonly understood to be dependent on spoken language and has been characterized as ‘a sign of a sign’, or, we might say, an abstraction of an abstraction. The complexities of this relationship are rarely evident since most writing systems have been carefully constructed to be ‘read through’, utilizing forms that allow the complex process of decoding visual objects into intelligible meanings to happen with as little friction as possible. More elaborate lettering, such as we find in advertising and in medieval manuscripts, may draw relatively more attention to its form, but that form still primarily exists to enrich the communicative nature of the text, in much the same way that different depictions of the human face might provide more or less information about the subject.3 By and large, considerations of the relationship between form and signification in writing revolve around the central question of how the visual qualities of a script or typeface serve its communicative purposes. In looking at the Vespertinum monogram in Add. Ms 11695 and smaller versions of the same monogram in related manuscripts, we find a case in which form and meaning seem occasionally to have gone their separate ways, such that it is possible in some instances to observe the form without perceiving the sign, and in other cases to recognize the sign without recourse to its customary form. Consequently, it becomes possible to consider these compositions as works of abstract art, in which the visual and material attributes of a work constitute its primary subject matter. Lettering, and other forms of symbolic communication, have occupied an uneasy place in both the practice and the interpretation of modern and contemporary abstraction. An avoidance of representational imagery is regularly cited as a defining feature of abstract art by its modern practitioners and critics, and it is often implied that this would preclude the depiction (or reproduction) of recognizable forms that do not exist in the sensible world, such as numbers, letters, and other abstract signs. Influential commentators such as Clement Greenberg and Meyer Schapiro both distinctly implied that any recognizable forms in a work undermined its claims to being completely abstract.4 Some artists who engaged with abstraction in the twentieth and twenty first centuries, such as Hilma af Klint, Paul Klee, Stuart Davis, Madiha Omar, and Cy Twombley, included lettering and pseudo-writing in their works as a means of complicating the relationships among forms and meanings in their works.5 The ambiguity introduced by letters, words, and other signs deepens the already contentious problem of what (and how) a work of abstract art might ‘mean’. As John Waters quipped while discussing the work of Cy Twombley: ‘Remember, you can’t be wrong when you are translating from

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Figure 6-2. Vespertinum Monogram, León Antiphonary, early 10th century, León, Spain. Fol. 232r, MS. 8, Archivo de la Catedral de León. Creative Commons 4.0, CC-BY.

an abstract language.’6 But the uneasy, if artistically fecund, relationship between lettering and abstraction is nothing new, as this essay will show. As a full-page composition, the figure on fol. 4r is—to my knowledge—unique in early manuscript decoration. In some ways, the monogram itself is not that uncommon. It is composed of the letters V (formed by the curved ascender at upper left and the top half of the central upright), P (formed by the central upright and the large bowl at top right), and R (formed by the P with the addition of the diagonal descender at bottom right); the diagonal descender at lower left is a habitual flourish. The monogram can be read as a condensed abbreviation of the word vespertinum, and monograms of this type are common throughout antiphonaries from the Iberian peninsula from the ninth through the eleventh centuries (Figure 6-2).7 Vespertinum monograms are part of a notational system marking the different sections of the chants in an antiphonary and were often singled out for special elaboration since they mark the beginning of a new set of chants for a specific feast, beginning with those of Vespers. We can thus read these forms within the broad practice of using elaborate calligraphy and ornamental forms to aid in the navigation of a text within a codex. In its original manuscript context, the monogram on fol. 4r likely marked

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the beginning of both the antiphonary and the feast of St. Acisclus, marking the first day of the Mozarabic liturgical year (17 November).8 The chant for vespers for that feast begins ‘Lux orta est iustis’, and thus the LUX that appears on the verso would serve as the beginning of that chant and of the text as a whole. The figure on fol. 4r, then, might be seen simply as an extraordinarily elaborate specimen within an established tradition of Vespertinum markers.9 And yet, while the visual reification of words at the beginning of textual divisions is a common feature of early medieval manuscript decoration, this particular instance is highly unusual in presenting a peritext as a stand-alone composition.10 Though it may be reminiscent of the well-known initial pages in the Lindisfarne Gospels and Book of Kells, fol. 4r is not really an initial page but rather an incipit page, which features peritextual elements such as introductions to new sections or books.11 When considered carefully, the Vespertinum monogram’s enlargement and placement alone on a full page renders the monogram functionally impractical: it is the equivalent of a printed book with a very large ‘CH. 1’ splashed across a single page. It hovers somewhat between the two traditions of special text treatments, since it is not a part of the body text, as with initial pages, and is more visually elaborate and difficult to read than the typical incipit page. Though the letters are intelligible, it does not actually communicate much of anything in its context, since it does not accompany a new chant but simply precedes it. Serving no communicative purpose, it asks the beholder to view it primarily as a composition. The large alpha and omega compositions that appear at the very beginning and end of some deluxe Iberian manuscripts can help to clarify how the Vespertinum monogram upends the usual dependence of writing on form, and thus moves towards abstraction (Figures 6-3 and 6-4). Similar to the full-page Vespertinum monogram, the alpha and omega pages present large letters that serve no textual purpose, but simply mark the beginning and the end of the manuscript, just as the Vespertinum monogram on fol. 4r marks the beginning of the body of the antiphonary. For example, the alpha and omega in Gregory the Great’s Moralia in Job, made in 945 at the Valeránica monastery in Spain, have an immediate visual impact.12 Rendered in rich colours against the plain parchment background, their strongly defined geometric forms presents a bold contrast to the intricate interlace within and the delicate floral forms alongside the letters. The 945 Moralia in Job is a very large book—forty-nine centimetres tall by thirty-four centimetres wide—so these letters would have struck their beholders with their considerable size and then elicited sustained attention through their more subtly formed passages. Alongside the aesthetic appeal, there are also clear visual cues that beholders are supposed to look at and study these forms. The two standing men accompanying the omega, who might be the artist-scribes of the manuscript, look at the letter and raise their arms as though heralding its presence. The alpha on fol. 1v, meanwhile,

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Figure 6-3. Alpha and Maiestas Domini, St. Gregory’s Moralia in Job, early 10th century, León, Spain. Fols. 1v-2r, MS 80, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid. Creative Commons, CC-BY-NC-SA.

Figure 6-4. Colophon and Omega, St. Gregory’s Moralia in Job, early 10th century, León, Spain. Fols. 500v501r, MS 80, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid. Creative Commons, CC-BY-NC-SA.

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has a less conspicuous, but far more important, observer, as the enthroned God on the facing page looks not out at the reader, but to his right, eyeing the letter across the gutter. Such a deflective glance serves to emphasize the importance of the alpha, subtly granting it primacy over the anthropomorphic rendering of God in the maiestas image. A subtler dialectical relationship exists between the omega and the extended colophon by the scribe Florentius facing it. While the colophon, through its words and its vivid framing, recalls the work of the scribe in bringing the text to physical form, the two figures underneath the omega seem to herald its presence without particularly emphasizing its nature as a product of human artifice. The colophon impresses on its reader the durational acts both of writing and of reading, through the pointed laboriousness of the alternating red and black lines of text.13 The omega, on the other hand, presents itself as something of a theophany, with the accompanying men indicating through their raised hands and eyes that it is not to be read so much as apprehended. Its import is not in what it tells but in what it shows. In the opening for the alpha, the scribal presence is made manifest through the four anthropomorphic evangelist symbols holding books and facing each other in conversation at the bottom of the scene, echoing the book held by God in the centre. As with Florentius’s colophon, an emphasis on textual transmission is offset by the vivid presence of the letter on the facing page. If beholders were encouraged to look at the alpha and omega, what was it they were supposed to see? It is possible to read these two letters through the constituent shapes that compose them. The importance of geometry to medieval thought and art has long been recognized, with some recent scholarship highlighting a sophisticated iconography of geometry in early medieval lettering.14 The cosmic sense of the circle, for example, extended to its use in letterforms, such as the O, Q, and even the omega.15 The Spanish exegete Beatus of Liébana, whose work was certainly known to the scribes of this manuscript, interpreted the shapes of the alpha and omega as revealing divine truths. He writes: Composed of three strokes of equal size, the shape of the letter A is, itself, the same in Greek as in Latin. It is not without reason that our ancestors said that [the tripartite form] represented the unity of the divinity. In Greek, the ω is written with three equal strokes yoked together and elevated. In Latin, however, the O is closed with the roundness of a circle. Surely, in this closed form containing everything, it manifests the divinity’s protection.16

The two compass-drawn bowls of the omega (see Figure 6-4), centred on smaller enclosed circles, can thus be seen as a conflation of the divine symbolism of the Greek omega and the Latin O. The three uprights serve to remind the beholder of the Trinity, while the circles evoke divinity’s perfection. The particular design of

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the two smaller circles, in which three-cornered knots come together to form a cross, further lends itself to interpretation in relation to the Trinity and to Christ. But the alpha (see Figure 6-3), in contrast, does not present such clear motifs for interpretation. Despite Beatus’s claim that the three strokes of an A represent the Trinity, the split and angled cross bar in this instance does not lend itself to such a reading. There might still be an evocation of the Trinity in the letter’s triangular form, and perhaps the diamond-shaped centre might evoke the rich set of cosmological and theological concepts associated with the lozenge.17 The fact that the alpha responds poorly to this kind of iconographic interpretation is perhaps an indication that the parts should not be overemphasized against the whole. Rich as the geometric interpretation of letters has proven to be, there may be instances in which the cumulative visual impact of a divine letter matters more than its constituent components. Viewed in comparison to the alpha and omega, the large Vespertinum monogram begins to look less like an overblown section marker and more like an evocation of divine presence. Of course, the alpha and omega constitute one of the most widely used and durable symbols in Christianity, but the formal resonances are still striking. As with the alpha and omega, the manner in which the Vespertinum monogram floats in the undefined space of the page allows for greater continuity with the space of the viewer, and its physicality is emphasized through the thick application of pigment on the page. There is also the strong visual similarity of the monogram to the widely used monogram of Christ, or Christogram. The alignment of the diagonal ascenders and descenders, and especially through the small curling loop at the top of the bowl of the R, which has no functional purpose in rendering the word vespertinum but strongly recalls the diminutive loop of the rho common in Christograms in northern Iberian tympanum reliefs and manuscripts.18 The Vespertinum monogram on fol. 4r, then, has been transformed through form, scale, and setting to achieve a kind of apotheosis. But even if it is no longer a mere section marker, it still can never be more than an ersatz nominum sacrum. It occupies a nether region where form and sign are slightly out of alignment: it looks godly, but it says ‘vespers’. Without a place for the communicative value of the Vespertinum monogram, it is left as pure form, an abstraction of an abstraction of an abstraction. While the particular rendering of the monogram as a full-page composition is perhaps unique, its semiotic ambiguity is not unusual within the broader tradition of Vespertinum monograms as they appear in other Iberian antiphonaries, where the form is subjected to seemingly limitless variation. In the León Antiphonary, many of the Vespertinum monograms in are only lightly stylized and the letters are relatively easy to make out (see Figure 6-2).19 Most of them, however, are much more complex. A reader who is habituated to the form of the monogram might still be able to parse these denser designs as fundamentally rooted in the shapes of the letters,

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Figure 6-5. Vespertinum Monograms. a.) With St. Andrew, León Antiphonary, early 10th century, León, Spain. Archivo de la Catedral de León, MS. 8, fol. 39v. CC-BY; b) León Antiphonary, early 10th century, León, Spain. Archivo de la Catedral de León, MS. 8, fol. 76r. CC-BY; c) , Antiphonal of the Roman Liturgy, 11th century, Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain. London, British Library, Add MS 30850, fol. 112r. Creative Commons CC0 1.0; d) in the form of the Holy Family, León Antiphonary, early 10th century, León, Spain. Archivo de la Catedral de León, MS. 8, fol. 79r. CC-BY.

although the incorporation of, or even transformation into, the Christogram and the Cross in many of them expands their reference (Figure 6-5a). The most interesting are the markers that bear no resemblance to any known sign (Figure 6-5b).20 In these, the original monogram—or the Cross or a Christogram—can perhaps be discerned embedded deep in the design, but it would feel ridiculous to claim that any of those particular signs are distinctly legible in these forms. In several cases, it is impossible to say that the design derives from any known sign at all. This is not simply a matter of different scribes at work in this book, with one of them uninformed—or cavalierly unconcerned—about what the markers should look like. Designs across the spectrum of legible to abstracted appear scattered throughout the book, even occasionally on the same page.21 Nor is the León Antiphonary an

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isolated phenomenon. Other antiphonaries from other scriptoria show the same kind of internal variety and inventiveness (Figure 6-5c).22 A beholder coming to these designs without knowing the larger notational system that they participate in might see them simply as ornamental markers, similar perhaps to the headpieces that mark off textual divisions in contemporary Byzantine and Islamic manuscripts. It is especially tempting to speculate that the scribes making these manuscripts would have seen the roundels, vignettes, and other markers in Qur’anic manuscripts from al-Andalus and the Maghreb and recognized these devices as functionally similar, since both systems both indicate textual divisions and cue performative responses to the text.23 But to understand these designs simply as highly decorative navigational devices would be to mistake their nature, since they are still part of a linguistically based notational system that is itself embedded in broader semiotic practices that integrated writing with abstract signs, diagrams, and figural imagery.24 Consequently, some figures might be seen as abstracted versions of familiar representational imagery, as in compositions such as that on fol. 226r in the León Antiphonary, where interlaced lobes arrayed around a cross can be seen as a schematized rendering of a crucifixion attended by figures, or a contemporary maiestas domini.25 On fol. 39v (see Figure 6-5a), the juxtaposition of a Vespertinum monogram with St. Andrew holding a processional cross draws out the similarity of the monogram to both the Christogram and the Cross, with the elongated point at the monogram’s bottom serving as a reference to the thorn of a processional cross.26 The chant it marks particularly emphasizes the Cross, hinting at the possibility that the scribes may occasionally have responded to the textual content when forming the monograms, although a survey of the full manuscript does not bear this out as a concerted programme.27 The fluidity between representational and non-representational imagery is such that a beholder habituated to the Vespertinum markers might reasonably look at the figural imagery that sometimes fills the spaces left for monograms and wonder if perhaps the composition of the group is based on the monogram’s design (Figure 6-5d). In one depiction of the Presentation in the Temple, the upper half of Simeon’s body mimics the V with the lobe-like robed arm, the infant in Mary’s arms recalls the bowl of the P, her swooping dress the leg of the R, and the priest’s trailing scarf the habitual lower flourish. It might simply be a chance visual rhyme, but taken in the context of the many variations on the Vespertinum form, it seems more likely to be a candidate for the subtlest animated letter in the whole of medieval art. Perhaps the most striking example of the tendency towards formal exploration is to be found in Add. 30850 (Figure 6-6). Here, the evidently finished (based on codicological analysis) Vespertinum marker is rendered as two forms presented as near mirror images to each other with rectangular centres implying central upright and stylized vines, hinting at the lobes and diagonal strokes of the letters.

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Figure 6-6. Vespertinum Monogram, Antiphonal of the Roman Liturgy 11th century, Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain. London, British Library, Add MS 30850, fol. 206v. © British Library Board.

To call this a ‘monogram’ seems like an exercise in categorical self-delusion, but in context, that is precisely what it is meant to stand for. The artist-scribes of these antiphonaries seem to have recognized that the communicative capacity of the Vespertinum monograms depended almost entirely on structural and material characteristics, and only barely—if at all—on visual form. This is particularly the case considering that the monograms are habitually accompanied by a fully written incipit, usually rendered in coloured inks and set in a display script. A large form of any shape in the expected place, especially (but not necessarily) one composed of several pigments, would suffice to mark the beginning of a new office. As noted above, the artist-scribes of the León Antiphonary saw fit to mark several of the offices with a representational scene in the space reserved for the Vespertinum monogram. The valence of the context is strong enough to do the work by itself, leaving the form free to be anything. True to the Latin word abstraho, the specific form of the monogram has been made abstract through its alienation from the work of signification.

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It is important that these forms not be blithely dismissed as ornamental. Though ‘ornament’ has proven, like abstraction, exceedingly resistant to definition, James Trilling’s claim that ornament is fundamentally separable from the functional elements of an object is valid and salient here.28 As has been described above, the Vespertinum monograms serve a function in the use of the book, one that was particularly important in a text that had to be precisely navigated in its use. At the same time, their elaborated forms clearly exceed what is necessary to serve their function. As forms that are more than simply decorative but devoid of the recognizable shapes that can conjure denotative meaning, these designs present themselves as objects existing primarily out of formal interest. They are not there to be read, but they are there to be seen. If the Vespertinum monograms are conceived as objects of self-sufficient visual interest, then they cannot be thought of as entirely separable from the object. There is no clear proximate reason for the artist-scribes of the antiphonaries to experiment in such slippery ways with the Vespertinum monograms. Here, it is perhaps helpful to consider related works from the modern period. As mentioned above, lettering and pseudo-writing have been of continuing interest of many practitioners of abstract art, understood broadly, throughout the twentieth century. Even the use of words in those movements not necessarily concerned with pursuing ‘pure’ abstraction, such as Cubism and Pop Art, has often been seen as guided just as much by formal concerns as semiotic ones. Rosalind Krauss’s recursive discussion in The Picasso Papers, characterizing again and again the linguistic signs in cubist collage as dazzling facets of a turning crystal, evokes the beholder’s contradictory desire to see newspaper fragments as formal elements of the collage against the powerful impulse to read their textual content as significant to Picasso’s political and artistic thinking.29 How can one know, when faced with a work of art that includes letters, if one is supposed to look at them or read them? Or, if both, in what order? As characterized here, the Vespertinum monograms seem to represent an attempt to push the beholder away from ‘reading’ and towards ‘looking’, though they do so in a context that resolutely sets reading—singing, really—at the centre. Much as the full-page Vespertinum monogram can be seen as an abstraction, the beholder’s impulse is still very much to see it as an unread linguistic form. But is such a form possible? When Jasper Johns first exhibited his paintings and prints of flags, alphabets, and numbers in the late 1950s, his works were taken as a direct challenge to the contemporary orthodoxy of abstract expressionist painting through their reintroduction of intelligible, if not exactly representational, forms (Figure 6-7). There are intriguing visual parallels between Johns’s letter and number works and the Vespertinum monograms. Both series present forms that are thickly painted, visually dense, and carefully designed, but presented with no particular framing

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Figure 6-7. Jasper Johns, Alphabet, 1959. paper on hardboard; 30.5 × 26.7 cm; ref. no. 2015.121. Art Institute of Chicago. © 2020 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

and no clear reason for being. In both, the evident labour with which the work was created seems out of line with its symbolic weight. Though characteristically non-specific about his artistic thinking, Johns has continually insisted on the arbitrariness of the forms in his early works, characterizing them as no more than a means for him to investigate the formal problems that most concerned him.30 Like many artists of his time, Johns was evidently interested in the relationship between process and abstraction.

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I wanted to show what had gone before in a picture, and what was done after. But if you put on a heavy brushstroke in paint, and then add another stroke, the second stroke smears the first […] Then someone suggested wax. It worked very well: as soon as the wax was cool, I could put on another stroke and it would not alter the first.31

In a separate interview, he described working with words in similar terms, although here it is not the artistic medium that is methodically worked, but the subject matter itself: I thought that one thing to do with the written word was to pretend that it was an object that could be bent, turned upside down, and I began more or less folding words.32

Words, letters, and numbers, then, presented to Johns ready-made forms that could serve as sites of formal experimentation, deflecting attention away from their semantic content and towards the artworks’ facture. Interestingly, Iberian scribes appear also to have been particularly interested in finding ways to show what had gone before and what came after. Iberian manuscripts are unusually rich with colophons that record not only the names of the scribe(s) and patron(s), and the location of the scriptorium, but also the date and even the hour of completion.33 In some manuscripts, intermittent marginal notes also record the daily stopping points of scribes, providing a running record of their progress through the text.34 As noted above, elaborate colophons such as those of the 945 Moralia in Job (Figures 6-3 and 6-4) and the Silos Beatus (f. 6r and fol. 276r) encourage the beholder to reflect on the work of the scribes by presenting them complex visual-verbal constructions that are at once artistically laboured and laborious to read.35 Several of these colophons present complex paths through the text, drawing particular attention to the importance of ductus, both in terms of the path the eye takes through the text and the smaller routes described by the individual strokes making up the letters.36 Scribal training demanded careful attention to the ductus of pen strokes as the core component of each letter, instilling in scribes a dual understanding of letters as both visual and linguistic objects.37 The baseline of scribal work, in other words, was abstract form, since it consisted not so much of copying texts as it did of copying shapes, particularly in deluxe manuscripts.38 This formal understanding of letters is the basis for the pictorial interpretation of letters in the passage on alpha and omega from Beatus, as well as in similar passages found in the works of Isidore of Seville and Paulinus of Nola.39 Aware that the shapes of letters were fundamentally non-representational and arbitrary, scribes subsequently saw them as abstract

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Figure 6-8. Decorated Letters and Vespertinum Monogram, Antiphonal of the Roman Liturgy, 11th century, Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain. London, British Library, Add MS 30850, fol. 6r. Creative Commons CC0 1.0.

forms that could be manipulated. Visual evidence for a fascination with the mutability of letter shapes can be seen in an antiphonary from Silos, Add. 30850 (Figure 6-8), in which the upper half of the first Vespertinum monogram in the book reproduces, with minor adjustments, the E of the word ‘ecce’ on the same page. This simple manipulation betrays a scribal interest in the fact that two nearly identical shapes can be arranged to spell different things, and thus that form and meaning are not intrinsically united. The Vespertinum monograms would have been particularly attractive as a site of formal invention—even play—because, unlike most letters, their meaning was more dependent on their context than their shape. 40 The Vespertinum monograms become ductus unbound, given free rein to take any pathway they might choose. Johns’s interest in the alphabets, as in many of his works, seems to have been not only formal but also semiotic, particularly when viewed in light of his later engagement with the ideas of Ludwig Wittgenstein. 41 Like a word repeated over

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and over, the letters and numbers begin to shed their nature as signs and present themselves as abstract shapes, though it is not clear that they can ever truly escape their nature as signs. Clement Greenberg described Johns’s early paintings as characterized by a suspension between abstraction and representation, but Fred Orton perhaps evoked the situation best when he describes Flag through a long series of conflicted dualities, characterizing it so: neither subject nor surface, it is both subject and surface; neither content nor form, it is both content and form; neither representation nor abstraction, it is both representation and abstraction. 42

Much the same could be said of the Vespertinum monograms. Faced with a situation where it seems incorrect to describe them as letters but also incorrect to say that they are pure abstraction, it could be said that being neither word nor abstraction, they are both word and abstraction; neither meaningful nor meaningless, they are both meaningful and meaningless. The forms still function as signs, even though the forms no longer depict the signs. Johns’s work and the Vespertinum monograms, then, can both be read as meditations on the instability of signs under the pressure of their making. That is to say, they evince that the transparency of written signs is undermined by an increasing awareness of their nature as a more or less arbitrarily designed form that must be conjured out of material. Through the process of writing a letter, its nature as an abstraction becomes more readily apparent. In the case of the Vespertinum monograms, the scribes apparently realized that any abstraction will serve equally as well as the standard one. Johns’s work can be situated as part of a broader interest in the contingency and polyvalence of signs in the middle of the twentieth century, particularly among philosophers and artists. 43 Medieval Christians were similarly comfortable with the idea that signs were not fixed, and made a point of discounting the visual (or aural) form of a sign in contradistinction to its meaning. The primary source for this attitude is Augustine, who insisted that verbal and written signs are ultimately arbitrary, and that the differences of sounds in spoken language or of letters in written form should not be seen as in any way undermining the stability of the referent. 44 His influential definition of a sign as ‘anything which, over and above the impressions it makes on the senses, makes something other than itself come into awareness’, clearly contrasts the signified with the fleeting sense impressions of the sign. 45 Christian theologians were insistent on the point that any representation of God, including in words written, spoken, or sung, must always be understood as a partial representation of divinity through human means. This insistence on the stability of the divine referent and its independence from sensual perception was

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crucial for many elements of Christian theology and practice, including the coeternal nature of the Trinity and the capacity for the soul to apprehend the divine.46 The lesson of the separation between arbitrary sign and eternal signified was understood to have been taught in a negative fashion through the story of the Tower of Babel, through which some believed humans lost the ability to communicate with God, and through Pilate’s multilingual sign on the Cross, which announced (ironically) the same truth in multiple forms. 47 Not only was the divine truth independent from the vagaries of the human sign system, but the totality of divine truth was also perhaps best represented by a retreat from signification, as when Augustine and his mother fall silent in recognition of an eternal wisdom that exists outside of any signs. 48 The relationship of sign to divine referent continued to be of concern throughout the early Middle Ages. 49 The unusual glance of the enthroned Christ towards the alpha in the 945 Moralia in Job tellingly directs the beholder’s attention away from a representational sign of the incarnate manifestation of God and towards an abstracted one of his eternal nature, a fitting deflection for the preface of a text concerned with the immense difficulties of interpreting scripture. Within antiphonaries, which served to manipulate and abstract words not only visually but also aurally in their performance, the abstracted monograms might have served as subtle reminders that the heady complex of signs that largely made up the liturgy were also arbitrary, however numinous. A clear understanding of the nature of signs was particularly important in a liturgical context because of the need to insist on the real presence of the Eucharist, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the real presence within relics.50 Medieval musical treatises regularly emphasize that the form of the music is generally indifferent to its content, since the same text can be sung in any number of different ways and still mean the same thing.51 Music thus presented the same problems as writing, but it also entailed some additional challenges. The medieval grouping of music in the quadrivium with the other transcendent, uncreated systems of arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy meant that it was fundamentally different from the anthropogenic trivium. Language and its associated apparatuses (including writing) was a semiotic system whose imperfections could be traced to its human origins, and encounters with the divine are consistently described as happening beyond (or before) language. But music, deriving from divinely ordained structures, held at least the possibility of bridging the divide, even if this remained beyond human capacity. Aurelian of Réôme, the ninth-century music theorist, recounted the story of a monk who heard a choir of angels singing the response for the birthday of the Apostles, only to have officials in Rome mis-transcribe the chant.52 This story not only entails a belief that angelic song can be transmitted to human minds but also betrays a mistrust in human-created sign systems: it is when the music is written down that it becomes corrupted. Music may be perfect, but written music never will be.53 The semiotic flexibility of the Vespertinum initials is not solely

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an index of the arbitrariness of writing systems, but also a tacit acknowledgement of the imperfect nature of the written music they accompany. Medieval commentators regularly warned against the dangers of allowing the sensual beauty of music to distract one from the truths presented in its texts.54 At the same time, music was recognized as an effective means of engaging the laity in religious thought. Augustine, even as he wrung his hands over his own love of music, nonetheless approved of it ‘so that through the delights of the ear the weaker mind may rise up towards the devotion of worship’.55 Such a sentiment, but in relation to calligraphy, is echoed many years later when the eighth-century missionary Boniface claimed that golden writing in service manuscripts helped to attract the attention of unlearned recent converts.56 Underlying both claims is the understanding that form is fundamentally independent of content, which can serve as a basis for separating the two in the form of abstract art. Such an implicit argument is strikingly suggestive of early twentieth-century apologia for abstraction that explicitly argued for the separability of form and content, both in a work and in the mind of the beholder.57 The Vespertinum initials seem to confirm such an understanding in practice: in them, form and sign were seen not to have a necessary relationship, leaving the form to be explored without concern for its notational function. At the same time, Augustine’s and Boniface’s comments (alongside the many medieval critiques of and apologia for artfulness in religious objects), evince a clear belief that form has a capacity to express emotions and stir passions in beholders, independent of its denotative meaning. Again, it is hard not to notice the parallels with early advocates of modern abstraction, who saw it as a more effective means of expressing feelings and spirituality.58 Although it can only be speculation, perhaps the abstract Vespertinum monograms were also meant as a means of stirring the passions. While serving the base function of marking the beginning of a new set of chants, these abstractions may have been an attempt to inspire in the beholder, particularly if they were performing, the proper religiosity for the moment. If what is to be signified is already known, then perhaps these abstractions stood as a reminder to stir the spirit through the beauty of the signifier.

Notes 1. 2. 3.

A full digital surrogate is available at http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer. aspx?ref=add_ms_11695_f001r (accessed 25 July 2020). Zapke, Hispania Vetus, p. 266. For a concise but direct discussion of these features of writing, see Bodel and Houston, ‘Making a Mark’.

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Greenberg, for example, insisted that Jasper Johns’s paintings of letters and other signs meant that ‘[s]trictly speaking, he too is a representational artist’, while Schapiro, even as he argued against a fundamental division between abstract and representational painting, consistently identified abstract painting with purely formal concerns and with pure feeling as opposed to images that represent and communicate. Greenberg, Collected Essays, p. 126; Schapiro, Modern Art, pp. 185–6, 213–9. 5. For broad discussions, see Morley, Writing on the Wall and Ross, Language in the Visual Arts. 6. Jacobus, Reading Cy Twombly, p. 94. 7. These initials are discussed at length in Walker, Views of Transition, with an eye towards relating changes in the decoration to shifts in the liturgy in the eleventh century. 8. Zapke, Hispania Vetus, p. 266. 9. When this monogram has been discussed in the scholarly literature, however, it has primarily been viewed in the context of its afterlife as an appendage to the Beatus text with which it is bound; see Williams, ‘Meyer Schapiro in Silos’, p. 458; Werckmeister, ‘Santo Domingo de Silos’, pp. 93–5. 10. On peritext, see Genette, Paratexts. 11. Here, I follow Joshua O’Driscoll’s insistence on rigorously distinguishing between ‘incipit pages’, which feature peritextual elements such as introductions to new sections or books, and ‘initial pages’, which feature elaborate treatments of the initial letters of a body text; O’Driscoll, ‘Visual Vortex’, p. 313, n. 17. 12. MS 80, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid. http://bdh-rd.bne.es/viewer. vm?id=0000206931&page=1 (accessed 25 July 2020). 13. Brown, ‘Remember the Hand’, pp. 268–72. 14. Esmeijer, Divina Quaternitas; Caviness, ‘Images of Divine Order’; Cohen, Uta Codex. On geometry in lettering, see Valle, ‘Woven Words’; Garipzanov, Graphic Signs of Authority; Kessler, ‘Medietas/Mediator’. 15. Caviness, ‘Images of Divine Order’ and Kessler, ‘Dynamic Signs’. 16. Tractatus de Apocalipsin, ed. by R. Gryson, CCSL 107B (Turnhout: Brepols, 2012), quoted and translated in Kessler, ‘Dynamic Signs’. 17. Werckmeister, Irisch-Northumbrische Buchmalerei; Esmeijer, Divina Quaternitas. 18. The common presence of the Christogram in portal sculpture is part of a broader association between the monogram of Christ and liminal places, including the beginnings of texts; see Debiais, ‘From Christ’s monogram to God’s presence’, pp. 148– 9. For a manuscript version, see fol. 2v of the 945 Moralia in Job, as in n. 11. 19. MS 8, Archivo de la Catedral de León. Digital surrogate is available at https://bvpb.mcu. es/es/consulta/registro.do?id=449895 (accessed 25 July 2020). Similarly, legible monograms can be found on fols. 50r, 75r, 92v, 100v, 206r, 219r, 232r, 237v, 252v, 259r, 274v, 277r. 20. Besides the example reproduced here, more examples can be found on fols. 41r, 47r, 53v, 76r, 78r, 90v, 93v, 101v, 102r, 104v, 108v, 123v, 160v, 190v, 193v, 196v, 210v, 211v, 218v, 240v, and 248v. 21. For example, fol. 252v. 22. See, for example, MS Add. 30850 and MS Add. 30846, British Library, London, both originating from the scriptorium at Silos.

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23.

24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40.

41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51.

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For a brief description of the use of roundels, see Gacek, Arabic Manuscripts, pp. 226–27, 287; for the possibility of the cross-pollination of such forms among Christian and Islamic manuscripts, see Black, ‘Bible Illustration in Tenth-Century Iberia’ and Nees, ‘Graphic Quire Marks’. For discussions of these imbricated sign systems, see Garipzanov, ‘The Rise of Graphicacy’, and the essays in Graphic Devices, ed. Brown et al. See digital surrogate, as in n. 18. Luaces, ‘Las miniaturas del Antifonario de León’, p. 196. Luaces, ‘Las miniaturas del Antifonario de León’, p. 196. Trilling, Ornament, p. 21. Krauss, The Picasso Papers, pp. 25–85. Crichton, Jasper Johns, p. 30. On the slipperiness of interpreting Johns’s statements, see Hamlin, ‘“A Heuristic Event”’. Crichton, Jasper Johns, p. 30; see also Hess, Jasper Johns, p. 8. Johns, Writings, Sketchbook Notes, Interviews, p. 127. Brown, ‘Remember the Hand’, p. 271. Brown, ‘Remember the Hand’, pp. 265–7. Brown, ‘Remember the Hand’, pp. 265–7. For reproductions of these pages, see the digital facsimiles as listed in n. 11 (945 Moralia in Job) and n.1 (Silos Beatus). On ductus, see Carruthers, ‘The Concept of Ductus’. Quintilian, Instit. Orat., I.1.26–27. For an interesting discussion of a scribe who seems struggles to properly shape the letters of a book, see Hussey, ‘Anglo-Saxon Scribal Habitus’. For Isidore, see Tilghman, ‘The Shape of the Word’, pp. 294–5; for Paulinus, see Kessler, ‘Medietas/Mediator’, pp. 52–3. It is interesting to note that grammatical treatises in this period identify shape, name, and vocalization as the primary characteristics of written letters, but make little mention of position or context; see Amsler, ‘Premodern Letters’ for extended discussion. Johns started reading the Philosophical Investigations in 1961, clearly seeing a connection between Wittgenstein’s interests and his own existing work; see Higginson, ‘The Influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein’ and Levinger, ‘Jasper Johns’s Painted Words’, pp. 282–8. Orton, Figuring Jasper Johns, p. 146. Higginson, ‘The Influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein’; Orton, ‘On B̶e̶i̶n̶g̶ Bent ‘Blue’. Augustine, De doctrina christiana, II:1–7. ‘Signum est quod praeter species quas ingerit sensibus aliquid aliud facit in cognitionem venire’. Augustine, De doctrina christiana, 1:1. My emphasis. Amsler, Etymology and Grammatical Discourse, pp. 106–7; Ando, ‘Augustine on Language’, pp. 54–5. Amsler, Etymology and Grammatical Discourse, p. 94; Tilghman, ‘Writing in Tongues’, pp. 101–4. Amsler, ‘Premodern Letters’, p. 314. Carlson, ‘The Politics of Interpretation’, pp. 94–9. Bedos-Rezak, When Ego Was Imago, p. 122. Barrett, ‘Reflections on Music Writing’, p. 13; Jeserich, Musica Naturalis, pp. 83, 206.

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52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58.

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Barrett, ‘Reflections on Music Writing’, p. 4. For an extended discussion of the problem, see Barrett, ‘Reflections on Music Writing’. Augustine, Confessions, X:33, 532. Augustine, Confessions, X:33, 532. Tilghman, ‘The Shape of the Word’, p. 294. Schapiro, Modern Art, p. 186. Such as Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, for one example.

Works Cited Mark E. Amsler, Etymology and Grammatical Discourse in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1989). ———, ‘Premodern Letters and Textual Consciousness from the Pre-Socratics to the First Grammatical Treatise’, Historiagraphia Linguistica, 37:3 (2010), pp. 279–319. Clifford Ando, ‘Augustine on Language’, Revue des Études Augustiniennes, 40 (1994), pp. 45–78. Augustine, Confessions, trans. by Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). ———, De doctrina christiana, ed. by R. P. H. Green (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996); trans. by D. W. Robertson, Jr. (New York: Macmillan, 1958). Sam Barrett, ‘Reflections on Music Writing: Coming to Terms with Gain and Loss in Early Medieval Latin Song’, in Vom Preis des Fortschritts: Gewinn Und Verlust in der Musikgeschichte, ed. by Andreas Haug and Andreas Dorschel (Vienna: Universal Edition, 2008), pp. 89–109. Brigitte Bedos-Rezak, When Ego Was Imago: Signs of Identity in the Middle Ages (Leiden: Brill, 2011). Krysta L. Black, ‘Bible Illustration in Tenth-Century Iberia: Reconsidering the Role of al-Andalus in the León Bible of 960’, Ars Orientalis, 42 (2012), pp. 165–75. John Bodel and Stephen Houston, ‘Introduction: Making a Mark’, in Making a Mark: Hidden Writing and Legible Signs, ed. by John Bodel and Stephen Houston (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020). Catherine Brown, ‘Manuscript Thinking’, postmedieval, 2 (2011), pp. 350–68. ———, ‘Remember the Hand: Bodies and Bookmaking in Early Medieval Spain’, Word & Image, 27 (2011), pp. 262–78. Michelle Brown, Ildar Garipzanov, and Benjamin C. Tilghman, eds., Graphic Devices and the Early Decorated Book (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2017). Laura E. Carlson, ‘The Politics of Interpretation: Language, Philosophy, and Authority in the Carolingian Empire (775-820)’ (PhD thesis, Oxford University, 2011). Mary Carruthers, ‘The Concept of Ductus, or Journeying Through a Work of Art’, in Rhetoric Beyond Words: Delight and Persuasion in the Arts of the Middle Ages, ed. by M. Carruthers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

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Madeline Caviness, ‘Images of Divine Order and the Third Mode of Seeing’, Gesta, 22 (1983), pp. 99–120. Adam Cohen, The Uta Codex: Art, Philosophy, and Reform in Eleventh-Century Germany (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000). Michael Crichton, Jasper Johns (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1977). Vincent Debiais, ‘From Christ’s monogram to God’s presence. Epigraphic contribution to the study of chrismons in Romanesque sculpture’, Sign and Design: Script as Image in Cross-Cultural Perspective (300–1600 CE), ed. by Brigitte M. Bedos-Rezak and Jeffrey Hamburger (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2016), pp. 135–53. Anna C. Esmeijer, Divina Quaternitas: A Preliminary Study in the Method and Application of Visual Exegesis (Amsterdam: Van Gorcum, 1978). Adam Gacek, Arabic Manuscripts: a Vademecum for Readers (Leiden: Brill, 2009). Ildar Garipzanov, ‘The Rise of Graphicacy in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages’, Viator, 46:2 (2015), pp. 1–21. ———, Graphic Signs of Authority in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, 300-900 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018). Gerard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, trans. by Jane E. Lewin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). Clement Greenberg, The Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol. 4: Modernism with a Vengeance, ed. by John O’Brien (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993). Amy K. Hamlin, ‘“A Heuristic Event”: Reconsidering the Problem of the Johnsian Conversation’, Journal of Art Historiography, 7 (2012), pp. 1–17. Barbara Hess, Jasper Johns: The Business of the Eye (Los Angeles: TASCHEN, 2007). Peter Higginson, ‘Jasper Johns and The Influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein’ (PhD thesis, University of British Columbia, 1976). Matthew T. Hussey, ‘Anglo-Saxon Scribal Habitus and Frankish Aesthetics in an Early Uncial Manuscript’, in Scraped, Stroked, and Bound: Materially Engaged Readings of Medieval Manuscripts, ed. by Jonathan Wilcox (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 15–37. Mary Jacobus, Reading Cy Twombly: Poetry in Paint (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016). Philipp Jeserich, Musica Naturalis: Speculative Music Theory and Poetics, from Saint Augustine to the Late Middle Ages in France, trans. by Michael J. Curley and Steven Rendall (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013). Johns, Jasper Johns: Writings, Sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. by Christel Hollevoet (New York: Abrams, 1996).Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, trans. by M.T.H. Sadler (New York: Dover, 1977). Herbert Kessler, ‘Medietas/Mediator and the Geometry of Incarnation’, in Image and Incarnation: The Early Modern Doctrine of the Pictorial Image, ed. by Walter S. Melion and Lee Palmer Wandel (Leiden: Brill, 2015).

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———, ‘Dynamic Signs and Spiritual Designs’, in Sign and Design: Script as Image in Cross-Cultural Perspective (300–1600 CE), ed. by Brigitte M. Bedos-Rezak and Jeffrey Hamburger (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2016), pp. 111–34. Rosalind Krauss, The Picasso Papers (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998). Esther Levinger, ‘Jasper Johns’ Painted Words’, Visible Language, 23:2/3 (1989), pp. 280–95. Joaquin Yarza Luaces, ‘Las miniaturas del Antifonario de León’, Boletín del Seminario de estudios de arte y arqueología (1976), pp. 185–210. Simon Morley, Writing on the Wall: Word and Image in Modern Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). Lawrence Nees, ‘Graphic Quire Marks and Qur’ānic Verse Markers in the Seventh and Eighth Century’, in Graphic Devices and the Early Decorated Book, ed. by Michelle Brown, Ildar Garipzanov, and Benjamin C. Tilghman (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2017), pp. 80–99. Joshua O’Driscoll, ‘Visual Vortex: An Epigraphic Image from an Ottonian Gospel Book’, Word & Image, 27:3, (2011), pp. 309–21. Fred Orton, ‘On B̶e̶i̶n̶g̶ Bent ‘Blue’ (Second State): An Introduction to Jacques Derrida/A Footnote on Jasper Johns’, Oxford Art Journal, 12:1 (1989), pp. 35–46. ———, Figuring Jasper Johns (London: Reaktion Books, 1994). Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, ed. and trans. by Harold E. Butler (London: William Heinemann, 1921). Leslie Ross, Language in the Visual Arts: The Interplay of Text and Imagery (Jefferson: McFarland, 2014). Meyer Schapiro, Modern Art, 19th & 20th Centuries: Selected Papers (New York: George Brazilier, 1978). Benjamin C. Tilghman, ‘The Shape of the Word’, Word & Image, 27 (2011), pp. 292–308. ———, ‘Writing in Tongues: Mixed Scripts and Style in Insular Art’, in Insular and AngloSaxon: Art and Thought in the Early Middle Ages, ed. by Column Hourihane (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2011), pp. 92–108. James Trilling, Ornament: A Modern Perspective (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003). Chiara Valle, ‘Woven Words in the Lindisfarne Gospels’ (PhD thesis, Johns Hopkins University, 2015). Rose Walker, Views of Transition: Liturgy and Illumination in Medieval Spain (London: British Library, 1998). Otto-Karl Werckmeister, Irisch-Northumbrische Buchmalerei des 8. Jahrhunderts und monastische Spiritualität (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1967), pp. 147–70. ———, ‘Santo Domingo de Silos, 1 de julio de 1109. El Beato musical’, in El legado de AlAndalus. El arte andalusí en los reinos de León y Castilla durante la Edad Media, ed. by Manuel Valdés Fernández (Valladolid: Fundación del Patrimonio Historico de Castilla y León, 2007), pp. 89–113.

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John Williams, ‘Meyer Schapiro in Silos: Pursuing an Iconography of Style’, The Art Bulletin, 85 (2003), pp. 442–68. Susana Zapke, ed. Hispania Vetus: Musical-liturgical Manuscripts from Visigothic Origins to the Franco-Roman Transition (9th-12th Centuries) (Bilbao: Fundación BBVA, 2007).

About the Author Benjamin C. Tilghman is Assistant Professor of Art History at Washington College in Maryland and a member of the Material Collective, a collaborative working group of medieval art historians that explores innovative and more humane modes of scholarship. His essays have appeared in the journals Gesta, West 86th, postmedieval, and Word & Image as well as in several collections.

7.

Ornament and Abstraction: A New Approach to Understanding Ornamented Writing in the Making of Illuminated Manuscripts around 1000 Gia Toussaint Abstract When considered a form of embellishment, the ornament—subordinate to the object that it is supposed to embellish—is often deemed to be marginal. This paper explores illuminated liturgical manuscripts made around the year 1000, in which ornamentation contributes to the very meaning-making of the image. I study the function of the ornament in pictorial design and its relationship with individual ornamented letters, discrete words, and overall text. Does the mere presence of ornamental writing contribute to establishing or enhancing the aura of a word or a text, and if so, how? Is it possible for an ornament to enliven the otherwise static letters? To open up words so as to free the divine mystery and power that they conceal? Keywords: Reichenau gospel lectionary, Vita of Wenceslas, Codex Albeldense, letter mazes, abstract ornamentation, script and ornament

Abstraction is intrinsic to art, to all art. No art can exist without abstraction in the philosophical sense of the term, because even the strong will to imitate and mirror real things and persons involves an abstraction. Reality, in this sense, is always concrete, and art is abstract. Nevertheless, art uses another kind of abstraction as well by creating abstract forms that fill empty spaces with decorative, ornamental elements, which, in the Middle Ages, usually derived from vegetal or geometric forms. It is with these elements that the present essay is concerned. There can be no doubt that ornamental abstraction, or abstract ornamentation, its use, function, and perhaps its essence, can be discovered not through mere speculation, but only through the careful analysis of individual cases. Still, one essential feature

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_ch07

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of ornamental abstraction can be named at the outset because Henri Focillon, in his Life of Forms in Art, has made it the central point of a convincing argument. As he argues, ‘form’, despite its abstract nature, ‘is alive’.1 Which means, for him, that far from being static and, as it were, frozen, ‘form is inseparable from movement: forms are alive in that they are never immobile’.2 Inspired as he was by the French philosopher Henri Bergson, Focillon sees mobility and evolution towards ever more complex forms as central features of life, and life itself as driven by a mysterious, apparently indefatigable, forward-pushing force, the élan vital. While this is still a very general, indeed ‘abstract’ description, it will come alive and gain in plausibility with individual examples—examples that show how abstract forms, when put on the page by a medieval scribe and/or illuminator, almost automatically and inevitably develop a dynamic; arguably, these forms gain a life of their own. Or, put differently: forms invite or even seduce the artist to indulge in ever more complex elaborations. In what follows, three cases of abstract ornamentation in medieval manuscripts from around 1000 are analysed: a Gospel book page with a relatively simple yet remarkable form of ornamentation, a folio in a life of a saint with a more complex and elegant form, and, finally, two pages of a legal codex that show unusually sophisticated and elaborated patterns not fully understood by earlier research. Each of the three cases merits a separate description and a close analysis.

Incipit Pages: Ornamented Letters in the Reichenau Gospel Lectionary As bearers of the word of God, Gospel books are among the most opulently decorated manuscripts. In the early fifth century, Saint Augustine spoke of the adornment of the first letters of the Gospel, specifically of the Gospel of John: Quod initium sancti Evangelii, cui nomen est secundum Joannem, quidam Platonicus […] aureis litteris conscribendum, et per omnes Ecclesias in locis eminentissimis proponendum esse dicebat.3 [A certain Platonist was in the habit of saying that this opening passage of that holy gospel, entitled ‘according to John’, should be written in letters of gold, and hung up in all churches in the most conspicuous place.]

At least one part of this dictum was impressively implemented early on. 4 Often, the incipit page opening the Gospel text is closely related to the author of the text, the evangelist. Presented as divinely inspired, he receives the living Word of God and then writes it down. At the beginning of many Gospel books, the first page shows

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the evangelist as he listens to and/or writes God’s instruction. From his pen flows the beginning of the gospel recorded by him. On the incipit page, the liveliness and holiness of the Word revealed to the evangelist become visible in compressed form.5 The initial letter and/or the introductory words of a Gospel often appear as ornamental characters written in gold or silver ink, often claiming an entire page for themselves.6 Frequently, the letters are different sizes, interlaced and decorated with extensive tendrils, so that, to quote Christine Jakobi-Mirwald, ‘the letter is lost in the ornament’.7 The viewers or readers rarely see themselves confronted with standardized characters, instead encountering ornamental ciphers that have to be laboriously deciphered. The initials thus stand in clear contrast to the text of the Gospel, written in precise and legible script. Even if the beginning of the Gospel is known to readers, the interlacing of the holy letters presents them with the challenge of deciphering them and, subsequently, with the divinely demanded task of bringing the word to life. The present essay explicitly turns against the widespread opinion that ‘the large-size initials of the Gospels were no longer read, because they were well known. Accordingly, the letter, relieved from the burden of having to function as a sign, changed into a kind of magical symbol’.8 In this way, the initial letters form the basis and starting point for the handling of new understandings of divinely inspired words in the Gospel, to be recognized as living Scripture: ‘the letter killeth, but the Spirit quickeneth’ (2 Corinthians 3:6).9 Far from destroying the semantic function of the letter, the ornamentation actually enhances it. The reader is completely immersed in the process of encoding and decoding, and so in the word’s own mysterious universe. As in numerous works of Ottonian book illumination, the incipit (fol. 5r) of the Reichenau gospel lectionary (Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, Cod. Guelf. 84.5 Aug. 2°) opposite the evangelist’s portrait (fol. 4v) is designed in such a way that the first two words of the Gospel of John—‘In principio’—form an ornamental letter configuration; consisting of entwining loops and elaborate interlacing, it presents itself as an aesthetically challenging riddle (Figure 7-1).10 The horizontal and linear sequence of letters necessary for reading is abandoned in favour of a word image formed vertically from the letters INPRINCIPIO. The word image is set in a high rectangular, doubled gold frame, thus giving the sacred words In principio a dignified setting. Artful knots are attached centrally to the narrow sides of the frame that, on closer inspection, form the axial framework of a letter formation. From these two knots, connected to each other and equally as thick as the two gold frames, two parallel gold strips emerge. Like a mighty trunk, they divide the framing vertically and axisymmetrically. Golden letters decorated with vegetation sprout out of this trunk so that their meaning can hardly be grasped at a glance. Not only are the letters intertwined with each other, but tendrils spreading to all sides also distort their form, concatenating, dissolving, and liquefying the letters into a

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Figure 7-1. St. John (left) and In principio, the first words of the gospel of John (right), Reichenauer Perikopenbuch, beginning of the 11th century. Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 84.5 Aug. 2°, fol. 4v and 5r. Photo: courtesy Herzog August Bibliothek.

restless yet powerful ornamental network. With its luminous gold, the swinging letter arrangement stands out from a symmetrically arranged monochrome blueand-green background that lends the moving structure peace, firmness, and stability. Is this ornamental letter configuration a word, or is it an image?11 The arrangement of the vertically intertwined letters eludes precise definition. It is not the legibility of the word structure that is in the foreground, but the pictorial power of the letter configuration; although made of individual characters, it does not reveal content. The unrecognizability of the words can further enhance the effect of the word structure: as a tension-laden force field of ornamental form and enigmatic content, it captures the eye. It is probably no coincidence that this arrangement stands at the beginning of the Gospel of John, placed opposite the depiction of the evangelist on fol. 4v (see Figure 7-1). In several respects, it raises the question of the meaning of the holy word received by John. Shown is the moment of divine inspiration. John gazes into the distance, while his raised hand signals the hearing of those divine words to be noted on the long, still empty scroll. Only in the Gospel of John is this connection pointed out in the first verses: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things

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were made by him’ (‘In principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud deum, et deus erat verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud deum. Omnia per ipsum facta sunt’; John 1:1–3). God’s word inspires the evangelist; the Word of God is breathed into him. A verse in Timothy’s second epistle speaks of scripture inspired by God (theópneustos graphé, Latin scriptura inspirata, refers to this process, 2 Timothy 3:16). This sacred, divine process of writing produces all the Gospels. At the beginning of the Gospel of John, we see the Gospel in statu nascendi, and witness the very moment of the birth of the holy and living Word of God. The vitality of Holy Scripture and its almost magical power are reflected in the dynamically interlocking, ornamentally intertwined letter bodies that merge into a moving word structure, a word-image. The dissolution of the logical letter sequence and the seemingly uncontrolled ornamental growths leave the viewer with a mystery. What is written there? How can it be read, understood? The questions raised with the initial page actually prove to be reading instructions for the entire textual corpus of the Gospel. Down to the individual letters, Sacred Scripture stands in the field of tension between content and form, meaning and materiality, sense and sensuality. Its understanding requires an interplay between inner and outer senses, between reading and contemplation, appropriation and interpretation. The following example shows that such efforts are demanded from the recipient not only by scriptural but also by hagiographic texts.

A Saint’s Life: Ornament, Scripture, and Image in Wenceslas’s Vita The vita of Wenceslas, written before 1006, offers the earliest illustrated biography of the saint (Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, Cod. Guelf. 11.2 Aug. 4°).12 Even today Duke Wenceslas (b. 908; reg. 921–929/935; d. 929/35) is venerated as Bohemia’s patron saint. Accompanied by legends, this veneration began shortly after his death. Gumpold, bishop of Mantua from 966, compiled a book on the saint’s life. The concise vita in the Herzog August Bibliothek was donated before 1006 by Hemma, wife of Boleslav II of Bohemia. The ruling benefactress saved neither the effort nor the expense of putting the saint in the right light. The almost 20-page vita includes four exquisite illuminations, with script inked in gold, while the rest of the text, not illustrated, is written in black ink, in Carolingian minuscule. The four decorative pages, placed before the actual text corpus, show the most important episodes of the saint’s life. The small picture cycle on fol. 18v opens with a donor image (Figure 7-2). The image, set in a gold frame, fills an entire page—a composition echoed on the opposite folio (fol. 19r) where a large decorative initial is similarly framed. The two pages show a formal correspondence, but while fol. 18v is decorated with figural ornaments,

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Figure 7-2. Donation scene with crowning of St. Wenceslas, Wenceslas’s vita, before 1006. Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 11.2 Aug. 4°, fol. 18v. Photo: courtesy Herzog August Bibliothek.

an initial letter dominates the opposite side. A little byssus cloth in the size of the frame embroidered tone in tone on the long side of fol. 19r protects the miniatures. Not only the protagonists of the opening picture—Christ, Hemma as donor, and Saint Wenceslas—but also the ornamental design of the frame and the picture field enclosed by it catch the eye. The frame consists of a gold rim doubled around the scene and encloses an ornamental field. This field is accentuated by a grid structure painted in a deep purple tone into which quatrefoil-like purple-coloured flowers are inserted. The regularity of this structure is reminiscent of patterned textiles with symbolically charged purple colouring.13 Associations with precious

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Byzantine purple fabrics, as well as with purple liturgical textiles, were intended; they served to increase the value of a manuscript or its contents.14 The use of such a purple ground in a saint’s vita might be symbolic. Just as relics are wrapped in precious (purple) fabrics, the sacred biography of Saint Wenceslas is backed with a purple textile ground.15 On this purple ground, the inscription of the founder, written in gold ink, unfolds. Although it does not overlap with the figures, the writing takes no account of the flower grid. It reads: ‘Hunc libellum Hemma venerabilis principissa pro remedio animae sue in honore sancti uencezlauvi martiris fieri iussit’ (‘This booklet was ordered by Hemma, the venerable princess, to be made for the salvation of her soul and in honour of the holy martyr Wenceslas’).16 The gold writing blurs with the textile-like background into a restlessly flickering ornament. This effect depends on the lighting. When the light is favourable (illuminating from the top of the page), the gold lettering emerges clearly from the background ornament. The other gildings, such as the frame strips, garment seams, and the semicircle with Christ, as well as his nimbus and book, the crown, the headscarf of Hemma, etc., also stand out clearly and form nervous bands of lines flickering over the purple ground, allowing all other design elements such as figures and colours to recede.17 What is the function of this puzzling composition? It would seem that the dedication sheet is an attempt to capture different levels of time and existence in the surface. This is achieved by creating several pictorial spaces as well as an ornamental structure that proves to be the link between these spaces. The intended spatial arrangement is most clearly illustrated by the figure of Christ, who dominates the upper part of the image. Christ protrudes from a golden semicircle, which immediately adjoins the upper frame strip. In front of a green background decorated with gold dots and the signs alpha and omega, Christ bends towards the observer. His arms overlap the bordering framing of the semicircle, while his nimbed head overlaps the outer edge of the image itself. As if from the depths of heaven, Christ projects into the space between Wenceslas and Hemma, separated from the ornamented purple ground, to crown Saint Wenceslas. The saint seems to balance on the lower frame strip, his feet half inside, half outside the middle ground. Wenceslas’s movement is slowed down by the donor of the manuscript, Hemma, who has thrown herself at his feet and clutches his left foot to kiss it. In proskynesis, she rests with her arms on the frame, more in front of than inside the picture. One sleeve of her robe overlaps with the lower frame and protrudes into the unpainted parchment, i.e. into the viewer’s space. Hemma thus enters as a living observer of the (historical) present into a timeless event: the coronation of the saint with the crown of life. With her donation, she connects herself with Wenceslas as well as with Christ. In the act of donating the vita, Hemma touches the saint. The saint’s foot, clasped by Hemma, forms the base of Wenceslas’s golden lance that

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he holds diagonally, pointing with its tip to the golden book in Christ’s left hand. This indicates the heavenly reward for Hemma’s pious donation: an entry in the Book of Life. Simultaneously, in the picture, but actually in the future, Wenceslas is awarded, from the hands of Christ, the crown of life for his earthly merits—the crown that marks him as a saint. The formal composition of the picture seems to suggest movement: Hemma donates the saint’s vita to Wenceslas, whom she venerates; his lance points to the codex on Christ’s left and thus prophesies the reward of the foundation. Christ crowns the saint with his right hand, which stands in diagonal tension to his left hand. This formally beautiful movement cannot hide the fact that the protagonists are in different levels of space and time; no consistent succession of directly interdependent reactions is depicted. The interplay of different levels of space and time is evoked by the interaction of ornamental structures and framings. A key to understanding this mechanism lies in the space assigned to Wenceslas. Where is this space located and how is it designed? Apparently, the outer gold frame marks the threshold between this world and the celestial world. While Hemma, as a living, earthly person, is placed in front of and in the frame, and only dives into the picture to venerate Wenceslas, the saint seems to be in a kind of intermediate realm. He mediates between the living and Christ, who in turn penetrates all levels of space from the pictorial ground. Wenceslas’s space is that of the ornament and of the written text. In contrast to the dynamics of the figures and their variable spatial and temporal structure, the ornament is clearly recognizably structured, regularly formed in geometric arrangement and by constant repetition. Nevertheless, it is not static like the Gothic chessboard patterns of French book illumination.18 Despite all the symmetry, the structured order of the ornament is disturbed: this is not done by the figures behind which the grid functions as a foil, but by the gold script, which claims exactly the same space as the ornament for itself, without taking account of the repeat patterns. The resulting confusion is exacerbated by the way the writing changes according to the flickering of light and the irregular structure of the text. In lambent light, the surface seems to dissolve and dematerialize right before the viewer’s eyes. Do orientation and disorientation reflect the problems of human existence within the divine order? The complexity of the image cannot be grasped at a glance. Here, the ornament does not simply serve as an aesthetic embellishment, but has a specific structural function: it binds the writing, but also the figures, to a regular and two-dimensional pictorial order. The regularity of the ornamental ground is contrasted with the irregularity of the golden script. The ornament proves to be an ordering and relational element within the complex pictorial organization and can be understood as a manière d’exégèse, as Jean-Claude Bonne calls it in his essay on the ornament in the Middle Ages.19 Moreover, the individual (dis)order of a saint’s life, the vita, expressed

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in the puzzling structure of the writing, is ordered according to the eternal rules of the Christian plan of salvation, visualized in the ornament. This is expressed in the form of a symbol, the crown of life—the promise of salvation that Christ holds ready for the saint—a sign that Wenceslas is absorbed into the order of the saints. In both of the manuscripts discussed, the letters intertwined in the ornament have, as Christian Kiening puts it, ‘an ontological symbolic quality. They convey a meaning which is not simply based on a relationship of reference, but on the suggestion that what is meant is present in the figure of the writing itself.’20

Ornamental Formations in the Letter Maze: The Codex Albeldense The ornamental letter formations in the Codex Albeldense are also ontologically symbolic (MS D. I. 2., Biblioteca Real Monasterio San Lorenzo et de El Escorial, Madrid). The manuscript was made in the northern Spanish Monasterio de San Martín de Albelda in Rioja, founded in 924.21 It was created in the year 976 by three Albeldensian monks: Vigila, Garsea, and Sarracinus, all named and pictorially represented in the codex itself.22 The content of the manuscript is determined by ecclesiastical and civil legal texts, supplemented by chronicles, liturgical texts, and scientific treatises. The codex includes numerous illuminations, placed before and within the ecclesiastical legal texts—the Liber canonum (the historically ordered proceedings of the Iberian and Gallic councils up to the year 681) and the decretals (papal pronouncements).23 Before the beginning of the main work, the Liber canonum on fol. 20r, several full pictures are placed, among them five calligrams (figure poems, fol. 1v, 2r, 2v, 3r, 3v) and, immediately before the beginning of the Liber canonum, two carmina figurata in the form of mazes (fol. 19r and 19v; Figures 7-3 a/b and 7-4 a/b).24 These two crossword or letter mazes are special cases of figure poetry because they do not result in a longer poem, but merely consist of a few words that are, however, not easily understood by the viewer.25 As with the other five preceding calligrams, the text area of the two letter mazes is divided into letter fields like a chessboard. There is a difference nevertheless: the letter mazes, spread as a regular carpet-like ornament over the entire page, are multiple-route mazes that allow several reading directions.26 Bounded by an opulent polychrome plaited frame, the two letter fields on fol. 19r and 19v show Carolingian majuscules in chessboard-like arrangement. The letters are arranged at regular intervals. On fol. 19r (Figure 7-3 a/b), small elongated hexagons frame the individual letters. The vertical hexagons are yellow; the horizontal hexagons two different shades of blue. The letters themselves are written directly on the parchment with reddish ink. A total of seventeen letters are arranged in 27 rows, resulting in a total number of 459 characters. This sea of letters contains

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Figure 7-3 a/b. Ob honorem Sancti Martini, written as an ornamental letter maze; original (left) and overlay with word patterns highlighted (right), Codex Albeldense, dated 976. Madrid, Biblioteca Real Monasterio San Lorenzo et de El Escorial, MS D. I. 2., fol. 19r. Photo: courtesy Patrimonio Nacional.

only a single sentence whose words or fragments of words are repeated in ever new arrangements: OB HONOREM SANCTI MARTINI—‘in honour of Saint Martin’, the dedication to the patron saint of the monastery, Saint Martin. As simple as this sentence may seem, it is difficult to tease it out of the set of letters, because the reader does not know this sentence.27 The reading direction(s) and the sequence of letters or words in the sentence are enigmatic; they have to be unravelled in a demanding memory game. First, the reader is confronted with the task of finding words, their meaningful sequence as well as one or more sentence beginnings within this maze of letters. The entire process of perception, reading, and cognition is essentially shaped by trial and error. Some words are represented more frequently and appear more quickly, while others appear less frequently; they are often only fragmentary and/or present in the opposite reading direction (from right to left). As in a maze, the eyes wander across the page, try out new paths, try to recognize a system—and all too often fail. The strategy of orienting oneself towards significant points, such as the corner and centre, is most successful. In fact, the centre of this particular labyrinth, with its slightly larger and more conspicuous letter O, is a good reading aid. The letter B is arranged crosswise around the letter O, resulting in the word OB. Thus, a cross-shaped reading direction is suggested, which proves to be the

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correct one. The word HONOREM, or, mirror-inverted, MERONOH, follows the OB in all directions. When readers have reached the end of the horizontal line with MERONOHBO or OBHONOREM, they can try to continue reading on the vertical axis. There follows the fragmented word SANCT, so that OB HONOREM SANCT emerges. The missing letter I at the end of the last word is quickly found, as is the honouree to whom the OB HONOREM refers: immediately after the vertical SANCT, the missing I follows on both sides in horizontal reading direction, followed by the name of the saint, MARTINI. With the help of the ‘over-corner’ reading method, readers can now also make progress on the horizontal central axis: after OB HONOREM, the words SANCTI MARTINI follow vertically and even upwards and downwards. The complete sentence can thus be read, starting from the centre of the maze in a cross shape and continuing across the corner, over the letters surrounding the maze: OB HONOREM SANCTI MARTINI. Once readers have grasped the system, they can consider how the words or word fragments are repeated, what their axial symmetry looks like, and where the reading direction has to be rotated by 90 degrees. Through these hard-won insights, the maze that initially appears chaotic dissolves into a picture of perfect order before the inner eye. It is most likely no coincidence that the letters are arranged in the form of a large hexagon—an enlargement of the many small hexagons placed between the individual letters. Marking the words reveals not only their arrangement but also which word is least fragmented—the word SANCTI, which can always be read as a complete word, at least vertically, with two exceptions in a significant place.28 The following page, fol. 19v, is conceived somewhat differently (Figure 7-4 a/b). This page also shows a maze of letters with a chessboard-like arrangement similar to the previous page. Between the individual letters, however, instead of hexagons are small rectangles filled with a four-loop ribbon pattern.29 The maze consists of considerably fewer letters: nine in the horizontal and thirteen in the vertical, adding up to a total of 117 characters. Still, this smaller number does not make it easier to decipher the words. If one uses the same deciphering strategy as in fol. 19r and looks for the centre of the maze, one will make a discovery that is interesting but does not reveal the reading direction. Exactly at the centre of the maze is the letter B, framed by four-loop rectangles that, unlike the other four-loop rectangles, have a red inner mark. If readers follow the loops marked in red to all four sides, they see that the rectangles form a symmetrical cross inscribed in this maze.30 However, the letters enclosed in the cross do not make sense. The situation is different if one tries to read diagonally rather than in the shape of a cross. Reading diagonally from bottom left to top right (or vice versa), the same letters are repeated in diagonal order. Another diagonal, from top left to bottom right, spells first the word MAURELLI, followed by the word ABBATIS. The word MAURELLI, once discovered, pops up horizontally and vertically from the same

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Figure 7-4 a/b. Maurelli Abbatis Librum, written as an ornamental letter maze; original (left) and overlay with word patterns highlighted (right), Codex Albeldense, dated 976. Madrid, Biblioteca Real Monasterio San Lorenzo et de El Escorial, MS D. I. 2., fol. 19v. Photo: courtesy Patrimonio Nacional.

starting point—the upper left corner. The word ABBATIS also immediately follows vertically and horizontally. Since MAURELLI already fills almost the entire upper line, the reading direction at the upper right corner point turns by 90 degrees: the word ABBATIS follows. Following this track, the next word to follow ABBATIS is LIBRUM. The result is a complete sentence: MAURELLI ABBATIS LIBRUM. In a variety of ways, diagonals and 90-degree swivels of the reading direction produce the repeated sentence as we walk through the maze. If the individual words and their fragments are marked in colour, the emerging diagonal structure shows the arrangement of the individual words and reveals their cross-linking (Figure 7-4b). The two presented pages with their mysterious mazes of letters refer directly to the monastery: fol. 19r with the dedication to the patron saint of the monastery, Saint Martin, and fol. 19v with the reference that this book was owned by Abbot Maurellus.31 Directly after these pages follows fol. 20r, the beginning of the Liber Canonum. The by no means accidental arrangement of this sequence raises questions. What are the meaning and the function of the two mazes of letters placed before the corpus of legal texts? Is there a connection between the puzzling maze and the ordered world of the laws?

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Figure 7-5. Vigila illuminates the codex, Codex Albeldense, dated 976. Madrid, Biblioteca Real Monasterio San Lorenzo et de El Escorial, MS D. I. 2., fol. 22v. Photo: courtesy Patrimonio Nacional.

To answer these questions, the figure of the lector, the reader and original recipient of the codex, must come into view. The reader, when confronted with the two maze-like decorative pages, is challenged to make sense of them. He has to ‘read’ these pages. In the act of reading, legere happens in the actual sense of the word: picking up, collecting, and assembling the components. The characters do not immediately reveal their actual meaning; instead, the act of deciphering requires a process of new reading and learning, which eventually changes the perception of the ornament itself. It is neither by accident nor due to mere scholarly considerations that the lector is put into play. The lector already figures in the art of the codex. Distributed within the manuscript are miniatures that show the interaction between a lector and the codex.32 A key to understanding this interaction is provided by the extraordinary

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Figure 7-6. Codex and lector, Codex Albeldense, dated 976. Madrid, Biblioteca Real Monasterio San Lorenzo et de El Escorial, MS D. I. 2., fol. 20v. Photo: courtesy Patrimonio Nacional.

pictorial representations of the codex. Already at the beginning of the manuscript, in an illumination that shows the production of the book, one sees how Vigila scriba does not write letters into the codex (fol. 22v, Figure 7-5),33 but equips it with the four-loop ornament known from fol. 19v (see Figure 7-4). Clearly, the scribe does not carve the cover, but, as the quill in the hand and the inkhorn on the desk indicate, illuminates the codex.34 This remarkable figure of the codex as a ‘book of ornament’ repeats itself a little later in a significant place, namely on the upper half of fol. 20v, directly before the excerpta canonum (Figure 7-6).35 Codex and lector are pictorially represented and accompanied by inscriptions. They are enclosed by a double arcade: separated by a narrow column, both codex and lector are placed under an arcade arch. Despite the separating support, a direct relationship is established between the book and the recipient. The lector points to the codex with his right arm raised to the pointing gesture; simultaneously, from the middle of the codex, a hand emerges and points to the lector.36 Raised to a gesture of pointing and speaking, both hands reveal communication between codex and lector. However, the open codex presented to the lector does not show, as would be expected, a readable text, but two pages filled with four-loop ornaments. Who is this lector who is able to read this ornamentally enigmatic text?

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A look at the entire scene is revealing. The codex stands raised on an object, which an inscription identif ies as an analogium, a reading desk that belongs to the furnishings of a library or—more likely in this case—a sacred space.37 The meaning of the analogium for the Codex Albeldense can be deduced from the Etymologiae of Isidor of Seville, a source much used in the manuscript. The relevant passage reads as follows: ‘The pulpit [analogium] is so called because the sermon is preached from there, for logos in Greek means “sermon”—and it also is located in a rather high place.’38 The unusual portrait of the lector also features an element from the Etymologiae. Immediately before Isidore comments on the analogium, he talks about the tribunal, the judge’s chair: ‘Tribunal [tribunal], because from there rulings about one’s manner of life are bestowed [tribuere] by a priest. It is a place set up on high, from which everyone can hear.’39 The lector’s richly ornamented and high-backed seat may actually be a judge’s chair. Isidore speaks of an elevated, dignified location of both the analogium and the tribunal, a location that is also reflected in the placement of the scene in the upper part of fol. 20v. No doubt the person who designed the Codex Albeldense knew his Isidore very well. The lector is neither a monk nor the abbot of the monastery: he is not tonsured, but he is marked instead with a nimbus as a saint. 40 His pallium suggests a bishop; his staff can be understood as a bishop’s or judge’s staff. This must be Saint Martin, the patron saint of the monastery to which the manuscript is dedicated. The saint would thus be the exemplary reader of the codex. Only he is in a position to understand the manuscript’s ornamentally encoded open pages correctly. The associated text placed at the bottom half of the page, a dialogue between codex and lector, offers a key to their exchange: Celsa terribili codex qui sede loquaris [locaris] – quis tu es? Vitalis ordo! Quod [quid] inest tibi nomen? Coelestis dicor sanctorum regni a [regula] voce. Qui sunt hii quibus hoc titulo censere iuberis? Totius orbis jus imperiale tenentes. 41 [Placed as you are on a high, lofty throne, o Codex – Who are you? – The order of life. – What is your name? I am called the heavenly rule of the saints. – Who are those who gave you this title? – Those who maintain the law of the whole world.]

This dialogue refers not only to Saint Martin in conversation with the book, but also to the actual recipient of the legal book. First, the codex presents itself to

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the questioning lector: it is the order of life, its name ‘the heavenly rule of the saints’. It owes its title to those who determine the law of the entire globe. Thus, the codex stands for the regulated order of life, an order in which the heavenly order is reflected, as the earthly lawyers and judges (those who maintain and determine the law of the whole world), have recognized. Accordingly, Saint Martin, by occupying the bench or tribunal, mediates between the heavenly and the earthly realms. As the just judge, he decodes and reveals the living order hidden behind the uniform ornaments of the opened pages of the Book of Law. Only with the help of Saint Martin can the monks understand and correctly interpret the dead letter of the legal texts, as well as speak the law accordingly. The static law enshrined in the letters must be perceived and applied as a living reality. The full-page alphabet mazes (fol. 19r–19v; Figs. 3 and 4) placed before this page (fol. 20v) appear in this light as central instruments for grasping what lies hidden behind the ordered ornamental structure and the firmly imprinted letter formations: the living (legal) word that the spirit awakens to life and thus orders what happens on earth in the proper, heavenly way. Traditionally, abstract ornamentation is regarded as a form of adornment that naturally subordinates itself to the object it adorns; its role seems marginal. But this is not always the case. The fact that the ornamental, far from being merely decorative, may actually constitute an artefact can be shown with reference to medieval book illumination in both sacred and secular manuscripts. The period around the year 1000 saw the creation of numerous letters, often the size of a page, interwoven with ornaments, and the making of ornamented script and alphabet mazes in the form of ornamental carpets. Three manuscripts selected from different text genres have served to exemplify this material: a gospel lectionary, a saint’s vita, and a legal book. Despite their differences in genre, they all constitute apparently static and fixed writing. In all three cases, special techniques of ornamental enhancement serve to imbue writing as well as text with life. We have to abandon the notion that abstract forms somehow deprive that which is alive of its vitality; instead, the opposite can be observed—how abstract ornamentation holds a playful, ludic potential that sets the words vibrating beyond their literal sense. While letters, words, and texts each have a different relationship to ornamentation, they can be animated, transcended, and dissolved by its excessive use. Abstract ornamentation holds a firm place in the repertoire upon which medieval scribes and illuminators drew when reproducing texts. As Bernard Cerquiglini explains, a medieval text was never considered complete and untouchable. If the modern mind emphasizes authorship, the medieval mentality accorded scribes and illuminators almost equal status and allowed them to make their unique contributions. ‘The work copied by hand, manipulated, always open and as good as unfinished, invited intervention, annotation, and commentary.’42 It also invited,

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as now can be added, visual insertions in the form of ornamentation. By way of conclusion, it can be stated that abstract ornamentation was deliberately used to increase the auratic effect of a word or even an entire text corpus. Previous research has been too timid in its analysis of medieval ornamentation and tended to neglect the surprising power, or Bergsonian élan vital, of its abstract forms. While the present essay in some respects builds on previous work by others, it is meant to suggest a new approach to understanding medieval ornamented writing. 43

Notes 1. 2. 3. 4.

5. 6. 7. 8.

9. 10.

11.

12.

Jean Molino in the introduction to Henri Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art, p. 10. Molino in Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art, pp. 10–11. Augustine, De civitate Dei X, 29. On incipit pages in insular and Carolingian book illumination, see the following essays included in the collective volume Graphic Devices and the Early Decorated Book: Brown, ‘The Visual Rhetoric of Insular Decorated Incipit openings’, pp. 127–42; Bawden, ‘The Relationship between Letter and Frame in Insular and Carolingian Manuscripts’, pp. 143–62; and Kitzinger, ‘Graphic and Figural Representation in Touronian Gospel Illumination’, pp. 179–202. On the sacred character of the word and its design, see Becht-Jördens, ‘Schrift im Mittelalter – Zeichen des Heils’, pp. 245–310. The development of initial letters and their ornamentation Achten-Rieske, ‘Buchstaben und Schrift zwischen Materialität und Magie’, pp. 182–96. This author also summarizes earlier research on the subject. Jakobi-Mirwald, Das mittelalterliche Buch, p. 179. My translation. The original German reads: ‘[…] die großen Initialen der Evangelien einfach nicht mehr gelesen werden mussten, weil sie bekannt waren. Der Buchstabe konnte von seiner Zeichenfunktion entlastet werden und wandelte sich […] gleichsam zu magischen Zeichen.’ See Jakobi-Mirwald, Das mittelalterliche Buch, p. 179. See Frese, ‘Denn der Buchstabe tötet – Reflexionen zur Schriftpräsenz aus mediävistischer Perspektive’, pp. 1–15, esp. pp. 4–7. For the Reichenau Gospel book, see the facsimile edition and the accompanying commentary volume written by Labusiak, Vollständige Faksimile-Ausgabe im Original-Format des Reichenauer Perikopenbuches Cod. Guelf. 84.5 Aug 2° der Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel. On the subject of ‘writing as image’, see Krämer, ‘Schriftbildlichkeit’, pp. 157–76; Braun-Niehr, ‘Nicht nur zur Zierde’, pp. 13-18; Hamburger, Script as Image; Kessler, ‘Dynamic Designs and Spiritual Designs’, pp. 111–34; and Hahn, ‘The Performative Letter in the Carolingian Sacramentary of Gellone’, pp. 237–57. On this manuscript, see the following detailed study that also notes earlier bibliography: Müller, ‘Gumpold von Mantua’, pp. 278–80.

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Numerous courtly and sacral Ottonian manuscripts show purple or red textile-like patterned backgrounds. See Bücheler, ‘Textiles, Textile Pages, and Textile Iconography’, pp. 65–79, esp. p. 74. 14. See Bücheler, ‘Textiles, Textile Pages, and Textile Iconography’, p. 75. 15. On the intermedia relationships among reliquary, textile, and hagiography, see Röckelein, ‘Die “Hüllen der Heiligen”’, pp. 75–88. For this idea, and the possibility to read her unpublished paper, ‘Clothing the Saints: Two Textile-Ornamented Lives of Saints from the Eleventh Century’, I am indebted to Anna Bücheler. 16. My translation. 17. The phenomena described are not perceptible in reproductions of the image, but only in the original. At this point, I would like to thank the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, for the opportunity to study the manuscript in detail. 18. On the function of ornamental backgrounds in French Gothic book illumination, see Beyer, ‘Unding Ornament?’, pp. 39–42. For further discussion of Gothic reticulated grounds, see Aden Kumler’s essay in this volume. 19. Bonne, ‘De l’ornemental dans l’art médiéval (VIIe-XIIe siècle). Le modèle insulaire’, pp. 207–40, esp. p. 237. 20. Kiening, ‘Die erhabene Schrift. Vom Mittelalter zur Moderne’, pp. 9–126, esp. p. 41: ‘eine ontologische Zeichenhaftigkeit. Sie transportieren eine Bedeutsamkeit, die nicht einfach auf einer Verweisbeziehung beruht, sondern auf der Suggestion, das Gemeinte sei in der Figur des Schriftbildes selbst anwesend.’ 21. On the historical context of the founding of the monastery, see Bishko, ‘Salvus of Albelda and Frontier Monasticism in Tenth-Century Navarre’, pp. 559–90. 22. Fol. 428r lists the names of three collaborating artists of apparently different competence: Vigila scriba, Saracinus socius, and Garsea discipulus. For Codex Albeldense, also known as Codex Vigilanus, see Códice Albeldensis: Facsimile Edition; the associated commentary volume was published in 2002: García Turza, Códice Albeldense 976. See also Fernández González and Gaván Freile, ‘Iconografía, Ornamentación y Valor Simbólico de la Imagen’, pp. 225–94; Böse, ‘Die Lesbarkeit des Unleserlichen: Ornamentalität in mittelalterlichen’, pp. 287–314; Böse, ‘Recht sprechen: Diskurse von Autorschaft in den Illuminationen einer spanischen Rechtshandschrift des 10. Jahrhunderts’, pp. 109–37; Böse, Von den Rändern gedacht. 23. Böse, ‘Die Lesbarkeit des Unleserlichen’, p. 287. 24. Set between the figure poems at the beginning of the manuscript (up to fol. 3v) and the two letter mazes (fol. 19r, 19v) placed before the Liber canonum (fol 20r) are several illuminations, some of which occupy the entire page, e.g. a diagram of the winds (fol. 14v), an arbor iuris generis humani (fol. 15r), a Maiestas Domini (fol. 16v), the Fall (fol. 17r), Noah and his descendants, a mappa mundi (fol. 17v), and a cross (fol. 18v) that fills the entire page exactly opposite the first letter maze. On the contents of the manuscript, see the detailed description in Antolín, Catálogo de los códices latinos de la Real Biblioteca del Escorial, pp. 368–404. 25. These figure poems, complete with transcriptions, can be found in Diaz y Diaz, ‘Vigilán y Sarracino’, pp. 60–92. On the figure poems in Codex Aldeldense, see also Ernst, Carmen figuratum, pp. 474–91.

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26. These letter mazes are clearly different from the one-way labyrinths often found as simple diagrams in manuscripts; see Haubrichs, ‘Error inextricabilis’, pp. 63– 174. 27. This sentence, placed below the picture on fol. 19r, was added by a later hand. 28. See my schematic clarification of the word order and the design structure in Figures 3 and 4. 29. On the motif of ribbon patterns in the Codex Albeldense, see Guilmain, ‘Interlace Decoration and the Influence of the North on Mozarabic Illumination’, pp. 211–18. 30. The illuminator has made a mistake by marking one of the braided tapes outside the intended pattern. It is located on the right in the penultimate vertical row as the sixth item from below. 31. Maurelli abbatis librum is Iberian medieval Latin for standard Latin Maurelli abbatis liber; see Stotz, Handbuch der lateinischen Sprache des Mittelalters, pp. 249–50. 32. Fol. 20v, 35r, 37v, 43v, and 47v. See Fernández González et al., ‘Iconografía, Ornamentación y Valor Simbólico de la Imagen’, p. 249. 33. The sheet with modern foliation is at the beginning of the codex. On the notion of scriba, see Böse, ‘Der Codex Albeldense’, pp. 64-65. 34. See also Böse, ‘Der Codex Albeldense’, p. 63. 35. Fol. 20v: Incipt versificatio interrogatioque apud codicem et lectoris. The preceding page, fol. 20r, just opposite of the second maze picture (19v), is an ornament page with six lines of text in majuscule script: ‘In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti. Incipit liber canonum ius imperiale a totius orbis tenentibus abtissime namque editus’ (‘In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Here begins the book of canons, the imperial law, well edited by those who maintain it in the whole world.’) My translation. 36. For gestures of this kind, see Peters, ‘Digitus argumentalis’, pp. 31–65. 37. On fol. 20v, the analogium appears, with slightly different spelling, as anologium. 38. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae, XV, 4, 17. The English translation is from The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, ed. by Barney. 39. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae, XV, 4, 16. Translation from The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, p. 310. 40. Other illuminations in the manuscript show the monks of the monastery as clearly tonsured; see e.g. fol. 428r, which shows the scribe and his collaborators. 41. The transcription is based on a text edition, which is, however, incorrect: La Colección Canónica Hispana, ed. by Martínez Díaz, vol. II, p. 43. A comparison with older text editions as well as a comparison with the original leads to the above reading. I thank Bernhard Lang for his help with the edition and translation. 42. Cerquiglini, In Praise of the Variant, p. 34. 43. The interpretations of the Reichenau lectionary book and the vita of Wenceslas are completely new. This is also true of the analysis of the Codex Albeldense, developed in critical engagement with the work of Kristin Böse; highlighting the illumination’s hitherto unrecognized hidden geometric pattern, I propose an interpretation different from the one offered in Böse, Von den Rändern gedacht, pp. 162–63.

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Works Cited Hilke Achten-Rieske, Buchstaben und Schrift zwischen Materialität und Magie (PhD diss., University of Cologne, 2008). Guilermo Antolín, Catálogo de los códices latinos de la Real Biblioteca del Escorial (Madrid: Imprenta Helénica, 1910). Gereon Becht-Jördens, ‘Schrift im Mittelalter – Zeichen des Heils: Zur inhaltlichen Bedeutung von Material und Form’, in Erscheinungsformen und Handhabungen Heiliger Schriften, ed. by Joachim F. Quack and Daniela Christina Luft (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014), pp. 245–310. Vera Beyer, ‘Unding Ornament? Abgebildete Vorhänge zwischen Ornament und Figur in der niederländischen Malerei des 15. Jahrhunderts’, in Ornament: Motiv – Modus – Bild, ed. by Vera Beyer and Christian Spies (Munich: Fink, 2012), pp. 27–56. Charles Julien Bishko, ‘Salvus of Albelda and Frontier Monasticism in Tenth-Century Navarre’, Speculum, 23 (1948), pp. 559–90. Jean-Claude Bonne, ‘De l’ornemental dans l’art médiéval (VIIe-XIIe siècle). Le modèle insulaire’, in L’image, ed. by Jérôme Baschet and Jean-Claude Schmitt (Paris: Léopard d’Or, 1996), pp. 207–40. Kristin Böse, ‘Recht sprechen: Diskurse von Autorschaft in den Illuminationen einer spanischen Rechtshandschrift des 10. Jahrhunderts’, in Die AusBILDung des Rechts, ed. by Kristin Böse and Susanne Wittekind (Frankfurt: Lang, 2009), pp. 109–37. ———, ‘Die Lesbarkeit des Unleserlichen: Ornamentalität in mittelalterlichen Buchstabenornamenten’, in Ornament: Motiv, Modus, Bild, ed. by Vera Beyer and Christian Spies (Munich: Fink, 2012), 287–314. ———, ‘Der Codex Albeldense: Autorschaft, Aufgaben und Rezeption mittelalterlicher Buchausstattung’, in Kanon Kunstgeschichte: Einführung in Werke, Methoden und Epochen, ed. by Kristin Marek and Martin Schulz, vol. 1 (Paderborn: Fink, 2015), pp. 54–77. ———, Von den Rändern gedacht: Visuelle Rahmungsstrategien in Handschriften der Iberischen Halbinsel (Cologne: Böhlau, 2019). Beate Braun-Niehr, ‘Nicht nur zur Zierde: Initialen in mittelalterlichen Handschriften’, in Schrift als Bild, ed. by Michael Roth (Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2010), pp. 13–18. Michelle P. Brown, Ildar H. Garipzanov, and Benjamin C. Tilghman, eds., Graphic Devices and the Early Decorated Book (Oxford: Boydell Press, 2017). Anna Bücheler, ‘Textiles, Textile Pages, and Textile Iconography’, in Oriental Silks in Medieval Europe, ed. by Juliane von Fircks and Regula Schorta (Riggisberg: Abegg-Stiftung, 2016), pp. 65–79. Bernard Cerquiglini, In Praise of the Variant: A Critical History of Philology, trans. by Betsy Wing (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999). Códice Albeldensis: Facsimile Edition (Madrid: Patrimonio Nacional—Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 2000).

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Manuel C. Diaz y Diaz, ‘Vigilán y Sarracino. Sobre composiciones figurativas en la Rioja del siglo X’, in Lateinische Dichtungen des X. und XI. Jahrhunderts: Festgabe für Walther Bulst, ed. by Walter Berschin and Reinhard Düchting (Heidelberg: Lambert Schneider, 1981), pp. 60–92. Ulrich Ernst, Carmen figuratum: Geschichte des Figurengedichts von den antiken Ursprüngen bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters (Cologne: Böhlau, 1991). Etelvina Fernández González and Fernando Gaván Freile, ‘Iconografía, Ornamentación y Valor Simbólico de la Imagen. El Códice Albeldense’, in Fernando Gaván Freile. Imágenes del poder en la Edad Media, vol. 1 (León: Universidad de León, Área de Publicaciones, 2011), pp. 225–94. Henri Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art, trans. by Charles B. Hogan and Georges Kubler (New York: Zone Books, 1989). Tobias Frese, ‘Denn der Buchstabe tötet – Reflexionen zur Schriftpräsenz aus mediävistischer Perspektive’, in Verborgen, unsichtbar, unlesbar. Zur Problematik restringierter Schriftpräsenz, ed. by Tobias Frese, Wilfried Keil, and Kristina Krüger (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014), pp. 1–15. Francisco Javier García Turza, ed., Códice Albeldense 976: Original conservado en la Biblioteca del Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial (D. I. 2) (Madrid: Patrimonio Nacional—Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 2002). Jacques Guilmain ‘Interlace Decoration and the Influence of the North on Mozarabic Illumination’, The Art Bulletin, 42 (1960), pp. 211–18. Cynthia Hahn, ‘The Performative Letter in the Carolingian Sacramentary of Gellone’, in Sign and Design: Script as Image in Cross-Cultural Perspective (300–1600 CE), ed. by Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak and Jeffrey F. Hamburger (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2016), pp. 237–57. Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Script as Image (Leuven: Peeters, 2014). Wolfgang Haubrichs, ‘Error inextricabilis: Form und Funktion der Labyrinthabbildung in mittelalterlichen Handschriften’, in Text und Bild: Aspekte des Zusammenwirkens zweier Künste in Mittelalter und früher Neuzeit, ed. by Christel Meier and Uwe Ruberg (Wiesbaden: Ludwig Reichert, 1980), pp. 63–174. Isidore of Seville, The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, ed. by Stephen A. Barney et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). Christine Jakobi-Mirwald, Das mittelalterliche Buch: Funktion und Ausstattung (Stuttgart: Reclam, 2004). Herbert L. Kessler, ‘Dynamic Designs and Spiritual Designs’, in Sign and Design: Script as Image in Cross-Cultural Perspective (300–1600 CE), ed. by Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak and Jeffrey F. Hamburger (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2016), pp. 111–34. Christian Kiening, ‘Die erhabene Schrift. Vom Mittelalter zur Moderne’, in SchriftRäume: Dimensionen von Schrift zwischen Mittelalter und Moderne, ed. by Christian Kiening and Martina Stercken (Zurich: Chronos, 2008), pp. 9–126.

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Sybille Krämer, ‘Schriftbildlichkeit oder: Über eine (fast) vergessene Dimension der Schrift’, in Bild, Schrift, Zahl, ed. by Sybille Krämer and Horst Bredekamp (Munich: Fink, 2003), pp. 157–76. Thomas Labusiak, ed., Vollständige Faksimile-Ausgabe im Original-Format des Reichenauer Perikopenbuches Cod. Guelf. 84.5 Aug 2° der Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel. (Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 2010). Gonzalo Martínez Diaz, ed., La Colección Canónica Hispana, vol. 2 (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Inst. Enrique Flórez, 1976). Monika E. Müller, ‘Gumpold von Mantua: Vita des heiligen Wenzel und andere Viten’, in Schätze im Himmel – Bücher auf Erden: Mittelalterliche Handschriften aus Hildesheim, ed. by Monika E. Müller (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2010), pp. 278–80. Ursula Peters, ‘Digitus argumentalis. Autorbilder als Signatur von Lehr-auctoritas in der mittelalterlichen Liedüberlieferung’, in Manus loquens: Medium der Geste – Gesten der Medien, ed. by Matthias Bickenbach, Annina Klappert, and Hedwig Pompe (Cologne: DuMont 2003), pp. 31–65. Hedwig Röckelein, ‘Die “Hüllen der Heiligen”: Zur Materialität des hagiographischen Mediums’, in Reliquiare im Mittelalter, ed. by Bruno Reudenbach and Gia Toussaint (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2005), pp. 75–88. Peter Stotz, Handbuch der lateinischen Sprache des Mittelalters . Vol. 4 (Munich: Beck, 1998).

About the Author Gia Toussaint is a full-time researcher at the Herzog August Bibliothek. In 2009, after having submitted her habilitation thesis on Byzantine relics brought to the West, she was made private lecturer in art history at the University of Hamburg, a position she still holds. In 2014–2015, she taught full-time at the Karl-Franzens-University in Graz, Austria, in the capacity of stand-in professor of medieval art. Her books include Das Passional der Kunigunde von Böhmen: Bildrhetorik und Spiritualität (2003), Kreuz und Knochen. Reliquien zur Zeit der Kreuzzüge (2011; with an English abstract); Reliquiare im Mittelalter (2005; co-edited with Bruno Reudenbach); and Codex und Material (2019; co-edited with Patrizia Carmassi).

8. The Double-Sided Image: Abstraction and Figuration in Early Medieval Painting 1 Nancy Thebaut

Abstract In a group of eleventh-century liturgical manuscripts made in the monastic scriptorium of Echternach, a monochrome or seemingly textile-emulating image on the recto of a single folio frequently appears in stark contrast to a f igural painting of an evangelist or Christ himself on its verso. This paper considers the meaning, function, and intended effect of these abstract paintings in relation to their figural counterparts. How might the recto images inform, anticipate, or shape the reception and meaning of those on the verso? How might art historians write about these paintings without resorting to historical anachronisms? I propose a reading of these pairings in the context of contemporaneous Eucharistic debates on the nature of signs, their material (in)constancy, and changes in their ontology. Keywords: monochrome, textile, Eucharist, semiotics, double-sided

A modulating field of purple and crimson paint appears before the viewer’s eyes on fol. 87r of London British Library Manuscript Egerton 608, an evangeliary made in the second or third quarter of the eleventh century at the scriptorium of Echternach in present-day Luxembourg (Figure 8-1).2 The surface of the page undulates, as the opacity of the red pigment varies from one brushstroke to the next, traversing the irregular plane of the parchment field, covering up and then revealing the cuts, bumps, and follicles of the prepared animal-skin ground. Paint and parchment call attention to their materiality, marking them as the subject and literal matter of this page. Both were prepared, and, in the case of paint, applied by the artist, whose gestures have left a visible trace. The monochrome field is one of three types of paintings found in this and several other eleventh-century liturgical manuscripts made in Echternach.3 The second, characterized by the stripe-covered folios found on fols. 19r, 59r (Figure 8-2), and

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_ch08

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Figure 8-1. Monochrome painting and visible contours of verso image (evangelist portrait), Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 87r. By permission of The British Library.

133r in Egerton 608, often bears a repeating pattern and has been variously called a ‘carpet’, ‘curtain’, or ‘textile page’, as its design may have been inspired by actual textiles. The third is perhaps the most standard in Salian and Ottonian manuscripts, or narrative and iconic paintings of Christ and the evangelists, such as the author portrait of Luke on fol. 87v in Egerton 608 (Figure 8-3). 4 The placement of these three types of paintings within Echternach Gospel books and evangeliaries is noteworthy: monochrome or so-called textile pages frequently cover the recto side of a folio that has a figural painting on its verso. Of these three types of paintings, textile pages have attracted the most scholarly attention, notably by Anna Bücheler, who recently published Ornament as Argument: Textile Pages and Textile Metaphors in Early Medieval Manuscripts (July 2019).5 Bücheler offers the most thorough and nuanced study of textile paintings to date;

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Figure 8-2. Striped painting, Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 59r. By permission of The British Library.

her interest lies in ‘not so much what textile ornament is, but what textile images do’.6 She focuses in part on the patterned pages in Echternach manuscripts, arguing that they are a ‘material metaphor of the Incarnation’.7 Monochrome paintings in these manuscripts have not, however, been the subject of much scholarly literature, nor has there been a focused examination of the three kinds of paintings found throughout the Echternach manuscripts’ pages. While actual medieval textiles may have inspired the designs and colours of many of the patterned and perhaps even monochrome paintings in Salian and Ottonian manuscripts, to call these paintings ‘textile pages’ risks closing off other interpretive possibilities. This terminology at once suggests that the pages are derivative of other objects (that are often no longer extant), and, as such, these paintings are rarely accompanied by rigorous formal analysis. The absence of alternative accounts of

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Figure 8-3. Author portrait of the Evangelist Luke, Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 87v. By permission of The British Library.

these pages is also symptomatic of a larger problem faced by medieval art historians: namely, that we have not yet fully developed historically satisfying and generative means to discuss non-figural paintings. Scholars throughout this volume are, of course, attempting to do just that; they actively seek out and propose models for ways that we might identify and develop a vocabulary for naming and in turn understanding the diversity of such images in medieval art.8 Accordingly, I propose two principal ways in which we might begin to more fully account for the different kinds of paintings in Echternach Gospel books and evangeliaries: first, to insist that they are but one part of a two-sided image, and second, to examine these paintings alongside the intellectual climate in which they were made, or one of heated debate about how a material, or the Eucharistic wafer

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and wine, could signify multiply. While the importance of considering the unit of the manuscript ‘opening’ has been emphasized by scholars such as Jeffrey Hamburger, I would contend that the unit of the two-sided folio is paramount in understanding the meaning of the paintings on either side.9 Moreover, by turning to the intellectual context in which these manuscripts were made and later used—namely, one of heated debate over the sign-status of the Eucharist between Berengar of Tours (d. 1088) and Lanfranc of Bec (d. 1089)—we might begin to effectively articulate a vocabulary for discussing abstract paintings and their figural counterparts in early manuscript painting.10 I hope that this, in turn, might invite future considerations of the many double-sided works of medieval art that pair an abstract and figural image as well as propose a new yet deeply historical way that we might understand the relationship between the two.11 The study will focus primarily on Egerton 608, which contains the four Gospel texts, Jerome’s prologue, canon tables, and a list of lections.12 The paintings found within this book, however, are exemplary of several Ottonian and Salian evangeliaries and Gospel books made in eleventh-century Echternach, so I am treating the codex and its paintings as representative of a larger group of manuscripts that contain abstract and figural paintings on the recto and verso sides of a single folio. A brief note on my terminology: for the purposes of this paper, I characterize the Echternach manuscripts’ monochrome and potentially skeuomorphic paintings as abstract, which I define in this particular context as non-narrative, non-iconic, and almost always non-figural. In other words, my definition of abstraction is constructed entirely in opposition to those iconic, sometimes narrative, and decidedly figural paintings that appear on their verso. It is also shaped by the very codicology of these books: time and time again, these codices set up a series of formal contrasts and permutations in painting across the two sides of a single folio.13 Finally, the dialectical relationship among these paintings—like the very substance and structure of contemporary debates about the sign-status of the Eucharist—has informed my decision to use these dual categories of abstract and figural.

Paint and Painting in Egerton 608 When discussed by art historians, the paintings in Echternach evangeliaries are rarely subjected to acute formal analysis, as one would expect to find in an essay on postmodern monochrome or otherwise non-figural paintings by any number of modern artists. Medieval art historians are only beginning to formally account for empty, ornamental, and other non-figurative images; they have largely been passed over as unfinished, uninteresting, or emulating another material—like a textile.14 By closely considering the different taxonomies of paintings in the

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Echternach manuscripts, the highly varied ways that paint is manipulated within a single codex—and how marked permutations occur across single folios—can come to the fore. On fol. 87r in Egerton 608 (see Figure 8-1), red paint coats the page in a predominantly thin, watered-down wash. The manuscript’s painter has dragged his brush back and forth horizontally across the folio, coating it almost entirely with red pigment. The parchment peeks through in various spots, such as in the bottom centre of the folio as well as in an inch-wide horizontal strip on the outer margin approximately two inches from the bottom. The brushstrokes converge with stretch marks in the parchment, underscoring its irregularities and tactility. In looking closely at this painted page, it becomes clear that fol. 87r highlights its own facture in presenting a visual record of the artist’s use, through painting, of paint and parchment.15 They are the subject matter and literal matter of this page. Both were prepared, and, in the case of paint, applied by the artist who has left a visible trace of gesture and materials, and has, whether inadvertently or not, issued an invitation to view the image that follows upon turning the page: the outline of the figural image on the folio’s verso peeks through the reddened field. These monochromatic paintings—marked by the use of a single colour and lack of a clear referent—are frequent in eleventh-century Echternach liturgical manuscripts, particularly in evangeliaries and Gospel books used during the Mass.16 Ranging in shades of dark red, violet, and crimson, these paintings’ placement in a codex is quite regular: they are frequently at the beginning of the manuscript and before the start of a new section of text.17 Washes of crimson cover fols. 1v–2r in Nürnberg Germanisches Nationalmuseum Hs 156 142 (Echternach, c. 1030, Figure 8-4), for instance, and a purple recto folio demarcates the beginning of the six major sections of Paris BnF Lat. 10438: the prologue, canon tables, and each of the four Gospels. In London BL MS Egerton 608, there are two such paintings: a purple-red monochrome on fol. 1r (Figure 8-5) precedes Jerome’s prologue and an image of Christ, and a slightly more purple painting on fol. 87r (see Figure 8-1) precedes a portrait of Luke and his Gospel. Full-page paintings are also paired with Gospel portraits of Matthew, Mark, and John on the recto and verso of three folios in Egerton 608, but they are of a different variety. Labelled ‘silk curtains’ on the British Library’s website, folios 19r, 59r, and 133r are covered in a series of crimson stripes atop an identically coloured monochrome wash.18 Often uneven in width and opacity, the stripes stretch vertically across fol. 19r and are horizontally aligned on fols. 59r and 133r. As the British Library’s title for these images indicates, these stripe-covered pages have been studied as what art historians have broadly called ‘curtain’ or ‘carpet’ pages—terms suggesting that the painted folio evokes a patterned textile and that it serves as a kind of curtain to the page that follows. Although stripes are

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Figure 8-4 Monochrome painting and visible contours of verso image (Maiestas domini), Codex Aureus of Echternach, c. 1040, Echternach. Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Hs. 156 142, fol. 2r. Image courtesy of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum.

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Figure 8-5. Monochrome painting and visible contours of verso image (Maiestas domini), Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 1r. By permission of The British Library.

ostensibly what make these paintings skeuomorphic in Egerton 608, in other instances, repeating animals and elaborate geometric motifs have led scholars to identify these folios as ‘textile’ pages.19 Examples include the web of human and animal figures on fols. 2v–3r in Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek C. 93 (Echternach, c. 1050), the repeating roundels on fol. 19r of Paris Bibliothèque nationale nouvelle acq. lat. 2196 (Echternach, c. 1025–1050), the framed lions on fols. 75v–76r in Nürnberg Germanisches Nationalmuseum Hs 156 142 (Figure 8-6), or the latticework covering fol. 1r in London BL Harley 2821 (Echternach, c. 1050–1075, Figure 8-7).20 On the verso of these monochrome, striped, and otherwise patterned pages, paint is frequently put to figural ends in iconic images of Christ and the evangelists. When the viewer turns the monochrome painting that covers the entirety of fol. 87r in Egerton 608, for instance, an entirely different kind of image is found on its verso:

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Figure 8-6. ‘Curtain’ page with lions, Codex Aureus of Echternach, c. 1040, Echternach. Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Hs. 156 142, fols. 75v-76r. Image courtesy of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum.

the Evangelist Luke is depicted with pen in hand at his lectern, writing his Gospel text (see Figure 8-3). Surrounded by gold and a colourful architectural frame, Luke looks to the left as if deep in thought while his animal counterpart, the winged ox, looks to the right at the facing page. Although monochrome or patterned paintings can also precede narrative paintings (such as fol. 18v in Nürnberg Germanisches Nationalmuseum Hs 156 142, which depicts multiple scenes from the life of Christ), it is far more typical for a non-figural painting to precede an iconic image of Christ or an evangelist on the same folio (recto-verso). These verso figural images are sometimes also visible—to various degrees—when viewing the recto side of the folio. Rather than acting as an opaque veil that conceals the pages that follow, the monochrome or patterned page can provide the viewer with the geometric outline of the framed figure(s) on the folio’s verso.21 Abstract paintings appear to even ostensibly highlight, in certain instances, the image on their verso, thus inviting the viewer to anticipate the following page. In Egerton 608, fols. 1r (see Figure 8-5) and 87r (see Figure 8-1) both reveal the contours of an image of Christ (Figure 8-8) and the Evangelist Luke (see Figure 8-3), respectively,

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Figure 8-7. ‘Curtain’ page and visible contours of verso image (Maiestas domini), Gospels with canon tables, chapter lists, and lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Harley 2821, fol. 1r. By permission of The British Library.

but to various degrees. For the learned viewer (likely a priest officiating Mass), the darkened outlines and forms visible on fol. 1r betray the image on the verso: a mandorla contains a seated figure surrounded by four others, each of which appears in a corner of the outer frame. These elements combined immediately suggest a maiestas domini, or an image of Christ, enthroned, surrounded by the tetramorph. A similar visual effect can be found on fol. 2r in Nürnberg Germanisches Nationalmuseum Hs 156 142: even before turning the page, the viewer can already see an outline of Christ, nimbed and enthroned within a mandorla and surrounded by eight other framed figures (see Figure 8-4).22 In contrast, it is not as easy to anticipate the portrait of the Evangelist Luke when viewing fol. 87r in Egerton 608. The outer rectangular frame of the image is visible, but one can only identify vague contours of an architectural setting and seated figure. Despite the impossibility of ‘seeing’ Luke when examining fol. 87r, the lines that bleed through the parchment page plainly suggest that a different type of painting—namely one that is figural—will appear on the folio’s verso. Conversely, patterned paintings are less frequently transparent, with only a few exceptions. The geometric motifs outlined in green on fol. 2r in Uppsala

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Figure 8-8. Maiestas domini, Gospel book with lections, mid- to late 11th century, Echternach. London, British Library, MS Egerton 608, fol. 1v. By permission of The British Library.

Universitetsbibliotek C. 93 reveal an image of the enthroned Christ on its verso, for instance, as does fol. 1r of London BL Harley 2821 (see Figure 8-7). Otherwise, most patterned pages have the effect of focusing the viewer’s gaze on particular motifs rather than the outlines of the figural images on the pages that follow. Such is the case on fol. 52r of Nürnberg Germanisches Nationalmuseum Hs 156 142, wherein animals, plants, and geometric motifs preclude the viewer from seeing any of the narrative images of the life of Christ on the folio’s verso. In sum, these three distinct, albeit imprecisely construed taxonomies of painting that we find throughout Gospel books and evangeliaries made in eleventh-century Echternach put paint to a variety of ends, with artists frequently leaving traces of their gestures and suggesting that the recto and verso of each folio are deeply

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intertwined. Moreover, these paintings manifest a marked interest in how a single material—paint—can signify multiply throughout the codex. Shifts in perception are enacted upon the turn of a folio; a page of paint that bears traces of its making, a painting that may bear a formal resemblance to a textile in its vicinity, and a figural image of Christ or an evangelist all elicit different responses from readers. How materials can mediate meaning was a question at the heart of Eucharistic debate in the eleventh century. The writings of its primary proponents, namely Berengar of Tours and Lanfranc of Bec, offer a rich account of medieval semiotics that can deepen our understanding of material signs, whether wine, wafer, or even paint. Egerton 608, like other liturgical manuscripts made in eleventh-century Echternach, was of course intricately tied to the celebration of the Eucharistic rite, the culminating moment of the Christian mass; the Eucharist and the Echternach manuscripts’ paintings were circumstantially, then, linked. I now turn to the intellectual context in which these paintings were made and used—or that of Eucharistic debate in the eleventh century—as a way to think about materials, abstraction, and figuration through the lens of some of the most pressing intellectual concerns of the period.

Semiotics and the Eucharist in the Eleventh Century The first theological treatises devoted solely to the topic of the sign-status and ontology of the Eucharist were penned in the ninth century by two monks of Corbie: Paschasius Radbertus (d. 865) and Ratramnus (d. 868).23 In his De corpore et sanguine Domini (Of the Body and Blood of the Lord, c. 831–833), Paschasius identified the Eucharist with the ‘terrestrial, risen, and now glorified body’, that is with the historical (and ascended) body of Christ.24 Concentrating his attention upon the ontological status of the Eucharist, Paschasius hardly attended to its status as a sign or symbol of Christ. Upon reading Paschasius’s treatise, Emperor Charles the Bald asked Ratramnus to write a reply to Paschasius in response to two questions: first, whether the body of Christ was received by the faithful in mystery or in truth (in mysterio fiat an in veritate) and, second, whether this body was the historical body of Christ (i.e. the same body born of the Virgin Mary).25 Ratramnus answers these questions in the identically titled tract, De corpore et sanguine Domini, in which he argues for the existence of two types of reality: reality in figura and reality in veritate.26 Reality in figura consists of two further realities: the first is a reality apprehended by the senses, or a ‘more real reality’, and the second is a reality that can only be discerned by the mind or faith.27 Reality in veritate, by contrast, is a reality wherein the realness of that reality is made readily apparent.28

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For Ratramnus, Christ’s body and blood are only present in figura in the Eucharist; that is, the exterior reality of the wine and wafer are discerned by the senses, and the interior reality, which is understood only by the mind and one’s faith, is the living Christ.29 He further argued that the body of Christ is not physically received in the sacrament of the Eucharist, then, but rather in mysterio, mediated by the figurae of bread and wine.30 In other words, the senses’ a priori apprehension of bread and wine is fundamental for the cognitive discernment of Christ in the Eucharist. The body and mind, though made clearly distinct by Ratramnus, enable the recognition of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. Ratramnus also denied any historical status to the body of Christ in figura: Christ’s historical body was ‘made up of bones, nerves, [and] flesh’, whereas the spiritual flesh in the Eucharist is ‘invisible, impassible, and appear[s] under the physicality of bread and wine’.31 Thus, for Ratramnus, the differences between Christ’s sacramental flesh in figura and his historical and glorified body in veritate are both sensorially obvious and ontologically inviolate.32 Nearly two centuries later, questions concerning the relationship between representation and reference, different modes of reality, and the use of one’s senses to apprehend sacramental truth were re-posed in a highly public and heated way.33 Berengar of Tours, grammaticus of St. Martin in Tours (c. 1040–1080), raised serious objections to the then widely accepted Eucharistic theology of Paschasius; Berengar was also the primary provocateur of Eucharistic debate in the eleventh century. Through an innovative use of dialectics, grammar, and logic, Berengar developed the sign-status of the Eucharist as previously articulated by Ratramnus (whom he mistakenly thought to be John Scotus Eriugena).34 The effects of Berengar’s critique of the Paschasian tradition of understanding the Eucharist were far-reaching. Berengar inaugurated a new way of speaking and arguing about the sign status and ontology of the Eucharist as he criticized fellow theologians for their allegedly imprecise and perilous mode of conceiving of signs, materials, and the apprehension of these signifiers and their signified. Berengar’s writings are extant only in the responses of his critics, in his own letters, and most significantly in his Rescriptum contra Lanfrannum (1049).35 In this last piece of writing, addressed to one of his adversaries, Lanfranc of Bec, Berengar differentiated between the visible sign of the Eucharist and the spiritual reality of the Lord within the bread and wine.36 Throughout the Rescriptum, he characterizes the Eucharist as a sacramentum (‘sacred sign’), a signum (‘sign’), and an invisibilis gratiae visibilis forma (‘visible form of an invisible grace’) in which Christ can be spiritually but not physically present.37 These different characterizations of the Eucharist as a visible sign for the spiritual reality of the Lord were central to Berengar’s distinction between the earthly and the divine. Much like Ratramnus, Berengar believed that Christ is perceived by faith and not one’s senses in the Eucharistic wine and wafer. The Eucharistic wafer is not the historical body of

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Christ, as Paschasius had contended, but it has ‘a temporal function’ as the faithful recognize Christ’s spiritual presence through a ‘faithful recollection of the mystery of the Lord’s life, passion, and resurrection’.38 Citing Augustine, Berengar capitalizes on the difference but also interdependence of the sacramentum and that which it signifies (res sacramenti). The sacramentum is necessarily distinct from its res sacramenti, but it always exists in relation to it; the sacramentum is necessarily a sacramentum ‘of’ something.39 In the Rescriptum contra Lanfrannum, Berengar expresses his disbelief at those who misunderstand this relationship: You even write against your own erudition by saying that I place the whole matter in the sacred sign [sacramentum] only, for it is impossible to prove something to be at once a sacred sign and a sacred sign only, since it is evident that, if there is a sacred sign, there must of necessity be a thing sacredly signified [res sacramenti].40

Berengar is responding here to Lanfranc’s and others’ own use of the word sacramentum and how they conflated it with its signified. For Lanfranc, Christ is a sacramentum of himself, which verges on the tautology that Berengar critiques in the conflation of sacramentum and res sacramenti.41 In his Liber de corpore et sanguine Domini, Lanfranc argues that the flesh and blood of Christ on the altar are the same as those of Christ’s body in heaven, though they have different qualitates (‘qualities’).42 He contends that in communion the faithful receive both of these bodies, but those who are spiritually corrupt receive only the physically present flesh and blood. Thus, the Eucharist is ideally received corporaliter (‘corporeally’) and spiritualiter (‘spiritually’), as both are necessary for salvation. To the great annoyance of Berengar, Lanfranc collapses the semiological and ontological dimensions of the Eucharist. In his Rescriptum contra Lanfrannum, Berengar constructs a dialectical proof to refute Lanfranc’s notion that the physical material of the Eucharist changes. He posits that the bread and wine during and after consecration are never physically annihilated.43 Berengar insists upon the evidence of the senses in their apprehension of the Eucharist’s data, or its ‘given’ and apparent qualities; these are enduring qualities, he claims, that testify to the unchanged empirical character of the Eucharistic bread and wine before and after their consecration in the Mass. 44 To think otherwise, Berengar argues, is to disregard the widely accepted Aristotelian (and Boethian) accounts of substance (substantia, subiecta), matter (materia, proprietas naturae), and the accidental qualities (qualitates, formae) that determine the sensible appearance of things. 45 For Berengar, the empirical properties of a subject exist in subiecto, in the subject; such apparent qualities or properties thus always inextricably and existentially exist in relation to a particular subject.46 The properties that are in subiecto of flesh are only

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of flesh, and not of bread. The accidental qualities of the Eucharistic wafer—those properties that determine how it tastes, feels, smells, and looks like bread—do not disappear or change after the consecration of the host in the Mass. Accordingly, for Berengar, the consequences of Lanfranc’s ‘misreading’ of the insensible, yet real transformation worked by the consecration are disastrous: if the Eucharistic bread becomes Christ’s actual flesh, then there are as many small pieces (portiuncula) of Christ in existence as there are consecrated hosts and fragments of consecrated hosts. A further correlate, Berengar claimed, would be to assert that not only did Christians physically digest Christ, but so too would the rats who eat the consecrated communion bread.47 To ignore the material constancy of the Eucharistic wafer, Berengar stridently asserted, was to abandon our God-given senses to apprehend the Eucharist’s ontological stability, to profoundly misunderstand its character as a sacrament or sacred sign; all of these theological missteps inevitably led to a variety of abhorrent conclusions. As early as 1049, Berengar’s controversial beliefs regarding the Eucharist as a signum of a spiritually present res sacramenti reached Pope Leo IX (d. 1054), who condemned Berengar and his beliefs at the Council of Rome in 1050. Only nine years later, Berengar was forced to publicly renounce his beliefs before the Roman Synod, where he recited a statement written by Humbert of Silva-Candida (d. 1061) indicating that the historical body of Christ was literally present in the Eucharist: […] the bread and wine that are set upon the altar after the consecration are not only sacred signs [non solum sacramentum], but also the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that sensually, not only in sign, but in truth [non solum sacramento, sed in veritate] they are handled and broken by the hands of the priests, and crushed by the teeth of the faithful […]48

For historian Gary Macy, the language of literality in this statement amounted to a ‘theological blunder’. 49 The oath did not even reflect the theology of Paschasius, who had in no way ever argued that Christ was broken up in the priest’s hands or crushed in the congregant’s teeth.50 Not long after the Synod of 1059, Berengar was required to return to Rome and accept a second oath at the Synod of Rome in 1079. The language used in this oath reflects how, in only 20 years, a level of technical expertise had developed in the way the Eucharist was characterized: I Berengar, believe in my heart and confess by mouth that the bread and wine which are placed on the altar […] are changed substantially into the true and proper vivifying body and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord and after the consecration are the true body of Christ which was born of the Virgin and which, offered for the salvation of the world, hung on the cross and which sits at the right hand

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of the Father, and the true blood of Christ which flowed from his side, not only through the sign and power of the sacrament, but in the property [of their] nature and the truth [of their] substance.51

Aristotle’s concept of substantia (in substantaliter converti) is taken up in this second oath, and an interest in semiotics is made clear through the distinction between the signum […] sacramenti and in […] veritate substantiae.52 Berengar’s (and to some extent, Lanfranc’s) linguistic precision in describing the semiotic status and ontology of the Eucharist generated this growing theological attention to the sign writ large and its relationship to its signified. These theologians’ impact on ways of thinking, arguing, and conceiving of the sign and its signified through the ‘techniques of distinction and division’ was clearly reflected in the oath accepted by Berengar at the Synod of Rome in 1079.53 Berengar’s polemical writings radically complicated the prevailing semiotics of the Eucharist in the late eleventh century and provided linguistic precision to the way that one articulated its sign status. When considered in this particular historical and intellectual context, the material transformations envisioned by the Echternach evangeliaries take on new meaning. Berengar and his opponents, whether Lanfranc or the pope himself, collectively demonstrated that it is through dialectics that linguistic precision can be reached.

Paint and the Eucharist As an alternative means of thinking about the permutations of paint in figural and abstract paintings in the Echternach manuscripts, I propose considering them in light of the intellectual climate in which they were made and used, or in relation to a range of specifically Eucharistic paradigms, operations, and states. Wafer, wine, and, in this case, paint are mediators in their sustainment of formal changes, whether in sign or actuality. The liturgy, the turning of a page, and the priestly speech act effect this change, the nature of which theologians of the Eucharist contested. In the section that follows, I consider how the Eucharist, as conceptualized in the eleventh century, is paradigmatic of the ways paint undergoes semiological and ontological permutations from one folio to the next in these codices. Paint, wafer, and wine are mediators in their sustainment of formal changes, whether in sign or actuality. The turning of a page, like the priestly speech act, effects this change—the nature of which the artists of the Echternach paintings interrogate and that theologians of the Eucharist contested. For Berengar, grace can be found in sacramental semiosis. The Echternach artists query the place of a single material, or the signifier of paint, in formally different

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paintings within a liturgical book. The physical proximity of different modes of painting within a single codex makes clear the range of possible relationships between the material of paint as signifier and that which it signifies. The multiple ways that paint is put to use in the Echternach paintings draws the viewer’s attention to the relationship between paint and that which it does or does not portray. The three modes of painting on which I have focused in the Echternach codices demonstrate that a materially constant signifier—in this case, paint—can signify multiply. Paint signifies nothing other than itself in the case of fol. 87r in Egerton 608 (see Figure 8-1); it can signify an ornamental textile on fol. 59r while still keeping the materials of the signifier and signified obviously distinct; and, it can signify a historical personage, e.g. the Evangelist Luke on fol. 87v, through a neatly framed and generously bordered portrait painting (see Figure 8-3). In presenting the beholder with these formal variances, the paintings underscore that which they have in common: namely, their paint-ness. Although their artists have put paint to different ends, their materiality remains constant and is paradoxically more pronounced by such different modes of painting. Just as Berengar and Lanfranc’s debate prompts the fine-tuning of papal language in the second oath sworn by Berengar about the nature of Eucharistic transformation, the back and forth between abstract and figural paintings in the Echternach manuscripts discursively prompts their reader to consider anew, with the tools of logic, grammar, and dialectics, the manifold ways that paint mediates meaning within a single codex. Whereas paint in Egerton 608 is skeuomorphic on fol. 59r in its allusion to a striped liturgical textile (see Figure 8-2), the absence of these stripes on fol. 87r focuses the reader’s gaze on the very material make-up of the page (see Figure 8-1). Paint is just that in this monochrome field, and traces of the artist’s brush, dragged back and forth on the folio with no attempt to hide its facture, are plainly visible. Its mediation of meaning is twofold in this instance: it presents paint qua paint while also, in its deliberate translucency, forcing the reader to look ahead and ponder the page that follows. Paint is seemingly subsumed to biblical narrative in the figural miniatures strewn throughout the codex, yet it is in the deliberate framing of figures, ground, and the evocation of liturgical time that the painting understands its own artifice and context of use; in other words, during a rite that purports to make Christ present. By extension, then, the book makes clear its own sacramental status, and so tempts a reading of its pages in relation to the more contentiously understood sacrament of the Eucharist. Another key tenet of Berengar’s Eucharistic theology is distinction: he asserts that the sacramental sign always has to exist in relation to that which it signifies, whereas Lanfranc and the prevailing Paschasian view argued that the sacrament indeed becomes, and thus collapses into the physical body of Christ. The different modes of painting within the Echternach evangeliaries are inextricably tied to one

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another; the red colour-field painting on fol. 87r in Egerton 608 serves as a material covering for the figural portrait on the folio’s verso, and to imagine the existence of one of these two paintings without the other rids the codex of its paradigmatic shifts in perception (see Figures 8-1 and 8-3). The colour field is a sign of and even anticipates its verso. The close physical relationship of these two different modes of painting requires the beholder to consider each painting as an insular state of being as well as subject to a semiological relationship with its verso. The turning of the page is the event that forges this relation, prompting the beholder to question whether one painting has become another, or if they remain semiologically distinct but existentially intertwined. Finally, the time specificity of a phenomenal situation is also central to the potentiality of Eucharistic and painterly ontological change or stasis. To return to the relationship between the colour-field painting on fol. 87r and the portrait of Luke on fol. 87v in Egerton 608, the relationship forged between recto and verso when one turns the page relies in large part on the stark contrast between each painting’s presentation of time (Figures 8-1 and 8-3). The crimson pigment-covered folio exists in the phenomenal present, as previously demonstrated, and the portrait represents a narrative event of the past. One of the key points of disagreement in Eucharistic debate of the eleventh century was the unique phenomenal quality of the Eucharist at Mass; it was only at the moment of consecration that the body of Christ was made present—whether spiritually or corporeally—in the wafer and wine. An otherwise mundane material that can make present a historical body upon the utterance of a specific speech act in a phenomenal situation is central to the contested morphology of the Eucharist in the eleventh century as well as to the time specificity of the Echternach paintings. In the case of fol. 87r in Egerton 608, the artist of the monochrome painting has proposed that behind a field of red pigment that exists in the here and now, there exists a narrated event of the historical past. Operating like the socially and intellectually constructed Eucharist of the eleventh century, the red colour field is present and makes present—whether in sign or in actuality—its visual underbelly. The thin black lines that bleed through the field anticipate the perceptual shift prompted by the turning of the folio, whereupon one confronts the historical portrait of Luke, who is therein activated and made phenomenally present by his covering.

Conclusion The idiosyncratic quality of each of the Echternach paintings, exemplified by their different temporalities, and, very broadly, their distinctive deployments of paint, bolster my contention that we might better understand these paintings in relation

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to the contemporary construction of a new Eucharistic paradigm, its operations, and its states. I have focused my study on primarily three paintings, as they are individually exemplary of the three primary modes of painting found within eleventh-century Echternach evangeliaries. However, it is important to consider that the monochrome, gesturally striated page in Egerton 608 is an irreducibly unique, specific work, produced by a specific moment of painting, defined in part by each brushstroke that traversed the width of the page, by the precise optical effects realized by those brushstrokes, by the quality and hue of the pigment applied to this page in that moment, in those series of manual movements, on a parchment support whose wrinkles, folds, follicles make it a unicum, distinct from every other parchment page touched by a brush in the Echternach scriptorium. In other words, while I have developed a taxonomy of painting modes, the condition of exemplarity I have conferred to each is not a claim for their substitutability in relation to the larger corpus of paintings they have stood for in my argument. The three painting types I have privileged—like all paintings made by hand—are, in the end, individual indexes of unrepeatable actions, choices, and interactions with materials. In the Echternach manuscripts’ visually distinct paintings, paint is what mediates the semiological and ontological operations and states in which their monastic artists are interested. The paintings invite their beholders to contemplate the phenomenal and ontological event of the Eucharist, the archetype of all material mediators, and to analogize the different conceptions of this sacramental transformation with those that occur across folios through the medium of paint. The paintings elicit changes in perception through their different deployments of paint as they purport to change from one page to the next and ask whether a red colour field can become an evangelist, or, whether one painting can be a symbol and an index of another, coexisting existentially when activated by the liturgy. The paintings and their artists pose these questions rhetorically, expressing serious interest in the nature of semiological and ontological transformations and how these transformations are perceived. The Echternach manuscripts’ visually distinct paintings pose a series of rhetorical quandaries, which I have tried to outline here: namely, how paint and its varied uses in painting self-consciously participate in and enact transformative possibilities of the liturgy, and, more precisely, how they engage the language and concerns of Eucharistic debate of the eleventh century. These paintings do not purport to provide fixed answers to the expansive queries that they pose, but they do require their beholders, and, I would propose, art historians today, to contemplate the phenomenal and ontological event of the archetype of all material mediators, the Eucharist, and to analogize the different conceptions of this sacramental transformation with those that occur within and across folios through the medium of paint.

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Notes 1.

2.

3.

This article is largely based on ideas first presented at the University of Chicago, where it benefitted significantly from the insights of Christine Mehring, Willemien Otten, and particularly Aden Kumler. I am also grateful to Brian Herlocker, Alexandra Marraccini, Daniel Phillips, Caroline Schopp, Martin Schwarz, Yuliya Tsutserova, Matthew Vanderpoel, and other members of the university’s Medieval Studies Workshop for their feedback. I presented part of this paper at the conference, ‘Envisioning the Eucharist’ (Art Institute of Chicago, February 2014), at which I received thoughtful comments from Matthew Milliner and Elizabeth Parker. Finally, my utmost thanks to Elina Gertsman and the anonymous reviewers for their generous suggestions. See British Library online catalogue of illuminated manuscripts for more particulars on this manuscript. Briefly, the codex measures 235 × 170 mm, contains 177 folios and an un-foliated paper flyleaf at the beginning; it is written in Latin in a Caroline miniscule; and it contains two monochrome folios, three stripe-covered folios, and ten full-page miniatures depicting a dedication scene, the evangelists, and moments from the life of Christ. This manuscript has frequently been the subject of study alongside approximately ten other eleventh-century manuscripts from Echternach. See, for instance, Bücheler, ‘Textile Ornament and Scripture Embodied in the Echternach Gospel Books’, pp. 147–72 and p. 102 (colour plate); Falmagne, in collaboration with Deitz, Die Echternacher Handschriften bis zum Jahr 1628 in den Beständen der Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg: sowie der Archives diocésaines de Luxembourg, der Archives nationales, der Section historique de l’Institut grand-ducal und des Grand Séminaire de Luxembourg, p. 141; McKendrick and Doyle, Bible Manuscripts: 1400 Years of Scribes and Scripture, pp. 62–3, figs. 49–50; Grebe, Codex Aureus: Das Goldene Evangelienbuch von Echternach; Avril, Rabel, and Delaunay, Manuscrits enluminés d’origine germanique, pp. 32, 35, 92–3; Knoll, Dickmann, Hedwig, and Spang, Das Echternacher Evangelistar Kaiser Heinrichs III: Staats- und. Universitätsbibliothek Bremen Ms. b.21; Rabel and Palazzo, Les plus beaux manuscrits de l’abbaye d’Echternach conservés à la Bibliothèque nationale de Paris; Nordenfalk, Codex Caesareus Upsaliensis, pp. 42, 69–70, 81, 114, 137, and figs. 19, 33, 82. For an overview of the history of the abbey of Echternach, see Ferrari, Schroeder, and Trauffler, Die Abtei Echternach 698-1998. Note that the colour of f. 1r on the British Library’s website does not completely match the colour of the monochrome page when viewed in person: it is much more purple in certain areas than it appears online. During my in-person study of the manuscript, I found the outer edges to be a darker purple and the inner field to be more crimson in colour. These liturgical books, all of which were made in the scriptorium of Echternach, are the following: Bremen, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Ms. B. 21, c. 1039/1040; El Escorial, Real Biblioteca de San Lorenzo, Cod. Virtrinas 17, c. 1045/1046; Paris Bibliothèque nationale nouv. acq. 2196, c. 1040; Paris Bibliothèque nationale Ms. Lat 10438, c. 1060; Nürnberg Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Hs. 156142, c. 1040; Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek Cod. C. 93, c. 1051–1056; Brussels Bibliothèque Royale

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5.

6. 7.

8. 9.

10.

11.

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Ms. 9428, c. 1035; London British Library MS Egerton 608, second or third quarter of the eleventh century; London British Library MS Harley 2821, third quarter of the eleventh century. Konrad Eberlein has argued that the ‘curtains’ that cover the evangelist portraits may also refer to the Old Testament veil that previously covered the New Testament before the incarnation of Christ. See Eberlein, Apparitio regis—revelatio Veritatis, pp. 82–92 and Bücheler, ‘Clothing Sacred Scripture: Textile Pages in Two Medieval Gospel Books (Trier, Domsbibliothek, Ms. 138 and 139)’, pp. 123–38, especially pp. 130–1. The study of these mimetic paintings, which are found throughout Ottonian and Salian manuscripts, has been the primary focus in art historical studies of these codices’ paintings. Anna Bücheler’s excellent book, Ornament as Argument: Textile Pages and Textile Metaphors in Medieval German Manuscripts, is the best reference for these works. Bücheler reproduces several images from the Echternach manuscripts that I study here, but her interest lies primarily with paintings with the patterned textile patterns and not the monochrome pages. Bücheler, Ornament as Argument, p. 17. Bücheler, ‘Textile Ornament and Scripture Embodied in the Echternach Gospel Books’, p. 148. Stephen Wagner’s dissertation, ‘Silken Parchments: Design, Context, Patronage, and Function of Textile-Inspired Pages in Ottonian and Salian Manuscripts’, provides a particularly thorough examination of two Echternach Gospel books: London BL MS Harley 2821 and Paris BnF nouv. acquisition lat. 2196. Wagner argues that these manuscripts’ pattern-filled pages imitate liturgical textiles, and he explores the meaning of such mimetic images in relation to the use of particular silks during the liturgy. A number of other scholars, including Carl Nordenfalk, Henry Mayr-Harting, Adam Cohen, and Nancy Netzer, have also studied this mode of mimetic painting. Elina Gertsman’s recent work on absence and medieval art has also shaped the ways in which we write about figure-less fields. See, for instance, Gertsman, ‘Phantoms of Emptiness’, pp. 800–37. See Hamburger, ‘Openings’, pp. 51–133 as well as Lynley Herbert’s excellent article, ‘With Pen and Knife: Illuminating Blindness in a Forgotten Sacramentary’, pp. 273– 301. I thank Herbert for sharing an earlier version of this text with me prior to its publication. Although the polemical letters between Lanfranc of Bec and Berengar of Tours post-date some of the Echternach manuscripts by a few decades, I propose that the terms and concepts articulated in their debate are still a productive tool with which to study their varied paintings. Moreover, these manuscripts were made in an intellectual climate in which these ideas were arguably at a nascent stage, and I would argue that we can see manifestations of an interest in how a single material can signify multiply in visual form, perhaps even prior to its textual articulation in Eucharistic debates of the mid- to late eleventh century. To name only one example (of many), enamelled châsses frequently feature one side with a patterned motif and another side with figural, often narrative, imagery.

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15.

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See, for instance, London Victoria and Albert Museum M.572-1910, a reliquary chasse made in Limoges c. 1200–1250. In Egerton 608, the list of lections is on fols. 168v–177r; in Harley 2821, it is on fols. 185v–197v. Thomas Falmagne’s publication on Echternach manuscripts made prior to 1628 (and that are now at the Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg) alongside François Avril’s compilation of Echternach manuscripts that reside at the Bibliothèque nationale de France together allow for a reconstruction of the kinds of liturgical and theological texts available at the abbey of Echternach and in its scriptorium when these eleventh-century evangeliaries were made. These works include Rupert of Deutz’s De Diviniis officiis, Pseudo-Alcuin’s De divinis officiis, Ambrosius’s De Mysteriis and De Sacramentis, and a sacramentary made specifically for use at the abbey of Echternach (Paris BNF Lat. 9433). This final text, dated to the end of the ninth century, provides a general overview of the nature of the liturgy as it was likely performed at Echternach in the early Middle Ages. See Falmagne, volume 1 of Die Handscriften der Bibliothèque Nationale de Luxembourg and Avril, Rabel, and Delaunay, Manuscrits enluminés d’origine germanique. See vol. I: Xe-XIVe siècle. Among the texts in the eleventh-century scriptorium of Echternach now at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France are the Decretum of Burchardus Womatiensis (Lat. 8922), Paschasius Radbertus’s De corpore et sanguine Christi (Lat. 8915), the Sacramentary of Echternach (Lat. 9433), Saint Gregory the Great’s Homiliae in Evangelia (Lat. 9560), Rupertus Tuitensis’s De Divinis Officiis (Lat. 8917), Pseudo-Alcuin’s De divins officiis (Lat. 9421), Ambrosius’s De Sacramentis and De Mysteriis (Lat. 9521), Hrabanus Maurus’s In lamentationes expositio (Lat. 9525), and Boethius’s In librum aristotelis perihermenias (Lat. 11128). See Bücheler, ‘Clothing Sacred Scripture’, pp. 123–38. Bücheler helpfully reproduces images of the Trier manuscripts to demonstrate how textile pages relate to those images that surround them (pp. 124–5). She argues that the simulated textiles turn the pages into veils, underscoring the book’s role as a ‘material container and a metaphoric passageway to sacred knowledge’, p. 137. Scholars who have admirably taken this project on in recent years include Vincent Debiais, Georges Didi-Huberman, and Elina Gertsman. See, for instance, Debiais, Le Silence dans l’art; Debiais and Gertsman’s collaborative project, Abstraction Before the Age of Abstract Art; Didi-Huberman, Fra Angelico: Dissemblance and Figuration; and Gertsman, ‘Phantoms of Emptiness’, pp. 801–37. Herbert Kessler discusses the visible parchment underneath a wash of blue and green tempera paint on the frontispiece to Saint Luke’s text in an eleventh-century Rhenish Gospelbook (Darmstadt, Landesmuseum, Cod. AE 679, f. 126v). He proposes that this wash of pigment is ‘the temple curtain/flesh of Christ [which] was understood as the firmament, the visible sky beyond which lies heaven’. See Kessler, Seeing Medieval Art, pp. 20 and 173. One or more red, crimson, or purple full-page paintings exist primarily at the beginning, but sometimes elsewhere, in several eleventh-century liturgical manuscripts made in Echternach; they include: London BL MS Egerton 608 (fols. 1r and 87r); Nürnberg Germanisches Nationalmuseum Hs 156142 (fols. 1v–2r); Uppsala Universi-

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tetsbibliotek C. 93 (f. 2r); and Paris Bibliothèque nationale Lat. 10438 (fols. 1r, 8r, 22r, 64r, 94r, 137r). 17. The quality of their paint is often semi-translucent and differs from the chalky and opaque fields of colour found in other (figural) paintings within the manuscripts. 18. See the British Library online catalogue entry for Egerton 608, https://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/record.asp?MSID=6651&CollID=28&NStart=608 (Accessed 18 March 2020). 19. See Bücheler, Ornament as Argument and Wagner, Silken Parchments, for instance. 20. Full pages of repeating motifs (or what other scholars have called ‘textile pages’) are found throughout eleventh-century liturgical manuscripts and are more common than monochrome paintings. These patterned paintings can be found in the following Echternach manuscripts: London BL MS Egerton 608 (fols. 19r, 59r); London BL Harley 2821 (fols. I–1r, 67r, 99r–99v, 198r–199v); Paris BnF nouv. acq. Lat. 2196 (fols. 1r, 19r, 30v, 45r—unnumbered, however—and 50v); Nürnberg Germanisches Nationalmuseum Hs 156142 (fols. 17v–18r, 51v–52r, 75v–76r, 109v–110r); Bremen, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Ms. B. 21, an evangeliary made c. 1039/1040 (fols. 1v–2r, fols. 125v–126r); Madrid, El Escorial, Real Biblioteca de San Lorenzo, Cod. Virtrinas 17, a Gospel book made c. 1045/1046 (fols. 1v–2r, 20v–21r); Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek Cod. C. 93, a Gospel book made c. 1051–1056 (fols. 2v–3r); and Brussels Bibliothèque Royale Ms. 9428 (unnumbered folios). In this list, I do not count the patterned borders of miniatures, texts, or illuminated initials, nor do I consider framed fields of pattern that do not fully extend to the borders of the parchment page. In all of the instances I have identified above, a patterned motif covers the entire folio. 21. In this way, the monochrome field does not act like an actual textile curtain in an illuminated manuscript; the silk veil that covers f. 79r in Wolfenbüttel Herzog August Bibliothek Cod. Guelf. 16 Aug 2 completely obscures the image and text underneath. 22. It is likely that the outline of Christ and the other figures on this page has been visible on f. 2r since the manuscript’s completion in the eleventh century. The manuscript is in impeccable condition. Sometimes, silver oxidation in manuscripts can cause an image on one side of a folio to be visible on the other (see, for instance, Paris Bibliothèque nationale de France, Ms. Nouv. acq. Lat. 1541, f. 2r, in which an image of Christ has become almost completely obscured by silver tendrils depicted on the verso). 23. For a concise summary of Paschasius’s and Ratramnus’s respective theologies of the Eucharist, see G. Macy, The Theologies of the Eucharist in the Early Scholastic Period: A study of the Salvific Function of the Sacrament According to the Theologians, c. 1080-c. 1220, pp. 21–31. See also A. Kumler, ‘The Ordeal of Substance: Eucharistic Theology on the Rue des Jardins, Paris (1290)’, pp. 11–16 (unpublished) for an excellent overview of the pre-Berengarian Eucharistic controversy as well as W. Otten, ‘Between Augustinian Sign and Carolingian Reality: The Presence of Ambrose and Augustine in the Eucharistic Debate between Paschasius Radbertus and Ratramnus of Corbie’, pp. 137–156. 24. Radbertus, De corpore et sanguine Domini: cum appendice Epistola ad Fredugardum. For quotation, see Macy, p. 21: ‘Ceterum illud corpus quod natum est de Maria uirgine, in quod istud transfertur, quod pependit in cruce, sepultum est in sepulchro, resurrexit a mortuis, penetrauit caelos et nunc pontifex factus in aeternum cotidie interpellat pro nobis. Ad quem si recte communicamus mentem dirigimus, ut ex

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26. 27. 28. 29. 30.

31. 32.

33. 34. 35. 36. 37.

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ipso et ab ipso nos corpus eius carnem ipsius illo manente integro sumamus. Quae nimirum caro ipsa est et fructus ipsius carnis, ut idem semper maneat et universos qui sunt in corpore pascat.’ Radbertus, De corpore et sanguine Domini, pp. 38–9 [c. 7, ll. 25–32]. Important to note is that a tenth-century manuscript of Paschasius’s, De corpore et sanguine domine (Paris BNF Lat. 8915), was likely in the Echternach scriptorium at the time of the manuscript’s making. Macy, p. 28. Also see Ratramnus, De corpore et sanguine Domini. The two questions posed by Emperor Charles the Bald are as follows: ‘Quod in ecclesia ore fidelium sumitur corpus et sanguis christi, quaerit vestrae magnitudinis excellentia in misterio fiat, an in veritate […] Et utrum ipsum corpus sit quod de maria natum est, et passum, mortuum et sepultum, quodque resurgens et caelos ascendens ad dexteram patris consideat.’ Ratramnus, De corpore et sanguine Domini, p. 44 (5, ll. 5–12). Macy, pp. 28–9. Macy,pp. 28–9. Macy, p. 28. See Macy, p. 29 and Kumler, p. 13. Kumler, p. 14. In making this distinction, Ratramnus states: ‘Qua de re sicut in misterio panis ille, Christi corpus accipitur, sic etiam in misterio, membra populi credentis in christum intimantur. Et sicut non corporaliter, sed spiritaliter panis ille credentium corpus dicitur, sic quoque christi corpus non corporaliter, sed spiritaliter neceese [sic] est intellegatur.’ Ratramnus, De corpore et sanguine Domini, p. 61 (74, ll. 14–8). Macy, p. 29. See Ratramnus, De corpore, pp. 21–8. For more on Radbertus, Ratramnus, and Carolingian Eucharistic controversy, see Chazelle, ‘Figure, Character, and the Glorified Body in the Carolingian Eucharistic Controversy’; Chazelle, The Crucified God in the Carolingian Era, pp. 209–38; and Bouhot, Ratramne de Corbie. For thorough summaries of the Berengarian controversy, see Macy, pp. 35–43 and Kumler, pp. 15–26. For more on this mistake, see Heurtevent, Durand de Troarn et les origines de l’hérésie bérengarienne, pp. 253–85. See Turonensis, ed. Rescriptum contra Lanfrannum, vol. 1, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis, 84–84A (Turnhout: Brepols, 1988), 193 (Rescriptum III, l. 168). Macy, p. 39. For more on Berengar’s use of the word ‘sacramentum’, see Häring, ‘Berengar’s Definitions of Sacramentum and Their Influence on Mediaeval Sacramentology’. See also van den Eynde, Les Définitions des sacrements pendant la première période de la théologie scolastique, pp. 3–16, and Berengar, Rescriptum, p. 193. Berengar cites Augustine’s De Civitate Dei (10, 5) in his presentation of the phrase ‘sacrum signum’. He writes: ‘In eodem: Sacrificium ergo visibile invisibilis sacrificii sacramentum, id est sacrum signum, etc.’ Berengar, Rescriptum contra Lanfrannum, p. 94 (Rescriptum I, ll. 2107), p. 146 (Rescriptum II, ll. 1642–1643). I am drawing here on Macy’s description of the debate. See Macy, p. 39 and Berengar of Tours, Rescriptum contra Lanfrannum, c. 31 (77), c. 32 (83), c. 39 (123–4), c. 41 (132–3), and c. 42 (141).

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39. Berengar, Rescriptum, p. 94. See quote that follows. Also, for more on the relationship between the sacramentum and res sacramenti, see C. Sheedy, The Eucharistic Controversy of the Eleventh Century against the Background of Pre-scholastic Theology (PhD diss., Catholic University of America, 1947), pp. 103–4. 40. Berengar, Rescriptum, p. 94 (Rescriptum I, ll. 2095–2103). ‘Contra eruditionem tuam scribis qui me rem totam constituere in solo sacramento dicis, cum et sacramentum esse et solum esse minime possit demonstrari aliquid. Constat enim, si sit sacramentum, nulla posse non esse ratione rem quoque sacramenti.’ Translation by Aden Kumler, modified from Häring, p. 109. 41. Holopainen, Dialectic and Theology in the Eleventh Century, pp. 106–7. See also Macy, ‘Berengar’s Legacy as Heresiarch’, pp. 59–80. 42. Holopainen, p. 68. ‘eodem modo cum divina pagina corpus Domini panem vocat, sacrata ac mystica locutione id agit, seu, quoniam ex pane conficitur eiusque nonnullas retinet qualitates’; Lanfranc, De corpore et sanguine domini, 410 D, 416 C–D. See also Macy, Theologies of the Eucharist, p. 40. 43. Holopainen, pp. 88–92. 44. Holopainen, pp. 88–9. ‘[…] diceret sicut tu: quamvis non visus, non gustus, non olfactus, non tactus renuncient tibi adesse post consecrationem super altare carnem et sanguinem, sed potius panis vinique subiecta sensualia, crede tamen te nichil aliud in altari nisi portiunculam carnis manu tenere, ore excipere, guttur transmittere […]’ Berengar, Rescriptum contra Lanfrannum, 2.859–864, p. 124. 45. See Purday, ‘Berengar and the use of the word substantia’, and Montclos, Lanfranc et Bérenger, pp. 445–7. 46. Holopainen, p. 91. 47. Kumler, pp. 21–2. See also charges of stercoranism brought against Berengar after his death in Macy, ‘Berengar’s Legacy as Heresiarch’, pp. 64–7. 48. The Oath of 1059 is found in Lanfranc’s De corpore et sanguine domini, col. 411A (c. 2). ‘[…] panem et vinum quae in altari ponuntur, post consecrationem non solum sacramentum, sed etiam verum corpus et sanguinem Domini nostri Jesu Christi esse, et sensualiter non solum sacramento, sed in veritate minibus sacerdotum tractari, frangi et fidelium dentibus atteri […]’ English translation in Radding and Newton, Theology, Rhetoric, p. 19. 49. See Macy, ‘The Theological Fate of Berengar’s Oath of 1059’, p. 29. 50. Kumler, p. 24. 51. Caspar, Das Register Gregors VII, vol. 2, pp. 426–7 (6, 17a). ‘Ego Beringarius corde credo et ore confiteor panem et vinum, quae ponuntur in altari […] substantialiter converti in veram et propriam ac vivificatricem carnem et sanguinem Iesu Christi domini nostri et post consecrationem esse verum Christi corpus, quod natum est de virgine et quod pro salute mundi oblatum in cruce pependit et quod sedet ad dexteram Patris, et verum sanguinem Christi, qui de latere eius effusus est, non tantum per signum et virtutem sacramenti, sed in proprietate naturae et veritate substantiae.’ Translation from Kumler, p. 25, modified from Macy, Theologies of the Eucharist, p. 37. 52. Kumler, p. 25. 53. For more on these techniques, see Kumler, pp. 25–6.

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Works Cited François Avril, Claudia Rabel, and Isabelle Delaunay, Manuscrits enluminés d’origine germanique I: Xe-XIVe siècle (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 1995). Beringerius Turonensis, Rescriptum contra Lanfrannum, vol. 1, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis, 84–84A (Turnhout: Brepols, 1988). Albert Boeckler, Das Goldene Evangelienbuch Heinrichs III (Berlin: Deutscher Verein für Kunstwissenschaft, 1933). Yve-Alain Bois, Painting as Model (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993). Jean Paul Bouhot, Ratramne de Corbie: Histoire littéraire et controverses doctrinales (Paris: Institut d’Études Augustiniennes, 1976). Anna Bücheler, ‘Clothing Sacred Scripture: Textile Pages in Two Medieval Gospel Books (Trier, Domsbibliothek, Ms. 138 and 139)’, in Clothing Sacred Scriptures: Book Art and Book Religion in Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Cultures, ed. by David Ganz and Barbara Schellewald (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019), pp. 123–38. ———, Ornament as Argument: Textile Pages and Textile Metaphors in Medieval German Manuscripts (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019). ———, ‘Textile Ornament and Scripture Embodied in the Echternach Gospel Books’, Clothing the Sacred: Medieval Textiles as Fabric, Form, and Metaphor, ed. by Mateusz Kapustka and Warren Woodfin (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 2015), pp. 147–72. Eamonn Carragain, ‘“Traditio evangeliorum” and “sustenatio”: The Relevance of Liturgical Ceremonies to the Book of Kells’, in The Book of Kells: Proceedings at a Conference at Trinity College Dublin 6-9 September 1992, ed. by Felicity O’Mahony (Dublin: Scolar Press, 1994), pp. 398–436. Erich Ludwig Eduard Caspar, ed., Das Register Gregors VII, vol. 2, MGH, Epistolae selectae, v. 2 (Berlin: Weidmann, 1920–1923). Celia Chazelle, ‘Figure, Character, and the Glorified Body in the Carolingian Eucharistic Controversy’, Traditio, 47 (1992), pp. 1–36. ———, The Crucified God in the Carolingian Era: Theology and Art of Christ’s Passion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001). Adam Cohen, The Uta Codex: Art, Philosophy, and Reform in Eleventh-Century Germany (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000). Vincent Debiais, Le Silence dans l’art (Paris: Editions du cerf, 2019). Hermann Degering, ‘Handscriften aus Echternach und Orval in Paris’, in Aufsatze Fritz Milkau gewidmet, ed. by Georg Leyh and Fritz Milkau (Leipzig: Hiersemann, 1921), pp. 48–65. Konrad Eberlein, Apparitio regis—revelatio Veritatis. Studien zur Darstellung des Vorhangs in der bildenden Kunst von der Spätantike bis zum Ende des Mittelalters (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1982). Exposition Saint-Willibrord: Abbaye d’Echternach 24 May-24 August 1958, (Luxembourg, 1958).

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Thomas Falmagne, Die Echternacher Handschriften bis zum Jahr 1628 in den Beständen der Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg: sowie der Archives diocésaines de Luxembourg, der Archives nationales, der Section historique de l’Institut grand-ducal und des Grand Séminaire de Luxembourg, 2 vols. (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2009). Michelle Camillo Ferrari, Jean Schroeder, and Henri Trauffler. Die Abtei Echternach 698-1998 (Luxembourg: Publications du CLUDEM, 1999). Susannah Fisher, ‘Materializing the Word: Ottonian Treasury Bindings and Viewer Reception’ (PhD diss., Rutgers University, 2012). Elina Gertsman, ‘Phantoms of Emptiness: The Space of the Imaginary in Late Medieval Art’, Art History, 41:5 (2018), pp. 800–37. Anja Grebe, Codex Aureus: Das Goldene Evangelienbuch von Echternach (Darmstadt: Primus Verlag, 2007). Jeffrey Hamburger, ‘Openings’, in Imagination, Books, and Community in Medieval Europe, ed. by Gregory Kratzmann (Melbourne: Macmillan Art Publishing, 2009), pp. 51–133. Nicholas Häring, ‘Berengar’s Definitions of Sacramentum and Their Influence on Mediaeval Sacramentology’, Mediaeval Studies, 10 (1948), pp. 109–46. Yitzhak Hen, ed., The Sacramentary of Echternach (London: The Henry Bradshaw Society/ Boydell Press, 1997). Lynley Herbert, ‘With Pen and Knife: Illuminating Blindness in a Forgotten Sacramentary’, in After the Carolingians: Re-defining Manuscript Illumination in the 10th and 11th Centuries, ed. by Beatrice Kitzinger and Joshua O’Driscoll (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019), pp. 273–301. Raoul Heurtevent, Durand de Troarn et les origines de l’hérésie bérengarienne (Paris: G. Beauchesne, 1912). Toivo Holopainen, Dialectic and Theology in the Eleventh Century (Leiden: Brill, 1996). Joseph Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development, trans. by Francis A. Brunner (New York: Benziger, 1951–1955). Rainer Kashnitz and Elisabeth Rucker, Codex Aureus Epternacensis – Das Goldene Evangelienbuch von Echternach. Eine Prunkhandschrift des 11. Jahrhunderts (Katalog zur Ausstellung im Germanischen Nationalmuseum Nürnberg) (Frankfurt: S. Fischer, 1982). Herbert Kessler, Seeing Medieval Art (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004). ———, Spiritual Seeing: Picturing God’s Invisibility in Medieval Art (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000). Gerhard Knoll, Elisabeth Dickmann, Andreas Hedwig, and Paul Spang, Das Echternacher Evangelistar Kaiser Heinrichs III: Staats- und. Universitätsbibliothek Bremen Ms. b.21 (Weisbaden: Reichert, 1995). Aden Kumler, ‘The Ordeal of Substance: Eucharistic Theology on the Rue des Jardins, Paris (1290)’, unpublished; used with permission of author. Lanfranc, De corpore et sanguine domini adversus Berengarium Turonensem: Lanfrancus Cantuariensis, De Corpore et Sanguine Domini, ed. by J. P. Migne, vol. 150, Patrologia Latina (Paris, 1854).

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Thomas Lentes, ‘Textus Evangelii. Materialität und Inszenierung des textus in der Liturgie’, in Textus im Mittelalter. Kompornenten und Situationen des Wortegebrauchs im schriftsemantischen Feld, ed. by Ludolf Kuchenbuch and Uta Kleine (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), pp. 133–48. John Lowden, ‘Illuminated Books and the Liturgy’, in Objects, Images and the Word: Art in the Service of the Liturgy, ed. by Column Hourihane (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), pp. 17–53. Gary Macy, The Theologies of the Eucharist in the Early Scholastic Period: A Study of the Salvific Function of the Sacrament According to the Theologians c. 1080-c. 1220 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984). ———, Treasures from the Storeroom: Medieval Religion and the Eucharist (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1999). Scot McKendrick and Kathleen Doyle, Bible Manuscripts: 1400 Years of Scribes and Scripture (London: British Library, 2007). Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Le visible et l’invisible (Paris: Gallimard, 1964). ———, Phenomenology of Perception (Paris: Gallimard, 1945). Henry Mayr-Harting, Ottonian Book Illumination: An Historical Study (London: Harvey Miller, 1991). Jean de Montclos, Lanfranc et Bérenger. La controverse eucharistique du XIe siècle, Spicilegium sacrum Lovaniense; études et documents, fasc. 37 (Leuven: Université catholique, 1971). Nancy Netzer, Cultural Interplay in the Eighth Century: The Trier Gospels and the Making of a Scriptorium at Echternach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). Carl Nordenfalk, ‘An Illustrated Diatessaron’, The Art Bulletin, 50, no. 2 (1968), pp. 122–4. ———, Codex Caesareus Upsaliensis: An Echternach Gospel-Book of the Eleventh Centur, 2 vols. (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1971). Willemien Otten, ‘Between Augustinian Sign and Carolingian Reality: The Presence of Ambrose and Augustine in the Eucharistic Debate between Paschasius Radbertus and Ratramnus of Corbie’, Nederlands archief voor kerkgeschiedenis, 80, no. 2 (2000), pp. 137–56. David Owsley, ‘Byzantine Textiles and Simulated Textiles in Ottonian Manuscripts’ (unpublished MA thesis, New York University, 1964). Eric Palazzo, ‘Art, Liturgy, and the Five Senses in the Early Middle Ages’, Viator, 41, no. 1 (2010), pp. 25–56. ———, ‘Art and Liturgy in the Middle Ages: New Anthropological and Epistemological Approaches’, unpublished article based on a talk given at University of California Los Angeles in 2008. Article freely available online: http://www.readbag.com/arthistorywisc-workshop-palazzo-art-and-liturgy (accessed 19 March 2019).

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Paschasius Radbertus, De corpore et sanguine Domini: cum appendice Epistola ad Fredugardum, ed. by Paulus Beda, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis, 16 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1969). K. M. Purday, ‘Berengar and the use of the word substantia’, The Downside Review, 91, no. 303 (1973), pp. 101–10. Claudia Rabel and Eric Palazzo, Les plus beaux manuscrits de l’abbaye d’Echternach conservés à la Bibliothèque nationale de Paris (Paris; Luxembourg: Bibliothèque nationale/Centre culturel français de Luxembourg, 1989). Ratramnus, De corpore et sanguine Domini: texte original et notice bibliographique, ed. by J. N. Bakhuizen van den Brink (Amsterdam: North Holland Publishing Company, 1974). Rupertus Tuitiensi, Liber de Divinis Officiis, ed. by H. Haacke, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medieaevalis, 7 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1967). Elizabeth Saxon, ‘Carolingian, Ottonian, and Romanesque Art and the Eucharist’, in A Companion to the Eucharist in the Middle Ages, ed. by Kristen Van Ausdall, Ian Christopher Levy, and Gary Macy (Boston: Brill, 2011), pp. 251–324. ———, The Eucharist in Romanesque France: Iconography and Theology (Rochester: Boydell & Brewer, 2006). Robert Schumacher, ‘L’enluminure d’Echternach’, Les Cahiers luxembourgeois, XXX (1958) pp. 181–95. Paul Spang, ‘Un bibliophile belge, Pierre-Philippe-Constant Lammens de Gand, à la recherche des manuscrits d’Echternach et d’Orval à Paris’, in Exposition du livre belge à Luxembourg du 7 au 14 novembre, organisée par le groupe des libraires luxembourgeois sous le haut patronage de l’ambassade de Belgique (Luxembourg: Imprimerie Saint-Paul S.A., 1965), pp. 19–30. ———, ‘La bibliothèque de l’abbaye d’Echternach’, Les Cahiers Luxembourgeois, XXX (1958), pp. 139–73. ———, ‘Zur Geschicte der Stadt und Abtei Echternach’, in Das Evangelistar Heinrichs III., Perikopenbuch aus Echternach MS B. 21 der Universitatsbibliothek Bremen, ed. by Gerhard Knoll (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1990), pp. 201–57. ———, Handschriften und ihre Schreiber. Ein Blick in das Scriptorium der Abtei Echternach (Luxembourg: Bourg-Bourger, 1967). Alphonse Sprunck, Les origines de la Bibliothèque nationale du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg (Luxembourg: Impr. Saint-Paul, 1954). Frauke Steenbock, Der Kirchliche Prachteinband im Fruhen Mittelalter (Berlin: Deutscher Verlag für Kunstwissenschaft, 1965). Cyrille Vogel, Medieval Liturgy: An Introduction to the Sources, trans. and rev. by William G. Storey and Niels Krogh Rasmussen (Washington, D.C.: Pastoral Press, 1986). Stephen Wagner, ‘Establishing a Connection to Illuminated Manuscripts made at Echternach in the Eighth and Eleventh Centuries and Issues of Patronage, Monastic Reform, and

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Splendor’, Peregrinations: International Society for the Study of Pilgrimage Art, 3, no. 1 (2010), pp. 49–82. ———, ‘Silken Parchments: Design, Context, Patronage, and Function of Textile-Inspired Pages in Ottonian and Salian Manuscripts’ (PhD diss., University of Delaware, 2004). Paul Zumthor, La Mesure du Monde: Représentation de l’espace au Moyen Age (Paris: Seuil, 1993).

About the Author Nancy Thebaut is Assistant Professor of Art History at Skidmore College. Her current book project, ‘Figuring Christ’s Absence: Early Medieval Experiments in Representation’ examines works of art made ca. 950–1050 in which Christ’s figural absence is thematized visually or his figure is deliberately obscured from the beholder. In 2019–2020, she was a NOMIS fellow at eikones, the Center for the Theory and History of the Image at the University of Basel. Her work has been supported by the Kress Foundation, Social Sciences Research Council, and Mellon Foundation.

Part III Abstraction / Epistemology / Perception

9. Birds of Defiance: Jewelled Resistance to Modern Abstractions Danielle B. Joyner

Abstract A close study of two sixth-century bird-shaped brooches made in Frankish lands reveals the inadequacy of 20th-century interpretations of abstraction in late antique and early medieval art. Rather than accepting the often-repeated notion that abstraction necessarily signals a transcendent retreat from the physical world, this essay applies to the brooches the definition of ‘abstract’ as a verb—to take away, to extract, to remove. As the subject of what is being abstracted changes from visual details to physical materials to aspects of the jewellery’s function, these bird-shaped pins reveal ties that bind them, in defiance of long-standing interpretations, to the natural world. Keywords: bird, brooch, jewellery, Franks, Ausonius, Venantius Fortunatus

Sixth-century brooch—Twentieth-century definitions1 In the late sixth century, a goldsmith living in Frankish lands transformed silver, gold, glass, and garnet into a pair of bird-shaped brooches measuring approximately one and a half inches long and composed of an upper gold plate affixed to a silver base plate (Figure 9-1).2 An amorphous outline defines the profile form of a bird in flight, with one lobe emerging above the body to suggest wings, another extending below to indicate legs, and two more conjoined lobes creating a short tail. Now-empty cells in each of these four extensions once held pieces of glass, and a garnet still twinkles from a raised cell as the bird’s eye. Exquisitely detailed filigree work decorating the bird includes an eroded beaded wire outlining the whole form, small granulated rosettes dotting the body, and twisted and beaded wires that alternate along the tail and large curved beak. Especially intriguing is the fish superimposed on the bird’s body and portrayed as if seen from above. Two rosettes serve as eyes, and beaded wires outline the fish’s body and define a

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_ch09

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Figure 9-1. Eagle/Osprey with Fish Brooch, second half of the 6th century. Gold, silver, garnet, glass, 1.9 × 3.8 × 0.9 cm. New York City, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 17.192.176. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

spine and rib-like design down its back. Reversing the pattern of the bird’s tail, in which twisted wires frame a single beaded wire, two beaded wires in the fish’s tail border a single twisted wire. Clearly, the goldsmith who crafted this pair of pins was uninterested in a meticulously mimetic representation of a bird. This decision illustrates, in part, a typical characterization of the change in artistic styles that occurred from c. 300 to c. 700—whereupon ‘[c]lassical art, with its emphasis on likeness to the natural world’, is distinguished, to quote Jaś Elsner, from ‘the abstraction of late-antique art’.3 Intriguingly, though, the brooch resists aspects of this characterization, for recognizable features assume a visual prominence in contrast with its ambiguous, or abstract, outline. 4 The large hooked beak identifies this as a bird of prey and the accompanying, albeit oddly placed, fish further narrows its identity. Eagles consume fish along with other prey and ospreys subsist entirely on a piscine diet.

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These recognizable features of real birds tether the pin to the natural world and, in doing so, defy characterizations of visual abstraction in late antique arts. Again, it is Elsner who crafted an influential interpretation of abstraction in his 1995 monograph, Art and the Roman Viewer: The Transformation of Art from the Pagan World to Christianity. Arguing that Christian exegesis, based on layered typological interpretations of scriptures and the created world, reshaped how people used and understood imagery, Elsner writes: In such a system, art did not need to imitate natural things. ‘Abstraction’—by which I mean less a stylistic ‘abstraction’ than the abstract relationship whereby an image of a fish means Christ and not a real fish—was a natural visual product of such a context.5

In this intriguing statement, Elsner acknowledges abstraction as a visual style but modifies its definition to assert that all connections are severed between early Christian imagery, be it visually abstracted or not, and its natural referent. Such avowed rupture between image and referent relies upon long-standing traditions that interpret visual abstraction as signalling a retreat or removal from the world.6 In 1908, the German art historian Wilhelm Worringer (1881–1965) published his first work, Abstraction and Empathy: A Contribution to the Psychology of Style, in which he argues for connections between artistic styles and cultural psyche: ‘Thus, the various gradations of the feeling about the world can be gauged from the stylistic evolution of art, as well as from the theogony of the peoples.’7 Most intriguing for Worringer were those stylistic distinctions between naturalism and abstraction, especially as seen in classical and medieval arts. Worringer associates the instinct for visual abstraction with an individual and cultural desire for self-alienation: In the urge to abstraction the intensity of the self-alienative impulse is incomparably greater and more consistent. Here it is not characterized, as in the need for empathy, by an urge to alienate oneself from individual being, but as an urge to seek deliverance from the fortuitousness of humanity as a whole, from the seeming arbitrariness of organic existence in general, in the contemplation of something necessary and irrefragable.8

Alois Riegl had explored similar issues and Worringer builds on Riegl’s work to distinguish between religions of immanence, such as that of the ancient Greeks, which required naturalism in their art, and religions of transcendence, such as Christianity, which demanded abstraction.9 According to Worringer, since the ancient Greeks felt confident and ‘sensuously secure’ in their relationship with the outer world, it is surely no coincidence that Greek philosophy gave rise to the

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sciences still informing the modern world.10 Transcendent Christianity, however, inspires something very different: ‘The criterion of a disturbed relationship between man and outer world is the transcendent complexion of religious notions with its consequence, the dualistic severance of spirit and matter, of this world and the next.’11 In the same paragraph, Worringer explains that transcendent religions […] seek to bring redemption from the conditionality of human being and from the conditionality of the phenomenal world […] Was this urge to abstraction anything else than the striving to create resting-points within the flight of appearances, necessities within the arbitrary, redemption from the anguish of the relative?12

Between these antithetical poles of naturalistic styles favoured by religions of immanence and abstracted styles favoured by religions of transcendence lay an ambiguous middle ground exemplified, Worringer suggests, by the artistic styles of medieval northern cultures. Objects created during the Migration Age, and by Merovingian, Scandinavian, and Irish cultures, were neither entirely naturalistic nor abstracted, according to his definition. Worringer’s description of northern styles conveys what he perceives as their troubling ambiguities: Yet all these linear-geometric convolutions are never reduced to the simplest abstract formula, never carried through to clear necessity and regularity; rather is there expression in them, a seeking and striving that goes beyond abstract tranquility and exclusivity […] All the restless searching and striving after knowledge, all the inner disharmony appears in this heightened expression of the inanimate.13

Whether it was in response to harsh environmental conditions, or, as Worringer speculated, the effects of the rather flimsy ‘[…] veil betwixt nature and himself’, northern cultures as he describes them became somehow insulated from the compulsion that urged early Christians towards the abstract.14 The impact of Worringer’s ideas remains discernible in Elsner’s works and other studies addressing transitions from classical to early Christian and early medieval arts.15 And yet, since the publication of Worringer’s study, not only have few attempted a similarly wide-ranging and synthesizing formulation, but scholarship focusing on northern arts and cultures has developed along its own historiographical path.16 One feature of that path is the different relationship posited between imagery and its natural referent. For example, in her 1993 study on early medieval animal imagery, Carola Hicks draws from scholarship on Palaeolithic imagery to define abstraction as ‘non-figural, no direct reference to reality’, which distinguishes it

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from ‘stylisation: modification of the natural by interpretation and simplification, being liberated from the need for resemblance’.17 Since this definition of abstraction insists on separation from reality, Hicks uses ‘stylized’ and ‘schematized’ to argue that ‘[t]he underlying classical sources for the recognizable animal are part of the continuing development of Insular art’.18 Lotte Hedeager’s more recent study of Scandinavian arts and customs suggests that the nearly constant presence of animals in imagery reveals their ‘central position in the perception of the world’.19 Hedeager describes the visual intricacy of these objects, whose patterns effect ‘dense, smooth-surfaced ornamentation’, but she takes less care in distinguishing between stylization and abstraction: ‘In spite of the abstract and extremely stylistic language, it is possible to discern certain naturalistic animal species/categories in the stylistic representation.’20 This connection between animal imagery and the natural world is reiterated by Gunilla Åkerström-Hougen in her study of falconry, in which she notes that some representations of birds of prey in Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian art, however stylized, ‘[…] behave exactly as hawks and falcons do when devouring their prey’.21 In what Worringer viewed as a troubling convolution of imagery that was neither naturalistic nor abstract, these scholars, as do many others, trace a variety of representational strategies that merge natural elements with cultural and symbolic content. Any interpretation of the abstract in art depends on the definition of abstract that is applied. Hicks defines abstraction as removed entirely from the natural world, but by using the term ‘stylized’ she allows for a greater array of possible interpretations to arise from northern arts. Elsner proffers abstraction first to describe visual styles and then to negate the relevance of the physical world. Both approaches maintain Worringer’s assertion of an impermeable divide between abstractions and the exterior world. Concerning these interpretations, I agree with Sarah Bassett that we need to critically reassess twentieth-century formulations of the abstract, especially in late antique and early medieval arts.22 One means of stepping out from under their influence is to apply a more literal definition of abstract. Though quoting dictionary definitions perhaps repeats secondary school rhetorical choices, I intend rather a nod to Isidore of Seville and his influential Etymologies in this turn to the Oxford English Dictionary.23 The first entry lists ‘abstract’ as both an adjective and a noun. It is the second entry for ‘abstract’ as a transitive verb that bears greater relevance to the task at hand: ‘To take away, extract, or remove (something); to move (a person or thing) away, withdraw. Frequently with from.’24 This definition describes a process that exists without recourse to interiority or spirituality. Relieved of an insistence on a retreat or transcendence from the world, the process of abstracting can still be applied to visual elements, but it now opens up to other possibilities as well.

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Birds and Brooches A process of abstracting visual elements suggests a beginning state, which for this interpretation would be a real bird, and a changed end state, namely, the jewelled brooch.25 Those visual characteristics removed from the living bird would include, among others, size, shape, colour, and movement.26 As the goldsmith crafted the pin, they made deliberate choices about forms and shapes as well as about materials and techniques. Beginning with forms and shapes, the pin is significantly smaller than an actual bird and it transforms a volumetric body into a largely two-dimensional profile of a bird in flight. Its recognizable beak curves in striking contrast to the vaguely defined wing, leg, and tail, whose bulbous shapes are further emphasized by raised cells that once held tear-shaped pieces of glass. The inset garnet glinting as the bird’s eye serves a naturalistic function, but beaded rosettes texture the pin’s surface with regard to neither physiology nor feather. Unlike the rosettes, twisted and beaded wires define long tail feathers and emphasize a large hooked beak. Although sparks of light reflected by the granulations might emulate mottled feather patterns, nothing on the surface of the pin evokes the osprey’s colour scheme of white and dark brown. Several species of eagles reside in different regions across Europe, such as the golden eagle, the Bonelli’s eagle, and the Eastern imperial eagle, but none display patterns that correspond with the goldwork.27 The final removed characteristic considered here is movement. Other pins incorporate clever elements to retain movement, but motion here is merely implied by the outline of a bird flying and by the presence of the fish.28 If this fish is captured prey, its presence suggests that the eagle/osprey already dove from the sky into the water and is now heading off to enjoy its meal.29 Whether or not the goldsmith had looked at or was imagining a real eagle or osprey while crafting the pins, the removal of some characteristics of size, shape, colour, and movement does not sever the manufactured bird either from a real bird or from the natural world. Rather, the decision to remove, that is, to abstract, some features emphasizes by contrast those recognizable avian characteristics included with the pin. For example, the curved beak, with its sharp point and filigree work, contrasts with the lobed wings, talons, tail, and their inset glass pieces. The beak is both visually distinct in the pin and also the most recognizable feature of a bird of prey. Attention need not move, though, from what is less recognizable to what is more so, as is evident with the delineation of the fish. The skeletal pattern within the fish lends its body a solid presence, and its recognizable ribs extend out and point towards the rosettes dotted indiscriminately along the bird’s body. This deliberate combination of more and less identifiable features causes attention to vacillate between observing the artifice of the pin and recognizing its references to the forms and behaviours of real birds.

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Figure 9-2. Raptor Brooch, c. 500-600. Gold, garnet, glass, pearl, 2.1 × 3.3 × 0.8 cm. New York City, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 17.191.165. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The individuality of this goldsmith’s choices become apparent in comparison with another pair of Frankish brooches (Figure 9-2).30 Similar in shape and size to the eagle/osprey pin, this mid-sixth-century brooch was created using a cloisonné technique, in which thinly sliced garnets cut into simple geometric shapes are framed within delicate gold walls.31 A small inset pearl becomes a milky white eye and a curved band of glass along the neckline contrasts with the garnet’s deep red to mark a transition from the bird’s head to a body formed by five scalloped cells. These evocations of overlapping feathers taper towards the lower body, from which three parallel bands extend outward as a tail. In a manner comparable with the filigree brooch, this bird’s head faces to the right, its tail extends to the left, and a single panel along the top of its body narrows towards a point to suggest a sharply bent wing. Unlike the f iligree brooch, a notched semicircular panel below its body implies talons, the shape of which could presage the description from Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies: ‘We call this one the falcon ( falco) because its talons are curved inward (cf. falx, gen. falcis, “sickle”).’32 Although the garnet brooch does not include prey, the care taken with its forms invites speculation about a possible identif ication. If Isidore’s etymological explanation for the term falco offers a starting point, perhaps the crooked wing on the pin signals the airborne agility of a falcon, which tucks its wings to dive and snatch its prey, other birds, from the air. A number of European and Central Asian falcons display lighter bands of colour at their necklines, a

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feature which might correspond with the glass band at the neck of the pin. Though these details do not support the identification of the pin with a specific type of falcon, such as the Lanner or Peregrine falcons, they do allow for the crafted bird to be described as a raptor.33 Just as the forms and shapes of both pins reveal varied choices made by the goldsmiths about what features to abstract, so, too, can the materials and techniques of the pins contribute to this analysis. The definition of ‘abstract’ as a verb, ‘[t]o take away, extract, or remove (something)’, parallels processes of mining that extracted gold and garnet from the earth.34 Similarly, refining the materials to a purified condition appropriate for jewellery separates impurities from both the metal and gemstone.35 With the materials now suitably abstracted, the ambiguously outlined body of the eagle/osprey brooch provides a canvas upon which the filigree work brings the pin to life. Distinctions between finely twisted wires and beaded lines are revealed under magnification; to the naked eye, these minuscule balls and glinting bevels ignite a dance of sparks across the opaque metal surface. To gain a sense of how the inset pieces of glass and garnet might have impacted the surface effects, a turn to the garnet cloisonné brooch is helpful. The surface of the cloisonné raptor might seem to transition smoothly from gold cell wall to garnet and glass with only the small pearl rising above the flush surface, but slight variations in the surface angles of the set stones create a faceted effect. Some garnets reflect light and look impermeable, whereas others glow a deep red with light captured in their crystalline layers. Stamped gold foils lining the cells enhance the gemstone’s colour and lustre, and magnification reveals variations of tighter and looser waffle patterns set beneath the stones.36 These glimpses through garnet create an impression of depth and dimension greater than the physical height of the pin. It is difficult to determine if similar foils lined the glass-filled cells of the filigree brooch, but the juxtaposition of transparent materials with the lively filigree would have further animated the bodies of both bird and fish. The play of light across the filigree pin’s polished surface and the absorption of light into deeper crystalline layers in the garnet brooch both derive from the goldsmith’s masterful manipulation of materials. This counterpoint between surface and depth presents an intriguing context for the fish extending across the filigreed eagle/osprey. Unlike the flat expanse of the plate forming the bird’s body, a gentle slope rising from tail to head defines the body of the fish as a volumetric curve and draws attention to its central placement. This superimposition of fish upon bird defies a literal interpretation—it seems unlikely that the brooch portrays a squirming fish that has just flipped up to elude its captor’s talons. Alternatively, if the fish were already consumed by the bird, it would be hidden beneath the bird’s flesh. And yet the fish is not invisible: rather, it curves up from the metal plate framing its streamlined body. Might this be a creative goldsmith’s playful choice

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to focus attention on the skilful subversion of the opacity of metal by revealing what should be hidden beneath its surface?

Literary perspectives A variety of written sources document for these early medieval centuries a deep engagement both with particular species of birds in their natural environments and also with the clever skills of goldsmiths and their wondrous products. Isidore of Seville discussed a variety of birds of prey in Book XII, Ch. vii of his Etymologies, such as the eagle (aquila), hawk (accipiter), falcon ( falco), kite (milvus), and osprey (ossifragus), among others.37 His work is just one of many examples that reveal the ongoing cultural significance of birds. Romans used birds for divination, and at least one Latin ornithological treatise survived into the early Middle Ages.38 Old English poetry refers to a variety of seabirds, Germanic myths associate eagles and ravens with Odin, and Christians assigned to the Evangelist John the symbol of an eagle.39 The practices of hawking and falconry were likely brought to Roman lands by Germanic people in the fifth century, and a number of early medieval burials included birds of prey with human remains. 40 When a sixth-century Frankish person wore these pins, in addition to broadcasting wealth and status, the birds and fish could have communicated any combination of personal belief, environmental relevance, and social significance. Stories of clever smiths and the inspiring transformations they wrought upon mundane materials abound in literary traditions. 41 Among many examples, the Old English poem ‘The Phoenix’ compares a goldsmith’s skills with God’s powers of divine creation and ‘The Life of St. Eligius’ praises the metalworking saint for his miraculous thriftiness. 42 From the other side of the worktable, some objects speak out to acknowledge their own material presence. Famously, fragmentary runic inscriptions on the stone Ruthwell Cross recall the forest where the tree, not yet hewn for the Cross, grew. 43 On the Franks Casket, another inscription refers to the deceased whale whose bones now form the decorated chest. 44 Written not onto an object but into a tenth-century manuscript, riddle 83 of the Exeter Riddles gives voice to ore, whose transformative life began with being extracted from the earth, then purified by fire, and stamped into currency. 45 As fascinating as these inscriptions and texts are, their later dates and largely Anglo-Saxon origins remove them from the immediate sphere of the sixth-century Frankish brooches. More relevant for the pins are the poems of Ausonius and Venantius Fortunatus, two well-educated men who lived in Gaul during the late fourth and mid-sixth centuries. Completed between 375 and 379, Ausonius’s extraordinary poem, ‘The Moselle’, presents a studied contemplation of the river as a nexus of

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natural and built environments, as a shared space for legged and finned creatures, and as a reserve of natural resources. 46 Among many compelling passages, several eloquently compare notions of natural and crafted beauty: Others can pave their floors with Phrygian tiles spreading a marble field through paneled halls; but I reject all riches and possessions in favor of Nature’s work unruined by bankrupt heirs who revel in what they waste. 47

These verses, and Ausonius’s preference for ‘Nature’s work’, set the scene for the following lines, in which the gaze focuses on the river itself: The eye can penetrate the tranquil surface; the river holding no secrets […] We can discern, scouring the river’s depths, far down, its mysteries and secret places; the softly wandering glide of the clear water creates shapes scattered in a dark blue light. The furrowed sand is rippled by light motion. 48

His words call to mind both sets of brooches as much as they do a riverbed’s sunlightened shallows. 49 Just as the gaze penetrates the water’s surface to uncover its mysteries, so, too, does the skilled goldsmith manipulate metallic opacity to reveal the hidden fish. Alternatively, as light pierces the translucent stones of the garnet brooch, it reflects against patterned gold foils which lend a dappled effect to the red gemstone. For Ausonius, the strong appeal of the Moselle lies not only in its beauty, but in the allure of its mysteries and in the exciting discovery of its secrets. A compelling turn of phrase at the end of this passage elaborates on those discoveries by again juxtaposing natural and created objects: Low water lays bare sea-green river-plants, red corals, and oyster-pearls for our delight— the rich man’s luxury beneath the waves, underwater necklaces mirroring man-made elegance; and on the river-bottom, water-grass shows us stones like little jewels.50

Here, metaphors mix with materials as the waves reveal their secrets. The colourful elements defining this variegated riverbed are luxurious resources that, in their

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natural state, foretell future transformations into jewelled treasures. After lingering on the play of surface and depth in his description of the river, Ausonius accentuates physical and figural associations between natural resources and the crafted objects they might become. His poetic play suggests that though pearls and stones may be abstracted from their natural settings and transformed into elegant jewellery, they retain a recognizable connection with their underwater origins. Writing nearly 200 years later, in the mid-sixth century, Venantius was certainly familiar with Ausonius’s work. As scholars have noted, this Latin poet echoed Ausonius in panegyric descriptions of villas, renovated and returned to bucolic fecundity by the Christian bishops who became their new overlords.51 Venantius begins his poem to Bishop Vilicus of Metz by describing the path of the Moselle: ‘With sky-blue eddies the Moselle unwinds its flood and gently rolls its ample waters in its course.’52 Both the Moselle and the river Seille amplify the beauties of Metz, and this bucolic prelude introduces a long list of the Bishop’s merits.53 Following the poem, four short addenda offer variations on the topics of food and nourishment. In one, titled ‘On the picture of a vine, spoken at his table’, Venantius refashions certain Ausonian pleasures: In the interlacing vines under a tendril a bird is frolicking; with its beak it gently picks the food that is pictured there. The dinner guest enjoys receiving double sustenance; here he sees grapes, but he also drinks Falernian.54

The first two lines are ripe with riddling ambiguity—is the bird alive and fooled by images of grapes, or does a pictured bird accompany the fruit-laden vines? Venantius does nothing to indicate if the bird is painted or plumed; instead, he focuses on the grapes and their transformation into the renowned Falernian wine. The guests enjoy ‘double-sustenance’: they delight not only in the charm of the image, but also in perceiving connections between grapes painted and grapes fermented into a coveted wine. Where Ausonius rhythmically layers connections between natural and crafted beauty for the pleasure of his fourth-century readers, Venantius pointedly exhorts the gratifying charm of recognizing material transformations at one’s table. Both Latin writers estimated that the satisfaction of discerning connections between crafted items and their natural origins was worthy of poetic elevation. Given that verbal articulation, it is not mere fancy to suggest that contemporary goldsmiths explored similar themes as they transformed raw materials into personal adornments. A jeweller’s deliberate manipulation of the reflective opacity of metal and the inviting translucence of crystals, just as a poet’s composition of rhymes and metres, could hearken back to the materials’ earthen origins while capturing the eyes and piquing the interests of their potential customers. Therefore, by material as

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well as by shape and form, these Frankish bird brooches affirm strong correlations between their crafted elements and the natural world.

Endings Although scholars have consistently assessed the styles, materials, and techniques of these brooches as indicating a late sixth-century Frankish origin, their exact provenance remains unknown.55 Nevertheless, several contentions about the brooches can be asserted. Filigree jewellery was popular among Romans and various Germanic peoples, and inhumation with objects was traditionally practised from Sarmatia to Visigothic Spain and from Scandinavia to Ostrogothic Italy.56 Brooches of this sort are frequently found buried with women, and metalwork displaying similar materials and techniques has been excavated, along with weapons, vessels, and sometimes animals, from the graves of men.57 Even after Germanic populations converted to Christianity, the practice of including grave goods in burials continued.58 In all likelihood, therefore, the eagle/osprey brooches were excavated from a woman’s grave, and, with the conversion and baptism of the Frankish King Clovis in 508, it is possible that she was Christian.59 The prevalence of inhumations with treasured objects raises the possibility that brooches of this sort were made with an eye as much towards their eventual return to the earth as towards their time spent above ground. Details about sixth-century burial ceremonies remain limited, but archaeologists theorize that grave goods accompanying the dead would have borne relevance for the community witnessing their burial.60 For this reason, the abundance of jewellery worn by women who died during their childbearing years, as opposed to the more spartan burials of women over 40, has been interpreted as signalling not only a family’s grief but also a community’s loss of potential future life.61 Whatever the nature of the rituals and ceremonies honouring this woman at her death, it is significant that she still wore these brooches. Did her family and community take solace in knowing that once-favoured adornments would continue to evidence their loved one’s existence long after her death? Birds of prey often appeared on weapons or shields, where the power and prowess embodied by the birds in life translated to apotropaic properties in their imagery.62 Would that power transcend gender as well as the function of the object—a shield versus a brooch—to convey a reassuring sense of protection for the woman? If she was, indeed, Christian, the symbolic resonances of the eagle (resurrection) and the fish (Christ) deepen with a similar intent.63 Eventually, the rituals would cease and the woman, still wearing her pins, would be laid to rest in the earth. In this final setting, the jewelled brooches assert a very different response to abstracting processes. As the woman’s flesh slowly fades

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from her bones, as dust returns to dust, and the surrounding earth abstracts from the remains all recognizable features of her individuality, the golden birds—and fish—brilliantly defy these forces. Dirt fills crevices between granulated gold beads and the weight of earth and stone cracks inset glass, yet the bird and fish maintain their integrity and resist the abstracting powers of this subterranean tomb. Here, hidden in the dark, it is tempting to think of these pins in elemental terms. Having been extracted from the earth, purified by fire, and transformed into creatures of the air and sea, the brooches resist abstracting forces and instead remain incorruptible.64 Early representations of the Cross and Christ crucified sometimes included animal forms that denoted the air, water, and land creatures recounted in the Genesis story of Creation.65 Their presence with the Cross signals the belief that creation is renewed just as humanity is redeemed through Christ’s sacrifice, and a similar host of beliefs may have inflected the final function of the brooches. In their ultimate act of defiance against abstracting powers, the imagery, materials, and physical production of these brooches emulated in miniature God’s divine creation. Early 20th-century formulations of abstraction tightly bind non-mimetic visual styles with themes of transcendence, spiritual interiority, and a retreat from the natural world. These weighted interpretations, which first gave relevance to late antique and early medieval arts, now deserve re-examination as greater indicators of early 20th-century concerns rather than as airtight conclusions about the early Middle Ages.66 When the term abstract is released from those outdated obligations, it becomes a flexible analytical tool that can be directed at a number of topics and processes. If the style and iconography of objects owned and used by Christians are no longer required to bear only symbolic meaning, different queries about them can be posed. In this case, what ties might these brooches still have to the natural world and what is the importance of those connections? An emphasis on materiality has dominated art-historical inquiries of late, and defining abstract as a verb allows physical aspects to be addressed alongside style and iconography. As the subject of what is abstracted changes, fresh questions are generated about these brooches and the extended span of their existence both above and below the ground.

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Notes 1.

2.

3. 4. 5. 6.

7.

8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16.

17.

First, I would like to thank Elina Gertsman for her invitation to contribute to this volume and especially for her helpful feedback. Second, I greatly appreciate the time and expertise shared by Melanie Holcomb at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as the efforts of Christine Brennan and Joshua Feigin to facilitate my visit. Third, this article relied upon the tireless work of the Interlibrary Loan office, especially of Rachel Leverenz at the Mudd Library at Lawrence University. New York City, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 17.192.175 and 17.192.176. https://www. metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/465237 (accessed 25 July 2020). Though I refer to these brooches as a pair, I have focused this analysis on 17.192.176, which has fewer invasive reconstructions. Brown, Frankish Art in American Collections, p. 21; Vallet, ‘The Golden Age of Merovingian Archaeology’, p. 15; and Dandrage, ‘Materials and Techniques in the Early Medieval Collection’, p. 352. Elsner, Art and the Roman Viewer, p. 5. For an interesting discussion of this point from the perspective of an Islamicist, see Grabar, ‘When Is a Bird a Bird?’ pp. 247–53. Elsner, Art and the Roman Viewer, p. 9. As Sarah Bassett argues in her essay, assertions made by scholars in the early 20thcentury not only still impact scholarship on late antique and early medieval arts, but also do not necessarily reflect how late antique and early medieval people understood their own arts and cultures. Bassett, ‘Late Antique Art and Modernist Vision’, pp. 5–28. Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy, p. 13; Gluck, ‘Interpreting Primitivism, Mass Culture and Modernism’, pp. 149–69; Helg, ‘“Thus we forever see the ages as they appear mirrored in our spirits”’, pp. 1–14; and Bassett, ‘Late Antique Art and Modernist Vision’, pp. 17–19. Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy, pp. 23–4. For English translations of Riegl’s work on late antique style, see Aloïs Riegl, Late Roman Art Industry and ‘The Main Characteristics of Late Roman Kunstwollen (1901)’, pp. 87–104. Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy, p. 101. Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy, p. 102. Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy, p. 103. Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy, p. 108. Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy, p. 108. For very different examples, see the essays in Age of Spirituality, ed. Weitzmann, and also Francis, ‘Visual and Verbal Representation: Image, Text, Person, and Power’, pp. 285–305. A helpful literature review of this path, which includes reference to Salin’s influential categories of Style I and Style II, etc., appears in Høilund-Nielsen, ‘Germanic Animal Art and Symbolism’, pp. 589–632. See also, Wickers, ‘Would There Have Been Gothic Art Without the Vikings?’, pp. 198–229. Hicks, Animals in Early Medieval Art, p. 6. She cites these definitions from Lorblanchet, ‘From Naturalism to Abstraction in European prehistoric rock art’, pp. 44–56.

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18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25.

26.

27. 28. 29. 30.

31. 32. 33.

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Hicks, Animals in Early Medieval Art, p. 55. Hedeager, Iron Age Myth and Materiality, p. 67. Hedeager, Iron Age Myth and Materiality, pp. 67–8. Åkerström-Hougen, ‘Falconry as a Motif in Early Swedish Art’, p. 273. Bassett, ‘Late Antique Art and Modernist Vision’, pp. 19–20. A similar recourse to definitions of ‘abstract art’ appears in an essay that examines abstracted borders and decorative fields in sacred settings; see Kiilerich, ‘Abstraction in Late Antique Art’, p. 77. https://www-oed-com.proxy.lawrence.edu:2443/ (accessed 29 September 2019). Scholars generally negate the possibility of early medieval artists/craftsmen drawing from life and instead suggest that their models were other works of art. I conduct this thought experiment for the sake of argument and not to assert an early medieval artistic practice of working ‘from life’. Older scholarship often dismisses possible connections between objects and real species, as in Speake, Anglo-Saxon Animal Art and its Germanic Background, pp. 81–5 in particular. More recent work acknowledges greater commingling between symbolic and natural referents in northern arts, as seen in, among others, Hicks, ‘The Birds on the Sutton Hoo Purse’, pp. 153–65; Wamers, ‘Behind Plants, Animals, and Interlace’, pp. 151–204; Høilund-Nielsen, ‘Germanic Animal Art and Symbolism’, pp. 589–632; Osborn, ‘The Ravens on the Lejre Throne: Avian Identifiers, Odin at Home, Farm Ravens’, pp. 94–112; and Adams, ‘Between Myth and Reality’, pp. 13–52. I wish to thank both David E. Joyner and Richard C. Hoffmann for their conversations and correspondences about falcons, raptors, eagles, and osprey. One example that includes swivelling birds appears on the mid-fifth-century Sarre (Kent) quoit brooch, which is pictured and mentioned in Hicks, Animals in Early Medieval Art, pp. 18–9 and Adams, ‘Hunter and Prey in Early Anglo-Saxon Art’, pp. 30–1. It would be interesting to subject the fish to a similar visual analysis, but for now that extends beyond the scope of this study. New York City, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 17.191.164 and 17.191.165. https://www. metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/464859 (accessed 25 July 2020). As with the filigree brooches, these exist as a pair, but I focus my analysis specifically on 17.191.165. Among many references, see especially, Ricketson, ‘Barbarian Jewelry of the Merovingian Period’, p. 139; Brown, Guide to Provincial Roman and Barbarian Metalwork and Jewelry, pp. 12–3; Brown, Frankish Art in American Collections, p. 15; Husband and Little, Europe in the Middle Ages, pp. 32–3; Brown, Migration Art, A.D. 300-800, pp. 30–31; Arrhenius, ‘Garnet Jewelry of the Fifth and Sixth Centuries’, p. 222; and Dandrage, ‘Materials and Techniques in the Early Medieval Collection’, p. 239. Arrhenius, Merovingian Garnet Jewellery; Arrhenius, ‘Garnet Jewelry of the Fifth and Sixth Centuries’, pp. 214–25; Coatsworth and Pinder, The Art of the Anglo-Saxon Goldsmith, pp. 132–48. Isidore, The ‘Etymologies’, p. 268. Parentheticals appear in the quoted text. Adams posits a similar identification of metalwork birds of prey as raptors in her study, ‘Between Myth and Reality’, p. 14.

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34. For overviews of mining and metallurgy, see Blanchard, Mining, Metallurgy and Minting in the Middle Ages, pp. 1–12 and 387–413, and Hoffmann, An Environmental History of Medieval Europe, pp. 215–27. 35. Debate remains on how exactly the garnets were treated. See Arrhenius, Merovingian Garnet Jewellery, pp. 21–35 and 43–45, and Coatsworth and Pinder, The Art of the Anglo-Saxon Goldsmith, pp. 132–50. 36. Arrhenius, Merovingian Garnet Jewellery, pp. 39–40, and Coatsworth and Pinder, The Art of the Anglo-Saxon Goldsmith, pp. 141–3. 37. Isidore, The ‘Etymologies’, pp. 264–8. 38. Bailey, ‘Auguries and Auspices’, pp. 96–102, and Green, ‘Malevolent Gods and Promethean Birds’, pp. 147–67. Also, an illustrated copy of an ornithological treatise, ‘Ornithiaca’, by Dionysius Philadelphia, appears in the renowned sixth-century copy of Dioscurides’ De materia medica, Munich Clm 337. Collins, ‘The Latin Herbals’, pp. 149–54 and von Hees and Schwartz, ‘The Bird Illustrations in a thirteenth-century Arab Natural History’, pp. 231–47. 39. The topic receives expansive consideration in Warren, Birds in Medieval English Poetry. See also Hicks, Animals in Early Medieval Art, pp. 40–55; Adams, Bright Lights in the Dark Ages, pp. 87–102 and pp. 135–63; Høilund-Nielsen, ‘Germanic Animal Art and Symbolism’, p. 611; Wamers, ‘Behind Plants, Animals, and Interlace’, pp. 169–70; and Osborn, ‘The Ravens on the Lejre Throne’, pp. 94–112. For Christian eagles, see Wittkower, ‘Eagle and Serpent’, pp. 293–325; Mütherich, ‘Der Adler mit dem Fisch’, pp. 317–40; Werner, ‘The Four Evangelist Symbols Page in the Book of Durrow’, pp. 3–17; Nees, ‘A Fifth-Century Book Cover and the Origin of the Four Evangelist Symbols Page in the Book of Durrow’, pp. 3–8; and Werner, ‘On the Origin of Zoanthropomorphic Evangelist Symbols’, pp. 1–47. 40. Among many, see, Å kerström-Hougen, The Calendar and Hunting Mosaics of the Villa of the Falconer in Argos; Bischoff, ‘Die älteste europäische Falkenmedizin’, pp. 171– 82; van den Abeele, ‘Zum ‘Federspiel’, pp. 89–111; Wallis, ‘“As the Falcon Her Bells” at Sutton Hoo?’, pp. 409–36; and Goldberg, ‘Louis the Pious and the Hunt’, pp. 613–40. Mention of burials with birds appears in Wallis, ‘“As the Falcon Her Bells” at Sutton Hoo?’, pp. 412–3 and Goldberg, ‘Louis the Pious and the Hunt’, pp. 613–40. 41. For an excellent overview, see Coatsworth and Pinder, The Art of the Anglo-Saxon Goldsmith pp. 179–206. 42. Fox, ‘The Aesthetics of Resurrection’, pp. 1–19; Blanchard, Mining, Metallurgy and Minting in the Middle Ages, pp. 413–40; and Dado of Rouen, ‘Life of St. Eligius of Noyon’, pp. 137–68. 43. Among many, see Cassidy, The Ruthwell Cross; Orton, ‘Rethinking the Ruthwell Monument’, pp. 65–106; and O’Neill, ‘A pillar curiously engraven’. 44. See Abels, ‘What Has Weland to Do with Christ?’, pp. 549–81, and Klein, ‘The NonCoherence of the Franks Casket’, pp. 17–54. 45. Dale, The Natural World in the Exeter Book Riddles, pp. 123–44. 46. Sivan, Ausonius of Bordeaux; Kenney, ‘The “Moselle” of Ausonius’, pp. 190–202; Green, ‘Man and Nature in Ausonius’ Moselle’, pp. 304–315; and Bishop, ‘The Dissemblance of the Constructed Landscape in Ausonius’ Mosella’, pp. 1–17. 47. Quotations taken from, Ausonius, ‘Moselle’, line 48, p. 20.

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48. 49. 50. 51.

52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57.

58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66.

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Ausonius, ‘Moselle’, line 48, p. 20. Taylor, ‘Death, Maiden, and Mirror in Ausonius’, pp. 181–205. Ausonius, ‘Moselle’, p. 21. Brennan, ‘The Career of Venantius Fortunatus’, pp. 49–78; Roberts, ‘The Description of Landscape in the Poetry of Venantius Fortunatus’, pp. 1–22; Coates, ‘Venantius Fortunatus and the Image of Episcopal Authority’, pp. 1109–37; Roberts, ‘Light, Color, and Visual Illusion in the Poetry of Venantius Fortunatus’, pp. 113–20; and Roberts, The Humblest Sparrow, pp. 73–102. Quotations from Roberts, Poems, Venantius Fortunatus, p. 171. Roberts, Poems, Venantius Fortunatus, p. 173. Roberts, Poems, Venantius Fortunatus, p. 175. See note 2. For an exceptional overview and catalogue, see Adams, Bright Lights in the Dark Ages. Among a variety of studies on early medieval burial practices, see Halsall, Settlement and Social Organization; Symonds, ‘Death as a Window to Life’, pp. 48–87; Effros, Merovingian Mortuary Archaeology; and Effros, Uncovering the Germanic Past. For specific discussions of women’s jewellery, including similar examples of brooches excavated from women’s graves, see Adams, Bright Lights in the Dark Ages, pp. 94–8, 106–8, 150–1, and 174–5. Halsall, Early Medieval Cemeteries, p. 62. Shanzer, ‘Dating the Baptism of Clovis’, pp. 29–57 and Bitel, Landscape with Two Saints. Halsall, Settlement and Social Organization, pp. 245–8. James, ‘Burial and Status in the Early Medieval West’, pp. 23–40. Hicks, ‘The Birds on the Sutton Hoo Purse’, pp. 153–65; Wallis, ‘“As the Falcon her Bells at Sutton Hoo?”’, p. 415; and Dickinson, ‘Symbols of Protection’, pp. 109–63. Wamers, ‘Behind Plants, Animals, and Interlace’, p. 169. The garnet brooch lacks a fish but instead has a pearl for an eye, an element created in the water. Examples include the older Lindau Book cover and the Essen-Werden portable altar, both of which are discussed in Wamers, ‘Behind Plants, Animals, and Interlace’, pp. 159–62. See also Elbern, ‘The “Earlier” Lindau Book Cover’, pp. 322–36. Here, again, I agree with Bassett, ‘Late Antique Art and Modernist Vision’, pp. 19–20.

Works Cited Richard Abels, ‘What Has Weland to Do with Christ? The Franks Casket and the Acculturation of Christianity in Early Anglo-Saxon England’, Speculum, 84 (2009), pp. 549–81. Noël Adams, ‘Between Myth and Reality: Hunter and Prey in Early Anglo-Saxon Art’, in Representing Beasts in Early Medieval England and Scandinavia, ed. by Michael D.J. Bintley and Thomas J.T. Williams (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2015), pp. 13–52. ———, Bright Lights in the Dark Ages: The Thaw Collection of Early Medieval Ornaments (New York: The Morgan Library & Museum, 2014).

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Gunilla Å kerström-Hougen, The Calendar and Hunting Mosaics of the Villa of the Falconer in Argos: A Study in Early Byzantine Iconography (Stockholm: Swedish Institute at Athens, 1974). ———, ‘Falconry as a Motif in Early Swedish Art: Its Historical and Art Historical Significance’, in Les Pays du Nord et Byzance: Actes du Colloque d’Upsal 20-22 Avril 1979, ed. by R. Zeitler (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1981), pp. 263–93. Birgit Arrhenius, Merovingian Garnet Jewellery: Emergence and Social Implications (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1985). ———, ‘Garnet Jewelry of the Fifth and Sixth Centuries’, in From Attila to Charlemagne: Arts of the Early Medieval Period in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ed. by Katharine Reynolds Brown et al. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art/Yale University Press, 2000), pp. 214–25. Ausonius, ‘Moselle,’ ‘Epigrams,’ and Other Poems, trans. by Deborah Warren and int. by Joseph Pucci (London: Routledge, 2017). Cyril Bailey, ‘Auguries and Auspices’, in The Religion of Ancient Rome (London: Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd., 1907), pp. 96–102. Sarah Bassett, ‘Late Antique Art and Modernist Vision’, in Envisioning Worlds in Late Antique Art: New Perspectives on Abstraction and Symbolism in Late-Roman and Early-Byzantine Visual Culture (c. 300-600), ed. by Cecilia Olovsdotter (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019), pp. 5–28. Bernhard Bischoff, ‘Die älteste europäische Falkenmedizin (Mitte des zehnten Jahrhunderts)’, in Anécdota novissima: Texte des vierten bis sechzehnten Jahrhunderts (Stuttgart: A. Hiersemann Verlag, 1984), pp. 171–82. Chris Bishop, ‘The Dissemblance of the Constructed Landscape in Ausonius’ Mosella’, Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association, 13 (2017), pp. 1–17. Lisa M. Bitel, Landscape with Two Saints: How Genovefa of Paris and Brigit of Kildare Built Christianity in Barbarian Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). Ian Blanchard, Mining, Metallurgy and Minting in the Middle Ages: Asiatic Supremacy, 425-1125, vol. I (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2001). Brian Brennan, ‘The Career of Venantius Fortunatus’, Traditio, 41 (1985), pp. 49–78. Katharine Reynolds Brown, Guide to Provincial Roman and Barbarian Metalwork and Jewelry in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1981). ———, Frankish Art in American Collections (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984). ———, Migration Art, A.D. 300-800 (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995). The Ruthwell Cross: Papers from a Colloquium Sponsored by the Index of Christian Art, Princeton University, ed. by Brendan Cassidy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992). Simon Coates, ‘Venantius Fortunatus and the Image of Episcopal Authority in Late Antique and Early Merovingian Gaul’, The English Historical Review, 115 (2000), pp. 1109–37.

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Elizabeth Coatsworth and Michael Pinder, The Art of the Anglo-Saxon Goldsmith. Fine Metalwork in Anglo-Saxon England: Its Practice and Practitioners (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2002). Minta Collins, Medieval Herbals, The Illustrative Tradition (London: British Library, 2000). ‘Dado of Rouen, Life of St. Eligius of Noyon’, trans. by Jo Ann McNamara, in Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology, ed. by Thomas Head (New York: Routledge, 2000), pp. 137–68. Corinne Dale, ‘fruman agette eall of earde, The Principle of Accountability in Riddle 83’, in The Natural World in the Exeter Book Riddles (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2017), pp. 123–44. Pete Dandrage, ‘Materials and Techniques in the Early Medieval Collection: A Checklist of the Illustrated Objects’, in From Attila to Charlemagne: Arts of the Early Medieval Period in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ed. by Katharine Reynolds Brown et al. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art/Yale University Press, 2000), pp. 337–59. Bonnie Effros, ‘Beyond Cemetery Walls: Early Medieval Funeral Topography and Christian Salvation’, Early Medieval Europe, 6 (1997), pp. 1–23. ———, Caring for Body and Soul: Burial and Afterlife in the Merovingian World (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002). ———, Uncovering the Germanic Past, Merovingian Archaeology in France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). Victor H. Elbern, ‘The “Earlier” Lindau Book Cover: An Integrated Analysis’, in From Attila to Charlemagne: Arts of the Early Medieval Period in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ed. by Katharine Reynolds Brown et al. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art/Yale University Press, 2000), pp. 322–36. Jaș Elsner, Art and the Roman Viewer: The Transformation of Art from the Pagan World to Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). Hilary E. Fox, ‘The Aesthetics of Resurrection: Goldwork, the Soul, and the “Deus Aurifex” in “The Phoenix”’, The Review of English Studies, 63 (2012), pp. 1–19. James A. Francis, ‘Visual and Verbal Representation: Image, Text, Person, and Power’, in A Companion to Late Antiquity, ed. by Philip Rousseau (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), pp. 285–305. Mary Gluck, ‘Interpreting Primitivism, Mass Culture and Modernism: The Making of Wilhelm Worringer’s “Abstraction and Empathy”’, New German Critique, 80 (2000), pp. 149–69. Eric J. Goldberg, ‘Louis the Pious and the Hunt’, Speculum, 88 (2013), pp. 613–40. Oleg Grabar, ‘When Is a Bird a Bird?’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 153 (2009), pp. 247–53. R.P.H. Green, ‘Man and Nature in Ausonius’ Moselle’, Illinois Classical Studies, 14 (1989), pp. 304–15. Steven J. Green, ‘Malevolent Gods and Promethean Birds: Contesting Augury in Augustus’s Rome’, Transactions of the American Philological Association, 139 (2009), pp. 147–67.

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Guy Halsall, Early Medieval Cemeteries: An Introduction to Burial Archaeology in the PostRoman West (Skelmorie: Cruithne Press, 1995). ———, Settlement and Social Organization: The Merovingian Region of Metz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). ———, ‘Gender and the End of Empire’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 34 (2004), pp. 17–39. ———, Cemeteries and Society in Merovingian Gaul: Selected Studies in History and Archaeology, 1992-2009 (Leiden: Brill, 2010). Lotte Hedeager, Iron Age Myth and Materiality: An Archaeology of Scandinavia AD 400-1000 (London: Routledge, 2011). Syrinx von Hees and Edward Schwartz, ‘The Bird Illustrations in a thirteenth-century Arab Natural History’, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 29 (2004), pp. 231–47. Ursula Helg, ‘“Thus we forever see the ages as they appear mirrored in our spirits”: Wilhelm Worringer’s “Abstraction and Empathy” as longseller, or the birth of artistic modernism from the spirit of the imagined’, trans. by Malcolm Green and Teresa Woods-Czisch, Journal of Art Historiography, 12 (2015), pp. 1–14. Carola Hicks, ‘The Birds on the Sutton Hoo Purse’, Anglo-Saxon England, 15 (1986), pp. 153–65. ———, Animals in Early Medieval Art (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1993). Richard C. Hoffmann, An Environmental History of Medieval Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). Karen Høilund-Nielsen, ‘Germanic Animal Art and Symbolism’, in Altertumskunde– Altertumswissenschaft–Kulturwissenschaft Erträge und Perspektiven nach 40 Jahren Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde, ed. by Heinrich Beck et al. (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012), pp. 589–632. Timothy B. Husband and Charles T. Little, Europe in the Middle Ages (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987). Isidore of Seville, The ‘Etymologies’ of Isidore of Seville, trans. by Stephen A. Barney et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). E.J. Kenney, ‘The “Moselle” of Ausonius’, Greece & Rome, 31 (1984), pp. 190–202. Bente Kiilerich, ‘Abstraction in Late Antique Art’, in Envisioning Worlds in Late Antique Art: New Perspectives on Abstraction and Symbolism in Late-Roman and Early-Byzantine Visual Culture (c. 300-600), ed. by Cecilia Olovsdotter (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019), pp. 77–94. Thomas Klein, ‘The Non-Coherence of the Franks Casket: Reading Text, Image, and Design on an Early Anglo-Saxon Artifact’, Viator, 45 (2014), pp. 17–54. Michel Lorblanchet, ‘From Naturalism to Abstraction in European prehistoric rock art’, in Form in Indigenous Art: Schematisation in the Art of Aboriginal Australia and Prehistoric Europe, ed. by P.J. Ucko (London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd., 1977), pp. 44–56. Max Martin, ‘Early Merovingian Women’s Brooches’, in From Attila to Charlemagne: Arts of the Early Medieval Period in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ed. by Katharine Reynolds Brown et al. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art/Yale University Press, 2000), pp. 226–40.

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Florentine Mütherich, ‘Der Adler mit dem Fisch’, in Zum Problem der Deutung frühmittelalterlicher Bildinhalte: Akten des 1. lnternationalen Kolloquiums in Marburg, ed. by Helmut Roth et al. (Sigmaringen: J. Thorbeck, 1986), pp. 317–40. Lawrence Nees, ‘A Fifth-Century Book Cover and the Origin of the Four Evangelist Symbols Page in the Book of Durrow’, Gesta, 17 (1978), pp. 3–8. Pamela O’Neill, ‘A pillar curiously engraven; with some inscription upon it’: What is the Ruthwell Cross? (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2005). Frank Orton, ‘Rethinking the Ruthwell Monument: Fragments and critique; tradition and history; tongues and sockets’, Art History, 21 (1998), pp. 65–106. Marijane Osborn, ‘The Ravens on the Lejre Throne: Avian Identifiers, Odin at Home, Farm Ravens’, in Representing Beasts in Early Medieval England and Scandinavia, ed. by Michael D.J. Bintley and Thomas J.T. Williams (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2015), pp. 94–112. Edith B. Ricketson, ‘Barbarian Jewelry of the Merovingian Period’, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 5 (January 1947), pp. 136–43. Aloïs Riegl, Late Roman Art Industry, trans. by Rolf Winkes (Rome: Giorgio Bretschneider, 1985). ———, ‘The Main Characteristics of Late Roman Kunstwollen (1901)’, in The Vienna School Reader: Politics and Art Historical Method in the 1930s, ed. by Christopher S. Woods (New York: Zone Books, 2003), pp. 87–104. Michael Roberts, ‘The Description of Landscape in the Poetry of Venantius Fortunatus’, Traditio, 49 (1994), pp. 1–22. ———, ‘Light, Color, and Visual Illusion in the Poetry of Venantius Fortunatus’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 65/66 (2011–2012), pp. 133–20. ———, The Humblest Sparrow: The Poetry of Venantius Fortunatus (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009). Danuta Shanzer, ‘Dating the Baptism of Clovis: The Bishop of Vienne vs the Bishop of Tours’, Early Medieval Europe, 7 (1998), pp. 29–57. ———, ‘The Date and Literary Context of Ausonius’ “Mosella”: Valentinian I’s Alamannic Campaigns and an Unnamed Office-Holder’, Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, 47 (1998), pp. 204–33. Hagith Sivan, Ausonius of Bordeaux: Genesis of a Gallic Aristocracy (London: Routledge, 1993). George Speake, Anglo-Saxon Animal Art and its Germanic Background (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980). Michael Squire, ‘Embodied Ambiguities on the Prima Porta Augustus’, Art History, 36 (2013), pp. 242–79. Leigh Symonds, ‘Death as a Window to Life: Anthropological Approaches to Early Medieval Mortuary Ritual’, Reviews in Anthropology, 38 (2009), pp. 48–87. Rabun Taylor, ‘Death, Maiden, and Mirror in Ausonius’, Arethusa, 42 (2009), pp. 181–205.

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Françoise Vallet, ‘The Golden Age of Merovingian Archaeology’, in From Attila to Charlemagne: Arts of the Early Medieval Period in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ed. by Katharine Reynolds Brown et al. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art/Yale University Press, 2000), pp. 12–27. B. van den Abeele, ‘“Zum ‘Federspiel.” Die Lateinischen Falknereitraktate des Mittelalters zwischen Tradition und Praxis’, Z. Jadgwiss, 49 (2003), pp. 89–111. Venantius Fortunatus, Poems, Venantius Fortunatus, ed. by Michael Roberts (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017). Robert J. Wallis, ‘“As the Falcon her Bells at Sutton Hoo?” Falconry in Early Anglo-Saxon England’, Archaeological Journal, 174 (2017), pp. 409–36. Egon Wamers, ‘Behind Plants, Animals, and Interlace: Salin’s Style II on Christian Objects’, in Anglo-Saxon/Irish Relations Before the Vikings, ed. by James Graham-Campbell et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 151–204. Michael J. Warren, Birds in Medieval English Poetry: Metaphors, Realities, Transformations (Woodbridge: D.S. Brewer, 2018). Kurt Weitzmann, ed., Age of Spirituality: A Symposium (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980). Martin Werner, ‘The Four Evangelist Symbols Page in the Book of Durrow’, Gesta, 8 (1969), pp. 3–17. ———, ‘On the Origin of Zoanthropomorphic Evangelist Symbols: The Early Medieval and Later Coptic, Nubian, Ethiopian, and Latin Evidence’, Studies in Iconography, 13 (1989–1990), pp. 1–47. Nancy L. Wickers, ‘Would There Have Been Gothic Art Without the Vikings? The Contributions of Scandinavian Medieval Art’, Medieval Encounters, 17 (2011), pp. 198–229. Rudolf Wittkower, ‘Eagle and Serpent. A Study in the Migration of Symbols’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute, 2 (1939), pp. 293–325. Wilhelm Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy: A Contribution to the Psychology of Style, trans. by Michael Bullock (Mansfield Centre: Martino Publishing, 2014).

About the Author Danielle B. Joyner is Assistant Professor of Medieval Art History at Lawrence University. After focusing on questions of time, the calendar, and computus for her first book and associated articles, her current work has shifted from the heavens to the earth. Joyner is especially interested in applying ecocritical approaches to early medieval arts to generate a richer understanding of the spectrum of relationships that existed between people, arts, and their environments.

10. Early Romanesque Abstraction and the ‘Unconditionally Two-dimensional Surface’ Megan C. McNamee

Abstract Erwin Panofsky once described the adamant flatness of early Romanesque pictures as ‘the unconditionally two-dimensional surface of a material picture support’. Here, I contend that such flatness was symptomatic of educated interest in mathematical depiction. Contemporary works such as Gerbert of Aurillac’s Isagoge geometriae show us how abrogation of virtual space accorded with geometric precepts of the time; pictured on a page, solids were naturally represented by the surfaces that composed them. They were ‘abstracted’ in the medieval sense, that is, separated from matter. With this in mind, I look afresh at the early Romanesque conventions—flattened forms, unmodelled and patterned surfaces, heavily delineated contours and intermingling of textual and graphic elements—as expressions of superficiality and traces of tenth-century geometric practice. Keywords: flatness, geometry, optics, Ottonian, painting, perspective

Introduction Few generalizations can be made about painting in Latinate Europe during the central Middle Ages, save that there was a bold stylistic shift away from illusory depth. Period image-makers jettisoned pictorial referents to three-dimensionality and, in so doing, they ‘abstracted’. The historicity of the term is explored below. Suffice to say here that robust continuities exist between past and present usage.1 The phenomenon was vividly described by Erwin Panofsky in Perspective as Symbolic Form: Now line is merely line, that is, a graphic means of expression sui generis which finds its meaning in the delimitation and ornamentation of surfaces. Surface, meanwhile, is merely surface, that is, no longer even the vague suggestion of an

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_ch10

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immaterial space, but rather the unconditionally two-dimensional surface of a material picture support.2

Panofsky speaks of the Romanesque, a style that reached its maturity in the twelfth century, but, in his words, ‘declared itself around the year 1000’.3 This ‘declaration’ is captured in two closely related illuminations, the first in the Codex aureus of Charles the Bald and the second in the Sacramentary of Henry II (Figures 10-1 and 10-2). 4 A deluxe Gospel book made in the ninth century and reverently restored by Abbot Ramwold (d. 1000) of St. Emmeram at the end of the tenth, the Codex aureus served as a model for the Sacramentary, which was produced at Regensburg between 1002 and 1007, at the behest of Henry II (d. 1024).5 Both pictures centre on a male ruler, enthroned. In each, the hand of God blesses the monarch’s crowned head, which is set off by a veil suspended from a baldachin raised on columnar supports. Sword- and shield-bearers flank the throne, and female personifications offer cornucopias. The scene is locked between bands of text and enclosed in a frame. The eleventh-century artist(s) preserved much of the composition and iconography of the Carolingian masterpiece, a choice that makes stylistic departures all the more striking.6 Gone are the shadowy auras beneath the angels’ feet. The undulating, vegetal ground line has also disappeared. Henry’s companions float, suspended against fields of variegated patterns. The figures might be said to hang, if they did not appear weightless. Contours executed in continuous, opaque lines emphasize shape over plasticity—an effect further heightened by a restricted modelling palette and surface decoration that does not consistently align, bend, or diminish in response to underlying forms. Any sense of distance is undercut by uncanny alignments, and although diagonals denote depth, they are applied unsystematically to individual objects, compromising the illusion of structural recession. In Perspective, Panofsky contrasts the radical, material planarity of paintings like those of the Sacramentary with Renaissance perspective.7 He asserts that perspective negates the picture plane by employing the mathematical rules of optical geometry and thus constitutes an empirical approach to painting. The medieval picture, meanwhile, is seen de facto as strictly non-quantitative. Panofsky’s claims concerning the scientific rigor of perspective have subsequently been criticized and revised, yet his attendant characterization of medieval abstraction as irrational has gone largely unchallenged and the perspective essay as a whole remains influential: an art-historical touchstone and the locus classicus for the study of art and science. This brief essay reconsiders the rationality of Romanesque abstraction in its nascency, around 1000. I maintain that the adamant flatness of paintings like the portrait of Henry II was symptomatic of a disinterest in the mathematical depiction of space, but not in mathematical depiction per se. Documentary sources—older, authoritative tracts like Plato’s Timaeus (c. 360 BCE) and the writings of the revered

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Figure 10-1. Charles the Bald enthroned, Codex aureus of Charles the Bald (or ‘of Saint Emmeram’), 879. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 14000, fol. 5v. Photo courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

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Figure 10-2. Henry II enthroned, Sacramentary of Henry II, c. 1002-1007. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 4456, fol. 11v. Photo courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

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Augustine (d. 430), and contemporary pictorial annotations and works like Gerbert of Aurillac’s Introduction to Geometry (Isagoge geometriae, hereafter, the Isagoge, c. 980)—suggest the abrogation of virtual space (better understood as the abrogation of virtual solidity) makes sense in light of period optics and accords with geometric precepts and practices of the day. Abstraction was among those practices. I begin with its definition.

Abstraction and vision, c. 1000 In Classical Latin, abstrahere (‘to abstract’) meant, simply, ‘to pull away’ or ‘to separate’. Thus Pliny the Elder (d. 79) explains in his Natural History how sponges cleverly contract when they sense the fisherman’s hand, making them difficult to ‘abstract’ from the rocks to which they cling.8 The term continued to be used to describe the act of physically detaching one thing from another in a general way, but, in the fifth century (possibly before), it also began to connote the severing of spiritual from worldly and came to be linked with perception.9 So, for example, in the poetic Life of Saint Martin written by Paulinus of Périgueux ( fl. 460s/470s), the verb evokes the ability to shift from bodily to intellectual vision. Addressing the reader, Paulinus writes, ‘If you remove yourself [abstraheris] a little from physical sight, you will see him [Saint Martin] present through his [the saint’s] power.’10 Cassiodorus (d. c. 580) applies it to the four mathematical disciplines—arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy—in the Institutes of Divine and Secular Learning, a work instrumental for the integration of the late antique liberal arts curriculum into Christian education.11 Mathematics, he reports, ‘considers quantities in the abstract [abstractam]’, and, for this reason, it belongs to ‘speculative’ (inspectivus) philosophy, ‘by which we go beyond the visible world to contemplate something of divine and heavenly [things] that are seen only with the mind because they are beyond corporeal sight’.12 Ever the pedagogue, Cassiodorus carefully defines his terms: abstract quantity is ‘what we treat by reckoning alone after we have mentally [intellectu] separated it from matter or other accidents’.13 Quantitas (‘quantity’ or ‘number’) must be understood here in its broadest sense, as the principle structuring agent underlying Creation. In the philosophical dialogue On Free Choice of the Will, Augustine urges his interlocutor to ‘look upon the heavens, the Earth, and the sea, and at everything in them whether they shine down or creep below or fly or swim’, and concludes: ‘they have forms because they have numbers’.14 Quantity, ‘impressed’ in all things, was pervasive—and likewise the opportunities for its abstraction.15 Augustine describes the effects of meditating on divine order: ‘When I reflect on the unchangeable truth of numbers […] I am far removed from the body.’16 The statement recalls that of Paulinus quoted above. Abstractions engendered and

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demanded abstraction—a reciprocal act of separation on the part of the viewer: mind from matter, soul from body. Whereas the ability to abstract, that is, to perceive incorporeity with the mind’s eye, depends on a higher, divine power in the Life of Saint Martin (i.e., the saint’s intervention), it is a teachable skill in the Institutes.17 Period-specific (pre-twelfthcentury) visual theory underpinned this truism. Plato provides a thorough-going physiological account of how and why humans see in the Timaeus, which, thanks to a partial translation and detailed commentary by the fourth-century Calcidius, was broadly available in Latinate Europe during the early and central Middle Ages.18 Plato and Calcidius (both considered authorities by medieval audiences) tell us that vision is contingent on three fires or lights. Calcidius describes the first as a ‘pure and limpid’ light of ‘internal warmth’ that streams from the eyes, coaxed forth by daylight, the second fire.19 These two fires coalesce, the sun’s light assisting and strengthening that from the eyes, ‘making it fit to flow in acts of seeing’.20 What is seen is the third light, colour, conceived as a flame that suffuses the surfaces of bodies. In sum, light from the eye joins with sunlight and receives form and colour on contact with the superficial fire that flows off three-dimensional objects; so altered, it rebounds, returning to the ‘double doors of the eyes’ and proceeds ‘as far as the hidden depths of the mind’.21 Composed of fire, images that enter the eye are insubstantial. They are thus able to pass through the quasi-incorporeal pupil and travel by means of two ‘narrow’, ‘light-bearing’ paths (i.e., nerves) that connect the eyes to the ‘seat of the cerebrum, where the highest and principal power of the soul is situated’.22 Three points are of particular interest here: first, seeing and thinking are inextricable in Platonic optics; second, they are processes of elemental refinement and formal attenuation, that is, abstraction; and third, only colour is transmitted via vision from a body fully and with fidelity.23 Size, shape, weight, distance, texture, and so on, are only partially conveyed; their complete and correct (that is, undistorted) comprehension contingent on other faculties like touch. Augustine furnished a more synthetic description of the relationship between a thing seen and its abstracted counterpart in his influential Literal Interpretation of Genesis, written between 410 and 412: When you read, You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mk 12:31), three kinds of vision take place; one with the eyes, when you see the actual letters; another with the human spirit, by which you think of your neighbor even though he is not there; a third with the attention of the mind, by which you understand and look at love itself.24

According to Augustine, an image ( forma, imago or species—he did not stick to one term) of what the body sees is instantly relayed to the spirit; if a sign, it then goes

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to the mind, where it is either immediately understood or investigated.25 Love—to use Augustine’s example—is not perceived by the mind in the image (i.e., of the word ‘love’ written, perhaps, in ink on a page), but through it, and, significantly, the mind is only engaged if the image is recognized as a sign.26 Moreover, love itself has nothing in common with the image that stimulates its mental apperception. ‘If some kind of bodily [physical or spiritual] image is being thought about’, Augustine cautions, ‘it is not love itself that is being discerned.’27 Put in modern semiotic terms, a disjunct is assumed between signifier and signified. As in Pliny, abstraction was a physical, even violent act. Eye and mind unbodied the world to think with it. This meant removing the third dimension.28 Unlike corporeal vision, thought to be spontaneous—while the sun shines and the eyes are open, the body sees—intellectual vision was neither innate nor automatic.29 It was learned. Augustine singles out geometry as the discipline which, ‘trains the spirit [exercet animum] to look at rather subtle points, lest, dazed by their light and unable to bear it, the soul seeks willing refuge in the darkness from which it desired to escape’.30 The statement is echoed and elaborated by Gerbert in the Isagoge: ‘The eye of the mind [mentis oculum], which has been blunted by images of corporeal things, through the practice of geometry, is purged and made sharp in no small way for somehow contemplating spiritual things and truths.’31 For Augustine and Gerbert, geometry was less a body of axioms to be demonstrated and memorized, more a tool that flexed and honed eye and mind. As the science of bodies at rest, it was concerned above all with form and its perception. Even rudimentary study instilled a sense of the nature of things, in particular their status as either incorporeal or corporeal and the qualities associated with these categories. Faced with the challenge of imparting even the most basic geometric concepts—for example, helping students see and thus know the invisible point—teachers, authors, and the makers of manuscripts containing geometric material (often one and the same) grappled with problems of representation, perception, and, perforce, abstraction. Their solutions, captured in the many pictures that populate geometric tracts, reveal some of the implications for image-making of the visio-cognitive model sketched above.

‘Unconditionally two-dimensional surface’ The Isagoge begins with definitions of a point, line, plane, and solid. Of the last, Gerbert writes, ‘Solids […] hold a form like a cube or die, which cannot clearly be figured on an even plane.’32 This axiomatic statement on the limits of representation is among the clearest to come down to us from the central Middle Ages. It reminds us that two-dimensional surfaces are ill-suited for conveying many things ‘clearly’ (Gerbert uses the word aperte) and that this was as self-evident to medieval people as

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it is to us. While obvious, it seems necessary to voice these points. Flatness, arguably parchment’s most salient feature—laboriously produced and diligently maintained in the Middle Ages—has been somewhat overshadowed by its other qualities in recent discourse around materiality.33 Gerbert, however, shows himself acutely aware of this property since it determined, to a degree, what and how he taught from books. He designates the page as a geometric entity, an ‘even plane’ (planities aequalitas), in the above-quoted line. Elsewhere, he explains, ‘A plane enjoys nothing of height (that is depth) but is content to extend itself by length and width alone.’34 Parchment, mutatis mutandis, ‘enjoys nothing of height’, nor, Gerbert was convinced, could it accurately show it. Indeed, though he defines a solid in common Euclidian terms as length, width, and depth, he does not include a picture with this definition as was customary.35 Instead, he refers readers to a real-world examples (a wax tablet and a die) and notes that a solid, ‘can be understood by the intellect [mente], or easily be formed in wax or wood, or another material of this sort’.36 Gerbert was something of a purist. His contemporaries, the anonymous annotators of geometric passages, did picture solids, but not solidity as such. Instead they pictured the surfaces of solids. Here, two examples of this approach will stand for many.37 The first is encountered in the so-called Brussels gloss, a set of extensive tenth-century marginal annotations added to Calcidius’s Commentary on the Timaeus.38 The Commentary includes mathematical proofs, two of which picture solids drawn as (what we now call) projections: length and width are aligned with the pictorial surface and expressed as perpendiculars; depth as (more or less) parallel diagonals (Figure 10-3).39 The glossator, in his words, ‘dissolves’ these cuboid projections into one or two planes. 40 Verbal prompts written on or beside the planes identify them as the sides of solids and provide step-by-step instructions for their mental manipulation. Thus, the compound solid on folio 13r is re-imaged as six planes. In the upper right corner, the quadrilateral AΔTB is labelled plana superficies (‘plane surface’). Beside it, EΘHZ has the phrase ‘this [plane surface] is placed over the first [plane surface] to make a solid’ inscribed on its interior. 41 The Brussels gloss reflects a similar sensitivity to format and critical attitude towards pictorial illusionism as the Isagoge. 42 Gerbert mentions the Calcidian projections in the same breath as his declaration about the impossibility of picturing a solid clearly on a plane: ‘Although Calcidius (commenting on the Timaeus of Plato) depicted, somehow or other, a figure of a solid body on a flat surface.’43 The caveat is at once enigmatic and revealing. Gerbert understands projection as a convention and acknowledges its success, yet he does not then endorse picturing solids in this way, preferring not to picture them at all. 44 Likewise, the author of the Brussels gloss justif ies dissolving the Calcidian projections: ‘Because they [solids] could not be depicted on a plane [in plano], it was decided that [they] are to be shown clearly [aperte].’45 Again, we encounter the word aperte.

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Figure 10-3. A three-dimensional geometrical proof ‘dissolved’ into two-dimensional surfaces, Calcidius’s Commentary on the Timaeus of Plato with the ‘Brussels gloss’, late 10th century, Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België, ms. 9625-26, fol. 13r, detail. Photo courtesy of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België.

The projections, it seems, were judged inaperte because they obscure their own superficiality as well as that of the page. The pictures of the Brussels gloss, on the other hand, conform to format. Aligned with the lateral spread of the parchment, the physical and pictorial plane are coextensive: surface is communicated qua surface, aperte. By drawing attention to their real superf iciality, the planes of the Brussels gloss invite intellectual inspection since surfaces, though bound to bodies in nature, were (as already touched on) believed to be only mentally perceptible because of their incorporeity—a fact woven into their def inition. As put by Gerbert: We call the limits or surfaces that overlie a solid ‘planes’ […]. Which [a plane] must be understood by means of the intellect [intellectu] because it enjoys nothing of height (that is depth) but is content to extend itself by length and width alone. 46

Logical dissonance also stirred the mind to action.47 We see this strategy at work in a marginal figure regularly added to Boethius’s On Arithmetic (c. 500), the premier

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Figure 10-4. A picture of a cube added beside a verbal description of a cube, Boethius’s On Arithmetic, 10th century. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 6401, fol. 133v, detail. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

arithmetic tract throughout the Middle Ages, which also contained some basic geometry (Figure 10-4). The figure’s placement beside the statement, ‘If you make twice two times two, the quantity of eight grows from it, and this is the first cube,’ leaves little doubt that it was meant to represent an eightfold cube.48 Its cruciform shape, however, belies such a designation. Boethius enumerates the qualities of a cube in the adjacent passage: three-dimensional, six-sided, and so on. Medieval readers would have been struck, no doubt, by the ways the figure fails to instantiate the text with which it is paired—a failure that seems wholly intentional. Indeed, in at least one manuscript, the arms of the cross are conspicuously elongated, an extreme morphological distortion that further dramatizes the divergence between picture and text. 49 The effect is a kind of reductio ad absurdum in which false premises lead to an absurdity or contradiction. Here, the simple argument, ‘this is a cube,’ is undone by the picture’s eccentric shape and the two-dimensional format of the page. In this way, the picture signals its status as a sign. It will be remembered from Augustine’s theory of vision that only those images recognized as signs were subjected to intellection. Thus, formal abstraction, including various ‘failures’ (i.e., dissonances, disjuncts, absurdities), was a pictorial strategy that ensured the highest level of visio-cognitive engagement.50

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The eye ‘purged and made sharp’ on pictures like those in the Brussels gloss and added to On Arithmetic was turned on illuminations like those in the Sacramentary of Henry II, made for devotional use.51 Painting, after all, belonged to geometry. The second-century agrimensor Balbus provided standard examples of things ‘in which we consider length and width’ and measure as planes (now, ‘area’) in his Description and Analysis of All Forms, one of Gerbert’s sources and a geometric staple.52 Topping Balbus’s list were fields, building footprints, and other aspects of architecture in which ‘height or depth are not evident, as with plaster work, gilding, paintings [tabulas], and similar things’.53 The figure of the geometer and that of the painter were frequently coupled. For example, Martianus Capella ( fl. 410–439), in The Marriage of Philology and Mercury—his popular allegory of the liberal arts—lauds the personification Geometria as ‘so highly reputed to be able to represent all things that she surpasses Apelles and Polyclitus’.54 We ought to assume cross-fertilization among different kinds of geometric expression and expect that the attitudes towards pictures and picturing fostered in the classroom would be brought to bear beyond it, by artists and viewers. With this in mind, let us return to the portrait of Henry II. The Sacramentary is significantly smaller than the Codex aureus.55 Its miniatures are also smaller, but not proportionately so; they were reduced further than was necessary to fit the page with the result that they are framed by wider margins. Hence, gold and coloured pigments divide the page with bare parchment. The juxtaposition brings format to the fore and forces the viewer to see the painting as a thing, ‘where height and depth are not evident’—to borrow Balbus’s turn of phrase.56 All colour and reflection, the painting physically approaches its optical analogue: the fiery image that slips past the pupil into the cerebrum. The painter converted non-colour data into colour: tonal contrast for relative distance, pattern for texture. The latter recalls the two-dimensional medium of textile, a feeling further reinforced in the all-over deployment of paint. High-resolution images show that the black, white and minium pigments were some of the last to be added and were applied across the painted field to frame, figures, text, and ground alike, knitting these compositional components together and collapsing distinctions among them. As mentioned in the introduction, various conventions for expressing depth (e.g., modelling, atmospheric effects and projection) present in the portrait of Charles the Bald were not carried over into that of Henry II. The move is akin to the dissolution of solids in the Brussels gloss and, potentially, rooted in the same rationale. Intentionality is perhaps evidenced by the perspectival geometric meander (also called a fret or Greek key) with which the artist replaced the vegetal ornament in the frame.57 Surface is given depth through projection and light-shade gradation in this element alone. The meander suggests that artists of the era fully comprehended the mechanics of projection and could deploy illusionistic conventions at will, but—like Gerbert and the Brussels scribe—they relegated them to the periphery. At the centre,

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they abstracted, making things aperte. Panofsky had it right: ‘Surface […] is merely surface, that is, no longer even the vague suggestion of an immaterial space, but rather the unconditionally two-dimensional surface of a material picture support.’58

Notes This work was funded by a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship at the Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of London. 1. 2.

3. 4. 5. 6.

7.

Then as now the term implied retreat from the world of things to the realm of ideas. ‘Abstraction, n.’, OED Online. Panofsky, Perspective, pp. 50–1. ‘Jetzt ist die Linie nur noch Linie, d. h. ein graphisches Ausdrucksmittel sui generis, das seinen Sinn in der Begrenzung und Ornamentierung von Flächen erfüllt, und die Fläche ihrerseits ist nur noch Fläche, d. h. nicht mehr die wenn auch noch so vage Andeutung einer immateriellen Räumlichkeit, sondern die unbedingt zweidimensionale Oberfläche eines materiellen Bildträgers.’ Panofsky, Die Perspektive als symboliche Form, p. 113. The stylistic shift inspired similarly emphatic, strikingly lyrical descriptions in others, notably Focillon, Vie des formes, p. 84; Jantzen, Ottonische Kunst, p. 76; and Pächt, Buchmalerei des Mittelalters, p. 176. Panofsky voices common consensus. Munich, BSB, Clm 14000, fol. 5v, http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/bsb00096095/ image_10 (accessed 25 July 2020); and Clm 4456, fol. 11v, http://daten.digitale-­ sammlungen.de/bsb00107786/image_24 (accessed 25 July 2020). The story of the book’s presentation to St. Emmeram, Regensburg, by Arnulf, its ‘restoration’ by Ramwold, and its influence on later bookmaking is summarised in Lasko, Ars sacra, p. 55. Georg Swarzenski, who catalogued the similarities between the two paintings, stressed the painstaking exactitude of the Regensburg artist(s). In his words, they ‘copied the original’ with remarkably fidelity, but did so in ‘a different pictorial language’ (eine andere Kunstsprache). Swarzenski, Die Regensburger Buchmalerei, p. 72. Panofsky’s examples include Munich, BSB, Clm 4453, fol. 28r, http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/bsb00096593/image_25 (accessed 25 July 2020); Clm 4452, fol. 9r, http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/bsb00087481/image_21 (accessed 25 July 2020); and Paris, BnF, ms. lat. 8846, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10551125c (accessed 25 July 2020). He reiterated and further elaborated this narrative in Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Origin and Character (1953) and Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art (1960). In all three works, art of the Middle Ages plays a pivotal role in the development of linear perspective; it was the essential ‘recoil’, a return to ‘more primitive modes of representation’. Such reversals were necessary in Panofsky’s dialectical scheme, opening the door for ‘creative reengagement with older problems’. In the case of the Middle Ages, the ‘problem’ was pictorial illusionism; the eventual solution, linear perspective. See, especially, Panofsky, Perspective, pp. 47–8; Panofsky, Renaissance and Renascences, pp. 131–2.

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8. 9.

10. 11.

12.

13.

14. 15. 16. 17. 18.

Pliny, Naturalis historia 9.69. Cicero (d. 43 BCE) used abstrahere in like manner in On Divination (De divinatione 1.66), and On the Commonwealth (De re publica 6.29). The latter work was entirely lost to the Middle Ages, save for the sixth book, which survived as the Dream of Scipio commented on by Macrobius (fl. 400). It was, therefore, through Macrobius’s Commentary—a classroom fixture during the central Middle Ages—that medieval audiences knew Cicero’s advice that ‘contemplating’ (contemplans) things ‘beyond’ (foras and extra, i.e., unbodied), the soul will ‘detach’ (abstrahet) from the body. Macrobius ties the soul’s abstraction to learning and philosophy (Commentarii in Somnium Scipionis 2.17.11). ‘Si corpore paulum / a uisu abstraheris, praesens uirtute.’ Paulinus of Périgueux (Petricordia), De vita sancti Martini 5.869, ed. by Petschenig, p. 138. As did Macrobius (see above, note 9). Claudianus Mamertus (d. c. 474), citing Marcus Varro (d. 27 BCE), writes that through music, arithmetic, and geometry one might draw the soul ‘a uisibilibus ad inuisibilia, a localibus ad inlocalia, a corporeis ad incorporea’. De statu animae 2.8, ed. by Engelbrecht, p. 130. ‘Mathematica uero est scientia quae abstractam considerat quantitatem’ and ‘Inspectiva dicitur, qua supergressi uisibilia de diuinis aliquid et caelestibus contemplamur, ea que mente solummodo contuemur, quoniam corporeum supergrediuntur aspectum’. Cassiodorus, Institutiones, book 2 praef. 4 and 2.3.6, ed. by Mynors, pp. 91 and 111; trans. by Halporn, pp. 174 and 190. Cassiodorus lifted his definition of speculative philosophy from Origen (d. c. 254; Commentarium in Canticum canticorum prologue). ‘Abstracta enim quantitas dicitur, quam intellectu a materia separantes uel ab aliis accidentibus, sola ratiocinatione tractamus.’ Cassiodorus, Institutiones, book 2 praef. 4, ed. by Mynors, p. 91; trans. Halporn, p. 174. This definition of mathematics is repeated word for word three times in the Institutes (in the preface to book 2, 2.3.6, and 2.3.21), by Isidore of Seville (d. 636; Etymologiae 2.24.14, and the preface to book 3), and again by Rabanus Maurus (d. 856; De institutione clericorum 3.21). ‘Intuere caelum et terram et mare et quaecumque in eis uel desuper fulgent uel deorsum repunt uel uolant uel natant. Formas habent quia numeros habent.’ Augustine, De libero arbitrio 2.16.42, ed. by Green, p. 77; trans. by King, pp. 62–3. ‘Quibus inpressos numeros cernimus’. Augustine, De libero arbitrio 2.11.34, ed. by Green, p. 68; trans. by King, p. 55. ‘Cum incommutabilem ueritatem numerorum mecum ipse considero […] longe remoueor a corpore.’ Augustine, De libero arbitrio 2.11.12, ed. by Green, p. 67; trans. by King, p. 54. For Augustine, number and numerical study were deeply related to wisdom, but he admitted that not all those who were good with numbers were wise and that certain insights required divine illumination through Christ. Smith, From Sight to Light, p. 153. Key passages are Timaeus 45c–d, 47a–b. The senses are more broadly discussed in 43e, 44a, 46d, 51d, and 52a. In a tenth-century copy of Boethius’s De institutione arithmetica, Timaeus (cited numerous times) is glossed ‘Timaeum appellat quemdam librum plato ubi genituram mundi et animae sicut et uisum est exposuit.’ Berlin, SB, Ms. lat. fol. 601, fol. 32r. Timaean optics was only eclipsed in the latter half of the twelfth century by the visual theory of Ibn-Sīnā (Avicenna, d. 1037) and Ibn alHaytham (Alhacen, d. c. 1040). Smith, From Sight to Light, esp. pp. 232–41.

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23. 24.

25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30.

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‘Lumen […] purum et liquatum’, ‘lumen caloris intimi’, and ‘solis porro lumen instrumentum animae fore ad uisibilium specierum contemplationem’. Calcidius, On Plato’s ‘Timaeus’ 244–5, ed. and trans. by McGee, pp. 506–9. The passage reads in full: ‘Igitur extimum lumen accorporatum lumini quod ex oculis fluit confirmat illud et facit idoneum obtutibus fluere proptereaque ducit ex ipsis corporibus quae videntur colores.’ Calcidius, On Plato’s ‘Timaeus’ 244, ed. and trans. by McGee, pp. 506–7. The passage is worth quoting in full: ‘Euidenter uisum fieri dicit quotiens intimi caloris lumen, quod inoffense per oculos fluit, aliquam uisibilem materiam, quam contiguam imaginem appellat, incurrit ibidemque iuxta materiae qualitatem formatum et coloratum; sensus uisusque confit ex lumine qui contiguae imaginis occursu repercussus reditu facto ad oculorum fores usque ad mentis secreta porrigitur.’ Calcidius, On Plato’s ‘Timaeus’ 248, ed. and trans. by McGee, pp. 514–5. Quoted here: ‘angustas semitas’, ‘luciferae semitae’, and ‘a cerebri sede, in qua est sita potestas animae summa et principalis’. Calcidius, On Plato’s ‘Timaeus’ 246, ed. and trans. by McGee, pp. 510–1. Of the pupil, Calcidius writes: ‘Medietas uero, in qua constituitur uidendi uis, delicati corporis et sincerae propemodumque incorporeae puritatis admittit contemplationis ingressum.’ Calcidius, On Plato’s ‘Timaeus’ 244, ed. and trans. by McGee, pp. 506. See Smith, ‘Picturing the Mind’, pp. 149–70; and Smith, From Sight to Light, esp. pp. 133–4 and 149–50. ‘Cum legitur: diliges proximum tuum tamquam te ipsum, tria uisionum genera occurrunt: unum per oculos, quibus ipsae litterae uidentur, alterum per spiritum hominis, quo proximus et absens cogitatur, tertium per contuitum mentis, quo ipsa dilectio intellecta conspicitur.’ Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram 12.6, ed. by Zycha, pp. 386–7; trans. by Hill, pp. 470–1. On Augustine’s terminology, see Smith, From Sight to Light, p. 152. On the swiftness of the impression, see De Genesi ad litteram 12.16. It is not surprising that Augustine chose a line of text for his example since, for him, words were the ‘given’ sign par excellence (see De doctrina christiana 2.3–5), hence reading entailed all three visions. ‘Si autem aliquid corporalis imaginis cogitatur, non ipsa cernitur.’ Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram 12.6, ed. by Zycha, p. 387; trans. by Hill, p. 471. See also Ibid. 12.24. Gerbert defined a solid body: ‘Solidum corpus est quidquid tribus interuallis seu dimensionibus porrigitur, id est quidquid longitudine, latitudine altitudineque distenditur, sicuti est quidquid uisu tactuue comprehendi potest’. Isagoge 1.2, ed. by Bubnov, p. 52. Plato calls the eyelids a divine gift, which offer a reprieve from vision and allow the body to sleep (Timaeus 45d). ‘Exercet animum hoc genus disciplinarum, ad subtiliora cernenda, ne luce illorum repercussus, et eam sustinere non ualens, in easdem tenebras quas fugere cupiebat, libenter refugiat.’ Augustine, De quantitate animae 15.25, ed. by Hörmann, p. 162; trans. by McMahon, p. 87. Gerbert singled out the dialogue as a key source on geometry in the Isagoge (2.1) and an extended excerpt was folded into one of the standard classroom compendia on the subject. ‘Ubi etiam mentis oculum, corporearum rerum imaginationibus obtusum, per talium artium exercitia ad spiritualia ueraque utcunque contemplanda non modicum

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32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40.

41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46.

47. 48. 49.

purgari et exacui ostendit.’ Gerbert, Isagoge 2.1, ed. by Bubnov, p. 52; here and below, my translation. ‘Solidus est […] formam uidelicet cubi vel tesserae retinens, qui in planitiei quidem aequalitate non potest aperte figurari.’ Gerbert, Isagoge 2.6, ed. by Bubnov, p. 56. Of late, the material and particular (as opposed to universal and abstract) qualities of the medium have been stressed (e.g., varied textures, colours, smell). See, among others, Kay, Animal Skins and the Reading Self. ‘Ut nihil sibi altitudinis, id est crassitudinis, usurpet, sed tantum longitudine latitudineque contenta se dilatet. Nam, si his altitudinem adjicit iam non superficies, sed corporis pars atque ideo corpus solidum erit.’ Gerbert, Isagoge 2.2, ed. by Bubnov, p. 53. On precedent for picturing solids in the Middle Ages and the geometric imperative to picture, see McNamee, ‘Placing a Square on a Square’, pp. 209–10. ‘Uel mente intelligi, uel cera, uel ligno, aliaue eiusmodi materia facile ualet formari’. Gerbert, Isagoge 2.6, ed. by Bubnov, p. 56. For other examples see McNamee, ‘Placing a Square on a Square’, pp. 209–18; and McNamee, ‘Imaging and Imagining Solidity’, pp. 104–13. The gloss was named, described, and analysed by Anna Somfai in ‘The Brussels Gloss’, pp. 139–69. The convention of representing depth as a diagonal was common in the Middle Ages, but rarely were diagonals systematically aligned to create illusory space. On fol. 13r of Brussels, KBR, ms. 9625–26 (https://belgica.kbr.be/BELGICA/doc/SYRACUSE/17367397/timeus-platonis-ms-9625-26; accessed 25 July 2020), dissolutio is written beside AΔTB (the word itself is dissolved into its syllables, like a visual pun). I use the masculine pronoun since ms. 9625–26 and the other full and partial copies of the Brussels gloss are tied to male communities. See Somfai, ‘The Brussels Gloss’, pp. 162–8; and McNamee, ‘Imaging and Imagining’, pp. 111–3. ‘Haec superponitur primae ut fiat soliditas.’ Brussels, KBR, ms. 9625–26, fol. 13r. Somfai posited Gerbert’s authorship. Somfai, ‘The Brussels Gloss’, pp. 165–9. ‘Quamuis Calcidius Timaeum Platonis exponens solidum in plano corpus figuratum utcunque descripserit.’ Gerbert, Isagoge 2.6, ed. by Bubnov, p. 56. Gerbert also did not picture the invisible point. He did, however, picture linear and plane measure (Isagoge 2.6), presumably because they could be shown aperte. See McNamee, ‘Imaging and imagining’, p. 93. ‘Quae quia in plano non poterant depingi, placuit aperte ostendi, habet enim unaquaeque duas medietates.’ Brussels, KBR, ms. 9625–26, fol. 12r. ‘Huius autem termini, seu superobducta planities, superficiei apud nos nomen accepit […]. Quae ita intellectu capienda est, ut nihil sibi altitudinis, id est crassitudinis, usurpet, sed tantum longitudine latitudineque contenta se dilatet.’ Gerbert, Isagoge 2.2, ed. by Bubnov, pp. 52–3. The tactic was common and ancient. See Netz, The Shaping of Deduction, p. 33; and Netz, ‘Imagination and Layered Ontology’, pp. 119–50. ‘Nam si bis binos bis facias, octonaria quantitas crescit. Et est primus hic cybus.’ Boethius, De arithmetica 2.25.3, ed. by Guillaumin, pp. 114–5; my translation. The figure is labelled primus cubus in several manuscripts. Paris, BnF, MS lat. 6401, fol. 133v, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105096135/ f282.item (accessed 25 July 2020).

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50. That abstraction (i.e., schematism, diagrammatic forms) elicited a higher mode of vision is a commonplace among historians of medieval art. See, for example, Madeline Caviness’s oft-cited ‘Images of Divine Order’. I seek to add precision to the discourse. 51. For the Latin, see note 31. A sacramentary contains all the texts (rites and prayers) for the mass and other sacraments. I use the term devotional to denote worship in all its varied forms including liturgical. 52. ‘In quo longitudinem et latitudinem habemus’. Balbus, Expositio et ratio omnium formarum, ed. by Campbell, p. 206; my translation. 53. ‘Per quae metimur agros, aedificiorum sola, ex quibus altitudo aut crassitudo non proponitur, ut opera tectoria, inauraturas, tabulas, et his similia’. Balbus, Expositio et ratio omnium formarum, ed. by Campbell, p. 206; my translation. 54. ‘Ista, quae veniet, Apellen Polyclitumque transcendit; ita quippe memoratur posse omnia effigiare.’ Martianus Capella, De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii 6.579, ed. by Willis, p. 204; trans. by Stahl, p. 218. Written in the fifth century, The Marriage was a favourite in the schools during the central Middle Ages. 55. The Codex aureus measures 420 × 330 mm; the Sacramentary of Henry II 300 x 240 mm. 56. For the Latin, see note 53. 57. In its simplest form, the geometric meander consists of one or more narrow bands that turn at 90- or 45-degree angles into repeat patterns. The motif is old—found as early as the eighth century BCE—and was widespread in the pre-modern Mediterranean, applied to a broad range of objects, across media and at all scales. Though diverse in its manifestations, the meander was consistently treated as a site of illusionistic play, trafficking in optical ambiguity and gestalt shifts. The perspectival or three-dimensional meander is among the oldest and most common variants. It was this type that gained popularity in late tenth- and early eleventh-century painting. 58. Panofsky, Perspective, trans. by Wood, p. 51. For the full quote in German, see note 2.

Works Cited Series abbreviations Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Latinorum (CSEL) Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library (DOML) Translated Texts for Historians (TTH) Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram, De Genesi ad litteram liber imperfectus, Locutiones in Heptateuchum, ed. by Joseph Zycha, CSEL 28/1 (Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1894). ———, De libero arbitrio, ed. by William M. Green, CSEL 74 (Vienna: Hoelder-PichlerTempsky, 1956). ———, The Immortality of the Soul, The Magnitude of the Soul, On Music, The Advantage of Believing, On Faith in Things Unseen, trans. by John J. McMahon, The Fathers of the Church 4 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1947).

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———, On Genesis: Refutation of the Manichees, Unfinished Literal Commentary on Genesis, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, trans. by Edmund Hill (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2002). ———, ‘On the Free Choice of the Will, On Grace and Free Choice’, and Other Writings, trans. by Peter King, Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). ———, Soliloquiorum libri duo, De inmortalitate animae, De quantitate animae, ed. by Wolfgang Hörmann, CSEL 89 (Vienna: Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1986). Balbus, ‘Expositio et ratio omnium formarum / Description and Analysis of All Forms’, in The Writings of the Roman Land Surveyors: Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary, ed. and trans. by Brian Campbell (London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 2000), pp. 204–15. Boethius, Institutio arithmetica / Institution arithmétique, ed. and trans. by Jean-Yves Guillaumin (Paris: Belles Lettres, 1995). Calcidius, On Plato’s ‘Timaeus’, ed. and trans. by John McGee, DOML 41 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016). Martianus Capella, De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, ed. by James Willis, Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1983). Cassiodorus, Institutiones, ed. by R.A.B. Mynors (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1937). ———, Institutions of Divine and Secular Learning and On the Soul, trans. by James Halporn, TTH 42 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2004). Madeline Caviness, ‘Images of Divine Order and the Third Mode of Seeing’, Gesta, 22 (1983), pp. 99–120. Henri Focillon, Vie des formes (Paris: Presses Université de France, 1934). Gerbert of Aurillac, ‘Isagoge geometriae’, in Gerberti, postea Silvestri II papae, Opera mathematica (972–1003), ed. by Nicolaus Bubnov (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1963), pp. 46–97. Hans Jantzen, Ottonische Kunst (Munich: Bischer F. Bruckmann, 1947). Sarah Kay, Animal Skins and the Reading Self (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017). Peter Lasko, Ars Sacra, 800–1200, 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994). Claudianus Mamertus, ‘De statu animae’, in Claudiani Mamerti Opera, ed. by August Engelbrecht, CSEL 11 (Vienna: C. Geroldi, 1885), pp. 21–197. Megan C. McNamee, ‘Imaging and Imagining Solidity’, in After the Carolingians, ed. by Beatrice Kitzinger and Joshua O’Driscoll (Boston: De Gruyter, 2019), pp. 86–117. ———, ‘Picturing as Practice: Placing a Square on a Square in the Central Middle Ages’, in Canonical Texts and Scholarly Practices: A Global Comparative Approach, ed. by Anthony Grafton and Glenn W. Most (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), pp. 200–23. Reviel Netz, ‘Imagination and Layered Ontology in Greek Mathematics’, Configurations, 17 (2009), pp. 19–50. ———, The Shaping of Deduction in Greek Mathematics: A Study in Cognitive History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Otto Pächt, Buchmalerei Des Mittelalters: Eine Einführung (Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1984).

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Erwin Panofsky, Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Origins and Character (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953). ———, Perspective as Symbolic Form, trans. by Christopher Wood (New York: Zone Books, 1991). ———, ‘Die Perspektive als symboliche Form’, in Aufsätze zu Grundfragen der Kunstwissenschaft, ed. by Hariolf Oberer and Egon Verheyen (Berlin: Volker Spiess, 1980; orig. 1927), pp. 99–168. ———, Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1960). Paulinus of Périgueux (Petricordia), De vita sancti Martini episcopi, ed. by Michael Petschenig, CSEL 16 (Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1888). Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia / Natural History, ed. and trans. by H. Rackham et al., 10 vols., Loeb Classical Library (London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1938–63), vol. 3 (1940). A. Mark Smith, From Sight to Light: The Passage from Ancient to Modern Optics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015). ———, ‘Picturing the Mind: The Representation of Thought in the Middle Ages and Renaissance’, Philosophical Topics, 20/2 (Fall 1992), pp. 149–70. Anna Somfai, ‘The Brussels Gloss: A Tenth-Century Reading of the Geometrical and Arithmetical Passages of Calcidius’s Commentary (ca. 400 AD) to Plato’s Timaeus’, in Scientia in Margine: Études sur les Marginalia dans les manuscrits scientifiques du Moyen Âge à la Renaissance, ed. by Danielle Jacquart and Charles Burnett (Geneva: Droz, 2005), pp. 139–69. Georg Swarzenski, Die Regensburger Buchmalerei des X. und XI. Jahrhunderts, Studien zur Geschichte der deutschen Malerei des frühen Mittelalters (Leipzig: Karl W. Hiersemann, 1901).

About the Author Megan C. McNamee is Lecturer of Pre-Modern Art at the University of Edinburgh. She has published on low-relief sculpture and diagrams, and is completing a book that reconstructs numeric study circa 1000, and traces the effects of widespread numeracy on representation in Europe, especially in religious art and architecture. Her work has been supported by the Kress Foundation, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Mellon Foundation, American Philosophical Society, and Leverhulme Trust.

11. Functional Abstraction in Medieval Anatomical Diagrams Taylor McCall

Abstract This essay seeks to present and analyse the use of abstraction in medieval anatomical imagery by focusing on a series of organ diagrams circulating around Europe between c. 1150–1450. These schematic drawings reflect the necessity of communicating information that could not be easily comprehended through textual description alone in an alternative, creative format. I introduce the idea of functional abstraction in epistemological imagery: using abstract forms to convey knowledge that could not be adequately expressed by naturalism. By comparing these disembodied organs to alternate, non-abstracted images presenting organs within the recognizable context of the human body, we delve into the medieval use of geometrical forms as a method of abstraction, and examine the interaction between word and image in medieval diagrams. Keywords: medieval anatomy, abstract diagrams, medieval epistemology, Guido da Vigevano, Five-Figure Series

In ‘The Geometry of the Mind: Scientific Diagrams and Medieval Thought’ (1980), Michael Evans argues that between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, ‘geometrical explication was used in a way that was not only more concise, but also more explicit, than a prose account. It also achieved the status of an abstract art form’.1 Although they are far less common than the mathematical, religious, and astronomical diagrams to which Evans primarily referred, the earliest anatomical diagrams known in the West first appear in this period and use abstraction to communicate complex physiological ideas. In this essay, we will trace the evolution of abstraction in anatomical diagrams: from abstraction’s original application as a creative method to communicate complicated physiological truths, to the eventual rejection of the style in the face of rising emphasis on empirical exploration in anatomy and the increasingly mimetic priorities of didactic imagery.

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_ch11

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Figure 11-1. Arteries (L) and Bones (R), c. 1200, England. Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 190/223, fols. 2v-3r. Courtesy of the Master and Fellows of Gonville and Caius College.

First, the use of the term abstraction must be addressed. The modern concept of abstraction would seem to be fundamentally at odds with medieval diagrams, which are at their core mnemonic, practical visual devises meant to aid a viewer in comprehending an idea. Contemporary theories of abstraction argue for the absence of recognition. Today’s viewer accepts a painting described as abstract at face value, with all its uncertainties, difficult to define as a particular shape or scene, open to differing interpretations. The diagrams presented here are also difficult to decipher immediately; one must use contextual clues, and one must be literate, to discern reality in their complicated geometricity. The viewer is tasked with actively compiling the accompanying information—labels, captions, and text—to appreciate the freedom and lucidity allowed by abstraction. In this discussion, abstraction will be def ined as disassociation from f igurative representation to allow for the expression of an idea. The anatomical images considered here deploy abstraction to communicate truths otherwise impossible for the viewer to see. As this essay will explore, medieval anatomical abstract forms are united with simplified, easily recognizable drawings of the human body, working together

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Figure 11-2. Male Reproductive System (L) and Stomach and Internal Organs (R), c. 1200, England. Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 190/223, fols. 4v-5r. Courtesy of the Master and Fellows of Gonville and Caius College.

to illustrate a single treatise when one illustrative form was not enough. 2 The f igurative forms—in which the arteries, veins, bones, nerves, and muscles are depicted within the template of a squatted human body—are easily relatable to the reader (Figure 11-1). On the other hand, the abstracted forms—illustrations of the male and female reproductive systems, the stomach and internal viscera, and the brain and ocular system—employ stylized geometrical shapes presented outside the context of the body, floating on the undefined blank ether of parchment, mesmerizingly schematic (Figures 11-2 and 11-3). By foregoing the conf ines of the body, these schemas convey not only the physical makeup of the organs and systems, but also the physiological processes unique to each through a combination of oversimplification and impossible perspectives. This is functional abstraction: abstraction used to convey, in an alternative, creative format, knowledge that could not be easily comprehended through textual description alone. Abstract anatomical diagrams exist in just four manuscripts, spanning from c. 1200 to c. 1425. If in the thirteenth century anatomical studies appeared only in

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Figure 11-3. Female Reproductive System (L) and Brain and Ocular System (R), c. 1200, England. Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 190/223, fols. 5v-6r. Courtesy of the Master and Fellows of Gonville and Caius College.

the form of unelaborated accompaniments to medical compendia, most copied in monasteries, by the late fifteenth century anatomy had become a fully fledged, independent discipline, spurred by the establishment of medical faculties in universities. The first scientific human dissection occurred right in the middle of this time span, beginning a slow but steady process that would eventually lead to the hyperrealism of Andreas Vesalius’s anatomical illustrations. This contribution will present the earliest instances of abstraction in anatomical art and the systems they represent. By comparing these diagrams with figurative alternatives, especially focusing on representations of the female reproductive system, we will unpack the multiple layers of meaning they were able to convey. The discussion will conclude with an exploration of the changing nature of later medieval epistemological diagrams and understanding of anatomy, suggesting that, ultimately, abstract views of the interior were elided in favour of their more accessible figurative brethren.

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Abstracting the Interior The earliest anatomical diagrams in Western Europe first appear in a Benedictine monastic manuscript made in Bavaria in 1165, now Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 13002.3 The accompanying pseudo-Galenic treatise, known as the Historia incisionis (‘Account of Incision’, sometimes translated as ‘History of Cutting’), describes the nine major systems of the body in its incipit: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, here begins the account of incision described by Galen, most expert of physicians: vein after vein, bone after bone, muscle after muscle, nerve after nerve, and he described them as they are and separated one from the other, in order that the observer might not accidentally err, but might understand in its true nature those things which he can see. Thus the first description is of the arteries; the second, the veins; the third, of the position of the bones; the fourth, the nerves; the fifth, the muscles; the sixth, the genitals; the seventh, the stomach, liver, and belly; the eighth, the womb; the ninth, the brain and the eyes. 4

Galen divided the nine systems into two categories: the five ‘simple’ systems (the veins, arteries, bones, nerves, and muscles) and the four ‘compound’ or ‘complex’ systems, which were made up of the simples (the male and female reproductive systems, stomach and organs of the abdomen, and brain and ocular system). The images and the Historia incisionis are known together as the Nine-Figure Series, and they appear (all together or in various iterations) in fourteen manuscripts between 1165 and c. 1425 across Europe. The five simple systems (historically grouped together under the name Fünfbilderserie, or Five-Figure Series) are patterned on a template of a squatted human body, straightforwardly showing the viewers exactly where each system could be found within the context of their own flesh.5 Following their first appearance in Clm 13002, they are next found in an English manuscript dating to c. 1200 (Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College, MS 190/223; see Figure 11-1). This mode of representation was not, however, an adequate method for conveying the intricacies of the four complex systems. Instead, artist(s) developed a graphic approach that allowed for the communication of impossible viewpoints and movement within the image itself: the progression of the semen from the spine, through the testicles, and out the shaft during coitus; the development of the foetus within the womb and pathway out during birth; the ‘cooking’ of food in the stomach and expulsion of waste (see Figures 11-2 and 11-3).6 The abstract, geometric complex systems were devised as stand-alone schemas enhanced by texts within and around the drawings to express the purpose and physiological processes associated with each.7

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Of the fourteen manuscripts containing all or part of the Nine-Figure Series, only four include the abstract complex diagrams. In their earliest iteration in Gonville and Caius 190/223, the four complex systems appear after the Five-Figure Series, in the order listed in the Historia incisionis incipit. The three other versions of all or part of the diagrams are found in a fragment partially in Pisa (Biblioteca Universitaria, MS 735) and partially in a private collection in Switzerland, dated to the second quarter of the thirteenth century, probably of Italian origin; in Oxford (Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 399, second half of the thirteenth century, English); and in London (Wellcome Library, MS 49, c. 1425, German).8 The Gonville and Caius diagrams are strikingly different from the anthropomorphic figures (ff. 2r–4r, Figure 11-1), surrounded by neat prose descriptions and brief captions. The organs have been turned into large and graceful geometric shapes, taken out of the context of the body and painted against bare parchment; they ask to be deciphered at length rather than at a glance. The first complex diagram is the bisected view of the male reproductive system (f. 4v, see Figure 11-2, at left).9 The penis, as though erect, points upwards towards the top of the folio, framed by the testes. The urethra is positioned in the centre of the shaft and leads down to a rounded muscle at the base of the image. The teardrop shape to the left of the urethra is the bladder. Stylistically, the image is large, organized, and colourful, filling the entire folio. The penis and testes are framed by a double border, the outer of which is decorated with alternating solid paint or stripes. The inner border is mostly filled with text, and along with the captions woven within and around the drawing, the words describe in detail the function of the penis and the movement of the semen, which descends from the spine and gathers in the testicles. During coitus, the text explains, semen is emitted from the testicles and travels up the central passageway and out the tip of the penis. The required physical interaction needed to access this particular union between word and image is striking; the placement of the descriptions forces readers to either shift their bodies, or to turn the image (and thus the codex) to read words inserted sideways and upside down. In addition to describing movement, the image requires movement on the reader’s behalf to fully engage with it. The seventh system described in the incipit is the stomach and internal viscera (f. 5r, see Figure 11-2, on the right).10 The artist has drawn a simplified, schematic four-chambered stomach at top left, complete with a brief description describing the stomach’s role as a sort of ‘oven’ in which food is cooked and then discarded to the digestive tract. The rest of the folio displays ten other organs of the chest and abdomen, from the recognizable half-moon pair of kidneys on the right edge to the entirely abstracted trachea (here called the ‘nutritive way’, via nutricia) directly above, pictured fitting into the lungs (pine or penne pulmonis, the feather of the lung). There are two views of the brown, five-lobed liver and gall bladder, one of

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which shows the liver’s position wrapped around the stomach. There is also a bright red heart with two lobes protruding like ears, labelled figura cordis, and an uncoloured sketch of the gall bladder separated from the liver (saccule fellis diuisus ab epate). Many of the images are impossible to decipher without the help of the captions. Indeed, we cannot even be sure of all of them; the caption describing the rounded stack to the right of the brown, shoe-sole-shaped spleen at the bottom left of the leaf appears to be fauces (throat) followed by unde spiramus (‘how we breathe’), indicating it is the trachea, but this is not certain. Why did the artist choose to display the organs in this manner? Instead of presenting a doll’s house perspective of an abdomen, each organ situated inside in its respective position, the readers are shown what might be a dissector’s table scattered with viscera. There are duplicates of alternative views, some exterior and some interior. The contrast between simplified organs presented from the exterior (spleen, gall bladder, liver over the stomach, heart, and kidneys); schematic depictions of interiors (stomach with the four humours in each chamber and the pathways for bile leading into the gall bladder, as it sits on the liver); and entirely abstracted renderings (including the trachea and lungs, the trachea by itself—which incidentally looks completely different from the combined image—and the twisted digestive tract at bottom right) is striking. The combination of these various illustrative modes on one folio, ranging from the completely abstract to the more mimetic, indicates a desire on the part of the artist(s) to present the reader with as many tools for understanding the parts as possible. While we have the detailed discussions accompanying the veins, arteries, bones, nerves, and muscles, a discrete prose text devoted to describing the organs of the abdomen is absent, and so it seems likely that the compiler(s) hoped alternative views could further elucidate their shapes and functions. And presenting the separate parts on a single folio both serves as a quick reference guide, in which each organ might be understood as it functions alone, and reiterates that they are all part of a single system according to the pseudo-Galenic text, and therefore must be understood as individuals as well as parts of the same whole. The eighth system is the female reproductive system (f. 5v, see Figure 11-3, at left). While the text within the male genitalia could be considered a mini treatise, there is far less explicatory material that accompanies the female counterpart. The medieval conception of the female reproductive system usually posited that the uterus was seven-celled: three cells on the right were chambers for male foetuses, three cells on the left for females, and one in the centre for a hermaphrodite. However, the Nine-Figure Series depicts the bicornate (two-horned) uterus, a term that stems from Aristotelian language.11 Like the other complex diagrams, this particular type of uterus representation is only found in the four manuscripts that include the Nine-Figure Series.12

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The drawing is accented by rose and white pigments, and the overall impression is one of symmetry, elegance, and an effort at geometrical precision. The captions describe the movement of the female seed, which comes from the ovaries (called testiculi, and understood to function as testicles), along with the positions of the muscles, flow of blood, and other anatomical aspects of the system. The entire drawing is enclosed within a thin black ink frame, bordered on each side by two rose-and-white columns, called the ‘womb neck’ (colum matricis). The top half of the drawing contains the fundus uteri with a teardrop-shaped sac in the middle, which is the uterus itself. Framing the uterus are the two rose-coloured ‘horn’ shapes that cut into the top of the drawing from the left and the right. The two white orbs in the centre of the drawing are the ovaries and the two teardrop shapes below them are simply called muscles (lacertus). Charles Singer interprets the pink orb on the right side of the image as the pathway for the menstrual blood (statio sanguinis), which was thought to nourish the foetus.13 Below the uterus is the uterine cavity (via veretri), and the text within describes the semen as being evacuated from the ovaries and deposited in the uterine cavity. The uterine cavity expands into two points (the cervix) and is stopped by a muscle in the shape of a half circle acting as the uterine cap (cooperimentum). Below, the vaginal neck, again called the colum matricis, descends into a cluster of muscles, including the classic upside-down vase shape of the constrictor vaginal muscles. While it might make sense for the male and female reproductive systems to be shown alongside each other, they do not appear on the same folio, or even within the same opening, until their last iteration in Wellcome 49. The Historia incisionis stipulates that the seventh system, the stomach, is discussed between them. The final organ system is the brain and ocular system, which follows the female reproductive system on f. 6r (see Figure 11-3, at right). The medieval understanding of the brain drew upon a long history of disputing its capabilities and position within the hierarchy of the body.14 By the early Middle Ages, the brain was considered to be encased by a hard layer (dura mater) and a soft layer (pia mater), and have three principle sections, known as cells (cellae, later known as ventricles), which were responsible for the three mental faculties. The anterior ventricle was the site of the imagination (imaginatio), reason (ratio) resided in the middle, and memory (memoria) in the posterior ventricle. The schematic abstraction of the Nine-Figure brain and ocular diagram was evidently not appealing; the image only appears in three manuscripts, and the captions are omitted in Ashmole 399. 15 It is the only full-system diagram to have so limited points of textual comparison, and the text that does accompany the Gonville and Caius and Pisa versions is hardly more than a few single-word captions. Far more popular were depictions of the various ventricles labelled within a straightforward rendering of the skull, usually with facial features.16 The Gonville and Caius diagram only

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includes a representation of one of the three cells of the brain, that of reason, and no real elaboration or explanation of the function of the parts of the brain, assuming either an informed audience or a lack of further textual support from available sources. The drawing is the most colourful of the Gonville and Caius series, incorporating a bright orange-pink, lime green, and azure. It begins with a bar across the very top, decorated with blue and pink shapes; they are unlabelled, but could be a depiction of the soft and/or hard layers. Two bisected diamonds appear on either side, the top triangle uncoloured and the bottom in pink. The left side includes a badly rubbed caption; only the word cerebri can be made out. Two green bands link the top bar with the pink central chevron, flanked on either side by two blue diamonds, labelled ‘the dwelling place of the brain and the place of reason’ (cerebri habitatio et locus rationis), indicating it is a depiction of the middle cell. The first square shape on the right that extends upwards from the pink chevron contains the puzzling legend ‘junction of four covers’ (iunctura coopertorium quarti). The uncoloured band surrounding the chevron contains several references to the auditory nerve and to the immobile nerve. The two uncoloured ocular nerves end at the eyeball, cutting through four multicoloured tunics of the eye (panni occulorum). The nasal passageway ends in a very stylized outline drawing of the nose, above which is written ‘breath of the nose’ (spiritus naris), indicating the pathway of air into the brain.17 The four complex organ diagrams are able to translate complicated physiological processes into simplified visual aids. They are not meant to tell the reader exactly where each organ is situated within the body; they show little regard for physical reality, simplifying and creating inorganic, geometrically precise simplifications to convey why a particular system was important, rather than where. Eschewing anatomical reality in favour of abstract forms allowed the artist(s) of the images to express ideas without fear of inaccuracy. By choosing to prioritize the idea over the physical truth, the artist is free to make graphic decisions that bend the bounds of nature; communication of a concept is prioritized over mimesis. The placements of captions and descriptions within and around the forms further elucidates their function. Rather than requiring longer prose explanations, like those accompanying the figurative Five-Figure Series, word and shape work together to communicate physiology. Despite their usefulness, these diagrams only appear in three other manuscripts aside from Gonville and Caius. Why did images that allowed for the communication of multiple levels of meaning—freed from the bounds of realism—enjoy such limited success in the Middle Ages? The answer requires an exploration of the changing nature of epistemological art in medicine in the later medieval period.

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Human Dissection and Naturalism in Anatomical Diagrams The abstract Nine-Figure Series organ diagrams appeared well before the early fourteenth century, when the first scientific human dissections to take place since antiquity occurred. Human dissection was not part of the training of early medical students and practitioners, who were more concerned with treating illness, disease, and injury by therapeutic or external surgical methods. Descriptions of the interior by famed antique thinkers, notably Aristotle and Galen, were dutifully studied and copied, and in some cases, medical teachers and students imitated their practice of dissecting animals thought to have similar interiors to humans, such as pigs and apes. These are most famously documented in the so-called Salernitan Demonstrations, a series of texts guiding a dissector through the anatomy of a pig.18 Written in southern Italy (possibly Salerno, although this is not certain) over the course of several centuries, the Demonstrations engage in dialogue with each other, as subsequent authors disagreed with previous versions of the text and added their own instructions.19 Aside from the Historia incisionis and Nine-Figure Series, there are no anatomical treatises with a dedicated illustrative programme until the second half of the thirteenth century, when we begin to see anatomical imagery in the style of popular contemporary illuminations. These images evoke a narrative and are strikingly different to the diagrammatic Nine-Figure Series. An important example is found in an unusually luxurious illuminated copy of Avicenna’s Canon in Besançon, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 457. Created in approximately 1260 in Paris, nearly every chapter is begun with a delicately illuminated historiated initial, complete with gilded architectural framework and intricately patterned backgrounds.20 In the anatomical section, the illuminated initials include a dissected but evidently living body, standing beside a physician, who gestures to the various exposed internal organs, realistically rendered within the torso (ff. 173v–254v). Another type of anatomical illustration is found in a Mantuan translation of Bartholomaeus Anglicus’s De proprietatibus rerum, produced in the first decade of the fourteenth century (British Library, Additional MS 8785), which includes dozens of decorated initials in the anatomical books.21 However, in this instance, the artist has—uniquely—decided to fill each small, bright blue background with a simplified, disembodied exterior view of the organ discussed in each chapter. A notable contrast can be drawn between the womb figure in Add. MS 8785 (Figure 11-4) and the female reproductive system in Gonville and Caius MS 190/223 (see Figure 11-3): there is no comparing the amount of information each is able to express. The simplified womb—essentially, an upside-down vase—in Add. MS 8785 is entirely useless without the accompanying description within the text. Rather, it is almost purely decorative and has no real edifying effect as a visual aid. Instead of using form

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Figure 11-4. Initial with Womb, Bartholomaeus Anglicus, De Proprietatibus rerum (in Mantuan), 1300-1309, Mantua, Italy. London, British Library, Additional MS 8785, fol. 55v. By permission of the British Library Board.

and word to create a dynamic explanation of a system, the womb is reduced to a simple line drawing, an opaque orb that gives no indication of the complicated structures within. Although the image may hew closer to anatomical reality, the reader is entirely dependent on the accompanying description to understand both the actual shape and function of the female reproductive system. The image serves as a decorative accompaniment to its description, memorable but not a didactic tool in and of itself. The major shift from abstraction to mimesis in anatomical imagery begins with the rise of the so-called ‘rational surgeons’: literate, educated men who incorporated Galenic theory into their original surgical manuals.22 Surgery had long been considered a ‘lesser’ art, relegated to uneducated barber-surgeons who sawed limbs and pulled teeth, tasks many educated physicians would not undertake themselves. The rational surgeons promoted surgery as a scientific undertaking, worthy of university study. The opening of the body within a university milieu, both as part of surgical procedures and as a means to better understand anatomical texts through

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dissection, began to take root as a result of their efforts.23 As the importance of physically opening the body to empirically study the interior grew, so, too, did a desire for greater verisimilitude in imagery accompanying anatomical texts. Several of the rational surgeons created their own visual tools as supplements, recognizing the important role images could play in elucidating their words. Instead of devising abstract diagrams to depict complicated physiological processes, they evidently felt that realistic representations of the exteriors of organs and viscera situated within the context of the body functioned as more effective visual modes. Moreover, they described their decisions to prioritize mimesis over abstraction, and emphasized that empirical exploration is essential to understanding the body. Henri de Mondeville (c. 1260–1320) is the first named creator of anatomical images in Western Europe.24 Mondeville is recorded as teaching anatomy in Montpellier and Paris with the aid of anatomical figures, some of which were three-dimensional models and some of which were full-length, two-dimensional drawings of the human body. Mondeville explains his decision to include dissected figures in his Anathomia, the first book of his intended five-book surgical manual, Chirurgia (1312), as the means ‘by which alone the entire anatomy and inquiry into the human body […] and each of its members, internal and external, in whole and in part […] can be demonstrated with great precision’.25 Mondeville believed the key to successful surgical practice was in-depth knowledge of the interior, and visual accompaniments were the best way to supplement the readings. Manuscripts purporting to have copies of both the full-length and three-dimensional organ models show them to be entirely representational.26 Arguably, the culmination of the new importance of human dissection in medieval art is found in the sole illuminated copy of Guido da Vigevano’s (c. 1300–1349) Anathomia.27 In 1345, while serving as physician to Queen Jeanne of Burgundy, Guido produced the Liber notabilium (‘Book of Notable Matters’), a ten-part volume comprising Latin editions of Galen’s works, a health regimen, and his own anatomical composition, the Anathomia Philipi septimi (‘Anatomy for Philip VII’). In the incipit, Guido proclaims he decided to illustrate his Anathomia with figures (‘[…] designata per figuras per Guidonem, medicum suprascripti regis’) because of the clear view of the interior they afforded to students that would not otherwise be possible due to a variety of factors, including the difficulty of obtaining a body for dissection, the time constraints imposed by the putrefaction of the corpse, and the (fictional) prohibition of human anatomy by the Church.28 Guido states (conflictingly, given he has just explained all of the reasons why it is either difficult or not possible to dissect a human body) that his expertise can be trusted because he has dissected the human body himself many times. Guido argues that the pictures are in some ways superior to the actual experience, as they offer impossible perspectives and allow for extended study without having

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to make haste due to the decomposition of the corpse. His language is slightly defensive, as though he anticipates that his decision to include figures will be unpopular, inciting the scorn of his colleagues. Furthermore, Guido baldly states that the great medical authority Avicenna made mistakes, and the way he has learned this is through looking into the body in a critical manner, rather than simply attending a dissection as a demonstration of the ideas promulgated by the ancient medical authorities. He encourages sceptical readers to ‘make inquiries’ if they do not believe him: ‘Whoever doubts this can make inquiries and ascertain the truth’ (‘et quis dubitat querat et veritatem inveniet’).29 Guido—somewhat radically—proposes that the ancient authorities are not to be blindly believed, and his readers must do their own dissections to discover this for themselves. Despite Guido’s assertion that the figures are necessary supplements to his Anathomia, the images only exist in one copy: the manuscript he evidently presented to the king (now Chantilly, Bibliothèque du Château, MS 334), dated to 1345 and likely produced in Paris.30 The codex includes eighteen painted figures, divided into the three venters (as organized by Henri de Mondeville and the famous surgeon Mondino dei Liuzzi [c. 1270–1326]): abdomen, thorax, and skull. The robed anatomist is pictured making incisions into a corpse as the introductory figure to each new section. Vigevano’s figures (aside from three drawings of skulls) present the fulllength body, each given its own folio and painted in deeply saturated colours. They demonstrate the anatomist’s process of peeling back the skin in layers, revealing step by step what one might see after each cut. Guido refers to each image as a figura with a specific number in the caption to the left of the figure, in which he explains what each image is meant to depict. The narrative Guido’s images present—the process of dissecting a corpse—is slow and methodical. Guido emphasizes that the anatomist/physician, the protagonist of his narrative, is first and foremost a medical practitioner, exploring the interior to better be able to treat his living patients. While the Five-Figure Series are ‘living bodies’, aside from the first figure (a living man with the names of the internal organs written on the body’s surface), Guido has done as he promised in his preamble and shows the viewer what one would see at an actual anatomical dissection: corpses. The cadavers are greenish-grey or sickly jaundiced, emaciated, eyes closed. They are overall quite stylized: the limbs are long and straight, the collarbone juts out, the veins in the throat are visible. The bodies are male, evidenced by the small genitalia at the base of the torso. The exception is Figura 10 (Figure 11-5), a female corpse with a seven-celled uterus.31 This theory, popularized by Mondino dei Liuzzi’s influential anatomical writings, defined the uterus solely as a vessel for carrying children, as Guido’s female figure is defined solely by her reproductive function: no other organs are depicted within her interior. Guido’s inclusion of the seven-celled uterus in his text

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Figure 11-5. Female Corpse with Seven-Celled Uterus, Guido da Vigevano, Liber notabilium Philippi septimi [sexti], Francorum regis, 1345, Paris (?). Chantilly, Bibliothèque du Château, MS 0334 (0569), fol. 281v. Wellcome Collection, CC BY 4.0.

and image belies his authoritative assertion that he looked at the interior with his own eyes, debunking old, anatomically impossible hypotheses. He, too, is guilty of promulgating abstract theories, divorced from empirical exploration, even though the seven-celled uterus depiction is not entirely abstract (all seven chambers are carefully depicted). Despite these shortcomings, Guido’s decision to include such a comprehensive visual programme alongside his anatomical text is a testament to the increasingly recognized power of epistemic dissection imagery. Situating the organs within dissected cadavers demonstrates the growing importance of visualizing the interior in the context of the entire body: where the organs are located and how they interact with the whole. The idea of the body fragmented into discrete, abstract systems was no longer considered adequate in this new age of human dissection.

The Decline of Functional Abstraction in Anatomy The last manuscript to include abstracted organ imagery, Wellcome Library, MS 49 (known as the Wellcome Apocalypse), appeared in approximately 1420 and

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was likely produced in Germany.32 The large codex (it measures 400 × 300mm) is unusual for several reasons; foremost among them is the inclusion of a section on medicine and anatomy in the middle of the expensive religious and moralizing compendium, which Fritz Saxl called a ‘spiritual encyclopaedia’.33 The Wellcome manuscript unites the abstract diagrams once more with the Five-Figure Series. The Five-Figure Series has been updated to more naturalistic poses and interiors, and the entire Nine-Figure Series is supplemented by newer, full-body imagery presenting a more cohesive view of the epistemological body. While the diagrams are still difficult to understand without textual aid, the creative forces behind their inclusion in the volume have taken steps to further demystify them. Firstly, the codex’s planners have entirely omitted the most inscrutable, the diagram of the brain and ocular system. They also streamlined the amount of stand-alone organ diagrams, only including a single image of those that had previously had multiple views, and situating them next to the vein man of the Five-Figures, which includes several of the organs within the context of the body. Most relevant here is the placement of the female reproductive system (f. 37v, Figure 11-6, at left).34 The artist has chosen to unite all reproductive materials on the same folio, so that the womb—shown with a pregnant uterus—is accompanied by both the male reproductive system and representations of the foetal positions in the womb.35 This last gasp of anatomical abstraction is further contextualized by the addition in the same opening of the Disease Woman, a female figure in the squatted position of the Five-Figure Series that demonstrates illnesses and disorders—a diagram that became popular in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (f. 38r, Figure 11-6, at right).36 The Disease Woman’s entire torso is open, her womb shaped like an upside-down vessel (in the right side of her abdomen), and positioned within the body. Unlike Guido’s emaciated female corpse, this woman is pink with vibrant good health, head covered modestly and strong arms outstretched. The captions inside her flesh list disorders that can befall specific organs, described in more detail in the text surrounding her body. The juxtaposition of these two views of the female reproductive system across an opening both lends a bodily framework to the abstract figure and elucidates the oversimplified uterus displayed by the Disease Woman. The abstract diagram demonstrates the full function of the simplified shape inside the disease woman’s body, going far beyond the capabilities of Guido’s female figure and her seven-celled uterus. In Wellcome 49, abstraction has been united with simplified organ representations within a full-body context to present a detailed explanation of physiology. The four complex organ diagrams were devised to communicate the complicated physiological processes of the stomach and internal viscera, male and female reproductive systems, and brain and ocular systems. Foregoing any commitment

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Figure 11-6. Diagrams of the Muscles, Foetal Positions in the Womb, Male Reproductive System, and Female Reproductive System (L) and ‘Disease Woman’ (R), The Wellcome Apocalypse, c. 1420, Germany (?). London, Wellcome Library, MS 49, fols. 37v-38r. Wellcome Collection, CC BY 1.0.

to depicting the systems within the realistic confines of the body, the artist(s) instead used abstract forms to better communicate multiple levels of meaning and movement in a marriage of word and form. But abstraction could not compete with a rising desire to present images as stand-ins for actual dissection. The exhortations of Mondino, Mondeville, and Guido for surgeons and practitioners to undertake dissections and see the interior for themselves, and (in the case of Guido) the creation of accompanying images purporting to offer views without the messy difficulties of actual dissection, are an indication of the fundamental shift in the role of epistemic imagery in medieval art. The eventual cessation of abstraction in medieval anatomy reflects the increasing desire for verisimilitude in art and, in particular, to experience the true form of the human body. The prioritization of mimesis in art would not be fully abandoned until the early 20th century, when, as influential critic Roger Fry (1866–1934) put it, the methods of the post-impressionists once taken to their ‘logical extreme’ would ‘undoubtedly be the attempt to give up all resemblance to natural form, and to create a purely abstract language of form—a visual music’.37 The idea of conveying anatomical truths by developing a ‘language of form’, one that relied on suspension of reality, was supplanted by the empirical priorities of the Renaissance, which valued realistic images

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devised purposefully by dissectors. In many ways, to be an artist in the Renaissance meant to be an anatomist, and vice versa; the two worked together to present idealized, harmonious, precise human interiors. Abstracted diagrams—arcane, anonymous, and difficult—stood little chance against such attractive representations.

Notes 1. 2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

Evans, ‘Geometry of the Mind’, p. 32. Sudhoff first discovered and discussed this anatomical tradition; see Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Anatomie, throughout, and for more recent scholarship, McCall, ‘Illuminating the Interior’, throughout, for full references and discussion. This is also the subject of a forthcoming book by the author, The Art of Anatomy in Medieval Europe (under contract with Reaktion). Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 13002 has been fully digitized: http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/0010/bsb00104093/images/index.html?fip=193.174.98.30 &seite=1&pdfseitex  (accessed 6 November 2018). See McCall, ‘Reliquam dicit pictura’, p. 6 n. 15, for discussion and further bibliography. ‘In nomine patris. et filii. et Spiritus sancti. incipit hystoria incisionis sicut dicit G[alenus] prudentissimus medicorum. venam secundum venam. os secundum os. lacertum secundum lacertum. nervum secundum nervum. et descripsit ea secundum quod sunt et separavit unumquodque ab alio. ne forte erret inspector eorum sed agnoscat ea ita ut videt. Ergo prima descriptio arteriae. secunda[m] venarum tertia positionis ossium. quarta nervorum. quinta lacertorum. sexta veretri septima stomachi. epatis et ventris. octava matricis. nona cerebri et oculorum.’ Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 13002, f. 2v. The term ‘Nine-Figure Series’ (or ‘Nine-System Figure Series’), while a bit of a mouthful, is meant to be an updated version of the more prevalent ‘Five-Figure Series’ (Fünfbilderserie) moniker used to describe the five, squatted humanoid simple systems, bestowed upon them by Sudhoff. The author has updated this term to reflect that the series includes nine rather than five images; see McCall, ‘Illuminating the Interior’, pp. 47–8. As the place and date of origin for these images are disputed (see n. 7 below), the use of the term ‘artist(s)’ throughout this essay refers both to the original creators of the images, which may not have been Western medieval artists, as well as to those who copied and arranged the imagery in the four extant Western medieval manuscripts. It is certainly possible that if the images were created in the late antique period or the Islamic Middle East, medieval artists supplemented existing images with alternative versions, additions, etc. The imagery is not found before c. 1200, when it first appears in in Gonville and Caius MS 190/223, although a similar version of the brain and ocular system survives in an Arabic treatise completed in 1083 on the optics. This has led several scholars to speculate on a possible late antique (preserved via the Middle East) or Middle Eas-

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9.

10. 11.

12.

13. 14.

15.

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tern origin for the images. The appearance of these diagrams in general is notable; very few early medical books were illustrated. As Monica H. Green has discovered in her exploration of medical manuscripts from the long twelfth century (c. 1050– 1225), those medical illustrations that did exist were overwhelmingly remnants of older graphic traditions, rather than new iconographies (see Green, ‘Medical Books’, pp. 277–92, esp. p. 278). However, without further evidence, determination of the origins of the iconography of the series must remain a mystery. Both Ashmole 399 and Wellcome 49 are fully digitized and extensively catalogued online. Ashmole 399: https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/inquire/Discover/ Search/#/?p=c+0,t+,rsrs+0,rsps+10,fa+,so+ox%3Asort%5Easc,scids+,pid+2b7310aa9199-4a5b-93fb-4f5f075ca28a,vi+15a20263-f647-4913-9089-a9efbb37225c (accessed 11 December 2018). Wellcome 49: https://wellcomelibrary.org/item/ b19684915#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=4&z=-0.561%2C-0.0666%2C2.122%2C1.3329 (accessed 11 December 2018). The few detailed descriptions of the male genitalia as depicted in the Nine-Figure Series can be found in Singer, ‘Note on a Thirteenth Century Diagram’, pp. 212–4; Ferckel, ‘Diagramme der sexualorgane’, pp. 255–63; Maccagni, ‘Frammento’, pp. 311– 78. Whittington examines the Ashmole 399 version of the drawing specifically, but his comments can be applied to the Cambridge drawings as well; see ‘The Cruciform Womb’, pp. 1–24. There is not much literature on the Gonville and Caius MS 190/223 organ leaf; see McCall, ‘Disembodied’, pp. 17–9; and McCall, ‘Illuminating the Interior’, pp. 63–5. Aristotle describes the bicornate uterus in the Historia animalium I, Ch. 17 and in III, Ch. 1, where he refers to a diagram of one in his now lost work Anatomia. For more discussion on the ‘horned’ uterus versus the seven-celled, see Park, Secrets of Women, pp. 114, 184–5, 339 n. 68. The Ashmole 399 version of the female reproductive system has attracted the most attention from scholars. The major bibliography includes: Singer, ‘A ThirteenthCentury Drawing’, pp. 43–7; Ferckel, ‘Diagramme der sexualorgane’, pp. 255–63; Maccagni, ‘Frammento’, pp. 311–78; Jacquart and Thomassett, Sexuality and Medicine, pp. 16–21; Green, ‘The De genecia’, pp. 299–311; Green, ‘From “Diseases of Women”’, pp. 5–39; and Whittington, ‘The Cruciform Womb’, pp. 1–24. Singer, ‘A Thirteenth-Century Drawing’, p. 45. Aristotle famously downplayed the importance of the brain, arguing that the heart was both the seat of all sensations and controlled the movement of the parts of the body; see De partibus animalium, trans. by Thompson, Book II, Chapter 10. Galen disagreed with Aristotle, concluding that the brain was in fact responsible for all sensation, mental faculties, and movement; see Rocca, Galen on the Brain, especially Chs. 5 and 6 (pp. 171–237). Walther Sudhoff produced the first (and perhaps still most complete) study of medieval and early modern representations of the brain in ‘Die Lehre von den Hirnventrikeln’, pp. 149–205. He seems to have only been aware of the brain drawing in Ashmole 399 and not Gonville and Caius MS 190/223 (see pp. 181–3). These representations of the brain are more numerous; a famous example is Cambridge, University Library, MS Gg 1.1, created in England after 1307, which includes

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a profile view of the skull with the three cells surrounded by a brief explanatory text on folio 490v. See Camille, ‘Before the Gaze’, pp. 197–223. Carruthers has also undertaken recent studies of these types of depictions of the brain and the mind; see Carruthers, ‘Two Unusual Mind Diagrams’, pp. 389–400. 17. O’Neill is one of very few to have examined this specific diagram in detail, and her interpretation of the figure rests on the idea that it is a representation of an ‘imagined dissection’, in which the skull has been opened and the meninges pulled back to reveal various sections of the brain, hence the stylized shapes. O’Neill, ‘Meningeal Localization’, pp. 211–38, and ‘Diagrams of the Medieval Brain’, pp. 91–105. 18. Corner, Anatomical Texts, is the first (and still the standard) edited translation of the Salernitan Demonstrations. 19. French, Dissection and Vivisection, pp. 14–5. 20. Stones has described this manuscript’s decoration in detail in Gothic Manuscripts 1260–1320, Cat. I–8, where further bibliography can be found. It is also fully digitized: http://memoirevive.besancon.fr/ark:/48565/a011322745084XiJFBt (accessed 11 December 2018). 21. British Library, Additional MS 8785, is fully digitized: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_8785 (accessed 11 December 2018). See also McCall, ‘Disembodied’, for an in-depth discussion of the manuscript’s anatomical imagery. 22. McVaugh coined the term ‘rational surgeons’ in his Rational Surgery, esp. pp. 9–51. McVaugh specifically defines them as a group of five men working between c. 1240 and 1320 in Italy and France: Teodorico Borgognoni (fl. 1240s), Bruno Longobucco (Longoburgensis) (fl. 1250s), Guglielmo da Saliceto (fl. 1260s–1270s), Lanfranc of Milan (fl. 1290s), and Henri de Mondeville (fl. 1306–1314). 23. The establishment of anatomical dissection within university curricula has a long bibliography. For useful discussions, see Park, Secrets of Women, throughout, and ‘The Criminal and the Saintly Body’, pp. 1–33; McCall, ‘Illuminating the Interior’, esp. Ch. 5 (pp. 133–50); McCall, ‘Disembodied’, pp. 16, 21–6; MacKinney, ‘The Beginnings of Western Scientific Anatomy’, pp. 232–9; and O’Neill, ‘Innocent III and the Evolution of Anatomy’, pp. 429–33. 24. See Pouchelle’s detailed study of Mondeville, The Body and Surgery in the Middle Ages. See also MacKinney, ‘The Beginnings of Western Scientific Anatomy’, pp. 232– 9. 25. The entire quote is: ‘Per quas solas tota anatomia et historia corporis humani tam viri quam mulieris tam integri quam fissi, tam a parte anteriori quam a parte posteriori et omnium et singulorum membrorum ipsius tam intrinsecorum quam extrinsecorum tam integrorum quam divisorum sive diversificorum omnibus et singulis modis quibus possunt diversismode humano conspectui praesentari, potest clarissime demonstrari.’ Latin transcribed by Pagel, Die Chirurgie des Heinrich von Mondeville, pp. 18–9. 26. The three manuscripts that allegedly reproduce the organ models used by Mondeville in Montpellier in 1304 are London, Royal College of Physicians, MS 227; Erfurt, Universitätsbibliothek Erfurt, Bibliotheca Amploniana, MS Quart 210; and Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, MS Lat. 219. Mondeville also devised full-length figures to accom-

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29.

30. 31. 32.

33. 34. 35.

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pany his lectures in Paris in 1306, copies of which are preserved in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Fr. 2030 and Trinity College, Cambridge, MS O.2.44. For more on Guido’s life, see Wickersheimer, ‘L’“Anatomie” de Guido de Vigevano’, pp. 1–25. Guido da Vigevano, Anatomia Philippi septimi, Chantilly, Bibliothèque du Château, MS 0334 (0569), f. 257, transcribed and edited by Wickersheimer, ‘L’“Anatomie” de Guido de Vigevano’, p. 5. English translation by Wallis, ed., Medieval Medicine: A Reader, pp. 240–41. ‘Et scitote vere et de certo quod Avicenna qui tantum opus fecit anothomie, in certis locis erravit et maxime de splene, cum dicat splenem esse longum, immo est quasi totaliter rotondum cum duobus vel tribus nodulis desubtus, et hoc manifeste apparet in homine vivo, quia, cum splen est in ventre tumefactum, tangimus ipsum quasi rotundum, et quis dubitat querat et veritatem inveniet.’ Guido da Vigevano, Anatomia Philippi septimi, Chantilly, Bibliothèque du Château, MS 0334 (0569), f. 257, transcribed and edited by Wickersheimer, ‘L’“Anatomie” de Guido de Vigevano’, p. 5. This manuscript is fully digitized on BVMM: http://bvmm.irht.cnrs.fr/consult/consult.php?reproductionId=16063 (accessed 11 December 2018). Park discusses this figure in Secrets of Women, pp. 110–3. Wellcome MS 49 is fully digitized (see n. 8). There has only been one detailed catalogue treatment, Moorat’s Catalogue of Western Manuscripts on Medicine, no. 49, pp. 32–7. The most complete description of the manuscript is Seebohm, Apokalypse, ars moriendi, medizinische Traktate. Saxl authored an extensive study of the imagery, focusing on the Apocalypse and its moralizing imagery, in ‘A Spiritual Encyclopaedia’, pp. 82–137. Following his article is a short note on the medical drawings by Kurtz, ‘Appendix II: The Medical Illustrations’, pp. 137–42. See also Hill, ‘Another Member of the Sudhoff Fünfbilderserie’, pp. 13–9; Hill, ‘The Fünfbilderserie’, pp. 143–69; and Hill, ‘A Medieval German Wound Man’, pp. 334–57. Saxl, ‘A Spiritual Encyclopaedia’, pp. 82–137. The female reproductive system is also shown as pregnant in MS Ashmole 399 and appears just after Muscian diagrams of the foetal positions (ff. 14r–15r). These images are usually associated with the late antique Gynaecia written in Latin by Muscio, based on the well-known gynaecological and obstetrical writings by Soranus of Ephesus (second century CE). The earliest drawings date to the ninth century (Brussels, Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, MS 3701–15). For more on Muscio and Soranus, see Marchetti, ‘Educating the Midwife’, pp. 6–18, 23–4, and Hanson and Green, ‘Soranus of Ephesus’, pp. 968–1075, which includes a list of known manuscripts containing Muscio’s text and foetal images. This image, along with the Wound Man and Disease Man, are known as the ‘Dreibilderserie’ (Three-Figure Series), also named by Sudhoff; see Hartnell, ‘Wording the Wound Man’. Green discusses the Wellcome 49 Disease Woman and Muscian foetal diagrams in Making Women’s Medicine Masculine, pp. 153–8. For more on the Disease Woman tradition, see Park, Secrets of Women, pp. 106–9, and Pesenti, Fasciculo de medicina in vulgare, vol. 2, pp. 17–8. Fry, ‘The French Group’, pp. 25–6.

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Works Cited Michael Camille, ‘Before the Gaze: The Internal Senses and Late Medieval Practices of Seeing’, in Visuality Before and Beyond the Renaissance, ed. by Robert S. Nelson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 197–223. Mary Carruthers, ‘Two Unusual Mind Diagrams in a Late Fifteenth-Century Manuscript (UPenn Schoenberg Collection, MS LJS 429)’, Manuscript Studies: A Journal of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, 4 (2019), pp. 389–400. George W. Corner, Anatomical Texts of the Earlier Middle Ages: A Study in the Transmission of Culture (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institute of Washington, 1927). Michael Evans, ‘The Geometry of the Mind: Scientific Diagrams and Medieval Thought’, Architectural Association Quarterly, 12/4 (1980), pp. 32–55. Christoph Ferckel, ‘Diagramme der sexualorgane in mittelalterliche Handschriften’, Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin, 10 (1917), pp. 255–63. Roger French, Dissection and Vivisection in the European Renaissance (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999). Roger Fry, ‘The French Group’, Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition (London: Ballantyne & Company, 1912), pp. 25–9. Monica H. Green, ‘The De genecia attributed to Constantine the African’, Speculum, 62 (1987), pp. 299–311. ———, ‘From “Diseases of Women” to “Secrets of Women”: The Transformation of Gynecological Literature in the Later Middle Ages’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 30 (2000), pp. 5–39. ———, Making Women’s Medicine Masculine: The Rise of Male Authority in Pre-Modern Gynecology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). ———, ‘Medical Books’, in The European Book in the Twelfth Century, ed. by Erik Kwakkel and Rodney Thomson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 277–92. Anne Ellis Hanson and Monica H. Green, ‘Soranus of Ephesus: Methodicorum princeps’, in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, ed. by Wolfgang Haase and Hildegard Temporini-Gräfin Vitzthum, vol. 2 (Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, 1994), pp. 968–1075. Jack Hartnell, ‘Wording the Wound Man’, British Art Studies, 6 (2017), https://doi.org/10.17658/ issn.2058-5462/issue-06/jhartnell (accessed 17 October 2020). Robert Herrlinger, History of Medical Illustration from Antiquity to A. D. 1600 (Nijkerk: Pitman Medical & Scientific Publishing, 1970). Boyd H. Hill, Jr., ‘Another Member of the Sudhoff Fünfbilderserie—Wellcome MS 5000’, Sudhoffs Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin und der Naturwissenchaften, 43 (1959), pp. 13–9. ———, ‘The Fünfbilderserie and Medieval Anatomy’ (PhD diss., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1963). ———, ‘A Medieval German Wound Man: Wellcome MS 49’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 20 (1965), pp. 334–57.

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Danielle Jacquart and Claude Thomasset, Sexuality and Medicine in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Polity, 1988). Otto Kurz, ‘The Medical Illustrations of the Wellcome MS’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 5, Appendix 2 (1942), pp. 137–42. Carlo Maccagni, ‘Frammento di un codice di medicina del secolo XIV (manoscritto N. 735. già codice Roncioni N. 99) della Biblioteca Universitaria di Pisa’, Physis, 11 (1969), pp. 311–78. Loren MacKinney, ‘Beginnings of Western Scientific Anatomy: New Evidence and A Revision in Interpretation of Mondeville’s Role’, Medical History, 6 (1960), pp. 233–9. Francesca Marchetti, ‘Educating the Midwife: The Role of Illustrations in Late Antique and Medieval Obstetrical Texts’, in Pregnancy and Childbirth in the Premodern World: European and Middle Eastern Cultures, from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance, ed. by Costanza Gislon Dopfel, Alessandra Foscati, and Charles Burnett (Turnhout: Brepols, 2019), pp. 3–28. Taylor McCall, ‘Disembodied: Additional MS. 8785 and the Tradition of Human Organ Depictions in Medieval Art and Medicine’, Electronic British Library Journal, 2018, Article 8, pp. 1–26, http://www.bl.uk/eblj/2018articles/pdf/ebljarticle82018.pdf (accessed 17 October 2020). ———, ‘Illuminating the Interior: The Illustrations of the Nine Systems of the Body and Anatomical Knowledge in Medieval Europe’ (PhD diss., University of Cambridge, 2017). ———, ‘Reliquam dicit pictura: Text and Image in an Illustrated Anatomical Manual (Gonville and Caius College, MS 190/223)’, Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society, 16 (2016, appeared 2017), pp. 1–22. Michael McVaugh, The Rational Surgery of the Middle Ages (Florence: SISMEL/Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2006). S. A. J. Moorat, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1962–1973). John E. Murdoch, Album of Science: Antiquity and the Middle Ages (New York: Scribner, 1984). Ynez Violé O’Neill, ‘Diagrams of the Medieval Brain’, Iconography at the Crossroads: The Index of Christian Art, ed. by Brendan Cassidy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), pp. 91–105. ———, ‘Innocent III and the Evolution of Anatomy’, Medical History, 20 (1976), pp. 429–33. ———, ‘Meningeal Localization: A New Key to Some Medical Texts, Diagrams and Practices of the Middle Ages’, Mediaevistik, 6 (1993), pp. 211–38. Julius Pagel, Die Chirurgie des Heinrich von Mondeville (Berlin: Hirschwald, 1892). Katharine Park, ‘The Criminal and the Saintly Body: Autopsy and Dissection in Renaissance Italy’, Renaissance Quarterly, 47 (1994), pp. 1–33. ———, Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection (New York: Zone Books, 2006).

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Tiziana Pesenti, Fasciculo de medicina in vulgare: Venezia, Giovanni e Gregorio de Gregori, 1494 (Padua: Università degli Studi, 2001). Peter E. Pormann and Emilie Savage-Smith, Medieval Islamic Medicine (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2007). Marie-Christine Pouchelle, The Body and Surgery in the Middle Ages, trans. by Rosemary Morris (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990). Julius Rocca, Galen on the Brain: Anatomical Knowledge and Physiological Speculation in the Second Century A.D. Studies in Ancient Medicine 26 (Leiden: Brill, 2003). Emilie Savage-Smith, ‘Anatomical Illustration in Arabic Manuscripts’, in Arab Painting: Text and Image in Illustrated Arabic Manuscripts, ed. by Anna Contadini (Leiden: Brill, 2007), pp. 147–59. Fritz Saxl, ‘A Spiritual Encyclopedia of the Later Middle Ages’, Journal of the Courtauld and Warburg Institutes, 5 (1942), pp. 82–137. Almuth Seebohm, Apokalypse, ars moriendi, medizinische Traktate, Tugend- und Lasterlehren die erbaulich-didaktische Sammelhandschrift London, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, Ms. 49: Farbmikrofiche-Edition (Munich: H. Lengenfelder, 1994). Charles Singer, ‘Note on a Thirteenth Century Diagram of the Male Genitalia’, Studies in the History and Method of Science, I (1917): pp. 212–4. ———, ‘A Thirteenth Century Drawing of the Anatomy of the Uterus and Adnexa’, Studies in the History and Method of Science, I (1917), pp. 43–7. Alison Stones, Gothic Manuscripts 1260–1320, ed. by Johnathan J. G. Alexander and François Avril, 4 vols., A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in France, vols. 2–3 (London/Turnhout: Harvey Miller/Brepols, 2013–2015). Karl Sudhoff, Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Anatomie im Mittelalter, speziell der anatomischen Graphik nach Handschriften des 9. bis 15. Jahrbunderts. Studien zur Geschichte der Medezin 4 (Leipzig: Barth, 1908). ———, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Chirurgie im Mittelalter, graphische und textliche Untersuchungen in mittelalterlichen Handschriften, 2 vols. (Leipzig: Barth, 1914–1918). Walther Sudhoff, ‘Die Lehre von den Hirnventrikeln in textlicher und graphischer Tradition des Altertums und Mittelalters’, Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin, 7 (1913), pp. 149–205. D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, trans., The Complete Works of Aristotle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910). Online version, MIT’s Classics Department. DOI: http://classics.mit.edu/ Aristotle/history_anim.html. Faith Wallis, ed., Medieval Medicine: A Reader (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010). Karl Whittington, ‘The Cruciform Womb: Process, Symbol and Salvation in Bodleian Library MS. Ashmole 399’, Different Visions: A Journal of New Perspectives on Medieval Art, 1 (2008), pp. 1–24. Ernest Wickersheimer, ‘L’‘Anatomie’ de Guido de Vigevano, médecin de la reine Jeanne de Bourgogne (1345)’, Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin, 7 (1913), pp. 1–25. ———, Anatomies de Mondino de Liuzzi et de Guido de Vigevano (Paris: E. Droz, 1926).

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About the Author Taylor McCall is the Associate Editor of Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, a postdoctoral fellowship with the Medieval Academy of America. She has published on the material culture of medieval medicine, specifically the role of anatomical diagrams as epistemological tools, and her research has recently been supported by an ICMA-Kress Research and Publication grant and a postdoctoral fellowship with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. She received her Ph.D. in History of Art from the University of Cambridge in 2017 and has served as a Teaching Fellow at University College London and as a cataloguer of medieval manuscripts at the British Library. Her first book, The Art of Anatomy in Medieval Europe, is under contract with Reaktion.

12. Imaging Perfection(s) in Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts Julie A. Harris

Abstract While not iconographic in the traditional sense of the word, manuscript carpet pages composed of non-figural ornament may be seen as deliberately meaningful. This essay considers the carpet pages of Oxford, Bodleian Library, Kennicott 2—an Iberian Hebrew Bible made by Joshua ibn Gaon in the early fourteenth century. It argues that the visual features of folio 14 recto’s interlaced grid deliberately mirror those qualities attributed to the Torah by its surrounding inscription: Psalm 19:8–9. Thus, these ornamental forms may be understood as visual expressions of an abstract notion: the perfection of Torah. The Bible’s final carpet page (fol. 117v), on the other hand, deliberately distorts the interlaced grid to contrast the Torah’s perfection with man’s imperfection. Keywords: Torah, perfection, abstraction, Bible, ornament

The Perfection of Torah In the fifteenth century, affirming the Torah’s perfection became an urgent matter in Jewish theological writing. As part of their efforts, authors such as Prof iat Duran and Isaac Abarbanel deployed a verse from Psalm 19: ‘The Torah of the Lord is perfect.’1 But approximately one hundred years before Duran introduced his most personal work, the Ma’aseh Efod, with the words ‘The Torah of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul’, this identical phrase was inscribed in gold on the first of four exquisite frontispieces in an Iberian Hebrew bible made by masoreter, scribe, and illuminator Joshua ibn Gaon (Oxford, Bod. Lib. Kennicott 2; hereafter Kennicott 2).2 The inscription, which surrounds the central panel, contains Psalm 19, verses 8–9:

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_ch12

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Figure 12-1. Joshua ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design and Hebrew inscription containing Psalm 19:8-9, 1306?. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Kenn. 2, fol. 14r. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.

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Figure 12-2. Joshua ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design and Hebrew inscription containing Deuteronomy 6:24-25, 1306?. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Kenn. 2., fol. 14v. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.

The law [Torah] of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.3

The inscription begins in the upper right corner of the design, reads down the left margin, then down the right margin, and finishes on the bottom left (Figure 121). 4 Religiously observant viewers would be familiar with Psalm 19 through its widespread use in the liturgy; it is recited on the Sabbath and on some holidays in its entirety. Although it is not inscribed, viewers would likely also recall verse 10: ‘The fear of the Lord is pure, abiding forever; the judgements of the Lord are true, they are righteous altogether.’5 The golden shimmer of the inscription and interlaced grid design of the central panel—both set off by a rich red—would likely bring to mind verse 11 as well, which describes the Torah as more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey. Comparing the wisdom of Torah to precious gold and gems was common in other Bible inscriptions of the period.6 We will never know whether Duran, whose comments on the taste for deluxe bibles among the Sephardic elite implied an intimate knowledge of these books, ever actually saw Kennicott 2.7

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Figure 12-3. Joshua ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design, 1306?. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Kenn. 2, fol. 15r. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.

But his and ibn Gaon’s shared reliance on Psalm 19 as a vehicle for expressing the essence of Torah is significant and will provide scaffolding for this essay. In ibn Gaon’s bible, this folio, its verso (Figure 12-2), and an additional fol. 15r (Figure 12-3), mark the transition from the prefatory materials which were customary in masoretic bibles to the holy Scripture itself. A fourth fully decorated and inscribed folio, 117v, appears at the end of the Pentateuch (Figure 12-4). Such pages became a feature of Iberian Hebrew Bibles, beginning in the mid-thirteenth century and continuing through most of the fourteenth. These full-page decorations functioned as frontispieces to the books and to divisions within the text, but they—like the carpet pages in insular Gospel books—likely exceeded this function by strengthening a ritualized performance of Bible study. While not iconographic in the traditional sense of the word, even carpet pages with decoration comprising only non-figural ornament may be seen as deliberately meaningful.8 In their earliest phase, such pages in Iberian Bibles featured designs that might best be characterized as Mudejar, displaying vegetal and geometric interwoven forms drawn from an Islamicized visual repertoire with parallels in architecture, textiles,

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Figure 12-4. Joshua ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design and verse count in Hebrew, 1306?. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Kenn. 2, fol. 117v. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.

and the minor arts. Since this decoration was associated with luxury objects and decor, manuscripts containing these pages have been studied from the perspective of patronage and social status in the Sephardic world.9 The non-figural, Islamicizing style itself—in contrast to the figural art appearing in roughly contemporary Iberian Haggadot—has also been understood as demonstrating an allegiance to Maimonidean philosophy and its Andalusi-inflected rationalist approach to the Bible.10 As one might expect, discussions of these pages are scarce. More scholarly interest has been granted to the so-called Temple Implement pages, which join and sometimes replace these ornamental pages in Iberian Bibles beginning in late thirteenth century and trending broadly by the mid-fourteenth century.11 The fact that the depicted implements and their accompanying inscriptions can be traced to Scripture and commentary, to the notion of the Bible codex as a substitute for the lost Temple, as well as to a documented messianic fervour in contemporary Iberia, have made them high-value targets of inquiry that present a coherent iconography

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Figure 12-5. Figure 12-5. Joshua ibn Gaon, Carpet page with interlaced grid design, 1301-1302. Paris, Bibliothéque Nationale, Hébreu 21, fol. 265r. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

with even, in the eyes of some, descent from an ancient Jewish artistic lineage.12 Apart from Eva Frojmovic’s work, the non-figurative frontispieces of Iberian Hebrew Bibles remain relatively unstudied. Those found in Kennicott 2 are unprecedented both for the luminous clarity of their grid-like designs and the presence of four-sided framing inscriptions.13 Born in Soria but generally working in Tudela, ibn Gaon hovered between two artistic worlds—Iberia and north of the Pyrenees—and his manuscripts betray the influences of both traditions. The scriptorium, or perhaps its patrons, eschewed many of the features found in earlier illuminated Iberian Bibles such as the Damascus Keter (Jerusalem, JNIL 4°790) or its contemporary in Marseilles (Bib. municipale, cod. 1626). Both associated with Toledo, these manuscripts feature decorative programmes in which carpet pages are filled with abundant, often floriate patterns on coloured ground. Here, micrography looms large, echoing, or perhaps even determining, designs in interlaced patterns that fill the space. In these manuscripts, the calligraphic frames are also rimmed by micrography, sometimes running both above and below the primary inscriptions.

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The use of micrography in ibn Gaon’s work is more restrained and framing inscriptions are rare; they are absent in six of the nine carpet pages of Paris, BnF cod. hébr. 21—one of two ibn Gaon manuscripts in that collection. These pages, some of which feature interlocking grids resembling those in Kennicott 2, are framed by thick panels of woven interlace. Similar interlaced grid designs feature in the central panels of fol. 1v and fol. 265r of the Parisian codex. The geometrical quality of the grid on fol. 1v is less pronounced due to its patterned and multicoloured background; that on fol. 265r, though quite similar to those in Kennicott 2 and clearly perceived, is oriented differently (Figure 12-5). Three carpet pages with framing inscriptions (fols. 97v–98v) appear at the end of the Pentateuch; the third—which features golden stars in a geometricized pattern—is also inscribed with Psalm 19.14 Despite the presence of these elements in ibn Gaon’s oeuvre, no other extant Iberian Hebrew Bible offers the precise combination of features found in Kennicott 2. Indeed, this essay will argue that the design choices made for the manuscript’s four pages was deliberate and that these designs, in conjunction with their framing inscriptions, may be seen as visual expressions of an abstract notion: the perfection of Torah. In the manuscript, Torah’s perfection will be contrasted with the imperfection of man.

Embodied Perfection In Biblical Hebrew, the word Temimah is used to describe both the Torah and the sacrificial animal known as the Red Heifer.15 Its precise meaning depends on the context in which it is used. Psalm 19:8 declares: ‘The teaching [Torah] of the Lord is perfect [temimah], renewing life’, and Numbers 19:2 recounts how the Lord told Moses and Aaron that the children of Israel must bring ‘a red cow [Para Aduma], without blemish [temimah]’, to be used in a ritual of purif ication designated for objects and people contaminated by contact with the dead.16 The ritual of the Para Adumah and the details ensuring its proper administration comprise an entire tractate of the Talmud. The rabbis agreed that a determination of its flawlessness (beyond the general requirements for sacrificial animals) resided in the consistency of its red colouring; even two black or white hairs would be disqualifying.17 The Para Adumah is depicted in a number of the illuminated Mahzor (festival prayer book) manuscripts from Ashkenaz. In the Mahzor, it decorates the piyut (liturgical poem) chanted in synagogue services for one of the four Special Sabbaths—Shabbat Para—which features the reading of the Torah portion Numbers 19, and which also initiates the seasonal build-up towards Passover.18 Often, the Heifer is shown with Eleazar, who initiated the ritual.19 She also appears in several

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Figure 12-6. Joseph ibn Hayyim, The ‘Red Heifer’ in margin of bible text, The Kennicott Bible, 1476. Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS Kenn. 1, fol. 88v. Photo © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford.

illuminated Hebrew Bibles, such as the First Kennicott Bible of 1476, in which the image relinquishes shading in favour of depicting the Heifer’s hide in a rich, saturated red (Figure 12-6). In these images, the artists have made sure to depict the Heifer as uniformly coloured and as unblemished in any other way in compliance with Jewish law.20 Effort is taken to reveal all four legs of the animal and its udders, and to awkwardly position the head in such a way as to show both eyes and horns. Thus, underpinning the Para Adumah’s perfection is its conformity with all those essential physical parts—including a pure red coat—that make it a Para Adumah. This is an embodied perfection, demanded by Jewish Law, rendered by a medieval artist, and highly recognizable to its viewers. But how might one depict the disembodied and abstract perfection of Torah?

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The Perfection of Torah Visualized In modern English, the difference between a Torah Temimah and a Para Aduma Temimah may be rendered by translating the adjective in the first case as perfect and in the second as unblemished or flawless: the first perfection being a state associated with the divine and the second perfection being a state of physical wholeness that qualifies the subject for ritual use. As we have seen in the case of the Red Heifer, the rabbis perceived its flawlessness with respect to its colouring, and that perception shaped its representation in manuscript illumination. In contrast, the perfection of Torah exists outside the realm of easy qualification. Instead, its manifold effects are detailed in the Psalm’s remaining verses: ‘renewing life, making the simple wise, rejoicing the heart, and making the eyes light up’.21 Yet Psalm 19:8–9 employs a number of words to restate and reinforce its initial message. The Law (Torah) is referred to as ‘testimony’, ‘precepts’, and ‘commandments’ in the Mechon Mamre translation, and as ‘decrees’, ‘precepts’, and ‘instruction’ in the JPS translation. Such entities are described as ‘sure’, ‘straight’, and ‘pure’ in the Mechon Mamre translation, or as ‘enduring’, ‘just’, and ‘lucid’ in the JPS translation. The qualities conveyed by the Psalmist’s adjectives are mirrored by the golden grid of fol. 14r, which stands out in sharp relief—pure or lucid—against the pale parchment. Viewed directly, the design is symmetrical and balanced: straight or just. Yet the gaze is invited to follow its turnings and to penetrate its openings as if peering through a window lattice. Formed of a continuous golden line rimmed in red, the composition has two focal points, opening like butterfly wings, which are presented horizontally above and vertically below the panel’s midline. If one turns the codex in a clockwise direction to read the inscriptions on the folio’s long sides, these butterfly-shaped foci switch orientation: that which was vertically aligned becomes horizontally aligned and vice versa. No matter which direction the codex is turned, the presence of one shape aligned in each orientation remains constant: sure and enduring. In its entirety, the design’s formal qualities may be said to express the Psalmist’s notion of what constitutes the perfection of Torah, and by extension, divine perfection. The identical grid-like design is reproduced, almost certainly by tracing, on the folio’s verso, where it again emerges from a ground of unpainted parchment. The entire panel is set within generous margins as was seen in the previous folio. A highly legible framing inscription is written in red. The text is Deuteronomy 6:24–5, presented in the same reading pattern as fol. 14r: And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be righteousness unto us, if we observe to do all this commandments before the Lord our God as he hath commanded us.22

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The surrounding inscription speaks of the benefits to humankind of observing the Torah’s commandments. When read in its context (Deut. 6:20–25), it becomes clear that the inscribed text comprises the final verses of an argument for the transmission of Torah from one generation to the next.23 Although the grid’s design is identical to that on the preceding folio, here the shimmering gold has been replaced by a selection of brilliant colours: grass green, rust, red, and a pale yellow for the winglike portions of the focal points. This palette is mirrored in other Iberian manuscripts made by Jews.24 In this context, however, one wonders whether the colours were deliberately chosen to refer to organic life under God’s dominion, in contrast to the golden minerality of the previous page, which recalls the celestial sheen of heaven. With the turning of a page, the divine perfection of Torah has been mobilized for good on earth. The third carpet page (fol. 15r) does not repeat the pattern found in the previous folios. Instead, its central panel presents an alternate grid-based design presented in red-rimmed gold. Instead of two focal points, as found in fols. 14r and 14v, here there is only one: a centrally placed six-pointed star. Appearing within the star’s conf ines is the three-towered castle found in the shield of Castile. Since other heraldic emblems associated with Iberian kingdoms appear elsewhere in the margins of this and other manuscripts, this manuscript’s third carpet page could simply be understood as a status symbol inserted into the pages of a luxury codex. Or it may, indeed, signal the patron’s involvement with matters related to the court. In lieu of a framing inscription, the central panel of fol. 15r is surrounded by a richly coated golden acanthus scroll set in a deep red border, which resembles a strip of luxurious material worn by royalty. For all the majesty of this border, fol. 15’s lack of an inscription indicates a purposeful separation of the secular from the divine. This is made all the more evident when the manuscript lies open, fully revealing the facing pages in contrast. While both pages are aniconic, fol. 15—unlike its companion—contains elements that may easily be read iconographically: the heraldic castle and the six-pointed star, also known as Solomon’s Seal. Although scholarship has played down political readings of the six-pointed star in medieval Europe, the symbol is certainly widely present in Jewish contexts, and its connection to Judaism may be relevant here. Since the heraldic castle would have been easily recognized by Iberian viewers, its placement within the star’s confines is suggestive. A lengthy polemical reading of the page, however, remains beyond the bounds of this paper. It must suffice to say that a key to understanding this carpet page likely resides in its juxtaposition with its facing companion whose inscription extolls the virtue of following divine, rather than terrestrial, law.

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The Imperfection of Man: Torah versus Book The conclusion of the Pentateuch is marked by the fourth and final carpet page of Kennicott 2 on fol. 117v. At first glance, it seems as though the artist has reprised the red-rimmed golden grid pattern present in the carpet pages marking the beginning of the Pentateuch. This is a reasonable assumption: one would expect to close the Five Books of Moses in the same way in which they were opened. In this scheme, an identical set of abstractions beginning and ending the Pentateuch would appear like vestiges of the precious textiles believed by some to have wrapped biblical codices in late antiquity. Closer inspection of the central panel, however, reveals a substantial difference from those of the opening carpet pages. In fact, it seems as if the grid itself has been replicated and shifted sideways like a screen on a sliding door. The familiar butterfly shapes—the top one horizontally arranged and the bottom one vertically arranged—are now set on the left margin of the page rather than in its centre. They no longer act as focal points in a centralized design. In fact, the grid design itself has been extended to the right of the panel by additional interlaced forms. On the right margin, below the midline of the panel, we see the hint of a butterfly, oriented horizontally, but this shape is left unresolved and open. Above the midline, on the same margin, another half butterfly shape appears, but its right-hand margin is closed by a red-rimmed gold line. The open space of the lower butterfly nullifies any attempt to convince us that this pattern would continue indefinitely and predictably beyond the frame, had it not been for the intervening inscription. What has happened? The manuscript’s earlier carpet pages are powerful evidence that Joshua ibn Gaon was capable of achieving resolved and intricate grid designs set into planned settings with harmonious visual effects. The hypothesis of dwindling energy and expense in the latter pages of a prolonged project is dispelled by examining fol. 118r, whose margins contain micrographic designs with gold infill. Such richly and skillfully decorated margins continue throughout the manuscript. Has the master perhaps handed the project over to an overeager, but ill-equipped, apprentice? Unlike the two ibn Gaon manuscripts in Paris, BnF 20 and BnF 21, the Bible text within the manuscript known as Kennicott 2 does not contain a colophon. The attribution to Joshua ibn Gaon has been extrapolated from a lengthy colophon inscribed on a two-folio plan of the Temple that is now bound into the manuscript (fols. 1v and 2r), but which was not necessarily intended for this book.25 The presence of the colophon and stylistic comparison to signed manuscripts by the scribe/ illuminator/masoreter have allowed scholars to attribute Kennicott 2 to ibn Gaon. The Temple plan is mentioned here not because the attribution of Kennicott 2 is controversial, but because scholars have noted that it contains a number of

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errors when compared to accounts of the Temple’s design and elements extant in Scripture and commentary. In his catalogue entry for Kennicott 2, Bezalel Narkiss notes that a key error in the plan is the fact that north and south seem to have been labelled in reverse on the plan, which caused the artist to misplace some of the elements. According to Narkiss, ibn Gaon’s Temple plan depends primarily on the Mishnah, ‘though it contains some peculiarities’.26 The misplaced Menorah, which wrongly appears to the south of the Holy Place, is explained by ibn Gaon’s initial mislabelling of the directions north and south. Narkiss goes on to discuss the placement of additional chambers and buildings that appear to contradict their location according to the Mishnaic description: These mistakes could not have been made on purpose, and could not in any case represent a tradition different from the Mishnah, which was no doubt known to Joshua ibn Gaon and to his teacher Rabbi Isaac b. Gershon. If not an artist’s copying error, this may represent a visual tradition, which although erroneous, was faithfully copied.27

Let us return for a moment to the framing inscription of fol. 117v. Though at first glance similar to those found on fols. 14r and 14v, this inscription—like the interlaced grid it surrounds—presents some perplexing elements. Paramount is the fact that the letters, although outlined in familiar red, remain unfilled. This is unlikely to have been an oversight given the finished quality of marginal decoration in the rest of the manuscript. They differ from the golden, filled letters of fol. 14r and the slim, red calligraphic letters of fol. 14v. More significantly, the inscription itself lacks a border, differing from that on fol. 14r where the letters are embedded in a rich red or that on fol. 14v where the letters appear in a space whose dimensions are clearly ruled out by lines in the same grass green colour of the central panel. In tandem with the missing border, the central panel itself has expanded: the once generous field of unpainted parchment surrounding preceding panels is diminished and with it, the calm but powerful impact of the design. Unlike the inscriptions on fols. 14r and 14v, those on fol. 117v are not drawn from Scripture. Instead, the framing inscription provides a tally of the number of verses in the Torah and in the book before us. The inscription reads: In the book [‫ ]מספר‬all the verses of the Torah of Moses is five thousand, and eight hundred, and thirty five. The sign for them is 5835 [sign meaning rendered in alphabetical numerical equivalents], as if to say ‘they are a mouth for those who read them’.28

Rather than being a statement of the perfection of Torah, the inscription on fol. 117v is an accounting of Torah’s transference into book form. It tells us how many verses

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are there; in fact, the number is both written out, given in ‘signs’, and sealed with a mnemonic phrase. There is nothing here about the abstract qualities indexed by the Torah’s perfection, as we saw in fol. 14r, nor is there anything about the benefits to those who follow its laws, as we saw in fol. 14v. Presumably all of the above was apparent to the reader who had just finished reading the Pentateuch inscribed in the book. The inscription on fol. 117v is a statement attesting to the book’s completeness. And while not a colophon in the traditional sense of the word, the image—taken in tandem with its inscription—references the book’s maker. This maker is a human, rather than a divine being. The message of the final abstract page in Kennicott 2 is that even those books containing the perfect Torah are made by men who are themselves imperfect.29 This explains the ‘errors’ present in the final carpet page and possibly also those ‘errors’ present in the plan of a Temple that was designed by God but that cannot be rebuilt until the Messiah arrives.

The Limits and Powers of Abstraction Both Judaism and Islam share a reluctance toward depicting living creatures— particularly in religious settings—based on the fear of idolatry. In Judaism, the interpretation of this prohibition was fluid and historically determined.30 While figural art in Biblical codices would develop in Iberia, even appearing on a limited basis in the work of ibn Gaon, Kennicott 2 clearly belongs to a tradition of abstract and aniconically decorated codices whose language is Islamic in derivation.31 There is debate in the art-historical literature concerning whether the abstract geometrical ornament prevalent in Islamic art was meant to convey a spiritual message to its medieval viewers. Likewise, the notion that Islamic artists thought of themselves as messengers or participants in a channel of religious ideals is controversial.32 Was the decoration received in this manner by its viewers or was it simply decorative? The rabbinic responsa of Maimonides reveal his concerns regarding the possibility that decoration may distract one from the proper concentration during prayer.33 He says nothing about the possibility that such decoration might convey spiritual messages of any sort. Maimonides’ preference for facing a bare wall, rather than one hung with decorative textiles, during prayer exists in tension with Profiat Duran’s admonition, over two centuries later, that ‘one should always study from beautifully made books that have elegant script and pages and ornate adornments and bindings’.34 Duran’s statement echoes the Jewish concept of Hiddur Mitzvah that championed an adornment of ceremonial objects used in ritual settings as a way of further sanctifying the commandment. He elaborates by making reference

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to the beautification of the Sanctuary and by evoking the contemporary notion of a Bible codex as Mikdashyah (sanctuary of the Lord).35 In addition, for Duran, the book’s physical embellishment serves a practical purpose: ‘Memory will also improve since contemplation and study occur amidst beautifully decorated forms and beautiful drawings, with the result that the soul will expand and be encouraged and strengthen its powers.’36 Made in the period between the lives of Maimonides and Duran, Kennicott 2’s abstract decoration may have aided in the ritualized performance of Torah, as suggested above. But was this decoration inherently meaningful? Could it be considered iconographic in the commonly accepted notion of the word? Would one venture the same interpretation for the design of fols. 14r and 14v in the absence of their surrounding inscriptions? Given the widespread use of Psalm 19 in the liturgy, is it possible that one might have had these words in mind when opening the Pentateuch, even if the inscription were not included? Is the Psalm text necessary to activate its meaning, whether read on the page or recited by memory, or could the images act alone? Could these interlace grids become the non-figural emblems of the dominion of God (through Torah), just as the three-towered castle becomes an emblem of the kingdom of Castile on earth?37 The lack of comparanda in other manuscripts or media makes this hypothesis impossible to prove. In situ, however, a pairing of the abstract design with surrounding texts regarding the perfection and benefit of Torah is another matter. If we accept the premise that in this setting, the repeated grid pattern could become an abstract emblem for the expression of perfection, we must also accept the fact that the distortion of the same grid on fol. 117v is deliberate and meaningful. This essay is predicated on the notion that Joshua ibn Gaon was capable of imaging the abstract notion of Torah Temimah as stated in Psalm 19:8, whose gilded words surround the first abstracted page of the illuminated Bible known today as Kennicott 2. He achieved this imaging by creating and executing an aniconic page design, whose visual qualities mirrored those attributed to the Torah in the page’s surrounding inscription as well as in the Psalm’s remaining verses, recalled by viewers who knew its words by heart. Ibn Gaon’s design works as an expressive entity not only when viewed directly but also when the book was rotated in a deliberately choreographed manner to read the surrounding inscription’s long sides. If we can ascribe to ibn Gaon the ability to express the Torah’s perfection, why can we not also ascribe to him the converse: the expression of man’s imperfection?

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Notes 1.

2.

3.

4.

5. 6.

The title of Duran’s work means the ‘making of the Efod’, which refers to the garment worn by the high priest during rituals in the Temple. For the Ma’aseh Efod, see Kozodoy, The Secret Faith of Maestre Honoratus, Chapter 11, especially pp. 163–70. For this theme in the work of Isaac Abarbanel, see Haas, ‘Divine Perfection’, pp. 302–57. Oxford, Bod. Lib. Kennicott 2. The carpet pages are fols. 14r, 14v, 15r, and 117v. The first three pages mark the beginning of the Pentateuch, and the final one appears at its conclusion. The manuscript is generally dated to Soria in 1306. For all of the manuscripts connected with the ibn Gaon family, see Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art, especially Chapter 4. The data supporting Joshua ibn Gaon’s connection to Kennicott 2 is discussed on pp. 101–2. For Kennicott 2, see Sed-Rajna, in Convivencia, catalogue 6, pp. 180–1. The manuscript is catalogued in Narkiss, Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts, catalogue 3, pp. 24–30, with additional bibliography. Two manuscripts now in Paris are works by Joshua ibn Gaon: BN, ms. Hébreu 20 and 21. For these, see Sed-Rajna and Fellous, Les manuscrits hébreu enluminés, catalogue 15, pp. 35–44; and catalogue 16, pp. 44–9. A recent study from the standpoint of later patronage is del Barco, ‘Joshua ibn Gaon’s Hebrew Bibles’, pp. 267–97. Ortega-Monasterio, ‘Sephardic Hebrew Bibles’ and ‘Some Hebrew Bibles in the Bodleian Library’, are concerned with textual matters. There are many translations of the Hebrew Bible in its entirety, and the Psalms as a stand-alone entity. For convenience, this paper will use the Mechon Mamre and JPS translations. This is the Mechon Mamre translation. The JPS translation of Psalm 19: 8–9 is: ‘The teaching of the Lord is perfect, renewing life; The decrees of the Lord are enduring, making the simple wise. The precepts of the Lord are just, rejoicing the heart; The instruction of the Lord is lucid making the eyes light up.’ There have been numerous studies on Psalm 19. The following have been helpful to me: Sarna, Songs of the Heart; Yehuda, ‘Psalm 19 – its Coherence and Message’; and Wagner, ‘From the Heavens to the Heart’. All of the four-sided framing inscriptions, connected to the ibn Gaon scriptorium, though comparatively rare, present this reading pattern. Harris, ‘Makers, Movement, and Meaning: The Carpet Pages of Iberian Hebrew Bibles’, paper delivered at the International Medieval Congress, Leeds, U.K., July 2019. The bottom line of fol. 14r ends with ‘enlightening the eyes’, at the midpoint of the folio. The scribe has added the Hebrew word ‘strength’ to fill out the line. This is the JPS translation. The Mechon-Mamre translates the line as: ‘The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the ordinances of the Lord are true, they are righteous altogether.’ Stern, The Jewish Bible, p. 101. Kogman-Appel discusses the calligraphic frame of the Temple Implements pages in the Parma Bible (Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, MS Parm 2668), which is taken from Proverbs (2:3–11) and references silver and buried treasure in Jewish Book Art, p. 136. In Ashkenaz, the connection of the Torah to honey was ritually enacted when a boy began his traditional education. This ritual is the centrepiece of Marcus, Rituals of Childhood.

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7. 8.

9. 10.

11. 12.

13.

14. 15. 16. 17.

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For Profiat Duran and the deluxe manuscripts of Iberia, see Bland, ‘Medieval Jewish Aesthetics’; Fishman, ‘The Hebrew Bible and the Senses’; and Stern, The Jewish Bible, pp. 103–5. The carpet pages of insular manuscripts have generated a large and diverse literature. In preparing this essay, the following recent publications have been helpful to me: Tilghman, ‘Ornament and Incarnation’; Tilghman, ‘Pattern, Process, and the Creation of Meaning’; and Ní Ghrádaigh, ‘“Otherworldly gesturing?”’. Frojmovic, ‘Jewish Mudejarismo and the Invention of Tradition’, and ‘The Patron as Scribe’. This is the view of Kogman-Appel first advanced in ‘Hebrew Manuscript Painting in Late Medieval Spain’ and repeated in Jewish Book Art. Shalev-Eyni sees these forms as the result of contact with contemporary North African Jewish communities and their own manuscript culture, rather than being indicative of a philosophical preference; see Shalev-Eyni, ‘Tradition in Transition’. See also the essays and catalogue entries in Biblias de Sefarad: Bibles of Sepharad. There is an extensive bibliography on the Temple Implements frontispieces. Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art, provides a good introduction to the genre with further bibliography. The notion of a lost tradition of the Jewish visual arts in antiquity appears, for example, in Sed-Rajna, The Hebrew Bible in Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts. Joseph Gutmann was an early skeptic regarding the continuity of Jewish narrative art from the period of Dura Europos (third century) to the Middle Ages. See Gutmann, review of Kurt Weitzmann and Herbert L. Kessler, pp. 502–4, and Gutmann, ‘The Dura Europos Synagogue Paintings’, among other publications. The most recent full treatment of the notion of continuity in Jewish illumination from late antiquity to the Middle Ages and its effect on scholarship, is Kogman-Appel, ‘Bible Illustration and the Jewish Tradition’. Frojmovic offers putative connections to vision referenced by some of the inscriptions and the way in which the pages force the viewer to take time to decipher the inscriptions and contemplate the design. See Frojmovic, ‘Jewish Mudejarismo’, pp. 244–5. This is a topic I will explore more fully elsewhere. The chronology of ibn Gaon’s manuscript production is debated. A more in-depth examination of his carpet page designs, inscriptions, and the evidence they may present for a workshop practice and chronology is beyond the scope of this paper. ‫תמימה‬ ‫ ויקחו אליך פרה אדמה‬and ‫ תורת יהוה תמימה‬ JPS translations of Numbers and Psalms downloaded from Sefaria, 20 August 2019. In addition, the inherent paradox of the rite—in which the person administering the cleansing is subsequently defiled by it—was a rich source of rabbinic discussion. Of the extensive literature on this subject, see Blau, ‘The Red Heifer’, and Epstein, Dreams of Subversion, who expands the discussion to consider the Red Heifer’s relationship to medieval Jewish eschatology, pp. 100–3 and in footnotes on pp. 147–8, nn. 22–29. I wish to thank Marc Epstein for his help with this material.

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18.

19. 20. 21. 22.

23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28.

29.

30.

31. 32. 33. 34.

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Some examples include: The Worms Mahzor, vol. 1, fol. 21, JNIL I Heb. 4 781/1 of 1272; The Bamberg Mahzor, fol. 15v, JTS I MS 4843, 1279; The Laud Mahzor, Oxford Bod. Lib. Laud Or. 321, fol. 53, c. 1290; The Hammelburg Mahzor, fol. 55, Darmstadt, Cod. or. 13, 1348. For the illuminated Mahzor, see Sed-Rajna, Le Mahzor Enluminé. As in Oxford, Bodl. Libr., ms Laud Or. 321 on fol. 53r and the Worms Mahzor, Jerusalem, BNIL, Heb. 4 781/I, fol. 59r. In addition to being without blemish, animals qualified for sacrifice must also fall into the category known as ‘clean’. Three word pairings are employed in these verses: decrees or testimony, precepts, commandments or instruction. The corresponding adjective are: sure or enduring, straight or just, pure or lucid. This is the Mechon Mamre translation. The JPS translation reads: ‘Then the Lord commanded us to observe all these laws, to revere the Lord our God, for our lasting good and survival, as is now the case. It will be therefore to our merit before the Lord our God to observe faithfully this whole Instruction, as He has commanded us.’ Fishbane, Biblical Text and Texture, pp. 79–83. For example, the Hispano-Moresque Haggadah, BL MS Or. 2737. Reproduced and discussed by Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art, pp. 101–2. Narkiss, Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts in the British Isles, catalogue 3, p. 29 Narkiss, Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts in the British Isles, catalogue 3, pp. 24–30, quotation appearing on p. 29. My sincere thanks to Israel Sandman, who helped me decipher the inscription. Professor Sandman’s recognition of an error in the inscription’s mnemonic phrase (they are a mouth for those who read them) and his palaeographical explanation for this error remain beyond the concerns of this essay. An interesting cross-cultural comparison, which lies beyond the scope of this paper, might be made with those areas in the Lindisfarne Gospel page left unfinished by the scribe. Tilghmann sees these as deliberate and designed to call attention to the process of making the Gospel, ‘Pattern, Process, and the Creation of Meaning’. There is a lengthy literature on Judaism’s historically contingent interpretation of the Second Commandment. The following provide useful treatments of the subject: Fine, Art and Judaism in the Greco-Roman World; Bland, The Artless Jew; and Guttmann, ‘The Second Commandment’. Ibn Gaon’s depiction of the clean and unclean animals specified in Leviticus Chapter 11 appears on the lower margin of fol. 114v in Paris, BnF, cod. héb 20. The manuscript dates to 1300. For example, see Lisa Golombek’s review of Islamic Art and Spirituality by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. The subject of overarching religious meanings in Islamic geometrical ornament is taken up by Gülru Necipoglu in her book The Topkapi Scroll. Discussed by Mann, in ‘Jewish Ceremonial Art’, pp. 174–5. Stern, The Jewish Bible, p. 104. For additional studies of Duran’s attitude towards art in Jewish contexts, see: Bland, ‘Medieval Jewish Aesthetics’; Kozodoy, The Secret Faith of Maestre Honoratus; Stern, The Jewish Bible, pp. 104–5; and Fishman, ‘The Hebrew Bible and the Senses’, pp. 103–5, 118.

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35.

The Bible codex as the Mikdashyah has been noted by many scholars. See Stern, The Jewish Bible, pp. 102–3, with further bibliography. 36. For Duran’s writings on memory see, Zwiep, ‘Jewish Scholarship and Christian Tradition’. 37. Perhaps this is an unfair comparison given that the castle emblem owes its existence to its linguistic relationship to the name of the kingdom.

Works Cited E. Alfonso, J. del Barco, M. Teresa Ortega Monasterio, A. Prats, eds., Biblias de Sefarad: Bibles of Sepharad (Madrid: Biblioteca Nacional, 2011). Javier del Barco, ‘Joshua ibn Gaon’s Hebrew Bibles and the Circulation of Books in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Periods’, in Patronage, Production, and Transmission of Texts in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Cultures, ed. by Esperanza Alfonso and Jonathan Decter (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014) pp. 267–97. Kalman P. Bland, ‘Medieval Jewish Aesthetics: Maimonides, Body, and Scripture in Profiat Duran’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 54/4 (1993), pp. 533–59. ———, The Artless Jew: Medieval and Modern Affirmations and Denials of the Visual (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000). Joseph L. Blau, ‘The Red Heifer: A Biblical Purification Rite in Rabbinic Literature’, Numen, 14:1 (1967), pp. 70–8. Marc Michael Epstein, Dreams of Subversion in Medieval Jewish Art and Literature (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997). Steven Fine, Art and Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: toward a New Jewish Archaeology 2nd ed. (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Michael Fishbane, Biblical Text and Texture: a literary reading of selected texts, 2nd. ed. (Oxford: Oneworld, 1998). Talya Fishman, ‘The Hebrew Bible and the Senses’, in Jewish Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honor of David B. Ruderman, ed. by R. Cohen, N. Dohrmann, A. Shear, and E. Reiner (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014), pp. 75–84. Eva Frojmovic, ‘Jewish Mudejarismo and the Invention of Tradition’, in Late Medieval Jewish Identities: Iberia and Beyond, ed. by Carmen Caballero-Navas and Esperanza Alfonso (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 233–58. ———, ‘The Patron as Scribe and the Performance of Piety during the Kingdom of Majorca’, in Patronage, Production, and Transmission of Texts in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Culture, ed. by Esperanza Alfonso and Jonathan Decter (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014), pp. 299–327. Lisa Golombek, Review of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islamic Art and Spirituality, in Iranian Studies, 22, no. 1 (1989), pp. 85–7.

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Joseph Gutmann, ‘The Second Commandment and the Image in Judaism’, in No Graven Images: Studies in the Hebrew Bible and Art, ed. by Joseph Gutmann (New York: Ktav Publishing, 1971), pp. 3–19. ———, ‘The Messianic Temple in Spanish Medieval Hebrew Manuscripts’, in The Temple of Solomon: Archaeological Fact and Medieval Tradition in Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Art, ed. by Joseph Gutmann (Missoula: Missoula Scholars Press for American Academy of Religion, 1976), pp. 125–45. ———, ‘The Dura Europos Synagogue Paintings and Their Influence on Later Christian and Jewish Art’, Artibus et Historiae 9, no. 17 (1988), pp. 25–9. ———, review ‘The Frescoes of the Dura Synagogue and Christian Art. Kurt Weitzmann, Herbert L. Kessler’, Speculum, vol. 67, no. 2 (1992), pp. 502–4. Jair Haas, ‘Divine Perfection and Methodological Inconsistency: Towards an Understanding of Isaac Abarbanel’s Exegetical Frame of Mind’, Jewish Studies Quarterly, 17:4 (2010), pp. 302–57. Katrin Kogman-Appel, ‘Bible Illustration and the Jewish Tradition’, in Imaging the Early Medieval Bible, ed. by John Williams (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999), pp. 61–96. ———, ‘Hebrew Manuscript Painting in Late Medieval Spain: Signs of a Culture in Transition’, The Art Bulletin, 84/2 (2002), pp. 246–72. ———, Jewish Book Art Between Islam and Christianity: The Decoration of Hebrew Bibles in Medieval Spain (Leiden: Brill, 2004) Maud Kozodoy, The Secret Faith of Maestre Honoratus: Profayt Duran and Jewish Identity in Late Medieval Iberia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015). Vivian Mann, ‘Spirituality and Jewish Ceremonial Art’, Artibus et Historiae, 24, no. 48 (2003), pp. 173–82. Ivan Marcus, Rituals of Childhood (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996). Bezalel Narkiss, Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts of the British Isles: Spanish and Portuguese Manuscripts (Oxford/Jerusalem: Oxford University Press, 1982). Gülru Necipoglu, The Topkapi Scroll: Geometry and Ornament in Islamic Architecture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996). Jenifer Ní Ghrádaigh, ‘Otherworldly Gesturing? Understanding Linear Complexity in Medieval Insular Art’, Linea, 2 (2012), pp. 113–33. Maria-Teresa Ortega-Monasterio, ‘Sephardic Hebrew Bibles of the Kennicott Collection’, Babelao, 5 (2016), pp. 127–68. ———, ‘Some Hebrew Bibles in the Bodleian Library: The Kennicott Collection’, Journal of Semitic Studies, 62 (2017), pp. 93–111. Nahum Sarna, Songs of the Heart: an introduction to the Book of Psalms (New York: Schocken Books, 1993). Gabrielle Sed-Rajna, Le Mahzor Enluminé: Le voies de formation d’un programme iconographique (Leiden: Brill, 1983).

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———, The Hebrew Bible in Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts (New York: Rizzoli, 1987). ———, in Convivencia: Jews Muslims and Christians in Medieval Spain, ed. by V. Mann, T. Glick, and J. Dodds (New York: George Braziller/the Jewish Museum, 1992), pp. 180–1. Gabrielle Sed-Rajna and Sonia Fellous, Les manuscrits hébreu enluminés des bibliotheques de France (Leuven: Peters, 1994). Sarit Shalev-Eyni, ‘Tradition in Transition: Mudejar Art and the Emergence of the Illuminated Sephardic Bible in Christian Toledo’, Medieval Encounters, 23 (2017), pp. 531–59. David Stern, The Jewish Bible: A Material History (Seattle/London: University of Washington Press, 2017). Benjamin Tilghman, ‘Ornament and Incarnation in Insular Art’, Gesta, 55/2 (2016), pp. 157–77. ———, ‘Pattern, Process, and the Creation of Meaning in the Lindisfarne Gospels’, West 86th, 24/1 (2017), pp. 3–28. J. Ross Wagner, ‘From the Heavens to the Heart: The Dynamics of Psalm 19 as Prayer’, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61:2 (1999), pp. 245–61. Zvi Yehuda, ‘Psalm 19 – its Coherence and Message’, Journal of Jewish Music and Liturgy, 26 (2003–2004), pp. 1–14. Irene Zwiep, ‘Jewish Scholarship and Christian Tradition in Late-Medieval Catalonia: Profiat Duran on the Art of Memory’, in Hebrew Scholarship and the Medieval World, ed. by Nicholas de Lange (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) pp. 224–39.

About the Author Julie Harris is a specialist in the art of medieval Iberia. She has published on ivory carving, pilgrimage, illuminated Haggadot, and the fate of art and architecture during the Reconquest. A member of Therese Martin’s international research projects investigating ‘Women as Makers’ and the ‘Treasury of San Isidoro in León’, Harris has recently published in Gesta, the Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies, Medieval Encounters, and the Journal of Medieval History. She was recently awarded a Center for Spain in America fellowship at the Clark Institute for her project on the decorative carpet pages of Iberian Hebrew Bibles.

13. Response: Astral Abstraction Herbert L. Kessler Abstract Focusing on the central medallion in the first dome of the atrium of San Marco in Venice, the final chapter responds to the previous essays by examining some of the ways geometry, craft, quasi- and non-figural elements, matter, surface, colour, patterns, text, and even emptiness triggered the imagination and generated new meanings. It argues that abstraction, generally related to thought or spirit, provoked beholders to move beyond the sensory apprehension of ornament and image toward contemplation of the ineffable. And it proposes that the resulting reciprocity between somatic experience and memory not only mediated levels of meaning but also engendered a competition of imaginations which, rooted in medieval theories of cognition, sought to create a material aesthetics associated with prelapsarian experience. Keywords: San Marco Venice, metaphor, Incarnation, visual reciprocity, movement, memory. We sing this hour because we believe that the world was created at this time, the hour when the morning stars joyfully became visible and, with sweet harmony, praised God who made them. The angels (also called God’s sons) were created at that time and immediately afterwards, with their full gentle voices in unison, extolled the Author for the creation of the world. When we sing at this hour, we, who are called the evening stars, imitate them; for if we follow Christ in prayer, the sun setting in the west before us, we are led to the garden of light, that is, the resurrection when we will become morning stars. ‒ Honorius Augustodunensis, Gemma animae, II.321

At the summit of the first cupola in the atrium of San Marco in Venice (Figure 13-1), a gold disc, set with eight stones orbiting around an emerald-coloured solitaire, floats against a star-filled grid on a dark blue ground (Figure 13-2). In sharp contrast to the intense and sustained scholarly attention paid to the narratives unfolding below in some two dozen scenes of the Creation, Fall, and Expulsion—enacted

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_ch13

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Figure 13-1. Creation cupola, second quarter of 13th century, Venice, San Marco, atrium, mosaic. Photo: Branislav Slantchev.

Figure 13-2. Central disk of Creation cupola (det.), second quarter of 13th century, Venice, San Marco, mosaic. Photo: Beat Brenk.

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by myriad human figures, anthropomorphic personifications, animals, plants, and props—the capstone has scarcely been noted.2 Indeed, medieval art history regularly succumbs to the privileging of figure over abstract form that Aristotle had already noted in the Poetics: ‘[…] if one were to cover a surface randomly with the finest colours, one would produce less pleasure than by an outline of a picture’.3 The San Marco medallion is thus paradigmatic of the central problem that the contributors to this volume confront in diverse monuments and contexts: namely, how the aesthetics of artistic materiality compete with even the simplest figuration and especially with the complex temporal accounts drawn from texts, performed in liturgies, and validated by theology. It offers a fitting example, therefore, with which to conclude this manifold consideration about the ways in which geometry, craft, quasi- and non-figural elements, matter, surface, colour, patterns, and even emptiness triggered imagination and meaning, and, in so doing, elevated beholders’ minds beyond the physical forms they perceived with their bodily senses and guided their contemplation of the ineffable.

Things The medallion in the San Marco Creation cupola manifests how settings and the imperatives of real objects imposed abstract elements onto figuration—a process also seen in the lined folios of manuscripts that Nancy Thebaut, Benjamin Tilghman, and Gia Toussaint analyse, and in the flat surfaces of panels, walls, and portable artefacts that Vincent Debiais, Danielle Joyner, and Robert Mills teach us are directly connected to the imaging experience. Especially during the high Middle Ages, the geometry of architectural environments and the contextual exigencies of things themselves constituted the matrix in which representations were comprehended and in which ornament constructed meaning. Precipitated by the domical vault, the circle invites comparison with the five other atrium cupolas, as well as with the large domes inside the basilica, all capped by medallions adorned with like but distinct motifs. These develop a tradition going back to late antiquity when Christians applied ancient cosmological conventions of the ‘dome of heaven’ to the decoration of ecclesiastical buildings. 4 The (lost) fifth-century mosaic in the church of San Prisco near Capua, for example, was organized around a medallion adorned with eight stars on a crossed orb, blocked off by some sort of central table or veil and ringed by a gemmed band and rows of figures.5 The twelfth-century domes inside San Marco elaborated the ancient conceit in various ways; the central one features Christ seated on a throne overseeing his Church within a starry clypeus borne by four angels.6

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The medallion of the first atrium cupola distils the ‘dome of heaven’ motif to its formal and material essence. The large beryl orbited by blue, red, and white singletons in the central medallion evoke a cross (as in San Prisco) that conjures up the Deity’s presence before the words, pictures, and physical shapes, not Robert Oppenheimer’s ‘destroyer of worlds’ from the Bhagavad-Gita, but rather a manifestation of the pictorial claim that God was formless before Creation and in constant motion, like the geometric undergirding alluding to the music of the spheres.7 A similar interplay between simple natural materials and representation is fundamental to many modes of abstraction, as Joyner observes of the garnets and pearls that serve simultaneously as ‘ornaments’ on the Frankish brooches she analyses and as ‘eyes’ of the creatures they adorn. By virtue of position and a few characteristics, basic shapes yield specific meanings. Like many abstract forms, including the ‘dome of heaven’, the fish-scale grate on which the medallion floats engaged a particular history.8 It had been deployed on doors and other passageways in early churches, notably at the tomb of St. Peter in Rome, to enable the faithful to peer into sacred precincts but not enter them.9 It is also found throughout San Marco. A fish-scale lattice constitutes a fragment of an Early Christian transenna now in the basilica’s museum, the armature of a window in the scrigno, and bronze doors of various dates (including later ones) leading into the atrium.10 Most notable, a fish-scale bronze door closes off the Porta da Mar directly beneath the Creation dome, aligned in such a way that those entering the church from the lagoon would have looked up after passing through it to gaze at the virtual gate atop the first cupola and, in so doing, move from a mundane bronze barrier to an image of heaven’s threshold. Representations of the fish-scale grid against the blue ground also appear in two nearby mosaics, both, like the Creation cupola, datable to the second quarter of the thirteenth century, and both also connected to doors. Just inside the Porta San Clemente that leads from the atrium’s first bay into the basilica proper, the Virgin Mary is portrayed standing before an identical grate; positioned above the (remade) portal to the baptistery, Ezekiel, one of four Old Testament figures flanking her, bears his door-metaphor prophecy of Mary’s chastity: ‘This gate shall be closed and it shall not be opened’ (Ez. 44.1–2).11 The sign of physical impenetrability functions here as a trope of incarnation.12 The lunette over the entrance to the Treasury not far beyond (Figure 13-3) applies the same convention to San Marco’s relics and other precious objects; now mostly obscured by the fourteenth-century statue of the Man of Sorrows, the space above the opaque double-valve door features a cross (in the form of a reliquary of the True Cross), flanked by two angels standing on a Paradisiacal ground.13 According to some theologians, the angels were created with the firmament on the second day and hence occupied an intermediary realm between heaven and this world;

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Figure 13-3. Entrance to Treasury, second quarter of 13th century, Venice, San Marco, mosaic. Photo: Herbert Kessler.

thus, the gold grid against the blue ground dotted with stars alludes to the celestial vault separating the upper waters from the lower described in Genesis 1:7 and operates as a membrane in much the same way the two-faced miniatures Thebaut analyses do.14 Evoking fishermen’s nets specifically, the fish-scale pattern may also have had a more local resonance, as the mother-of pearl stars on the gold reliquary would have too.15 The Virgin mosaic certainly had special meaning in the maritime city. Mary is dressed in a blue maphorion adorned with gold cross-shaped stars that identify her specifically as the stella maris, that is Polaris, used by sailors to navigate the world and find safe harbour.16 Joyner identifies similar ecological citations in the much simpler brooches. Moving ornament from pure form to illusionistic figure, the corona enclosing the central abstraction in the first cupola secures a specific scriptural reference. Identical to those that read as stars in the medallion, pearls alternate, there, with red and blue gems fashioned from small tesserae. Clearly, the collar represents the wall of the heavenly Jerusalem, described in Revelation 21:9–21 as a kind of gold mosaic ‘adorned with every jewel’ and, hence, itself a paradigm of Church ornament.17 By contrast, the broad, light-reflecting gold belt encompassing the apocalyptic city, creates an assertively non-mimetic moat of pure sacredness, much like the monochromes that Debiais interprets as indices of ineffability or the blank page in the Kennicott Bible that, as Linda Safran and Adam S. Cohen maintain, provides a field of contemplation of the Divinity and of future promise.

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Beneath the concentric circles that constitute the cupola’s nucleus, the perfect forms step down in expanding gyres of text and scenes based on the first three chapters of Genesis,18 from the beginning of Creation to the Third Day; from the Creation of the Cosmos to Adam Led into Eden; and from the Naming the Animals to the Expulsion and Work. A cross before IN PRINCIPIO CREAVIT . . . ., Christianity’s abstraction par excellence, initiates the reading, significantly placed off-kilter above the depiction of Christ creating the firmament to hint at the imperfection, of the sort Julie A. Harris also identifies in the Kennicott Bible, that resulted when pure spirit entered the material world. In the form of a monogram of the kind that Tilghman analyses in his paper, the is transcribed neither in Otto Demus’s otherwise meticulous catalogue nor in Karen Krause’s fundamental analysis of the captions’ functions in the Creation dome.19 Like so many other abstract elements, it vanishes in art-historical scholarship even though the collection of letters and signs occupies the conceptual space between symbol, word, and image that many abstractions analysed in this volume do too. A short Carolingian tract known as the De inventione linguarum describes the potential power of such monograms to bridge the differences between ornament and representation: written in many places, there where one has painted an image in mosaic on a wall or on some curtain, or elsewhere. In that case, the painters have the custom of painting the names in a character with an assemblage of letters which is called a monogram, the meaning of which is shown through a small number of marks.21

San Marco’s letter-sign manifests abstraction’s capacity to generate complex concepts, as Toussaint discovers also in Ottonian ornament. Asserting Christ’s pre-existence to Creation, the introduces the four Gospels and, in so doing, alludes to the Evangelist John’s paraphrase of the beginning of Genesis in his Gospel prologue, ‘In principio erat verbum’.22 Like the slapdash painting preceding the images in the Ottonian Gospels that Thebaut analyses, and the framed dark purple vellum of the Gradus Gospels that Debiais discusses, the cross monogram prepares for the diverse outcomes enacted by the anthropomorphic Logos grasping a cross staff in the days of Creation that follow. Tituli reinforce this spiralling descent into the world. Those over the scenes of humankind’s Temptation and Fall alone begin with ‘HIC’ to make the episodes picturing Adam and Eve’s sin and shame seem present and directly pertinent to the beholder.23 Figuring the expulsion from Paradise and Adam and Eve in the outside world (Figure 13-4), the final vignette reintroduces the Cross in an exceptional still life that collapses all of Christian redemption theory into a single abstraction. Christ no longer holds the object, which is here nested in a tree inside the Porta Paradisi and fully

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Figure 13-4. Expulsion and Work (det.), second quarter of 13th century, Venice, San Marco, mosaic. Photo: Beat Brenk.

rendered in silver and gold bordered in red. Emblazoned with a flower-like circle of flames radiating from a centre point and flaring beyond the enclosing circumference, it is a unique conjuration of ‘the cherubim and a sword flaming and turning [that God set up] to guard the way to the tree of life’ described in Genesis 3.24 and, at the same time, a version (or perversion) of the primordial world at the dome’s top, restoring the perfect geometrical shape in much the same way Tilghman discovers monograms do on the pages of Mozarabic antiphonaries.24 Krause has likened the fiery disc to the sun and, indeed, the sinewy tongues of fire recall medieval representations of the solar body, including the personification in the celestial orb created on the Fourth Day.25 Not surprising, no reference is made in the titulus to the enigmatic abstraction that concludes the sequence. Confronting the beholders, it is, itself, the HIC that condenses the viewers’ existential guilt passed down to them from the progenitors’ disobedience. Sparking off two phoenixes—the firebirds that in mythology were believed to have been granted a form of immortality—the Cross suspended on the tree of life and the spinning flames also figure the ‘strange region of the universe which neither exists entirely in the slime of the earth nor entirely in the purity of heaven’ that had transported Abbot Suger when he contemplated the ornaments of St-Denis.26 It thus functions as a semaphore, warning the faithful to be aware that the delight and beauty humankind had once enjoyed in Paradise can be regained only by following a path through the Savior’s sacrifice. The dual portrayal of Eve, first grasping a distaff

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as she leaves Eden and then seated on a throne to the right holding a (cruciform) distaff and spindle, advances that theme of sacred circularity. Eve’s attribute and presentation evoke both the punishment inflicted on her for her betrayal and the redemption Mary—‘the nova Eva’—provides. The meaning is prepared by the portrait of the Virgin flanked by angels that (once) greeted the faithful entering the atrium through the Porta da Mar (now replaced by a copy) inscribed: ‘Humankind’s fall came through a woman’s mouth; and the worthy Mother of God was its redemptress.’27 Melding ideal shapes with texts and images, the cupola’s dilating geometry thus itself becomes an image of God’s emanation in the world, advancing the notion of Creation’s ever-expanding multiplicity. At the same time, the devolution of the geometric form and the descent from gold to earthly colours signal the physical world’s deformation of God’s perfection, as the final carpet page does in ibn Gaon’s Bible that Harris analyses. A helix superimposed on a whirl, emanating from a red disc between the depictions of Adam and Eve Hiding from God and God Punishing Cain to wander the earth away from his presence (Gen. 4.14–16), provides a metonymy of the spiralling and marks the transition from God’s Creation to the narrative of sin and the sacred history that followed, laid out beneath the ornamented stone cornice that firmly divides the view into the originary world from the historical narrative that fills the cupolas, lunettes, and walls.28 An inscription running above the cherubim in the four pendentives asserts this closing off of Eden, its initial ‘HIC’ underscoring the presence and power of Eden’s guardians to remind even the faithful, who occupy the sacred space below, that Paradise remains inaccessible to them: Here the flaming cherubim burn with Christ’s love, always radiating the splendor of the eternal Sun, the mystical cherubim stand, showing their six wings which producing serene voices praise the Lord.29

The recollection of the ardour God retained for humankind prompts the faithful to return, in their minds, back to the gems set in the gold circle above the firmament in the centre. Even though the Genesis narratives are, in fact, derived from illuminated books and elucidated by texts, abstract signs gloss the account of humanity’s disgrace through Christ’s incarnation and ricochet back to the apex.30

Petrified Clouds The move from the abstract imagery through texts and representations and then back again relies on a long tradition of conjuring images in physical matter that

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Figure 13-5. Pier supporting central dome, (lost) face, first half of 13th century, Venice, San Marco. Photo: Venice, Archivio fotografico della Procuratoria di San Marco.

most papers in this volume also examine. The play was developed particularly in mosaic, a medium in which the emergence of figures from bits of matter is always in the forefront of awareness. Astral forms and a human face in a pier supporting San Marco’s central dome exemplify the process (Figure 13-5). Demus understood these images fashioned simply by disrupting the gold cubes’ setting in relation to Albertus Magnus’s contemporary account of perceiving images in matter: When I was at Venice, as a young man, marble was being cut with saws to decorate the walls of a church. And it happened that when one [piece of] marble had been cut in two and the cut slabs were placed side by side, there appeared a most beautiful picture of a king’s head with a crown and a long beard. The picture did not seem to have any fault at all except one—the middle of the forehead seemed too high, extending up towards the top of the head. And all of us who were there understood that this picture had been made in the stone by nature. And when I was asked the reason for the disproportion of the forehead, I said that the stone had been hardened from a vapour, and in the middle the vapour had risen up too far because the heat was greater there. This picture was of the same colour

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as the stone. There is something of the same sort in clouds when they are not disturbed by winds, and all sorts of figures appear in them and continually melt away because of the heat that raises them. But if these vapours were subjected to the influence of a place and a [mineralizing] power, they would fashion many figures in stones. This, therefore, is clear [evidence] that the shape of a simple picture is sometimes [made] by nature.31

More recently, Philippe Cordez has returned to Albertus’s finding images in stones and clouds, and has adduced such examples as a turnip-shaped head imaginable on the façade revetment (to the right of the quadriga). He has also underscored the astral and magical underpinnings of the thirteenth-century philosopher’s concept.32 The ensemble of Mary and prophets on San Marco’s south wall (including Isaiah’s ‘Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son’; 7:14) exploited the implications of such natural images. The portrait of the Virgin crafted in coloured glass and marble seems to emerge from the butterflied veneers and magnificent veined marble panels (Albertus Magnus’s pictura ejusdem coloris cum lapide) and abstract shapes ( figuram picturae simplicis aliquando esse a natura) that constitute an Augustinian region of dissimulation of the sort that Mills, drawing on Georges Didi-Hubermann’s fundamental work, examines in connection with Hieronymus Bosch’s panels in the Accademia. Matter, activated by spirit to form figures, in this way, connects picture-making itself to the Incarnation.33 The finding of images in physical matter depended on what Alois Riegl and Ernst Gombrich have called the ‘beholder’s share’.34 Already in the third century, Philostratus had refuted any notion that in cloud images ‘God is an artist, drawing these figures, as children make figures in the sand’ and concluded instead that ‘you need the faculty of make-believe when you look at the performances of artists, for you cannot praise the execution of a horse or bull in a picture unless you have in your mind a notion of the original’.35 Joyner cites Gallo-Roman poetry and medieval lore rife with references to wondrously transformed materials. But artistic ‘makebelieve’ also risked tricking the viewer. The circular pendant a girl sports in the Apparitio scene around the corner from the Treasury door, for example, reminds viewers of art’s essential subjectivity. Like the Creation dome’s capstone, it is set with five coloured stones and four white discs in an arrangement that evokes a cross; but context establishes that this configuration is to be comprehended, not as a provocation to strive for higher things, here, but as a worldly distraction. The girl is shown looking away from the miraculous event. Even worse, conjured figures could be a demonic snare. The monstrous heads made to emerge in two of the fictive stone spandrels of San Marco’s nave pictured in the background of the same scene engage not only the subject depicted—namely, the miraculous discovery of Saint

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Mark’s relics in a porphyry box concealed in one of the basilica’s pillars—but also mosaic-making as such. As the essays collected here demonstrate in diverse ways, what appears to be abstraction was often a way medieval art mediated levels of meaning and engendered a competition of imaginations. The gilt vine scrolls framing the Treasury lunette, for example, are of a type found throughout the basilica (e.g. on the arches beneath the Creation cupola) that impose geometry onto unruly natural growth to manifest God’s principles, while the gemmed plaque held by angels stratifies the idea of sanctity by conjuring up the actual staurothèque miraculously rescued from the fire of 1231 and still preserved in the precinct behind.36 The reliquary, which deployed special materials and abstract shapes and figures, in turn, elevated the base wood of the Cross inside, which was believed to have been fashioned from the Tree of Life and, itself, elevated by contact with the God-Made-Man.37

Bifocal Vision Medieval abstraction operated by eliding the difference between the carnal perception of things and the imagination that inspirited them, what Joyner (quoting Lotte Hedeager) refers to as complicated patterns that ‘blend and blur’.38 The San Marco head offers a perfect example, in which some unidentif iable force seems to have disturbed the regular gold ornamental mosaic beds to form and fix the shifting images created by celestial phenomena (pictured nearby as stars).39 In much the same way, the play of gold, pink, and magenta feathers, and the elegant abstract shapes created where the wings intersect one another, figure the cherubim’s intermediacy. 40 Like the iridescent silk that Kumler refers to, or, more to the point in relation to the winged cherubim and angels, like peacock feathers whose iridescent ‘eyes’ emblematized sight’s ambivalence, these exceptionally beautiful abstract mosaic passages convey the notion of resonance also embodied in the flaming disc. Sunlight passing through the entranceway that clocks diurnal rhythms affected a comparable blurring that concurs with the number of cherubim wings referred to in the inscription that indexes the 24-hour day. 41 Likewise, the Treasury sopraporta orchestrates reflections off the angels’ gold-trimmed garments to animate their dual nature and to establish the tablet icon’s intermediary character; Demus had already compared it to the actual icon featuring the Angel Michael inside the Treasury, a work that Bissera Pentcheva has shown was perpetually transformed by light within church space. 42 The south wall, too, manipulates light to elevate the prophets above the natural materials below, activated only by veining, and to differentiate the Old Testament precursors from the Stella maris, who is, in her very

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person, the portal to the heavenly realm. As Toussaint discovers in manuscripts, light is a fundamental agent of abstraction in medieval art. Blurring engaged medieval notions of perception derived from Aristotle through Galen, who had described how the shapeless vermis superior cerebelli regulated the flow of psychic pneuma between the third and fourth cerebral ventricles. Quoting Cassiodorus’s philosophical tenet, Megan McNamee points out that abstraction is ‘separated mentally from matter or other accidents’, and Danny Smith cites Fridigus’s paraphrase of Augustine, which argues that an interplay of the empirical and the abstract was fundamental to Christian cognitive theories. As developed in such medieval texts as Qusta ibn Luqa’s (Costa ben Luca) On the Difference between the Spirit and the Soul—translated into Latin c. 1135—the cerebral worm was understood as a sphincter that regulated thinking and remembering, closing when one looked down and opening when one raised one’s head. According to a variant theory, the vermis regulated the flow of fantasy and thinking; Albertus Magnus, who knew Qusta ibn Luqa’s work, conceived of the brain as having two of the wiggly creatures. The relationship of sense and memory is set out in an early thirteenth-century manuscript of the pseudoAugustinian De spiritu et anima in Trinity College Cambridge (MS 0.7.16, fol. 46v–47v), for instance, and the similar but distinct fourteenth-century version in the nearby University Library (MS Gg.1.1, 490v) that Michael Camille and Mary Carruthers have made famous. 43 Deeply rooted in the ancient and Augustinian ideas of mind and memory that Mills and McNamee present, the diagrams of the brain in these manuscripts tellingly juxtapose abstractions and representational forms to activate this rhetoric of cognition. In depictions that combine figured heads and oversimplif ied anatomical schemata of the sort Taylor McCall also discusses, they plot the reciprocal operation by which sensual stimuli entering the eyes (and other sensory organs) are processed through memory, fantasy, and imagination. Squiggly nerves transmit the impulses and a vermiform valve allows the amorphous psychic pneuma to flow from the memory to the imagining power (depicted in Gg.1.1 by a salamander-like creature). Viewer movement could also generate the requisite blurring. Looking into the San Marco Creation cupola, the faithful who wanted to read the verses, for instance, had first to locate the and then turn in a circle to follow the pictured narrative and accompanying tituli. The Cosmatesque pavement beneath their feet, another abstraction comprising stones of various shapes and sizes arranged in repeating semicircles, traces orbital paths. Much as in the mazes Toussaint discusses, motion here immerses the faithful in a magical universe by engaging them in a kind of dance that mimics the angel-like personifications of the Days of Creation overhead on the one hand, and, on the other, anticipates Miriam’s (i.e. Maria’s) exaltation at the atrium’s end as she travels to the Promised Land. 44

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A similar reciprocal movement could be affected through shifts of focus, as Gerald of Wales attested in the thirteenth century when he examined a manuscript that must have resembled the (ninth-century) Book of Kells, containing canon tables, symbols, and ornaments: where for almost every page there are different designs, distinguished by varied colours […] Look at them superficially with the ordinary glance, and you would think it is an erasure, and not tracery. Fine craftsmanship is all about you, but you might not notice it. Look more keenly at it and you will penetrate to the very shrine of art. You will make out intricacies, so delicate and so subtle, so full of knots and links, with colours so fresh and vivid, that you might say that all this were the work of an angel, and not of a man. 45

The oscillation between physical sensation and imagination dominated astrology, as in the ninth-century astronomical guide attributed to Pacificus of Verona, which engages abstraction and perception to elicit images of the divine. As depicted in late twelfth-century Anglo-Norman compendium in Venice (Bib. Marciana, MS Lat. VIII 22 [2760], fol. 1r; Figure 13-6), Pacificus’s Horologium nocturnum, devised to calculate the hours for prayers at night, represents a monk deploying a tube to fix one eye on Polaris (marked by S for stella and pictured in the vermillion orb beaming six rays) and using the other to gauge the angle on a graph. Like the grid in the Paris Pèlerinage de la vie humaine and Pèlerinage de l’âme that Kumler analyses, which interrupts the text precisely when the angel disappears and the narrator declaims ‘I had my eye trained’, the Marciana picture replaces the passage in the tract at which Pacificus’s tone and rhetorical register modulate: O, how beautiful is the wreath formed by the position of the nails of the cross of Christ fixed on the wheel of this clock, on which his flesh hung for the salvation of mankind. 46

The device depends on bifocal vision comparable to Gerbert’s ‘double doors of the eyes’ that McNamee discusses, and asserts the same dual message Toussaint discovers in the perception of meaning in ornament: it moves the mind from things perceivable in this world, to nocturnal prayer, and then to a purely mental recollection of Christ’s saving death. Citing Gerbert of Aurillac (who drew on Pacificus’s star clock), McNamee reminds us that mathematics provided the principles for ordering the universe and were believed to sharpen human vision; in one eleventh-century diagram she does not illustrate (Paris, BnF, MS lat. 7214, fol. 15r), Gerbert pictured a view into a hemisphere through one (dismembered) eye gazing unaided at the heavens and the other focused on Polaris through a tube.47 The transition from viewing stars circling Polaris to imagining Christ

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Figure 13-6. Pacificus of Verona, Horologium nocturnum, 13th century. Venice, Biblioteca Marciana, MS Lat. VIII 22 [2760], fol. 1r. Photo: Venice, Biblioteca Marciana.

dying on the Cross in Pacificus’s practical, scientific tract had, of course, been prepared by the ancient tradition of discovering figures and divine portents in the constellations that was, after all, the very foundation of astrology. Indeed, what better demonstration of the tenet in Aristotle’s Poetics is there than the propensity to find figures in the elusive patterns of stars and planets? During Pacificus’s own time, ancient constellation pictures were copied frequently and assembled with diagrams and graphs.48 Indeed, the Marciana compendium itself includes, among other texts, the Latin Aratea illustrated with configurations of stars imaged as animals, objects, and mythological beings.49 The concepteur of the San Marco mosaics may actually have known the Marciana manuscript, which was in Venice from at least the late thirteenth century and which, on subsequent pages, depicts vermillion and red discs radiating bands of light like those in the scene of the Separation of Light and Dark in the Creation

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cupola.50 Whether or not it was the direct inspiration, however, the manuscript articulates principles that apply to the interpretation of the summit medallion, which required examination and sometimes physical exertion to activate the transformative spiritual process. Already in the early fifth century, Paulinus had noted that, even in his modest basilica at Nola, a visitor had to take the slight trouble of bending his neck backwards, taking stock of everything with head thrown back so that she or he would acknowledge the truth within these empty pictures, which nurtures his believing mind with representations by no means empty.51

And not long before the San Marco atrium was adorned with mosaics, Pope Innocent III applied a similar claim to the passage from Hebrews 1:3 ‘qui cum sit splendor gloriae et figura substantiae eius’ about the effectiveness of somatic movement: The image of God the Father is one, which we must venerate in adoration with the Father, that is the only son of God Jesus Christ, who is ‘the brightness of his glory and the figure of his substance and upholding all things by the word of his power’. We must adore not only his divinity, but also his humanity […] To be sure, seeing images, we bow down, not in the hope that we find in them salvation, but aroused by the memory, we show through these works the devotion which we which we transfer in our hearts to God himself.52

Bending the head backwards is needed to read the narratives and inscriptions in San Marco, and straining the eyes to focus on details in the central disc triggers the flow of memory into the imaginative faculty. To a degree, the medallion set with gems floating atop the celestial grid functions much as the Jewish abstractions Safran and Cohen examine do: it evokes divine coherence and the mathematics through which the Deity organized Creation and asserts the belief that perceptual beauty is but preliminary to the beauty of the true Paradise. In so doing, it also elicits the very processes by which humans move from this world to recognition of the next.53 It is not an assertion of what God is not or an image of what lies beyond the threshold of visibility that Mills analyses in one of the Bosch panels. Rather, it presents an argument to support the orthodox belief that God can be made visible to humankind only through his Incarnate Son who was the agent of Creation and coeternal with him. Smith’s analysis of emendations in the Ashburnham Pentateuch reveals a similar claim; the amorphous pink clouds that blot out the second person of the Trinity are not only evidence of a Carolingian damnatio memoriae of the late antique painter’s heretical concept but also a realization of ninth-century theology that, of the Triune God, only the Logos was anthropomorphic.

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Although, as Mills productively muses, no absolute line is to be drawn between figuration and abstraction, the reduction of complex figures to universals of matter, shape, and colour, as Kumler, McNamee, and other contributors to this volume point out, is generally related to thought and spirit. But spirit is not itself singular. ‫רוח‬ is polyvalent, meaning wind, mind, spirit, breath; so, too, are πνεῦμα and spiritus. Art often objectified the slippery conceptions. In San Marco, for instance, the conventional dove in the first act of the Creation establishes the Holy Ghost’s agency; and comparable to the play of sea, polar star, and Mary in the epithet ‘stella maris’, the visual punning of the generating medallion and the whirling form at Eden’s gate integrated the circle’s perfect geometry into the story of redemption. At the same time, abstract ornament or, at the extreme, blankness, served to subvert the finitude inherent in the Incarnation by destabilizing materiality and marking the transition between corporeal apprehension in this world and mental elevation.54 Better suited to heady issues of Trinitarian speculation as Smith shows or of Eucharistic dogma exposed by Kumler and Thebaut, such enigmatic constructions could only have bewildered most spectators—which, in fact, may have been one of their functions. The abstraction of Christian eschatology at the top of the first atrium cupola, for instance, reifies Christianity’s fundamental belief (played out in the narrative and other pictorial elements) that, because of the progenitors’ sin, God remains beyond human seeing and comprehension. Blurring and blending perceivable forms thus assert humankind’s essential frailty brought about by the fall of Adam and Eve and resulting, ultimately, in death. The initial to Psalm 30 in a mid-fourteenth-century miniature added to an earlier Psalter in Besançon (Ms. 140; Figure 13-7) manifests the claim. Picturing three clerics reciting the opening words ‘Grant them eternal rest, O Lord’ from a large codex before a draped sarcophagus, it includes one of the earliest illustrations of spectacles, the optical device invented at the very time the San Marco atrium was being completed to correct presbyopia through the application of mathematical science.55 The thick pince-nez indexes the oldest man’s inability to read the words on the page as he himself approaches death and thereby his need to draw more and more on memory. Enacting medieval cognitive theory, he looks out, and lifts his head and hand upwards towards heaven that, in strict contrast to the vivid late Gothic naturalism that animates the narrative depiction, is filled with freely flowing ornament representing the spirit. A place of tombs, the San Marco atrium engaged a similar argument when, in processions entering through the Porta da Mar, the doge and his compatriots would have turned in circles beneath the cupolas, taking their places in the sacred time laid for them in words and narratives while they strained to glimpse the abstract cosmos at the summit of the first cupola that stands for the realm to which they hope their souls will ascend.

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Figure 13-7. Burial scene (det.), Psalter, 14th century. Besançon, Bibliothèque municipal, Ms. 140, fol. 190r.

Medieval abstraction is not subtractive; in other words, it is generative. Though it sometimes taps fantasy and irony, as when the f ish-scale grate was used in Venice to figure Scripture’s upper waters, it seldom engendered an emotional response. Hence, it did not suit the affective piety promoted in new thirteenth- and fourteenth-century religious trends, which, following the shift from Romanesque to Gothic mentalities of the sort McCall traces in representations of anatomy, embraced mimesis to evoke sentiment. The three-dimensional sculpture of Christ displaying his wounds set on a pedestal over the Treasury portal in San Marco about a century after the mosaic had been introduced (and actually obscuring the forms that stratify the mental ascent toward God) documents the shift. Eliciting the beholders’ compassion for the tortured Son that God had offered humankind to redeem sin and beckoning them actually to penetrate his mortal body, it could not be more different from the abstract, otherworldly sword that repels them at the gates of Paradise in the first atrium cupola or the comprehensive theology presented by the elusive cosmos at the top with its intellectual unfolding through circles, transformed materials, and shifting forms. The one affects devotees by appealing to common somatic responses; the other, by mimicking the principles deployed to create the world, appeals to their minds to return, like Honorius’s morning stars, to the ‘garden of light’.

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Notes 1.

2.

3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

9.

10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.

‘Hanc horam ea de causa canimus, quod hac hora mundum creatum credimus; hac hora astra matutina cum jucunditate luxerunt, et Deum, qui fecit ea, dulci harmonia laudaverunt, scilicet angeli ea hora creati sunt, qui et filii Dei vocati sunt, qui mox pro creatione mundi magna voce suavi concentu conditori jubilaverunt. Quos nos hac hora canentes imitamur, qui astra vespertina appellamur, quatenus si solem Christum pro nobis occidentem laudibus sequamur, per eum ad ortum lucis videlicet in resurrectione ad astra matutina perducamur’. PL 72.625-26. Goetz, Gott und die Welt, pp. 49–50. Peter Scholz’s paper, ‘Die Geometrisierung des Göttlichen? Zur ornamentalen Darstellung Gottes in den Genesismosaiken von San Marco’, delivered at a colloquium in Bad Homburg in 2012, but not submitted for publication in the conference papers, inspired me to focus on the medallion. παραπλήσιον γάρ ἐστιν καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γραφικῆς:εἰ γάρ τις ἐναλείψειε τοῖς καλλίστοις φαρμάκοις χύδην, οὐκ ἂν ὁμοίως εὐφράνειεν καὶ λευκογραφήσας εἰκόνα (1450a.381450b.1-2); Halliwell trans., p. 53. See Simone Piazza, Allo zenit della cupola; Foletti, ‘De la liminalité à la presence’; and other essays in Entre terre et ciel. Available in Raffaele Garrucci’s reconstruction; Croci, ‘Cosmografia Cristiana?’. Demus, Mosaics, vol. I, pp. 171–95 and pls. 5 and 55. Marchesin, L’image organum. Fragments of first-century bronze doors with the fish-scale pattern were unearthed in Mainz; and, perhaps in a reference to the novitiates as fish in water, the entrance to the Lateran baptistery in Rome is fitted with bronze doors constructed of simple, opaque lower sections and fish-scale upper panels that give the impression of openness; cf. Mende, Bronzetüren, pp. 20–4. The pattern was also used on transennae and windows in sixth-century Ravenna; cf. Franz, ‘Transenne’; Deichmann, Ravenna, pp. 71–3; Dell’Acqua, ‘Illuminando colorat’, p. 28; Kessler, ‘Face, Façade’, pp. 79–81; Vernia, ‘L’arredo’, pp. 363–76. See: Phalip, ‘Les grilles’. Recorded in a seventeenth-century drawing (Biblioteca Vaticana, MS Barb. lat. 2733, fol. 249v) and recognizable in the much-discussed ‘portrait’ of the Vatican basilica on the fifth-century ivory box discovered more than a century ago in the altar of San Hermagoras at Samagher (Pola, Croatia), now in the Museo Correr across the piazza from San Marco; Buddensieg, ‘Coffret’; Longhi, Capsella; Kessler, ‘Face, Façade’, pp. 79–81; Noga-Banai, Sacred Stimulus, pp. 128–39. Dellermann and Uetz, Facciata, p. 21; Mende, Bronzetüren, pp. 18–20. From the early sixteenth century, the Porta da Mar was enclosed in the Capella Zen. PORTA HEC QUAM VIDES CLAUSA ERIT ET NON APERIETUR; Demus, Mosaics, vol. 2, pp. 45–56; Piano, ‘Porte close’. See Baert, About Sieves. Demus, Mosaics, vol. 2, p. 66. Müller, ‘Fragwürdige Bilder’, pp. 239–41. The Torcello Last Judgement mosaic includes a local reference in the gate of Paradise guarded by a cherub represented as the island city itself surrounded by water;

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17. 18. 19. 20. 21.

22. 23. 24.

25. 26.

27. 28. 29.

30. 31.

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Andreescu-Treadgold and Henderson, ‘Glass’; Caputo, Torcello, p. 98; Fricke, ‘Matter and Meaning’, pp. 35–53. See also Dale, ‘Pictorial Narratives’. In the apse of Torcello, Mary is identified specifically as the astrum maris as well as the porta salutis: FORMVLA VIRTVTIS MARIS ASTRVM PORTA SALVTIS / PROLE MARIA LEVAT QVOS CONIVGE SVBDIDIT EVA. See: Remensnyder, ‘Mary, Star of the Multi-Confessional Mediterranean’; Wolf, Schleier und Spiegel, pp. 149–56; Piano, ‘Mosaici’; Krause, ‘Venedigs Sitz im Paradies…’. Represented as a series of concentric circles in the ninth-century Valencíennes Apocalypse, for example; Apocalipsis Carolingio, esp. pp. 98–102. See also: Thunø, Apse Mosaics, pp. 164–70. Krause, ‘Inschriften der Genesismosaiken’. Demus, Mosaics, vol. 2, p. 77; Krause, ‘Inschriften’, p. 147. Also: Debiais, Croisée des signes, ‘Litterae enim monogrammae scriptae nonnullis in locis inveniuntur, ubi pictura cum museo in pariete imaginis aut in velis, vel alicubi aliter facta fuerit, ibi eorum nomina cum congerie litterarum, unum characterem pictores facere soliti sunt, quod monogramma dicitur: quorum significatio subtus per pauca adnotat monstratur’. PL 112. 1582; Derolez, Runica, pp. 279–83; Tilghman, ‘Writing in Tongues’. The reference to ‘character’ and the inclusion of Solomon among the saints alludes to the devices’ magical powers. Kessler, ‘Dynamic Signs’. Krause, ‘Inschriften’, p. 148. On the significance of three turnings, see Méhu, ‘Images’. A labyrinth in Saint-Étienne in Auxerre served as a matrix for spiralling processions at Easter when the bishop and clerics re-enacted Christ’s descent into Hell to defeat the devil and restore order in the world; see Wright, Maze, pp. 129–58; Mews, ‘Liturgists’. Eric Palazzo kindly discussed some of his findings with me; see Palazzo, Souffle de Dieu. Krause, ‘Venedigs Sitz im Paradies’, p. 33. Kessler, ‘Solitary Bird’; ‘[…] quasi sub aliqua extranea orbis terraum plaga, nec tota sit in terrarium faece nec tota in coeli puritate, demorari’; Abbot Suger, ‘De administratione’, XXXIII, Panofsky trans. pp. 63–4. Suger was contemplating the so-called ‘Escrain de Charlemagne’, which has a structure not unlike the fishtail grids in San Marco and is topped by an aquamarine gem standing in for the Virgin Mary; Dupont, Le trésor de Saint-Denis, pp. 92–9. HVMANI GENERIS CASVS FVIT OS MVLIERIS. DIGNA DEI GENETRIX MVNDI FVIT ISTA REDEMPTRIX. In the scene of the Annunciation in nearby Torcello, Mary is shown grasping a distaff. Kessler, ‘Faithful Attraction’. See Palazzo, Souffle de Dieu. HIC ARDENT CHERUBIM CHRISTI FLAM[M]A[T]A CALORE SEMPER ET ETERNI SOLIS RADIATA NITORE MISTICA STANT CHERUBIM ALAS MONSTRANCIA SENAS QU[A] DOMINUM LAUNDANT VOCES PROMENDO SERENAS. Weitzmann, ‘Genesis Mosaics’; The Atrium; and Kessler, ‘Genèse Cotton’. ‘[…] et cum a me quaereretur causa inordinationis frontis, dixi lapidem illum ex vapore fuisse coagulatum, et in medio per calorem fortiorem vaporem inordinate

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32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39.

40. 41. 42. 43.

44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49.

50. 51.

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ascendisse ultra modum. fuit autem pictura ejusdem coloris cum lapide. Hujusmodi autem simile est in nubibus, in quibus omnes apparent figurae quando ventis non agitantur, et continue propter calidum elevans eas etiam dissipantur: quae si apprehenderentur loco et virtute, lapidibus multas effigiarent figuras. Propter hoc patet ergo figuram picturae simplicis aliquando esse a natura’, De mineralibus, l. ii, tract. 3, c. 1, ed. cit., vol. 5, pp. 48–9; trans. by Wyckoff, Book of Minerals, p. 128. Demus, Mosaics, vol. 2, p. 39; see also Wamberg, Landscape, pp. 352–3 et passim. ‘Albertus Magnus’; see also Cordez, ‘Marbres de Giotto’, pp. 191–92. See Kessler, ‘Medieval Art as Argument’, and other essays in Spiritual Seeing. See Kandel, Age of Insight. Apollonius of Tyana, 2.22, trans., vol. 1, pp. 76–7. Enclosed in an elaborate enamel and gemmed case featuring a depiction of the Crucifixion and on the back a relief of the gemmed cross as a Tree of Life; Klein, Byzanz, pp. 113–5. For a discussion of reliquary theory, see: Hahn, Reliquary Effect, pp. 18–149. The grid above the entrance to St. Peter’s tomb on the Samagher casket is intentionally rendered blurry to suggest its intermediary status. Unfortunately destroyed, these are preserved only in photographs and a description: ‘nel campo d’oro del musaico […] si è scorta la traccia di alcune teste e di alcune rosette di forma geometrica ricavata da speciali disposizioni delle tessere stesse senza intervento di alcun altro colore’, Manfredi and Maragoni, Opere, p. 54; Demus, Mosaics vol. 2, pt. 1, Figs. 17 and 18. On the condition of the four cherubim, see Demus, Mosaics, vol. 2, pp. 76–7. See Carruthers, ‘Ars oblivionalis’. Demus, Mosaics, vol. 2, p. 66; Pentcheva, Sensual Icon, pp. 123–54. Bagnoli, ‘Making Sense’, pp. 22–3 (incorrectly labelled), pp. 137–8; Klemm, ‘Life from Within’, pp. 110–29; Lakey, Sculptural Seeing, pp. 28–9; Camille, ‘Before the Gaze’; Carruthers, Craft of Thought, pp. 118–88 and ‘Mechanisms’; Klemm, Bildphysiologie, pp. 12–3. Kessler, ‘Genèse Cotton’. Giraldus Cambrensis, Topographia Hibernica, vol. 5, pp. 123–4; trans. by O’Meara, The History and Topography of Ireland, pp. 84–5. Hamburger, ‘Idol Curiosity’; Wiesenbach, ‘Mönch’; Ganz, ‘Iineare Blick’; Stella, ‘Poesie computistiche’; Guidetti, ‘Texts and Illustrations’; Draelants, ‘Liber Nemroth’. Dekker, Illustrating the Phaenomena, pp. 194–207. Avilés, Tiempo y los astros; Ramirez-Weaver, A Saving Science. An eleventh-century codex in Boulogne-sur-Mer (BM, MS 188) includes ancient star constellations set against sky-blue grounds facing a planisphere within a zodiac with diagrams in the corners for determining the solstices, one of them even finding a cross among the stars (fols. 29v–30r); Kühnel, End of Time, p. 79. Guidetti, ‘Texts and Illustrations’; Draelants, ‘Liber Nemroth’; Kessler, ‘Genèse Cotton’. ‘Nunc uolo picturas fucatis agmine longo/ porticibus uideas paulumque supine fatiges/ colla, reclinato dum perlegis omnia uultu. Qui uidet haec uacuis agnoscens

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uera figuris/ non uacua fidam sibi pascit imagine mentem’, in Goldschmidt, Paulinus’ Churches, p. 60. 52. ‘Una est Dei Patris imago, quam una cum Patre debemus adoratione venerari, scilicet unigenitum Jesum Christum Dei Filium, qui est “splendor gloriae et figura substantiae ejus, portansque omnia verbo virtutis suae.” Cujus non solum deitatem, sed et humanitatem adorare debemus […] Videntes quippe imagines inclinamus, non ut spem salutis constituamus in illis, sed ad memoriam excitati, devotionem, quam ipsi Deo corde gerimus, opere demonstremus’; Innocent III, Sermon 27, PL vol. 217, col. 437. 53. In connecting the earthly with the divine, knotting itself had a theological history; associated with King Solomon, its origins were ultimately cosmological, making them rife with apotropaic power. Iafrate, Long Life of Magical Objects, pp. 80–108. See also Iafrate’s discussion of ‘Carpets and other Flying Devices’, pp. 134–48. 54. Wirth, ‘Peinture et perception visuelle’. 55. Frugoni, Medioevo sul naso, pp. 11–2.

Works Cited Albertus Magnus, Opera omnia, 38 vols., ed. by Auguste Borgnet (Paris: Vivès, 1890–1899); trans. as Book of minerals, ed. by Dorothy Wyckoff (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967). Irina Andreescu-Treadgold and Julian Henderson with Martin Roe, ‘Glass from the Mosaics on the West Wall of Torcello’s Basilica’, Arte medievale, n.s. 1 (2006), pp. 87–140. Apocalipsis Carolingio de Valencíennes (Ms. 99) (Valenciennes: Bibliothèque Valenciennes, 2012). Aristotle, Poetics, ed. and trans. by Stephen Halliwell (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995). Alejandro García Aviles, El tiempo y los astros. Arte, ciencia y religión en la alta edad media (Murcia: Universidad de Murcia, 2001). Barbara Baert, About Sieves and Sieving, Motif, Symbol, Technique, and Paradigm (Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2019). Martina Bagnoli, ‘Making Sense’, in A Feast for the Senses. Art and Experience in Medieval Europe (Baltimore: The Walters Art Museum), pp. 17–30. Tilmann Buddensieg, ‘Le coffret en ivoire de Pola, Saint-Pierre et le Latran’, Cahiers archéologiques, 10 (1959), pp. 157–200. Martin Büchsel, Herbert L. Kessler, and Rebecca Müller, eds., The Atrium of San Marco in Venice. The Genesis and Medieval Reality of the Genesis Mosaics (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 2014). Michael Camille, ‘Before the Gaze: The Internal Senses and Late Medieval Practices of Seeing’, in Visuality Before and Beyond the Renaissance, ed. by Robert S. Nelson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 197–223. Gianmatteo Caputo and Giovanni Gentili, eds., Torcello. Alle origini di Venezia tra occidente e oriente (Venice: Marsilio, 2009).

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Mary Carruthers, ‘Ars oblivionalis, ars inveniendi: The Cherub Figure and the Arts of Memory’, Gesta, 48 (2009), pp. 99–117. ———, The Craft of Thought. Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). ———, ‘Mechanisms for the Transmission of Culture. The Role of “Place” in the Arts of Memory’ in Translatio or the Transmission of Culture in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Modes and Messages, ed. by Laura H. Hollengreen (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009), pp. 1–26. Mary Carruthers and Jan M. Ziolkowski, eds., The Medieval Craft of Memory. An Anthology of Texts and Pictures (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002). Philippe Cordez, ‘Albertus Magnus und die Steine von Venedig. Ein Beitrag zur ­Bildwissenschaft des 13. Jahrhunderts’, in Steinformen. Materialtät. Qualität. Imitation, ed. by Isabella Augart, Maurice Saß, and Iris Wenderholm (Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2019), pp. 191–205. ———, ‘Les marbres de Giotto. Astrologie et naturalism à la Chapelle Scrovegni’, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, 55 (2013), pp. 8–25. Chiara Croci, ‘Una cosmografia Cristiana? Le radici astonomiche della cupola del perduto edificio martiriale di San Prisco presso Capua (V sec.)’, Convivium, V/2 (2018), pp. 114–27. Chiara Croci and Vladimir Ivanovici, eds., Entre terre et ciel. Les édifices à coupole et leur décor entre l’Antiquité tardive et le haut Moyen  ge (Lausanne: Université de Lausanne, 2018). Thomas Dale, ‘Pictorial Narratives of the Holy Land and the Myth of Venice in the Atrium of San Marco’, in The Atrium of San Marco in Venice. The Genesis and Medieval Reality of the Genesis Mosaics, ed. by Martin Büchsel, Herbert L. Kessler, and Rebecca Müller (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 2014), pp. 247–69. Vincent Debiais, La croisée des signes. L’écriture et les images médiévales (800-1200) (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 2017). Friedrich W. Deichmann, Ravenna. Geschichte und Monumente (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1969). Elly Dekker, Illustrating the Phaenomena. Celestial Cartography in Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). Francesca Dell’Acqua, ‘Illuminando colorat’ La vetrata tra l’età tardo imperiale e l’alto medioevo: Le fonti, l’archeologia (Spoleto: CISAM, 2003). Rudolf Dellermann and Karin Uetz, La facciata nord di San Marco a Venezia. Storia e restauri (Sommacampagna: Cierre, 2018). Otto Demus, The Mosaics of San Marco in Venice, 2 vols. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984). René Derolez, Runica manuscript: the English Tradition (Bruges: De Tempel, 1954). Isabelle Draelants, ‘Le Liber Nemroth de astronomia: Mise au pointe et nouveaux Indices’, Revue d’Histoire des textes, n.s. 13 (2018), pp. 245–329.

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Jacques Dupont, ed., Le trésor de Saint-Denis: Musée du Louvre, Paris, 12 mars 17 juin 1991 (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale/Réunion des musées nationaux, 1991). Ivan Foletti, ‘De la liminalité à la présence. Les coupoles milanaises, leurs décorations et la naissance du Moyen Âge’, in Entre terre et ciel, pp. 125–44. H. G. Franz, ‘Transenne als Fensterverschluss. Ihre Entwicklung von der frühchristlichen bis zur islamischen Zeit’, Istanbuler Mitteilungen, 8 (1958), pp. 65–81. Beate Fricke, ‘Matter and Meaning of Mother-of-Pearl: The Origins of Allegory in the Spheres of Things’, Gesta, 51 (2012), pp. 35–53. Chiara Frugoni, Medioevo sul naso: occhiali, bottoni e altre invenzioni medievali (Rome: Laterza, 2001). David Ganz, ‘Der lineare Blick. Geometrie und Körperwelt in mittelalterlichen Bildern der Himmelsschau’, in Sehen und Sakralität in der Vormoderne, ed. by David Ganz et al. (Berlin: Reimer, 2011), pp. 266–91. Giraldus Cambrensis, Topographia Hibernica, ed. by James F. Dimock (London: Longman, Green Reader, and Dyer, 1867), trans. by John J. O’Meara as The History and Topography of Ireland (New York: Penguin, 1982). Hans-Werner Goetz, Gott und die Welt. Religiöse Vorstellungen des frühen und hohen Mittelalters. Part I, vol. 3. IV. Die Geschöpfe: Engel, Teufel, Menschen (Göttingen: V&R unipress, 2016). Fabio Guidetti, ‘Texts and Illustrations in Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, ms. Lat. VIII 22 (2760)’, in Certissima signa. A Venice Conference on Greek and Latin Astronomical Texts, ed. by Filippomaria Pontani (Venice: Edizioni Ca’Foscari, 2017), pp. 97–125. Cynthia Hahn, The Reliquary Effect. Enshrining the Sacred Object (London: Reaktion Books, 2017). Jeffrey F. Hamburger, ‘Idol Curiosity’, in Curiositas. Welterfahrung und ästhetische Neugierde in Mittelalter und früher Neuzeit, ed. by Klaus Krüger (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2002), pp. 21–58. Honorius Augustodunensis, Gemma Animae, PL 172, pp. 54–738. Allegra Iafrate, The Long Life of Magical Objects. A Study of the Solomonic Tradition (University Park: State University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019). Eric R. Kandel, The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain from Vienna 1900 to the Present (New York: Random House, 2012). Herbert L. Kessler, ‘Configuring the Invisible by Copying the Holy Face’, in The Holy Face and the Paradox of Representation, ed. by Herbert L. Kessler and Gerhard Wolf, Villa Spelman Studies, vol. 6 (Bologna: Nova alfa, 1998), pp. 129–51. ———, ‘Dynamic Signs and Spiritual Designs’, in Sign and Design. Script as Image in ­Cross-Cultural Perspective (300–1600 CE), ed. by Brigitte Bedos-Rezak and Jeffrey Hamburger (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 2016), pp. 107–30. ———, ‘Façade, Face, and Frontal Phot’, Codex Aqvilarensis, 31 (2016), pp. 13–36. ———, ‘La Genèse Cotton est morte’ (forthcoming).

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———, ‘The Solitary Bird in Van der Goes’ Garden of Eden’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 26 (1965), pp. 326–9. Holger A. Klein, Byzanz, der Westen und das ‘wahre’ Kreuz. Die Geschichte einer Reliquie und ihrer künstlerischen Fassung in Byzanz und im Abendland (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2004). Honorius Augustodunensis, Gemma Animae, PL 172, pp. 54–738. Tanja Klemm, Bildphysiologie: Wahrnehmung und Körper in Mittelalter und Renaissance (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2013). ———, ‘Life from Within: Physiology and Talismanic Efficacy in Marsilio Ficino’s De vita (1498)’, Representations, 133 (2016), pp. 110–29. Karen Krause, ‘Die Inschriften der Genesismosaiken’, in The Atrium of San Marco in Venice. The Genesis and Medieval Reality of the Genesis Mosaics, ed. by Martin Büchsel, Herbert L. Kessler, and Rebecca Müller (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 2014), pp. 143–76. ———, ‘Venedigs Sitz im Paradies. Zur Schöpfungskuppel in der Vorhalle von San Marco’, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorische Institutes in Florenz, 48 (2004), pp. 9–54. Christopher R. Lakey Sculptural Seeing. Relief, Optics, and the Rise of Perspective in Medieval Italy (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 2018). Davide Longhi, La capsella eburnea di Samagher: Iconografia e Commitenza (Ravenna: Edizioni del Girasole, 2006). ———, La Crux ‘coronata’: Significato e diffusione del tema iconografico della croce cosmica in corona tra IV e VIII secolo (Ravenna: Edizioni del Girasole, 2010). Manfredo Manfredi and Luigi Maragoni, Le opere di restauro nella Basilica (Venice: Callegari and Salvagno, 1908). Isabel Marchesin, L’image organum. La représentation de la musique dans les psautiers médievaux, 800-1200 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000). Didier Méhu, ‘Images, signes et figures de la consécration de l’église dans l’Occident médiéval. Les fonts baptismaux de l’église Saint-Boniface de Freckenhorst (XIIe siècle)’, in Mises en scène et mémoires et de la consécration de l’église dans l’Occident médiéval, ed. by Didier Méhu (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007), pp. 285–326. Ursula Mende, Die Bronzetüren des Mittelalters (Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 1994). Constant J. Mews, ‘Liturgists and Dance in the Twelfth Century: The Witness of John Beleth and Sicard of Cremona’, Church History, 78 (2009), pp. 512–48. Kathrin Müller, ‘Fragwürdige Bilder. Die Genesismosaiken in Monreale’, in The Atrium of San Marco in Venice. The Genesis and Medieval Reality of the Genesis Mosaics, ed. by Martin Büchsel, Herbert L. Kessler, and Rebecca Müller (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 2014), pp. 231–46. Galit Noga-Banai, Sacred Stimulus. Jerusalem in the Visual Christianization of Rome (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018). Eric Palazzo, Le souffle de Dieu. L’énergie de la liturgie et l’art au Moyen Âge (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 2020).

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Paulinus of Nola, Paulinus’ Churches at Nola. Texts, Translations and Commentary, trans. by Rudolf C. Goldschmidt (Amsterdam: N.V. Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers Maatschappij, 1940. Bissera Pentcheva, The Sensual Icon. Space, Ritual, and the Sense in Byzantium (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010). Bruno Phalip, ‘Les grilles de choeur liturgique dans le Massif Central (XIe au XIIIe siècles). D’infranchissables transparences’, in L’Église, lieu de performances. In Locis conpetentibus, ed. by Stéphanie-Diane Daussy and Nicolas Reveyron (Paris: Picard, 2016), pp. 39–54. Philostratus, In Honour of Apollonius of Tyana, trans. by J. S. Phillimore (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912). Natacha Piano, ‘De la porte close du temple de Salomon à la porte ouverte du Paradis. Histoire d’une image mariale dans l’exégèse et la liturgie médiévales (IVe-XIIIe siècles)’, Studi medievali, 50 (2009), pp. 133–58. ———, ‘I mosaici della cattedrale di Torcello: l’interazione fra architettura e iconografia attraverso il tema della porta’, Arte Veneta, 62 (2005), pp. 6–13. Simone Piazza, Allo zenit della cupola. L’eredità dell’oculus nell’arte cristiana fra Medio Evo latino e Bisanzio (Rome: Campisano Editore, 2018). Eric Ramirez-Weaver, A Saving Science. Capturing the Heavens in Carolingian Manuscripts (University Park: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017). Amy G. Remensnyder, ‘Mary, Star of the Multi-Confessional Mediterranean: Ships, Shrines and Sailors’, in Ein Meer und seine Heiligen. Hagiographie im mittelalterlichen Mediterraneum, ed. by Nikolas Jaspert, Christian A. Neumann, and Marco di Branco (Paderborn: Wilhelm Schlink Ferdinand Schöningh, 2018), pp. 299–325. Francesco Stella, ‘Poesie computistiche e meraviglie astronomiche: sull’horologium nocturnum’ di Pacifico’, in Mirabilia: gli effetti speciali nelle letterature del Medioevo: atti delle IV Giornate internazionali interdisciplinary di studio sul Medioevo (Torino 10-12 aprile 2013), ed. by Francesco Mosetti Casaretto and Roberta Ciocca (Alessandria: Edizioni dell’Orso, 2014), pp. 181–206. Suger of St.-Denis, ‘De administratione’, ed. by Erwin Panofsky in Abbot Suger. On the Abbey Church of St.-Denis and Its Art Treasures, 2nd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979). Erik Thunø, The Apse Mosaic in Early Medieval Rome. Time, Network, and Repetition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015). Benjamin C. Tilghman, ‘Writing in Tongues: Mixed Scripts and Style in Insular Art’, Insular and Anglo-Saxon Art and Thought in the Early Medieval Period, ed. by Colum Hourihane (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011), pp. 93–108. Barbara Vernia ‘L’arredo liturgico della basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo a Ravenna’, in Venezia e Bisanzio. Aspetti della cultura artistica bizantina da Ravenna a Venezia (V-XIV secolo), ed. by Clementina Rizzardi (Venice: Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, 2005), pp. 363–76.

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Jacob Wamberg, Landscape as World Picture. Tracing Cultural Evolution in Picture (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2009). Kurt Weitzmann, ‘The Genesis Mosaics of San Marco and the Cotton Genesis Miniatures’, in Otto Demus, The Mosaics of San Marco in Venice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), vol. 2, pp. 105–42. Joachim Wiesenbach, ‘Der Mönch mit dem Sehorn: die Bedeutung der Miniatur Codez Sangallensis 18, p. 45’, Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Geschichte = Revue suisse d’histoire = Rivista storica svizzera, 44 (1994), pp. 367–88. Jean Wirth, ‘Peinture et perception visuelle au XIIIe siècle’, Micrologus, 6 (1998), pp. 113–28. Gerhard Wolf, Schleier und Spiegel. Traditionen des Christusbildes und die Bildkonzepte der Renaissance (Munich: Fink, 2002). Craig M. Wright, The Maze and the Warrior. Symbols in Architecture, Theology, and Music (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001).

About the Author Herbert Kessler, Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at Johns Hopkins University, is the author of many books including The Illustrated Bible from Tours (1977); The Cotton Genesis: British Library Codex Cotton Otho B. VI (1986, with Kurt Weitzmann); The Frescoes of the Dura Synagogue and Christian Art (1990, with Kurt Weitzmann); Studies in Pictorial Narrative (1994); The Poetry and Paintings of the First Bible of Charles the Bold (1997, with Paul Dutton); Rome 1300: On the Path of the Pilgrim (2000, with Johanna Zacharias); Spiritual Seeing: Picturing God’s Invisibility in Medieval Art (2000); Neither God nor Man. Texts, Pictures, and the Anxiety of Medieval Art (2007); and Experiencing Medieval Art (2019).

14. Coda: Carolingian Art As Conceptual Art? Charlotte Denoël Abstract The starting point of this paper is the encounter, a few years ago at the BnF, between the conceptual artist Jan Dibbets and the figural poems In Praise of the Holy Cross by the ninth-century theologian Hrabanus Maurus, as well as the exhibition ‘Make it New’ that was organized as a result in 2018–2019. Drawing on it and on Meyer Schapiro’s groundbreaking comparisons between early medieval art and modern art, this paper aims to reflect on the idea of a ‘conceptual’ abstraction in early medieval art in relation to late 20th-century minimalist and conceptual art. Keywords: abstraction; Carolingian art; conceptual art; Cross; geometry; Scriptures

In the Charlemagne Evangeliary (Paris, BnF, NAL 1203, f. 3r), also called the Godescalc Evangeliary, illuminations offer a clear example of the early medieval semiotic system (Figure 14-1).1 Made between 781 and 783, this masterpiece is often considered a manifestation of the Carolingian renaissance because its paintings reconnect with the illusionistic tendencies of antiquity. And yet, even in the case of a mimetic representation such as this, the figures and their relationships to other elements of the image are based upon geometric proportions derived from the values of the musical intervals, the square root of two, and the golden ratio, as Isabelle Marchesin has recently demonstrated with various diagrams.2 These proportions express the harmony of the world created by God and the essence of the divine Word, in accordance with Neoplatonic and Augustine theories.3 The same applies to the carpet pages in insular manuscripts with their grids, where interlaces, swirls, geometric forms, and linguistic elements are intertwined according to a generative and geometric syntax of forms, they also reveal this narrow articulation between the various components of the decoration and the divine order. 4 A comparative analysis of some early medieval illuminations such as these—with or without figurative images—and of specific trends in contemporary art yields many aesthetic, formal, semiotic, and epistemological affinities. These affinities may

Gertsman, E., Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. doi: 10.5117/9789462989894_ch14

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Figure 14-1. Christ in Majesty, the Godescalc Evangeliary, 781-783, Court of Charles the Great. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, NAL 1203, fol. 3r. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

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concern the modes of expression as well as the logical and theoretical background that underlies the artistic production. The anti-illusionistic spatial layout, the objectification of the visible through geometry and symmetry, the presence of logical relations between elements, and the existence of a conceptual reflection are among the common features between two kinds of images separated by more than 1000 years. And yet, these features are more often used as categories of description and of thought by contemporary art historians than by medievalists. Focusing on the ninth-century figural poems In Praise of the Holy Cross by Hrabanus Maurus, in which text and image are closely associated in an abstract manner, this paper aims to highlight the manner in which Carolingian images may engage with modern conceptual artworks to build a cross-temporal bridge, and to consider how early medieval art can contribute to our understanding of contemporary art and vice versa.

The (Early) Middle Ages and the Concept of Abstraction This reflection draws on some thoughts about the meaning of the concept of abstraction in medieval art, which is precisely the main issue of the present book.5 At first sight, medieval art does not fall exactly within the figurative and illusionistic traditions that have dominated visual production since the Renaissance. It also does not fit within the tradition of abstract art that is one of the major trends in the 20th century. And yet, though medieval art does not employ the codes of representation that are most familiar to us, both the illusionistic and abstract traditions never ceased to irrigate its aesthetic, which is polarized between these two contrasting fields, apart from instances where they become combined. Indeed, we may even go further and venture to say that, on a conceptual level, abstraction underlies medieval aesthetics almost constantly, in particular during the early Middle Ages, when abstraction was one of the favourite modes of expression. This contention might seem a bit surprising, because scholars have never really considered abstraction as a phenomenon that pre-dates the 20th century, probably because they elide this concept with that of a non-figurative art.6 From an aesthetic point of view, abstraction has therefore been interpreted as a reaction against the figurative tradition that has prevailed since the early modernity, while, from a historical point of view, it was seen as a political answer to the major cataclysms of the first half of the 20th century. But non-figuration and abstraction are quite different things; in fact, medieval aesthetics already used some representational codes that can be considered as modern precisely because of their abstraction: namely, the theoretical thought or the idea that underlies the conception of the work and which is independent from the final form. In early medieval art, the concept of abstraction is not dependent on whether the work is figurative or not, as long as forms and materials, including

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colour, are used for their qualities per se. Rather, the crucial issue at stake is the ability of artists to express ontological concepts through visual means. From this perspective, it might be argued that the Middle Ages knew a type of abstraction, since for a large part of the period, the major challenge for artists was the representation of the divine Word, whatever the medium.7 Accordingly, the concept of abstraction seems an appropriate lens through which to analyse the essence of medieval images that use an elaborate and codified system of semiotics. This unique semiotic system objectifies the visible and makes each sign, form, or colour into the vehicle of an idea in the service of the expression of the divine. The different components of the images are deployed within a common and shared environment through visual processes that enable the establishment of logical relations amongst them. The purpose of this visual strategy is the inclusion of the components of the images within a participative sacrality.

Artistic and historiographical background This extremely rational and even scientific aesthetic is specific to the early Middle Ages. It has surely not escaped the attention of a few modern American and European artists, even if this interest in early medieval art remains limited compared to that in African or Oceanian art at the beginning of the 20th century. The cases of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, who both sought new forms of inspiration from the Catalan and Romanesque art—which they discovered in churches, in museums, or through reproductions—are well known, although a comprehensive survey on the medieval sources of both painters is still lacking.8 By contrast, another period has received by far less attention, the art of the second half of the 20th century. Yet, this period sheds light on an interesting issue, specifically the manner in which a few contemporary artists have updated the medieval aesthetic, projecting upon it their own questions regarding the representation of the space. A revival of interest for medieval art occurred in the 1960s, when some American artists linked to the minimalist and conceptual movements started to look at earlier art more closely. While a few of them, such as Donald Judd, strongly denied any influence from the past, especially from the European legacy, with the conviction that the new was the only worthy goal, others openly placed their work within a medieval tradition. Initially attracted by priesthood, Dan Flavin is among those artists. Certain titles of his works demonstrate a significant interest in medieval mysticism, in particular the composition with fluorescent tubes entitled The Nominal Three (To William of Ockham) (1963), devoted to the fourteenth-century Franciscan philosopher.9 However, the first American artist, and probably the only one who has considered the art of the early Middle Ages from an aesthetic perspective, was Frank Stella. While his interest

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in Islamic art has received much more attention than his passion for insular art, he nonetheless considered the latter—when seen by modern eyes—as a possible means of visual liberation not afforded by traditional modes of representation. Between 1957 and 1958, Stella wrote two theses on this artistic movement when he studied with art history professor and abstract painter William Seitz at Princeton University.10 In his thesis, Stella compared the carpet pages of insular manuscripts with the drip painting practised by Jackson Pollock, in terms of area. Stella was fascinated with the anti-illusionistic approach and the geometry of insular art in which he recognized true aesthetic qualities. He understood very well that this art was not merely decorative but truly meaningful, and he saw in it a means of resisting the figurative tradition, from which he sought to free himself. While it is difficult to determine whether insular art had a significant influence on Stella’s work—Stella has, thereafter, disavowed any affiliation to the minimalist art, and now refuses to speak about it—certain series such as the Protractor or the Flin Flon, made in the 1960s and 1970s, show formal and aesthetic affinities with insular art, with their visual vocabulary based on modular structures, geometric forms, ornament, and colour.11 At this point, it seems important to outline the historiographical background in which aff inities between early medieval art and minimalist or conceptual art may be considered, even if little attention has been paid to them. Although juxtapositions between medieval and modern art were a common practice among a few art historians in the first half of the 20th century—seen in the work of Aby Warburg or André Malraux, for example—these juxtapositions, as Nancy Thebaut recently demonstrated, are essentially based on a formalist approach.12 Other methods of comparisons have been deployed in the past few years, in particular the pseudomorphic, isomorphic, and conceptual ones, respectively embodied by the work of Amy Knight Powell and Alexander Nagel.13 However, if Powell and Nagel attempt, each in different ways, to reframe art history in questioning the nature of art through forms, patterns, practices, or ideas, neither of them envisages the relevance of early medieval art and its semiotics to contemporary art. The only in-depth exploration of the connections between the two periods from this point of view is found in the writings of a pre-eminent American art historian, Meyer Schapiro, whose expertise lay in late antique, early Christian, and medieval art as well as in modern art. Schapiro, himself a practitioner of drawing and painting, was a strong proponent of modern art and engaged in constant dialogues with many famous artists of his generation, including Jackson Pollock, Frank Stella, Barnett Newman, and Ad Reinhardt.14 Many of them attended his classes and lectures, read his writings, or visited medieval collections in American museums with him. Among Schapiro’s many surveys, that of early medieval art occupies an important place in his bibliography. In 1968, shortly after the period when Stella became interested in insular art, Schapiro gave a series of lectures on insular art

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at the Pierpont Morgan Library, which were published only after his death, and he devoted many other lectures and publications to this topic.15 At a time when early medieval images were often judged by others to be primitive or decorative, Shapiro was among the first to espouse an interdisciplinary approach to these images and to place semiotics, alongside Marxist and psychoanalytic interpretations, at the very heart of his explorations.16 Moreover, Schapiro never hesitated to compare medieval works with modern painting, which was considered unusual, even scandalous. In doing so, he greatly contributed to the collapse of the separation between both periods and the perception of medieval art as exclusively representational.17 Schapiro was interested in insular art for several reasons. First among these was its dynamic articulation between field, figure, and frame. He identified and recognized the ability of medieval artists to arrange the image as a whole in the most effective way possible, and to make the best use of the potentialities of the frame on a formal and symbolic level. Another issue that interested Schapiro was the fact that in insular art all the elements of an image are interconnected, and, thus, have logical relationships to each other. This issue brings us back to the meaning of the abstraction mentioned above. The last, but no less important, point that underlines the originality of Schapiro’s thought is the fact that he transposed his remarks about insular art into the realm of modern art, suggesting that we view modern art as the legacy of a long tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. For Schapiro, modern art, like its early medieval predecessor, has the propensity to combine the area to be illuminated (that is to say, the field), the representational matter (that is to say, the figure), and the structural limits of the representation (that is to say, the frame)—all without introducing hierarchies between the different elements. With these original formulations, Schapiro significantly advanced the knowledge and appreciation of early medieval art in Europe and America, particularly among American artists such as Stella. Despite this, and despite the weight of Schapiro’s legacy in contemporary historiography, the relevance of the art of the first Christian centuries to modern and contemporary periods has thus far been neglected, an oversight due in large part to the scholarly attention paid prevalently to the late Middle Ages in the past decades.18

Hrabanus Maurus’s Figural Poems This historiographical gap has led me to explore this topic as a result of a meeting with a preeminent figure of conceptual art, Jan Dibbets, who came to the Manuscripts Department of the Bibliothèque nationale de France for the first time more than ten years ago.19 I showed him several Carolingian illuminated manuscripts, among them a ninth-century copy of the In Praise of the Holy Cross by Hrabanus

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Maurus, made in Mainz for Saint Denis abbey (Paris, BnF MS lat. 2422). Immediately fascinated by the repeating compositions of figural poems structured around the sign of the Cross, Dibbets saw in these poems abstract artworks that echo his own questions regarding the representation of space, proportions, and geometry. I quote his own words: […] completely different from anything I had ever seen, so modern, so original and minimalist, radically contemporary […] The pages were magical, filled with letters, mathematically arranged around simple coloured shapes—circles, crosses, triangles, squares—harmoniously integrated into the text, formed a magnificent abstract whole, as if someone from the twenty-first century might have been working on it 1,200 years ago.20

This encounter between Dibbets and Hrabanus, not unlike that of Stella with insular art, was followed by several discussions between us. The result of these conversations took shape with an exhibition at the Bibliothèque nationale de France that aimed to create a dialogue between Hrabanus and some works by minimalist and conceptual artists, including two by Jan Dibbets—one of them specially created for Hrabanus and the exhibition.21 This dialogic interchange was not intended to establish any lineage or influence and has been elaborated without any scientific or historical claims, since most of the artists involved in this exhibition did not know of Hrabanus before. Instead, what interested us was the common features between the chosen works, be they contemporary or medieval: that is to say, their conceptualization, which is, in each case, the main purpose of the artistic project. Bearing in mind this assumption, let us discuss in the subsequent pages the possible connections between Hrabanus’s figural poems, and minimalist and conceptual art to point out how aesthetics of the early Middle Ages and semantics of its artworks may resonate with contemporary creation, and how this may, in turn, shed new light both on early medieval art and on contemporary art.22 To explore these connections, we should first look at Hrabanus (c. 780–856), this fully fledged intellectual, and his figural poems.23 Born near Mainz under the reign of Charlemagne, Hrabanus was raised at the abbey of Fulda. To complete his training, he stayed at the abbey of Saint-Martin in Tours while it was governed by Alcuin. There, Hrabanus learned a wide range of disciplines under Alcuin’s supervision. He then came back to Fulda, where he became a teacher and eventually an abbot, in 822. In Fulda, he wrote most of his immense body of work. But the work that made him famous is the poem In Praise of the Holy Cross, which he wrote between 810 and 814, while he was still a simple monk at Fulda. Of the approximately 80 manuscripts kept, which range from the ninth to the seventeenth century, the earliest, written in 810, is missing.24 The other manuscripts made during Hrabanus’s lifetime date

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Figure 14-2. Figure II from Hrabanus Maurus, In Praise of the Holy Cross, 825-826/840-850, Fulda. Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. Reg. Lat. 124, fol. 9v. Previously reproduced in Charlotte Denoël, Make it New. Conversations avec l’art médiéval. Carte blanche à Jan Dibbets (Paris: BnF, 2018), p. 105.

from his time as abbot of Fulda. The oldest was written around 825 and 840–850 in Fulda under the direct supervision of Hrabanus (Vaticano, BAV, Vat. Reg. Lat. 124, f. 9v–10r) who gave precise indications for the colours to be used, for the layout of the figures, and so on (Figure 14-2). While it is the only copy on purple parchment and the most sophisticated one, all the copies share common features: namely, the unique literary and artistic form, respecting the original work. It comprises a series of 28 figural poems, the carmina figurata. Each of these poems is developed in accordance with strict geometrical and mathematical principles.25 On the left, the text of the poem is arranged in a square or a rectangle, and the poems always have the same number of letters and lines. These two points are important, because they allow us to understand the perfect order of the poems, on a geometric and mathematical level. Inside, cruciform figures are intertwined with other verses. These verses may be read independently from the main poem, while simultaneously connecting with it. This complex, multilevel reading required explanations. For this

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reason, Hrabanus wrote a kind of manual on the opposite page where he explains the different directions of reading and the path to be followed by the eyes. Hrabanus is not the inventor of this literary genre, the versus intexti. It has a long tradition that dates to antiquity, in particular to Porfyrius, Constantine’s panegyrist, whom Hrabanus quotes in the foreword.26 Alcuin was also familiar with this kind of visual poetry, and Hrabanus probably discovered it while he was being trained at Tours.27 Hrabanus’s work should also be seen in the historical context of the polemic around images between Rome and Byzantium, and the writing of the Libri Carolini. In Hrabanus’s text, the image intertwined with the writing allows the reader to move forward from the visible—the forms and letters—to the invisible, the ideas and their spiritual context. While Hrabanus recognized the artistic value of the images, he nevertheless defended the superiority of the letter under the painting, as he explains in a letter to his colleague and friend Hatto, who replaced him as head of the abbey of Fulda in 842.28 However, it is crucial to emphasize the fact that his work is unique in its form for its narrow intertwining of text and image, and for its extreme sophistication. By using abstract diagrams as a support for writing, Hrabanus multiplies the levels of reading for the text in order to guide the reader towards a profound understanding of the invisible world. The fundamental matrix of his work is the Cross, here celebrated for its two main theological qualities. The first is an eschatological quality: the Cross is the emblem of the victory of Christ over death. The second is a cosmic quality: the Cross reflects the divine order of the world over which Christ reigns. With its quadrangular shape, it organizes the world spatially and temporally. In order to glorify the Cross in all its fullness, Hrabanus also created certain visual arrangements from patterns displayed in such a way as to form the shape of a cross. These patterns may be geometric, figured, or graphic. Often, a sophisticated exegesis is concealed behind these patterns, as in his figure 11 (Paris, BnF MS lat. 2422, f. 13v).29 In this figure, the five squares correspond to the five books of the Torah, with Genesis at the top, Exodus on the right, Numbers on the left, Leviticus at the centre, and Deuteronomy at the bottom (Figure 14-3). This progression from a literal meaning to a symbolic one reflects the core principle of Christian exegesis. To give more weight to his discourse, Hrabanus relies on an extremely sophisticated numerological symbolism. He was an expert in mathematics and did not hesitate to use numbers to express spiritual concepts. With this method, he perpetuated the Pythagorean tradition, and, especially, the biblical tradition in which numbers and true measures had a fundamental importance. This is summed up perfectly in the famous verse from the book of Wisdom, 11, 21: ‘Omnia mensura et numero et pondere disposuisti’, discussed at length by many early Christian and medieval authors, in particular by Saint Augustine in his treatise De libero arbitrio and by Macrobe in his Commentarii in Somnium Scipionis. Strongly influenced by this

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Figure 14-3. Figure 11 from Hrabanus Maurus, In Praise of the Holy Cross, 847, Mainz. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 2422, fol. 13v. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

biblical symbolism as well as by Saint Augustine, whom he quotes extensively, Hrabanus articulated his biblical symbolism with the geometric properties of the Cross to show its perfect order. As his method of calculation is much elaborated, he provided extensive explanations in the facing page.

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Another method Hrabanus used to guide the reader from the material realities towards spiritual ones, was the use of colour. He readily understood the plastic, rhythmic, and symbolic possibilities of colour that he employed visually as well as theologically. Again, he is not the f irst to have understood this ontological potentiality of colour, already used in the antique and biblical tradition, but with Porfyrius, he is among the first to associate theory of colours and images within his poems so that they become a well-organized and meaningful chromatic system. For example, in his commentary on the sixteenth figure, the cross of flowers, he clearly explains the biblical meaning of each colour. This discussion of Hrabanus’s work would not be complete without a few thoughts about the two images placed at the beginning and end of the work, the two figural poems in which Hrabanus himself appears.30 In the first poem, his name is disseminated at regular intervals, every eight letters and every eight lines, something that we can read as a visual puzzle: Magnentius Hrabanus hoc opus fecit. It is a way for Hrabanus to claim authorship of his work, weaving his name throughout the body of the text. It is also a way to claim his quality of homo quadratus, positioned in the world like Christ and the Cross. By contrast, in the final poem that closes the series, Hrabanus chooses to be represented in his body of flesh, in a kneeling position, worshipping the Cross. With these two images, Hrabanus displays his twin identities, literary and human. This double identity refers to the two declamatory qualities of the work, as Scripture and as image. Above all, with this, Hrabanus adopts a performative approach: like the Christ-Cross, Hrabanus becomes word and image simultaneously.

Hrabanus and Contemporary Artistic Creation The term ‘performance’ is more prevalent among contemporary art critics than among medieval art historians—although it has been increasingly used over the past years in the context of the epistemological reflection on function and efficacy of images and of the surveys on sensory experience in relation to medieval liturgy or private devotional practices.31 And yet, with regard to the concept of performance, several factors that make Hrabanus’s work unique remain as topical and as relevant as ever because they raise general aesthetic issues: namely, those that engage with anti-illusionistic representation of space by means of geometric or chromatic structures, experimentation with graphic forms of scripture, serial nature of forms, and articulation between the artistic project and its final form. All these issues are at the forefront of the contemporary art scene. In the 1960s and 1970s, they were at the very heart of the practices of artists from minimalist and conceptual movements.32 These artists had two main objectives: they wished to reject all forms of subjectivity, emancipating themselves from the illusionist and

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Figure 14-4. Sol Le Witt, Four Basic Kinds of Straight Lines and All Their Combinations in Fifteen Parts, 1969. Black ink, paper, 20.3 × 20.3 cm. Paris, collection MJS. © Sol Lewitt c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2020.

Cartesian legacy, and they also wished to demonstrate that ‘reality is an abstraction’, to use Jan Dibbets’s own words.33 To be able to rethink their understanding and their experiences of the world, these artists explored many abstract modes of expression that resonate with Hrabanus’s work. From a formal or morphological perspective, one of the main vehicles in this search for a new spatiality and a new objectivity was the use of geometry and one of its corollaries, the modular structure. For example, as Rosalind Krauss has discussed, the grid pattern, a kind of icon in current contemporary art, was used by some artists as a means to claim the spatial autonomy of art and to integrate the limits of the world inside the work.34 The two-dimensional qualities and the numerical values of the grid allow artists such as Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, François Morellet, or Sol LeWitt (Figure 14-4)

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Figure 14-5. Frank Stella, Die Fahne Hoch!, 1959. 308.6 cm × 185.4 cm and the medium: enamel paint on canvas. New York, Whitney Museum of American Art. Previously reproduced in Charlotte Denoël, Make it New. Conversations avec l’art médiéval. Carte blanche à Jan Dibbets (Paris: BnF, 2018), p. 50.

to represent some abstract and rational spatial relations within their works, as Hrabanus did in expressing cosmic harmony through mathematical proportions. Another favourite pattern of the artists of this generation was the Cross, which has the same ability as the grid to order the world through its geometric configuration, apart from its ability to incarnate a symbolic word—a feature that led some critics to misinterpret Ad Reinhardt’s black square paintings as the form of the Greek cross in light of Christian religion and its imagery, despite Reinhardt’s denial.35 Stella (Figure 14-5) and LeWitt used the Cross like a conventional sign and conjugated it into series, exactly like Hrabanus, who practised a similar form of seriality long before modern times.36 For LeWitt, who discovered some frescoes by Piero della Francesca in Arezzo in 1958, it became a fundamental axial matrix.37 Still, whatever the ultimate pattern is, whether a grid or a cross, what really caught the attention

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Figure 14-6. Franz Erhard Walther, Körper und Raum, 1967. Pencil, watercolor, paper, 29.6 × 21 cm. Fulda, FEW Foundation. Previously reproduced in Charlotte Denoël, Make it New. Conversations avec l’art médiéval. Carte blanche à Jan Dibbets (Paris: BnF, 2018), p. 99.

of minimalist artists was the line. They considered it to be the simplest objective matrix that permitted the ordering of space within the canvas. The line, for LeWitt, had the capacity to embody reality more readily than did images representing objects or persons.38 The use of Scripture as figurative medium, which is a key component in Hrabanus’s semantics, is also a common practice among artists of the 1960s and 1970s. While they wanted to find new modes of expression as removed as possible from mimetic representation, several minimalist and conceptual artists have experienced the integration of linguistic elements within their works. It is not entirely new, since cubists, Dadaists, and surrealists had already started to do so, followed by the Fluxus movement.39 But the emphasis on language plays an increasingly important role in the 1960s, and some artists even give a special status to letters, which become their de facto mode of representation. Among many examples, Franz Erhard Walther’s work especially testifies to this new interest in linguistic form (Figure 14-6). This artist has built a system within

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which writing plays a preeminent role, in both perception and reception, similar to what we can see in Hrabanus’s work. And it certainly was not a coincidence that Walther, who was born and lives in Fulda—where Hrabanus spent most of his life—and to whom I had the opportunity to show a few manuscripts of In Praise of the Holy Cross in 2017, was also fascinated by these elements, exactly as Dibbets had been. The typographical and calligraphic explorations that Walther has been conducting for more than 40 years have the same purpose as those of Hrabanus: namely, to get as close as possible to a world of ideas, an abstract world, by means of language and its written form. With his Wortbilder, made in 1957–1958, and with later watercolour or gouache drawings which constitute for him a reservoir of forms, the artist strove to make art with writing, as he put it. 40 In Walther’s work, language has a conceptual dimension. He gives shape to language by variously declining the type and proportion of the block letters that he sometimes associates with geometric figures. On an epistemological level, the conceptualization of the artistic project, as well as its serial nature, are among the other points of convergence between Hrabanus’s work and that of conceptual artists. To be easily understood by the reader, Hrabanus’s In Praise of the Holy Cross needs an instruction manual explaining the choice of the forms and their meaning. Each poem is systematically accompanied by a guide that enables the understanding of the figures and the correct reading of the intertwined verse. Moreover, the 28 figural poems form a series governed by the concept of the Cross that is iterated in multiples shapes. Several contemporary artists have proceeded in a similar way, with instructions indicating how to perform their work, and with repeating compositions. This is found, for example, in the work of LeWitt, who left protocols or instructions for his assistants. Although they are not addressed to the spectators, the parallel with Hrabanus is striking because these protocols testify to an essentialization of the work through the language and ideas that lie behind it. It is language that allows the work to embody the disincarnate. This linguistic system, in which a relationship is developed between idea, word, and form, also involves, in the work of other artists, the titles of the works included on the labels that the visitor has to read if he wishes to understand the meaning of the work. It is not necessary to multiply ad infinitum the parallels between Hrabanus and contemporary art: be they formal, morphological, semantic, or epistemological, the many points of convergence observed above suggest that conceptual and minimalist movements—although they have been seeking to extirpate themselves from European illusionistic tradition—are rooted in a long history that extends long before the modern period. They certainly do not involve a direct influence or legacy, but they allow us to raise some thoughts about the modernism of the aesthetic qualities of early medieval art—namely, its ability to take advantage

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of the organic and rhythmic qualities of line, form, and colour, and its extreme rationalization of the visible. These very specific features allowed Carolingian artists to bring together two different modes of representation, the illusionistic tradition from antiquity and the aniconic one, which are both at the very foundation of our contemporary visual culture.

Notes 1. 2. 3. 4.

5. 6. 7.

8.

I would like to thank Professor Elina Gertsman, who generously offered me a chance to write a chapter for this book when its Table of Contents was already completed. Marchesin, ‘Mise en voir mathématique et intermédialité du Verbe dans les Évangiles carolingiens. Genèse d’une tradition iconographique’, pp. 39–70, esp. pp. 48–59. For these theories, see in particular Morrison, ‘The Art of Early Medieval Number Symbolism’, pp. 169–82. Concerning these grids, see the seminal surveys by Robert D. Stevick and Jean Guilmain, in particular: Stevick, ‘The 4 X 3 Crosses in the Lindisfarne and Lichfield Gospels’, pp. 171–84; Stevick, ‘A Geometer’s Art’, pp. 161–92; Stevick, ‘The Shapes of the Book of Durrow Evangelist-Symbol Pages’, pp. 182–94; Stevick, ‘Page Design of some Illuminations in the Book of Kells’, pp. 243–56; Guilmain, ‘An Analysis of some Ornamental Patterns’, pp. 93–103. See also the research blog ‘Abstraction before the Age of Abstract Art’ that records the activities and results of the joint project led by Elina Gertsman and Vincent Debiais: https://preabstract.hypotheses.org/ (accessed 13 September 2019). Among recent surveys about the abstraction in modern and contemporary art with an abundant bibliography, see the exhibition catalogue Aux origines de l’abstraction (1800-1914). Many scholars have recently shed light on these issues. Here again, the bibliography is expansive. See in particular Baschet, Bonne, Dittmar, Le monde roman; Bonne, L’art roman de face et de profil: le tympan de Conques; Bonne, ‘À la recherche des images médiévales’, pp. 353–73; Kessler, Spiritual Seeing and Seeing Medieval Art; Marchesin, L’arbre et la colonne; Voyer, Orner la parole de Dieu. Matisse’s painting La Danse (1910) and his book Jazz (1943–1944), as well as Picasso’s Guernica have often been quoted for the many visual congruencies that they show with the illuminations of an eleventh-century French manuscript, The Beatus of St. Sever (Paris, BnF MS lat. 8878), remarkable for their flatness, linearity, geometry, and coloured backgrounds. Over the past few decades, several studies have been devoted to Matisse’s and Picasso’s works in relation to medieval art: see especially Grabar, ‘Peintures mozarabes et Picasso’, pp. 89–96; Arikha, ‘Matisse et l’Apocalypse de Saint-Sever’; Klein and Werckmeister, El Beato de Saint-Sever y su influencia en el Guernica de Picasso. For many years now, Jean-Claude Bonne has undertaken a survey of the influence of medieval art on Matisse; see, for example: ‘Une certaine couleur des idées’, pp. 49–84; ‘Histoire et théorie de l’art’; ‘Histoire et théorie de l’art’.

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9.

10.

11. 12.

13. 14.

15.

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Finally, see the recent MA thesis on ‘Medieval Sources in the Early Work of Pablo Picasso’, by Erin Elizabeth Horton. See Judd’s famous interview with Frank Stella and Bruce Glaser in Glaser, ‘Questions to Stella and Judd’, repr. in Minimal Art, p. 154: ‘I’m totally uninterested in European art and I think it’s over with it’. And yet, the Romanesque painting held the artist’s attention, as stated in his writings: ‘The painting by Zeuxis that the birds pecked at could not have been like the painting on Attic vases, flat areas of red and black. […] Romanesque painting, which has clear and strong and well-organized areas of color, has always been safe from birds. I can imagine a Romanesque painter being horrified by Cimabue’s modulation into representation of the areas of color.’ Judd, ‘Some aspects of color in general and red and black in particular’, p. 837. For further references on this topic, see Verhagen, ‘À l’abri des oiseaux’, pp. 10–5. I have not been able to find the thesis that Stella wrote in 1957, despite extensive research in the Princeton University archives held at The Mudd Manuscript Library and Archives of American Art in Washington, and after asking Stella himself, who threw away many archives from this period. However, the art critic William S. Rubin explicitly mentions it in 1970, with a confusion between the junior and the senior thesis: Rubin, Frank Stella, p. 9. I assume Rubin is the source of the references on Stella’s thesis provided by Zutter, ‘Frank Stella. Flin Flon 1970’, pp. 21–3, and by Doyle, ‘Stella’s Stripes’. The senior thesis previously mentioned is held at the Mudd Manuscript Library: see Stella, ‘Art in Western Christendom, Senior thesis’. I am grateful to Rebecca K. Friedman, assistant librarian at the Marquand Library, for her assistance with my research. I have tried unsuccessfully to ask him about this period. For these series, see Rubin, Frank Stella; and Auping, Frank Stella: A Retrospective. Began in 1927, and never completed, the Atlas is available online at https://warburg. sas.ac.uk/library-collections/warburg-institute-archive/online-bilderatlas-mnemosyne. See also, Warburg, Der Bilderatlas Mnemosyne; André Malraux, Le Musée imaginaire. See Thebaut, ‘Au-delà des périodisations: parcours passés et futurs potentiels’. Powell, Depositions: Scenes from the Late Medieval Church and the Modern Museum; Nagel, Medieval Modern: Art Out of the Time. Schapiro’s archives, including his own artworks, are held at the Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, MS#1191. About the friendships between Schapiro with modern artists, see Hess, ‘Sketch for a Portrait of the Art Historian among Artists’, pp. 6–14. See also the lecture given by Barbara Rose about the medieval Beatus manuscripts on 18 April 2016, at the School of Visual Arts in New York: ‘Space in Medieval and Modern Painting: A Dialogue between Barbara Rose and Lynn Gamwell’, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_tZmi4nN0I (accessed 13 September 2019). See also, Thebaut, ‘Au-delà des périodisations’. Schapiro, The Language of Forms. I would like to add to his large bibliography on early medieval art the film made in 1973 by Barbara Rose, ‘La leçon de Meyer Schapiro’, and remastered in 1997 by Rachel Stella, Rose and Stella’s daughter. A copy is held at the Bibliothèque Kandinsky, in Paris, and I am grateful to Natalia Klanchar for giving me access to it. The main part of the film includes a lecture given by Scha-

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piro at the Columbia University. This lecture discusses the relationship between insular and Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and art from Van Eyck to Elsworth Kelly, with a particular emphasis on the similarities between the early eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon Sacramentary of Robert de Jumièges (Rouen, BM 274) and Kandinsky’s work untitled ‘Composition in Red and Black’ (1920). See also Thebaut, ‘Au-delà des périodisations’. 16. See Camille, ‘“How New York stole the Idea of Romanesque Art”’, pp. 65–75. For a general view on historiography about early medieval illumination, see Denoël, ‘The Beginnings of Scholarship on Early Medieval Book Illumination (1700–1850): Between Classicism and Ethnicity’. 17. About this issue, see Maillet, ‘L’art conceptuel depuis le IXe siècle’, pp. 13–29. Drawing from Schapiro’s conclusion to his posthumous book Words, Script and Pictures: Semiotics of Visual Language (see p. 198 of that text: ‘The polarity of the written sign and the image construction has been resolved [in the conceptual art] by the restriction to a written discourse as an object of art itself’), Maillet suggests in this paper that Schapiro probably overlooked conceptual art, and that he might have studied it more extensively to point out its affinities with Carolingian art. However, I cannot support her appreciation of Schapiro’s legacy, since he was the only art historian of his generation to point out the parallels between medieval and modern art in such a compelling way, not to mention the fact that he wrote this text in 1976, long before its publication, and he preferred to put emphasis on modern art from past decades, rather than the art of present times. 18. Having said that, it is important to mention a few significant exceptions, such as Hamburger’s paper, ‘The Iconicity of Script’, pp. 249–61, in which he examines Carolingian and Romanesque illuminations alongside Paul Klee’s and Jasper Johns’ paintings. The ongoing project ‘Abstraction before the Age of Abstract Art’, led by Elina Gertsman and Vincent Debiais (see n. 1), sets out to fill this historiographical gap, as does Byzantium/Modernism. The Byzantine as Method in Modernity, edited by Roland Betancourt and Maria Taroutina. See also the forthcoming book L’art médiéval est-il contemporain?, ed. by Denoël, Dryansky, Marchesin, and Verhagen. 19. For a complete survey of Dibbets’s work, see Verhagen, Jan Dibbets. The Photographic Work. 20. https://www.art-critique.com/en/2019/01/make-it-new-jan-dibbets-creates-adialogue-between-medieval-and-contemporary-art-at-the-french-national-library/ (accessed 25 July 2020). 21. Make it New: conversations avec l’art médiéval: carte blanche à Jan Dibbets, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, 6 November 2018–10 February 10, 2019; see also the catalogue with the same title edited by Denoël and Verhagen. 22. What I propose in these pages is a summary, as well as some further developments, of my essay ‘Why not do it?’, pp. 40–53. 23. Among the extensive bibliography on Hrabanus Maurus, see Weber, Rhein, and Zabern, Rabanus Maurus in seiner Zeit: 780-1980; Böhne, Hrabanus Maurus und seine Schule: Festschrift der Rabanus-Maurus-Schule 1980; Perrin, Rabani Mauri In honorem sanctae crucis; Ferrari, Il “Liber sanctae crucis” di Rabano Mauro; Heck, ‘Raban Maur,

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24. 25.

26.

27. 28.

29. 30. 31. 32.

33. 34. 35. 36. 37.

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Bernard de Clairvaux, Bonaventure’, pp. 112–32; Kotzur and Wilhelmy, Rabanus Maurus; Felten and Nichtweiß, Hrabanus Maurus; Perrin, L’iconographie de la Gloire à la sainte croix de Raban Maur; Depreux, Raban Maur et son temps; Coon, Dark Age Bodies. Perrin, ‘Le “De laudibus sanctae crucis” de Raban Maur et sa tradition manuscrite au IXe siècle’, pp. 191–251; Kottje, Verzeichnis der Handschriften mit den Werken des Hrabanus Maurus. Ernst, ‘Zahl und Mass in der Figurengedichte der Antike und des Frühmittelalters. Beobachtungen zur Entwicklung tektonischer Bauformen’, pp. 310–32; Perrin, ‘De la poésie à la spiritualité en passant par l’arithmologie’, pp. 147–60; Ernst, ‘Le nombre et ses utilisations carolingiennes. Numérologie antique et biblique, théologie, poétique et esthétique’, pp. 323–62. For the literary tradition of this poetry, see Ernst, Carmen figuratum, and Zumthor, Langue, texte, énigme, pp. 25–35. In Chinese poetry, a few figural poems are also evidenced during the same period as Porfyrius, with one example being an extremely elaborate palindrome performed by a woman named Su Hui (b. 350) for her husband who married another woman; see Métail, La carte de la sphère armillaire de Su Hui; see also Wang, ‘Patterns Above and Within: Picture of the Turning Sphere and Medieval Chinese Astral Imagination’. Perrin, ‘La poésie de cour carolingienne’, pp. 333–51. Patrologia latina 112, col. 1608–1609; Perrin, ‘L’iconoclasme et ses prolongements carolingiens au début du IXe siècle en Occident dans l’œuvre de Raban Maur’, pp. 81–89. For the position of the Carolingians about images, among the extensive bibliography, see Mitalaite, Philosophie et théologie de l’image dans les «Libri Carolini”; Noble, Images, Iconoclasm, and the Carolingians. The numbers of the figures quoted here and below come from the reference edition of Hrabanus Maurus, In honorem sanctae crucis, ed. by Perrin. For Hrabanus’s self-portrait, see Bonne, ‘L’image de soi au Moyen Âge (ixe-xiie siècles)’, pp. 37–60. See, for example, the book edited by Dierkens, Bartholeyns, and Golsenne, La performance des images. Additionally, see the work of Jean-Marie Sansterre, Jérôme Baschet, Eric Palazzo, and Elina Gertsman, to mention only a few. Among the many surveys on minimalist and conceptual art, see Battcock, Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology; Gintz, Regards sur l’art américain des années soixante; Krauss, L’Originalité de l’avant-garde et autres mythes modernistes; Alberro and Stimson, Conceptual Art; Rorimer, New Art in the 60s and 70s. Redefining Reality. Dibbets, ‘Interview with Georg Jappe’. Krauss, ‘La grille’, pp. 93–109; see also Corà, ‘Sol LeWitt: art, qualité de la pensée’; Graham, ‘Thoughts on Two Structures’, pp. 65–7. Reinhardt, Art-as-Art, pp. 185–6. See Krauss, ‘Sens et sensibilité, réflexion sur la sculpture de la fin des années 60’, pp. 110–22. Marin, ‘La théorie narrative et Piero peintre d’histoire’, pp. 55–84; repr. Opacité de la peinture. Essais sur la représentation au quattrocento, pp. 101–24. See also Krauss, ‘The LeWitt matrix’, pp. 50–62.

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38. LeWitt, ‘The Draftsman and the Wall’, p. 222; Gross, ‘Order and disorder: where every wall is a door’, pp. 10–29. 39. See Schapiro, Words, Script and Pictures, pp. 191–8. 40. For the Wortbilder, see Verhagen, ‘Des Mots-images à la Poussière d’étoiles’, pp. 90– 107; Walther, Abc Museum. See also the retrospective exhibition of Franz Erhard Walther’s work at Peter Freeman, Inc. in New York, ‘Franz Erhard Walther: Migration of Forms, 1956–2006’, September–26 October 2019, where more than 250 drawings were exhibited for the first time.

Works Cited Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson, Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999. Avigdor Arikha, ‘Matisse et l’Apocalypse de Saint-Sever: Beatus et Jazz’, in Peinture et regard, écrits sur l’art, 1965-1990, Paris: Hermann, 1991. Michael Auping, Frank Stella: A Retrospective (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, in association with the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 2015). Jérôme Baschet, Jean-Claude Bonne, and Pierre-Olivier Dittmar, Le monde roman : par-delà le bien et le mal: une iconographie du lieu sacré (Paris: Arkhê, 2012). Gregory Battcock, ed., Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology (New York: Dutton, 1968). Roland Betancourt and Maria Taroutina, eds., Byzantium/Modernism. The Byzantine as Method in Modernity (Leiden: Brill, 2015). Winfried Böhne, ed., Hrabanus Maurus und seine Schule: Festschrift der Rabanus-MaurusSchule 1980 (Fulda: Rabanus-Maurus-Schule, 1980). Jean-Claude Bonne, L’art roman de face et de profil: le tympan de Conques (Paris: Le Sycomore, 1984). ———, ‘À la recherche des images médiévales’, Annales ESC (March–April 1991), pp. 353–73. ———, ‘L’image de soi au Moyen Âge (ixe-xiie siècles): Raban Maur et Godefroy de SaintVictor’, Il Ritratto e la memoria: materiali 2, ed. by Augusto Gentili, Philippe Morel, and Claudia Cieri Via (Roma: Bulzoni, 1993), pp. 37–60. ———, ‘Une certaine couleur des idées. Matisse et l’art médiéval’, Cahiers de la Villa Gillet, February 2003, no. 17, Les ‘Moyen Âge’ de l’art contemporain, pp. 49–84. ———, ‘Histoire et théorie de l’art’, Annuaire de l’EHESS, 2004, http://journals.openedition. org/annuaire-ehess/16528 (accessed 13 September 2019). ———, ‘Histoire et théorie de l’art’, Annuaire de l’EHESS, 2005, http://journals.openedition. org/annuaire-ehess/17088 (accessed on 13 September 2019). Michael Camille, ‘“How New York stole the Idea of Romanesque Art”: Medieval, Modern and Postmodern in Meyer Schapiro’, Oxford Art Journal, 17, no. 1, pp. 65–75. Éric de Chassey, L’abstraction, avec ou sans raison (Paris: Gallimard, 2018).

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Thomas B. Hess, ‘Sketch for a Portrait of the Art Historian among Artists’, Social Research, 45, no. 1 (1978), pp. 6–14. Christian Heck, ‘Raban Maur, Bernard de Clairvaux, Bonaventure: expression de l’espace et topographie spirituelle dans les images médiévales’, in Mind’s Eye: Art and Theological Argument in the Middle Ages, ed. by Jeffrey Hamburger and Anne-Marie Bouché (Princeton: Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University, in association with Princeton University Press, 2006), pp. 112–32. Donald Judd, ‘Some aspects of color in general and red and black in particular’, Donald Judd Writings, ed. by Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray (Marfa/New York: Judd Foundation/ David Zwirner books, 2016), pp. 832–58. Herbert Kessler, Spiritual Seeing: Picturing God’s Invisibility in Medieval Art (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000). ———, Seeing Medieval Art: Rethinking the Middle Ages (Peterborough/Orchard Park: Broadview Press, 2004). Peter K. Klein and Otto Karl Werckmeister, El Beato de Saint-Sever y su influencia en el Guernica de Picasso (Madrid: Patrimonio ediciones, 2013). Raymund Kottje,ed., Verzeichnis der Handschriften mit den Werken des Hrabanus Maurus (Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2012). Hans-Jürgen Kotzur and Winfried Wilhelmy, eds., Rabanus Maurus: Auf den Spuren eines karolingischen Gelehrten: [Austellung, Mainz, Dom- und Diözesanmuseum, 2006] (Mainz: P. von Zabern, 2006). Rosalind Krauss, L’Originalité de l’avant-garde et autres mythes modernistes (Paris: Macula, 1993). ———, ‘The LeWitt matrix’, in Sol LeWitt, ed. by Béatrice Gross (Metz: Centre PompidouMetz, 2012), pp. 50–62. ———, ‘Sens et sensibilité, réflexion sur la sculpture de la fin des années 60’, in Regards sur l’art américain des années soixante, ed. by Claude Gintz (Paris: Territoires, 1979), pp. 110–22. Serge Lemoine and Pascal Rousseau, eds., Aux origines de l’abstraction (1800-1914) (Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2003). Chloé Maillet, ‘L’art conceptuel depuis le IXe siècle (Pour Meyer Schapiro d’après le Ms Harley 647 de la British Library’, in Arts et Langage, ed. by Fabien by Vallos (Arles: CRAIE/ École nationale supérieure de la photographie, 2018), pp. 13–29. Isabelle Marchesin, ‘Mise en voir mathématique et intermédialité du Verbe dans les Évangiles carolingiens. Genèse d’une tradition iconographique’, in Imago libri. Représentations carolingiennes du livre, ed. by Charlotte Denoël, Anne-Orange Poilpré, and Sumi Shimahara (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 39–70. ———, L’arbre et la colonne (Paris: Picard, 2017). Louis Marin, ‘La théorie narrative et Piero peintre d’histoire’, in Piero, teorico dell’arte, ed. by Omar Calabrese (Roma: Gangeni, 1985), pp. 55–84. Reprinted in Louis Marin,

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Opacité de la peinture. Essais sur la représentation au quattrocento (Paris: 1989), pp. 101–24. Michèle Métail, La carte de la sphère armillaire de Su Hui. Un poème chinois à ‘lecture retournée’ du IVe siècle (Courbevoie: Théâtre Typographique, 1998). Kristina Mitalaite, Philosophie et théologie de l’image dans les ‘Libri Carolini’ (Paris: Institut des études augustiniennes, 2007). Tessa Morrison, ‘The Art of Early Medieval Number Symbolism’, Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association, 2 (2006), pp. 169–82. Alexander Nagel, Medieval Modern: Art out of the Time (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2012). Thomas F. X. Noble, Images, Iconoclasm, and the Carolingians (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009). Pasadena Art Museum, Sol LeWitt (Pasadena: Pasadena Art Museum, 1970). Michel Perrin, ‘Le “De laudibus sanctae crucis” de Raban Maur et sa tradition manuscrite au IXe siècle’, Revue d’histoire des textes 19 (1989), pp. 191–251. ———, ‘De la poésie à la spiritualité en passant par l’arithmologie. Un exemple de poésie carolingienne, le De laudibus sanctae crucis de Raban Maur’, Koinônia, 16, no. 2, (1993), pp. 147–60. ———, ‘L’iconoclasme et ses prolongements carolingiens au début du IXe siècle en Occident dans l’œuvre de Raban Maur’, in Actes du XXVIe Congrès de l’APLAES (Amiens, 21–23 May 1993) (Amiens: Association des professeurs de langues anciennes de l’enseignement supérieur, 1994), pp. 81–9. ———, ed., Rabani Mauri In honorem sanctae crucis, CCCM 100–100A (Turnhout: Brepols, 1997). ———, ‘La poésie de cour carolingienne. Les contacts entre Alcuin et Raban Maur et les indices de l’influence d’Alcuin sur l’In honorem in sanctae crucis’, in Alcuin, de York à Tours. Écriture, pouvoir et réseaux dans l’Europe du haut Moyen Âge, ed. by Philippe Depreux and Bruno Judic, Annales de Bretagne et des Pays de l’Ouest, 111, 3 (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2004), pp. 333–51. ———, L’iconographie de la Gloire à la sainte croix de Raban Maur (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009). ———, ‘Le nombre et ses utilisations carolingiennes. Numérologie antique et biblique, théologie, poétique et esthétique: l’exemple de l’In honorem sanctae crucis de Hraban Maur au début du IXe siècle’, in La création littéraire et les nombres: études dans les littératures grecque et latine, ed. by Nancy Jeanne Dion (Nancy: Association pour la diffusion de la recherche sur l’antiquité, 2012), pp. 323–62. Amy Knight Powell, Depositions: Scenes from the Late Medieval Church and the Modern Museum (New York: Zoe Books, 2012). Ad Reinhardt, Art-as-Art: The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt, ed. by Barbara Rose (Los Angeles/Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), pp. 185–6. Georges Roque, Qu’est-ce que l’art abstrait?: une histoire de l’abstraction en peinture (1860-1960) (Paris: Gallimard, 2003).

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Anne Rorimer, New Art in the 60s and 70s. Redefining Reality (London: Thames & Hudson, 2001). William S. Rubin, Frank Stella (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1970). Meyer Schapiro, Words, Script and Pictures: Semiotics of Visual Language (New York: George Braziller, 1996). ———, The Language of Forms. Lectures on Insular Manuscript Art (New York: Pierpont Morgan Library, 2005). Frank Philip Stella, ‘Art in Western Christendom’ (senior thesis, Princeton University, 1958). Robert D. Stevick, ‘The 4 X 3 Crosses in the Lindisfarne and Lichfield Gospels’, Gesta, 25 (1986), pp. 171–84. ———, ‘A Geometer’s Art: the Full-Page Illumination in St. Gallen Stiftsbibliothek Cod. Sang. 51, an Insular Gospels Book of the VIIIth century’, Scriptorium, 44 (1990), pp. 161–92. ———, ‘The Shapes of the Book of Durrow Evangelist-Symbol Pages’, The Art Bulletin, 68 (1986), pp. 182–94. ———, ‘Page Design of some Illuminations in the Book of Kells’, in The Book of Kells: Proceedings of a Conference at Trinity College Dublin, 6-9 September 1992, ed. by Felicity O’Mahony (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1994), pp. 243–56. Nancy Thebaut, ‘Au-delà des périodisations: parcours passés et futurs potentiels’, in L’art médiéval est-il contemporain?, ed. by Charlotte Denoël, Larisa Dryansky, Isabelle Marchesin, and Erik Verhagen. Forthcoming. Erik Verhagen, Jan Dibbets. The Photographic Work (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2014). ———, ‘À l’abri des oiseaux’, Make it New: conversations avec l’art médiéval: carte blanche à Jan Dibbets, ed. by Charlotte Denoël and Erik Verhagen (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2018), pp. 10–5. ———, ‘Des Mots-images à la Poussière d’étoiles. Un entretien avec Franz Erhard Walther’, Les Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, 107 (Spring 2009), pp. 90–107. Cécile Voyer, Orner la parole de Dieu, le livre d’Évangiles et son décor (800-1030), Paris, Arsenal, ms. 592 (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2018). Franz Erhard Walther, Abc Museum, ed. by Philippe Cuenat (Geneva: Musée d’Art contemporain et moderne de Genève, 2004). Eugene Wang, ‘Patterns Above and Within: Picture of the Turning Sphere and Medieval Chinese Astral Imagination’, in Book by Numbers, ed. by Wilt Idema (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2007), pp. 49–89. Aby Warburg, Der Bilderatlas Mnemosyne, ed. by Martin Warnke with the collaboration of Claudia Brink (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2000). Wilhelm Weber, ed., Rabanus Maurus in seiner Zeit: 780-1980: [exhibition, September, 13 septembre-October, 19, 1980, Mittelrheinisches Landesmuseum, Mainz] (Mainz: P. von Zabern, 1980). Paul Zumthor, Langue, texte, énigme, (Paris: Seuil, 1975). Jörg Zutter, ‘Frank Stella. Flin Flon 1970’, Artonview, 31 (March 2002), pp. 21–3.

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About the Author Charlotte Denoël is archivist palaeographer and chief curator at the Department of Manuscripts of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Her research on manuscripts focuses on the early and high Middle Ages and addresses images from a transdisciplinary perspective. Among her current projects are a survey of manuscripts illuminated in France during the tenth and eleventh centuries (Harvey Miller) and an anthology on connections between medieval and contemporary art. She has curated four exhibitions: ‘Trésors carolingiens’ (BnF, 2007), ‘Les temps mérovingiens’ (Musée de Cluny, 2016), ‘Make it New. Carte blanche à Jan Dibbets’ (BnF, 2018), and ‘Chefs d’œuvre romans de Saint-Martial de Limoges’ (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Limoges, 2019).

Index Aachen Gospels, 152-53, 153 abstract expressionism, 120, 144 abstract ornamentation, 22, 191-92, 206 abstractio, 19, 71-6, 82n36 abstraction (see also aniconic/aniconicity; epistemology; Gothic; imagination; materiality; mimesis; representation; Torah, Trinity; unrepresentability; vision), aesthetics/aesthetic experience and, 68-69, 72, 75, 357; anatomy and, 23, 287-288, 290-292, 293, 295, 296, 298-301; colour and, 22, 3334, 46-47, 127, 141, 144, 149, 151, 152-53, 155, 218, 365; definitions of, 19-21, 24, 25, 46-47, 56-57, 71-72, 78n3, 82n36, 91, 126, 144, 169-70, 182, 185n4, 191-92, 217, 247-49, 252, 257, 267-68, 271-73, 278n1, 279n9, 279n12, 279n13, 286, 340, 345, 357-58, 360; divinity and, 17, 19, 21-22, 23-24, 91, 129, 158, 333-34, 343-44; diagrammatic and schematic, 288, 289, 292, 294, 299, 301, 340, 363-66; figuration and, 19, 20-24, 46-47, 58, 116-17, 126-27, 157-58, 217-18, 221-24, 229, 286-87, 297-301, 331-32, 344, 357-58, 360-63; functional, 287; geometry and, 23, 273, 274-76, 285, 289-90, 321, 339, 344, 361; historiography of, 20-21, 55-56, 78nos2-4, 83n43, 247-249, 268, 359-360; ideographic, 22, 144, 149, 151, 152; infinity and, 95-96, 101; in modern/contemporary art, 20, 22, 24, 47, 79n6, 117, 120, 126, 127-28, 130-31, 133n18, 144, 169-70, 178-79, 182, 184, 257, 359-61, 365-69; nature and, 23, 246-47, 249, 255, 257; ornament/ pattern and, 22, 98-99, 178, 191-92, 206-207, 322, 333-34, 344; as process, 25, 47, 71-72, 76, 126, 129-30, 249, 250, 252, 256-57, 272, 277-78, 331; Roger Fry on, 300-301; script/inscription and, 22, 169, 171, 174, 178, 180-82, 183, 206, 322, 334, 368-69; the senses and, 69, 71-72, 184, 272-73, 276, 331, 339-41; signification systems and, 17, 20-21, 22, 46, 129-30, 169, 174-77, 181-84, 228-30, 334, 367-68 abstrahere, 91, 271, 279n9 abstraho, 177 adoptionism, 146-49, 154, 160n18, 160n19 aesthetic theory, 56 Agnus Dei, 41 aporia, 22, 72 Albertus Magnus, 24, 72; imagination in, 128, 134n40; on perception of images in matter, 337-38, 340; the problem of universals in, 82n36 Alcuin, on abstraction and colour, 151-53; adoptionism and, 148-49, 154-55, 161n29; Fridugisus and, 163n70; Hrabanus Maurus and, 361, 363; on sight 158 anatomy, 11, 288, 345; and dissection, 294, 296; mimesis in, 293, 295-96, 346; in the Wellcome Apocalypse, 298-300 aniconic/aniconicity, 20, 42; abstraction and, 21, 58, 144, 321-22, mode of representation, 370; page design, 318, 321-22

antiphonary, 167; and chant sections, 170-71; and letter shapes, 181; and Vespertinum monograms, 174-77 antiquity, 294, 363, 370; Carolingian renaissance and, 355; classical, 118; the Jewish visual arts and, 324n12; late, 20, 133n18, 319, 331 Aristotle, 71, 74, 294; on anatomy, 302n14; Boethian reinterpretations of, 19; concept of substantia, 228; perception and, 340; Poetics, 331, 342 Ark, 150-51 Ashburnham Pentateuch, 22, 142, 143, 144, 148, 157, 343; Creation narrative in, 141-43, 146; later images in, 157-8; overpainting in, 151-52, 155 Augustine, 126, 150, 158, 226, 340, 355; abstraction and, 271-73; adornment of letters in, 192; dissimilitude in, 125; divine illumination in, 82n36, 279n17; Hrabanus Maurus and, 363-64; on signs, 182-84, 276, 280n26 Ausonius, 253-55 Avicenna (or Ibn-Sīnā), 71, 279n18, 294, 297 Bartholomaeus Anglicus, 294 Beatus of Liébana, 34, 167, 173 Bible (see also Charles the Bald, the First Bible of; Hebrew Bible; Kennicott 2; Pentateuch; Cervera Bible; and Kennicott Bible), 90, 95, 96, 98, 100, 102, 147, 149, 152, 311, 312-13, 319, 322 binding, 22, 95; in the Kennicott Bible, 90, 91, 96, 101; in Profiat Duran, 96; textiles and, 98 bird(s), 77, 247; broches shaped as, 25, 245-46, 25052, 256-57; firebirds, 335; in Judd, 371n9; in the Kennicott Bible, 98; in the Pèlerinage de l’âme, 68, 74; of prey, 249, 253, 256; in Venantius, 255 blur/blurring, 339-40, 344, 348n38 Boethius, 19, 72, 74, 77; On Arithmetic, 275-76 Bonaventure, 72, 129 Bosch, Hieronymus, 118, 119, 121; Ascent of the Blessed, 126, 127, 127; Research and Conservation Project, 117; Visions of the Hereafter, 22, 115-17, 116, 117, 120, 122, 124-26, 127, 128, 130-31, 338, 343; workshop of, 123 brooch, 23, 250, 253, 254, 256-57, 332, 333; eagle/ osprey, 245-46, 252; raptor, 251-52 Byzantium/Byzantine, 24, 25, 120, 176, 197, 363; and idolatrous worship, 149-50 Calcidius, 272, 274 calligraphy, 170, 184, Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 190/223, 286, 287, 287, 288, 289-93, 294, 301n7, carmina figurata, 22, 192, 362 Carolingian, 268, 370; city of Tours, 144, 146; manuscripts and contemporary art, 24, 357, 361; script, 148, 195, 199; theology and images, 149-51, 155, 344; use of colour, 36, 147, 152-53

382  ‘carpet’ page(s), abstraction and 91, 95, 97-98, 100-01, 312-14, 317-18, 319; in comparison with Northumbrian manuscripts, 97-98; in Egerton 608; in the Kennicott Bible, 91, 95, 102, 107n36 Cervera Bible, 90-91, 95, 97, 98, 100, 102 Charles the Bald, 224; the First Bible of, 147, 151-52; the portrait of, 277 Codex Albeldense, 199-206, 200, 202, 203, 204 Codex Aureus of Charles the Bald (or ‘of Saint Emmeram’), 268, 269, 277 Cologne Gospels, 36-37, 38, 39, 42 colophon, in the Cevera Bible, 91; on folios bound into Kennicott 2, 320; in the Kennicott Bible 89, 90, 99, 103n4; in Sephardic Bibles, 96; in Silos Beatus, 180; in Speculum historiale, 58; in St. Gregory’s Moralia in Job, 153, 180 Commentary on the Timaeus (Calcidius), 272, 274, 275 conceptual art, 360, 368; and early medieval art, 24, 357, 359, 361, 369 contemporary art, 126, 367; in connection to medieval art, 20, 24, 34, 355-56, 359, 369-70 Creation, divine, 22, 74, 99, 146-47, 253, 257, 271; iconography of, 99 (in Jewish art), 141-44, 146-48, 149, 153, 155, 157-58 (in Ashburnam Pentateuch), 329, 331-36, 340, 342-44 (at San Marco) cross/Cross (see also In Praise of the Holy Cross), 20, 174, 334, 348n49; animal forms and, 257; in Berengar, 227; in contemporary art, 361, 367; Cross and/or the Christogram, 175-76; Cross of Oviedo, 168; cross-shaped reading, 200-201; geometrical form of the, 276; in Hrabanus Maurus, 363-65, 369; in Pacif icus of Verona, 341, 342; Ruthwell Cross, 253; at San Marco, 332, 334-35, 338, 339; sign on, 183; the sign of the, 361 curtain, curtain-like pages, 98, 214, 218, 234n15; fabric, 98, 334 David Kimhi (or Qimhi, the Radak), 89, 90, 95, 96 De Proprietatibus rerum (Bartholomeus Anglicus), 294, 295 denotation/denotative, 56, 79n15, 178, 184; nondenotation/non-denotative, 17, 20 diagram (see also abstraction), 285-86, 355; anatomical, 23, 287-90, 292-93, 294, 296, 299, 301, 341-42; astronomical, 341; in Hrabanus, 363; integrated with writing, 176 dissemblance, 22, 23, 124-25, 130 dissimilitudo, 22, 125 dispositio, 39, 42 emptiness, 41, 46, 331 epistemology, 71; abstraction and, 23, 72, 74-76, 77, 299-300, 369 Eucharist, 23, 183, 217; in Berengar of Tours, 225-28; materiality and, 229-31; in Ratramnus, 224-25; semiotics of, 224-28 Evangeliary, 213, 255 Eyck, Jan van, 119, 120, 121, 372n15

Abstr ac tion in Medieval Art

failure, 21, 23, 276 figura, 34 Five-Figure Series, 289-90, 293, 297, 299, 301n5 flatness, 36, 39, 268, 274, 370n8 Frankish, 245, 253; brooch, 23, 251, 253, 256; church, 148; theologians, 153 garnet, 245, 250; 251, 252, 254 geometry (see also abstraction), 20, 23, 46, 183, 268, 277, 331, 357; in Augustine, 273; in Boethius, 276; in Cassiodorus, 271; in contemporary art, 361, 366; cosmos and, 96; in early medieval lettering, 173-74; in Gerbert, 273, 280n30; in insular art, 359; at San Marco, 336, 339, 344 Gerald of Wales, 24, 341 Gerbert of Aurillac, 271, 273-74, 275, 277, 341 Godescalc Evangeliary, 356, 356 Gospel lectionary, 193, 206 Gospels of St. Andrew of Cologne, 46-47, 47 Gradus Gospels, 41, 42, 334 Grandes Chroniques de France, 63, 64 Guido da Vigevano, 296-98, 299, Guillaume de Digulleville (or Guillaume de Deguileville), 21, 58, 80n17 Gothic, 20, 56, 78n3, 345; abstraction, 76; ‘grounds’ and abstraction, 25, 63-64, 76, 198; illumination, 21, 57, 76, 77; naturalism, 344 grammar/grammarian, 96, 159n1, 225, 229 grid, 332-33, 343, 355; in the cupola of San Marco, 329-30; in the Grandes Chroniques, 63-64; in Hébreu 21, 315; in Kennicott 2, 311, 314-15, 317-20, 322; in the Kennicott Bible, 103; in modern art, 366-67; in the Pélerinage de l’âme, 61-63, 75-76, 341; and the perfection of Torah, 317-19, 322; in Wenceslas’s vita, 196-98 Haggadah, Golden, 102; Hispano-Moresque, 17-19, 18, 19, 21, 25; Sarajevo, 99 Hebrew Bible, 23, 94-95, 309-10, 314, 315, 316 Henry II, 268, 277 Honorius Augustodunensis, 24, 329, 345 Horologium nocturnum (Pacificus of Verona), 341, 342 Hrabanus Maurus (Hrabanus or Rabanus Maurus) (see also In Praise of the Holy Cross), 360-62, 363, 372n23; Alcuin and, 158, 361; anti-illusionistic representation of space and, 365, 366; Augustine and, 363-64; the Cross and, 363, 367; inclusion of the name and self-portrait of, 365; linguistic system and, 369; numerological symbolism/ proportions and, 363-64, 367; the use of colour in, 365; the use of Scripture as medium in, 368 iconoclasm, 143, 149, 160n21 ideographic painting, 22, 144, 151, 158 imagination, 91; abstraction and, 24, 128-29, 158, 339, 340-41; in Alcuin, 158; cognitive faculty of, 128-29, 292, 340; reader’s/viewer’s, 99, 158, 331, 341 imaginatio, 128, 292

383

Index 

In Praise of the Holy Cross (Hrabanus Maurus), 357, 360-61, 362, 364, 369 Incarnation, 37, 45, 215, 332, 336, 338, 344 interlace/interlaced, 19, 315, 355; cosmos and, 96; in Kennicott 2, 311, 314, 319-20, 322; in the Kennicott Bible, 91-95, 97, 98, 99, 101-102; in the León Antiphonary, 176; in the Reichenau gospel lectionary, 193; in St. Gregory’s Moralia in Job, 171; thresholds and, 96 Isidore of Seville, 180, 205, 249; on birds of prey, 251, 253 jewellery, 252, 255, 256 Joseph ibn Hayyim, 21, 89-90, 91, 95, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 104n4 Joshua ibn Gaon, 23, 95, 309, 312, 314, 315, 319-20, 321, 322, 323n2 Kennicott Bible, 21, 22, 90, 92, 93, 94, 316; abstraction and, 91, 96, 101; blank folios in, 99, 100-101; ‘carpet’ pages in, 91, 95, 97-98; the Cervera Bible and, 90-91, 95, 100; colophon, 89-90, 100, 103-104n4; comparanda, 90, 91, 95, 97, 101-103, 333; description, 89-91, 98-99, 100, 101-103, 103n2, 316; geometry in, 91, 95; the Qur’an and, 95-96; the Sefer Mikhlol (Book of Perfection) and, 89, 96, 100; strapwork, 91, 95, 97, 98, 99, 102 Kennicott 2 (or ibn Gaon’s bible), 23, 310, 311, 312, 313; abstraction and, 321-22; colophon, 319; comparanda, 314-16, 319-20, 321, 323n2, 334; description, 309, 311, 315, 318, 319, 323n2; geometric design and, 312, 314, 336; Islamic art and, 313, 321; Joshua ibn Gaon and, 309, 315, 319, 322, 323n2; Profiat Duran and, 311-12, 321-22; Psalm 19 and, 309, 311-12, 315, 317, 322, 323n3; use of gold in, 309, 311 knot, 174, 193; in Gerald of Wales, 341; girih, 91; King Solomon and, 349

memory, cognitive faculty of, 293, 340, 343; game, 200; in Pope Innocent III, 343; in Profiat Duran, 96, 322; vision and, 344; metaphor, in Alcuin, 152-53; in Ambrose, 146, 147; of chastity, 332; Incarnation and, 158; visual, 149 micrography, 95, 314; in ibn Gaon’s work, 315, 319; in the Kennicott Bible, 91, 99, 102 mimesis, 2, 131; abstraction and, 56, 130, 191, 246, 257, 291, 293, 295-96 monochrome, 21, 25, 41-42, 45, 47, 63, 194, 333; in the Cologne Gospel Book, 39; definitions of, 34-36; in the Echternach manuscripts, 22-23, 213-15, 217, 218, 220-21, 229, 230-31; in monumental painting, 42 monogram, 167, 170, 174, 176, 183, 334-35; Vespertinum, 22, 167, 169-71, 174, 176-78, 181-82, 184 Moses ibn Zabara, 89, 98, 100, 101 movement, 17, 46, 120, 250; in anatomical images, 289, 290, 292, 300, 302n14; art, 178, 358-59, 365, 368, 369; in Focillon, 192; in Gerald of Wales, 341; of the painter’s hand, 124, 231; theological, 147; of the viewer, 340, 343; in Wenceslas’s vita, 197-98 Mozarabic, 171, 335 Newman, Barnett, 22, 78, 144, 151, 151, 158, 359 noetics, 19

León Antiphonary, 170, 174-75, 175, 176-77 letter maze, 22, 199-202, 208n24 Liber notabilium Philippi septimi [sexti] (Guido da Vigevano), 296-98, 298

On Arithmetic (Boethius), 275, 276, 277 ontology, 71; of the Eucharist, 23, 224-25, 228; Trinitarian, 21, 65, 67-69, 71, 74 optics, 23, 271, 272, 301n7 ornament (see also abstraction; script), 20, 22, 23, 46, 121, 321, 331, 344; in Abbot Suger, 335; abstract, 99, 344; in Anna Bücheler, 214-15; in brooches, 332; in Christine Jacobi-Mirwald, 193; in the Codex Albeldense, 199, 203-4, 206; in the Cologne Gospels, 37, 39; colour and, 41, 45; in De inventione linguarum, 334; in Frank Stella, 359; in Gerald of Wales, 341; in James Trilling, 178; in Kennicott 2, 312; in the Sacramentary of Henry II, 277; at San Marco, 333; in Wenceslas’s vita, 195, 197-99; in Yasser Tabbaa, 95 Ottonian, 20, 36, 39, 40, 45, 193, 214-15, 217, 334

majestas (maiestas) Domini, 41-42, 173, 176, 222 Maimonides (Moses ben Maimon), 321-22 marble, 33, 121, 102, 125, 129, 133n18, 338; in Albertus Magnus, 337; in Ausonius, 254; colour and, 37; false (or fictive, or imitation), 44, 118-20, 123, 124, 130, 131; marbled endpaper, 123, 134n26 materiality (see also thingness), 23, 124, 126-28, 195, 213, 228-29, 274, 344; abstraction and, 22, 24, 224, 252, 257, 281n33, 331, 336-37, 339; in Jeffrey J. Cohen, 120 matter, 20-21, 130, 131, 248, 272, 331, 336-37, 338, 344, 360; in Albertus Magnus, 337; in Berengar, 226; in Cassiodorus, 271; of Creation, 22; domestication of, 42; of the page, 213, 218; phantasms and, 128 matzah, 102; in Hispano-Moresque Haggadah, 17-19, 18, 19, 21, 25

Pacificus of Verona, 24, 341-42 paint, 23, 213, 290; in the Ashburnham Pentateuch, 22, 144, 146, 157, 158; in Bosch, 22, 116, 123, 124-25, 127, 130; in Echternach manuscripts, 218-20, 22324, 230-31; the Eucharist and, 228-29; in Jasper Johns, 180; in the Sacramentary of Henry II, 277 parchment, 42, 44, 46, 65; the body and, 287, 290; in the Brussels gloss, 275; in the Cologne Gospels, 37; in Egerton 608, 213, 218, 222, 23; in Egerton 1821, 129; in Gerbert, 273-74; in Kennicott 2, 317, 320; in the Kennicott Bible, 89, 91, 97; in the Ob honorem Sancti Matini, 199-200; in the Silos Beatus 35; in St. Gregory’s Moralia in Job, 171; in the Urgell Beatus, 35; in Vat. Reg. Lat. 124, 362; in Wenceslas’s vita, 197 Paulinus of Nola, 180, 343

384  Pèlerinage de l’âme (Guillaume de Digulleville), 57, 58, 60, 60, 61, 61, 62, 65-67, 66, 75, 76, 341 Pentateuch (see also Ashburnham Pentateuch), 90, 97, 98, 102, 146, 312, 315, 319, 321, 322 perception (sensual), 19, 24, 34, 77, 121, 182, 200, 224, 230-31, 271, 273, 339-41 phantasia, 128 plane/planar/planarity, 21, 23, 213; in Balbus, 277; colour and, 37, 44; in Gerbert d’Aurillac, 273-75, 281n44; in the gloss on Calcidius’s Commentary, 274-75; perspective and, 268 Plato, 96, 125, 268, 272, 272 Pollock, Jackson, 22, 117, 119, 359 Pope Innocent III, 24, 343 porphyry, 119, 120, 121, 133n22, 339 Profiat Duran, 96, 311; on the adornment of objects, 321-22 Provoost, Jan, 119, 121, 124 Psalms, 91, 154, 323n3; in the Kennicott Bible, 99-100 Psalter, 157, 344, 345 Qur’an, manuscripts, 95-96, 102, 176 raptor, 252 representation, 45, 76, 117, 150, 157, 176, 178, 203-204, 249, 257, 332, 335, 340, 343, 371n9; abstraction and, 56, 58, 65-66, 76, 91, 126, 129-30, 169-70, 176-77, 182-83, 185n4, 250, 286, 296, 301, 332, 336-37, 357-58; in anatomical diagrams, 288, 289-93, 296, 298, 299-301, 302n15, 302-303n16, 303n17, 345; codes and modes of, 225, 291, 357-58, 359, 368, 370; colour and, 37, 39-42; definitions of, 20, 56, 286; in Erwin Panofsky, 278n7; geometry/ perspective and, 273-74, 278n7, 289, 331, 358, 361, 365; on the limits of the, 273, 360; mimesis/ imitation and, 37, 56, 119-20, 123, 130, 246-47, 345, 355, 368; ornament and, 334; materiality and, 127-28, 152, 336-37; non-representation and, 17, 20, 45, 176-77, 180-81; in Meyer Schapiro, 359-60; script/text and, 37, 176, 180, 182-183, 185n4, 36869; similitudinis and, 150, 161n41; in Vespertinum monograms, 177-79 Red Heifer (Parah Adumah), 316-17 Reichenau gospel lectionary (Reichenauer Perikopenbuch), 193-95, 194 Romanesque, 20, 34, 268, 345, 358, 379n9 Rothko, Mark, 144 Sacramentary of Henry II, 268, 270, 277-78 Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, Abbey Church of, frescoes, 43-44 San Marco, Basilica of, 121; Creation cupola, 24, 329-32, 333-36, 340, 342-43, 345; Mary and the Prophets/south wall, 332-33, 338, 339-40; Miriam’s exaltation/traveling to the Promised Land, 340 Script (see also abstraction), 96, 102, 169, 177, 193; Carolingian, 148; ornament and, 22, 206; in Profiat Duran, 321; Sephardi, 89; in Wenceslas’s vita, 195, 198

Abstr ac tion in Medieval Art

Sephardic, 90, 95, 96, 101, 312, 313 serpentinite, 120, 121, 124 Shekhinah, 19 Silos Apocalypse (Silos Beatus), 35, 35, 79n15, 167, 168, 180 skeuomorphic, 22, 217, 220, 229 Speculum historiale, 58, 59 St. Gregory, Moralia in Job, 101, 171, 172, 180, 183 strapwork, 95, 104n7; in the Kennicott Bible, 91, 97, 98, 99, 102, 104n6 St. Vitus Sacramentary, 39, 40, 40-41, 42, 45 surface, 21, 22, 277, 297, 331; in Ausonius, 254-55; in Aristotle, 331; brooch, 250, 252-53; colour and, 35, 272; dissemblance and, 130, 198; in Fred Orton, 182; in Gerbert, 273-75; paint, 126; in Panofsky, 267-68, 278; parchment/page, 65, 129, 213, 268; space and, 197; stone/faux-stone, 120, 123-24, 131 tawhid, 95 Temple, 98; the Bible as, 96, 313; implements 96, 97, 102, 313; plan of, 319-21; in Profiat Duran, 96 textile(s), 71, 73, 75, 107n33, 217, 218, 224, 229, 233n7, 277, 312, 319, 321; carpets and, 91, 98; colour in relation to the Trinity and, 71, 72, 73; ‘textile page(s)’ and, 214-15, 220, 234n13, 235n20; with purple colouring, 196-97 Theodulf of Orléans, 150-51, 152 thingness, 22, 126, 128 Thomas Aquinas, 72, 128 Tiberius Psalter, 156, 157 Torah, 311-12, 317-18, 322; abstraction and perfection of, 315-17, 320-22; commentary on, 96; in the Kennicott Bible colophon, 104n4; in Profiat Duran, 310; scroll(s), 98 Trinity, abstraction and, 21, 67-74, 75, 144, 149, 152-53, 155, 158; in Alcuin, 154-55, 158; in the Ashburnham Pentateuch, 143-44, 149, 153, 155, 343; Carolingian discussions of, 150; in the Pèlerinage de l’âme, 65, 67-71, 73-76; in St. Gregory’s Moralia in Job, 173-74; nature of, 183 universals (problem of), 71, 82n36, 344 unrepresentability, abstraction and, 17, 21-22, 23-24, 155; in Bosch, 131; in Theodulf, 150-51; of the Trinity/divine, 155, 157, 182-83; the Eucharist and 225; the perfection of the Torah and, 317; the Word and, 358 Urgell Beatus, 35-36, 36 Venantius Fortunatus, 253, 255 vision (faculty of), 21, 121, 125, 126; abstraction and, 158, 271-73, 276-78, 339-42 Wellcome Apocalypse, 290, 292, 298-300, 300 Wenceslas, Vita of, 195-99, 196 withdrawal, 23 Word, the, 37, 192-93, 356, 358; in Alcuin, 154, 155; in the Gospel of John, 194-95

Abstraction haunts medieval art, both withdrawing figuration and suggesting elusive presence. How does it make or destroy meaning in the process? Does it proclaim the failure of figuration, the faltering of iconography? Does medieval abstraction function because it is imperfect, incomplete, and uncorrected—and therefore cognitively, visually demanding? Is it, conversely, precisely about perfection? To what extent is the abstract predicated on theorization of the unrepresentable and imperceptible? Does medieval abstraction pit aesthetics against metaphysics? Essays in this collection explore these and other questions that coalesce around three broad themes: medieval abstraction as the untethering of the image from what it purports to represent; abstraction as a vehicle for signification; and abstraction as a form of figuration. Contributors approach the concept of medieval abstraction from a multitude of perspectives-formal, semiotic, iconographic, material, phenomenological, epistemological. Elina Gertsman is Professor of Medieval Art and Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan Professor in Catholic Studies II at Case Western Reserve University. She is the author of The Dance of Death in the Middle Ages: Image, Text, Performance (2010), Worlds Within: Opening the Medieval Shrine Madonna (2015), and The Absent Image: Lacunae in Medieval Books (2021); co-author of The Middle Ages in 50 Objects (2018); and editor of several volumes on performance, emotion, liminality, and animated objects. Her work has been supported by the Guggenheim, Kress, Mellon, and Franco-American Cultural Exchange foundations as well as by the American Council for Learned Societies. “Absolutely original; startlingly and refreshingly innovative, both theoretically and empirically...  the opening salvo in a completely new conversation that has never, as yet, been had in the academic world, and whose time, most definitely, has arrived.” ‒ Marc Michael Epstein, Vassar College “An excellent collection of thoughtfully selected, intelligently argued, and wellresearched essays on an important topic.” ‒ Richard K. Emmerson, Florida State University

ISBN: 978-94-6298-989-4

AUP. nl 9 789462 989894