One of the edges of current scholarship interrogates the constructed boundary between words and images. This collection of twenty essays, originally papers presented at the Third Lovis Corinth Colloquium at Emory University, is a lovely sampling of the state of the question.
The Introduction begins by destabilizing the Bible as the site of what early modern Christians often called “God’s Word,” calling it and its commentaries “textual instruments,” thereby setting in motion a conceptual model in which biblical text and visual images both “mediated access to the divine word” (1). The authors then take up three printed images that incorporate sacred texts in three different ways: the woodcuts that Lieven de Witte designed for Willem van Branteghem’s Iesu Christi vita “function as agents of the soul’s conformation to Christ”( 2); Cornelis Cort’s engraving The Annunciation, correlates reading and viewing to “the exegetical relation beween prophecy and revelation, type and antitype” (6); and Theodoor Galle’s engraved illustrations of Jan David’s Duodecim specula deum offer twelve distinct specular images, moving from the everyday mirror to the mirror of beatific vision. Each analysis brings to bear both scriptural and visual literacy to demonstrate the specific kinds of interdependencies of the two in the images. /p>
The volume is then divided into five sections: I. Verbum Visible: The Authority of the Visible Word; II. The Authority of Visual Paratexts; III. Reading Scripture Through Images; IV. Verbal and Visual Instruments of Devotional Authority; and V. Pictorial Artifice and the Word. As with all collections, some articles engage less with the themes of the volume, while others, in aggregate suggest many different relationships between word and image. In the first section, Geert Warnar explores Dirc van Delft’s Tafel van den Kersten Gelove as a mirror for a specific prince, Albert, Duke of Bavaria and Count of Holland. Peter van der Coelen suggests that poets and artists did not, for the most part, communicate across their media differences in the creation of printed pages containing both text and image. Anita Traninger’s exhilarating use of Pythagorean symbols to open Rabelais’s carnality to new readings closes with an enormously fruitful notion of the narrated body. Catherine Levesque pursues “providence” in the landscapes of the Reformed painter Gilles van Coninxloo. /p>
In the second section, Karl A.E. Enenkel approaches authors portraits of Petrarch as paratexts, visual guides for the reader; in one, which Enenkel interrogates through his article and argues for place on Petrarch’s De viris illustribus, the portrait “functioned firstly as an intermediary between the reader and the content of the work and secondly as an instrument authorizing the writer with respect to his text’s content” (p. 175).Wim François offers a deeply learned close “reading” of a single Bible illustration, of Solomon writing and resting, as rendered in the Louvain Bible of 1548, comparing both residues of glosses and of earlier biblical illustrations in an image produced after the first session of Trent decreed the Vulgate authoritative. /p>
In the third section, Bart Ramakers’s lengthier article takes up “what could have been seen” when a play was staged in the past, and articulates a model for considering relationships among spoken discourse, performance, staging, tableau vivant, and siting.Michel Weemans comes perhaps closest to the methods of visual exegesis modeled in the Introduction in his analysis of Herri met de Bles’s Earthly Paradise as it visualizes specific readings of Genesis 1-3; here, too, visual traditions as well as traditions of biblical exegesis and commentary are woven in an explication of, in this case, an oil painting. Andrew Morrall focuses on textile renderings of Adam and Eve in English tapestries of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, renderings which brought into homes embroidered biblical scenes which themselves articulated specific understandings of the “the first married couple sanctioned by God” (342).
In the fourth section, John R. Decker takes up a woodcut painted into Petrus Christus’s Portrait of a Female Donor, to explore the imaging of apotropaism and the intimate formation of the soul through images. Achim Timmermann offers initial findings from his study of wayside crosses, proposing how in some cases they spatialized spiritual transformation. Kathryn M. Rudy suggests some of the ways rubrics, which she defines as “an introductory text” (444), in books of hours and prayer books “forge relationships between the reader and images outside the manuscript” (443), images with which the votary is to enact the stages of prayer. Carolyn Muessig takes up the debate between Franciscans and Dominicans on the stigmata, suggesting the reflexivity of text and image in a question of embodying Christ’s five wounds. Birgit Ulrike Münch argues for the permeability of the boundaries that have been constructed between “Protestant” and “Catholic” art and for pictorial traditions that continue in both sides of visual polemics. Jan L. de Jong takes up Aernout van Buchel’s recorded responses to Roman tomb monuments to explore what textual and contextual knowledge at least one viewer brought to seeing. Maarten Delbecke takes up Our Lady of Hanswijk in Mechelen to argue for “the authority of the word over architecture” (559), a piece strangely at odds with so many lines of inquiry in this book. /p>
In the fifth section, Walter S. Melion articulates a complex notion of “artifice” as both a medium and a direction of prayer in Hieronymus Wierix’s Mary engravings, in which the images themselves formally link different Marian prayers, even as they direct the viewer distinctively, both at the more explicit level of visual referents and at the level of sheer artistic craft. James Clifton takes up Antoon Wierix’s visualizations of mystical vision in his exploration of the ways images might not simply mediate, but seek to communicate mystical knowledge, which, as Clifton notes, need not be fully understood (655). In the final essay, Els Stronks traces a transformation, from Willem Teellinck’s Ecce Homo, which voiced a “deep distrust of the devotional image” (667), to Jan Luyken’s religious emblems, to argue “as the eighteenth century set in Bible illustrations established a firm presence in Dutch religious literature” (699). /p>
As my all-too-brief characterizations suggest, these authors articulate many distinctive conceptualizations of possible relations between images and scriptural texts. None, with the possible exception of Delbecke, excludes the possibility of others. The reader and viewer, therefore, carries away ways of seeing that complement and reflexively enhance one another, to be brought to other texts, other images, from the medieval and early modern worlds.
Lee Palmer Wandel
University of Wisconsin – Madison