Geteiltes Leid brings together a number of fields normally discrete from one another: the Passion, word and image, confessionalization. With growing interest in the body, psychological formation, and material culture in medieval and early modern Europe, the Passion has been receiving substantial attention. That attention has focused primarily on Christ’s body as painted and sculpted. For some time now, early modernists have been exploring the relationship of word and image, primarily in printed media, but also, in the work of Mia Mochizuki and a few others, in painted media. Confessionalization has been for some twenty years the dominant model of Reformation studies. But these areas of work rarely speak to one another.
Münch’s book began as a dissertation in the discipline of Art History submitted to the University of Trier. One chapter, “Die vervielfältige Passion: Wechselseitige Beeinflussungen von neuem Märtyrerbild und Passionsauffassung,” was published separately after the dissertation and integrated into the book. It belongs very much to the increasingly interdisciplinary art historical research, attending, as it does, very little to iconography, but closely to other questions: reception; the precise relationship of word and image in different kinds of printed media; workshops and the affiliations among publishers, engravers and woodcutters, designers, and authors.
This study does not do a number of things – some of which this reader very much missed. It does not compare images from one text to the next, exploring the ways in which “the Passion” was articulated in line and space. It does not attend to Christ’s body, as current scholarship on the Passion has encouraged us to do. Münch defines the Passion most broadly: the entire week, from Christ’s entry into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. This definition of the Passion precludes particular focus on Christ’s suffering body, the arma Christi or instruments of the Passion, wounds or bleeding. It does not situate either texts or images in larger bodies of devotional literature or visual culture. These questions, however, are mine, not hers.
Münch’s concern is different: “Diese Arbeit ging – im Gegensatz zu bisher in der Forschung vorgeschlagenen Lösungsansätzen – von der These aus, dass verlässliche, über den Grad allgemeiner Erkenntnisse hinausgehende Aussagen zur Bedeutung der nordalpinen Druckgraphik im Prozess der Konfessionalisierung des 16. Jahrhunderts nur durch genaue Beobachtungen auf der Detailebene gemacht werden können, die wiederum nur durch den Vergleich verschiedener Anwendungsformen umfangreicher druckgraphischer Corpora gewonnen werden können” (“This work –contrary to other attempts at solutions suggested in the scholarly literature – acts on the assumption that reliable information going beyond the level of general perceptions as to the meaning of north-alpine prints in the process of confessionalization in the 16th century, can only be made by careful observations of details. These observations, in turn, can only be attained by comparing different forms of application in comprehensive print corpora” [p. 253]). As such, this is a work that early modernists interested in religious visual culture would wish to have on their shelves.
Münch has studied a broad range of visual and textual sources: theologians’ treatises on images, 162 Latin and vernacular printed Bibles from the sixteenth century, the so-called picture Bibles, other sorts of devotional literature – passionals, mirrors, sermons, thesaurae, Benito Arias Montano’s Humanae salutatis monumenta and Christi Jesu vitae speculum and Jerome Nadal’s Adnotationes et meditations– as well as polemical treatises, pilgrimage manuals, maps, and biblical archeology. For a number of these sources, she provides detailed lists of which particular moments in the Gospel narrative are rendered in images, and for many of them she also provides illustrations, enabling those who have other questions to pursue them in the 263 images at the end of the work. These images help to answer some of the questions that may arise quite independently of Münch’s lines of inquiry. Her first Appendix is a “Bibel-Katalog,” a sampling of 28 German and Dutch Bibles containing Passion images, with information on current location and call number; publisher; date of publication; length; language; size; title page description; preface; technique of illustration; numbers of full-page illustrations; format of illustrations; and location within the text. Her second Appendix consists of nine prefaces, which provide documentation for two of her claims: first, that the intended readership was more complex than studies of literacy have tended to assume; and second, that some texts were also intended for artists (more below).
Equally impressively, Münch draws upon an extraordinary range of literatures in the analysis of her materials. Not only her footnotes, but also her careful articulation of theses and conclusions integrates a broad range of scholarship, from Robert Scribner on visual propaganda to Heinz Schilling on confessionalization to studies of Jesuit visual theory. In terms of sheer scope of learning, it is a tour de force.
Münch’s close reading of prefaces is but one of the many contributions this book makes. In reading so many, she is able to demonstrate that different texts were aimed at different sorts of readers – a most welcome observation (Chapter V). She is also able to suggest, with her surprising and significant finding, that some were expressly intended for artists, that these works were neither simple in intended readership nor simple in intended function. For some, she suggests, these were intended as visual models – and not simply as the foundation for biblical literacy. Indeed, she raises important questions about that old reductionist argument, that illustrated Bibles and Bibles “for the laity” were Bibles for the marginally literate – though her use of “Laien” only acquires nuance over the course of her analysis, as she recognizes mid-way the categorical distinction between laity and Luther’s “Gemeiner Mann.” While she herself clearly does not share yet another of the reductionist models – images for the illiterate, words for the learned – by eschewing iconographical analysis, she is precluded from showing, as she might have done, how different images rendered biblical texts and brought visual interpretation to bear on words.
Münch’s largest conclusion – it is a “Mythos” that the Passion was confessionalized in the sixteenth century – rests upon her close analysis of her sources. For this reader, her smaller conclusions were more exciting: not only intended readerships, but also, the multiple relations of text and image in various picture Bibles (Chapter V); the polemicization of the Passion as almost exclusively evangelical and not Catholic (Chapter VII); and how a growing interest in biblical archeology affected visualizations of Holy Week (Chapter IX). In those more nuanced conclusions, she achieves precisely the specificity she rightly recognizes will challenge successfully assumptions that, too often, still shape the study of early modern devotional culture.
Lee Palmer Wandel
University of Wisconsin – Madison