The essays in this volume began as papers delivered at the second Lovis Corinth Colloquium, held at Emory University in 2006. Six have been substantially expanded, and the quality of all but the last is high. Each stands alone – they do not engage with one another – and several offer methodological models.
The volume opens with one of the most succinct and lucid introductions by Walter Melion to meditative practices and the role of images within, followed by a brief overview of the rest of the volume. In addition to that Introduction, Melion contributes two substantial essays to the volume. The first, a tour de force, “Meditative Images and the Portrayal of Image-Based Meditation,” follows the Introduction and offers multiple models for conceptualizing the relationship between meditative practices and images: the Merode Triptych; woodcuts designed by Jacob Cornelisz. van Oostsanen; Adriaen Collaert’s engraving, Christ Mourned by Saints and Angels; Benito Arias Montano’s Humanae salutis monumenta; and Jan David’s Paradisus Sponsi et Sponsae. Even while offering models of close visual and textual analysis, Melion aggregates a complex culture of visual and textual density – suggesting multiple ways that images engaged, informed, and modeled the soul of the viewer, both through interreferentiality with their texts and through such visual connections as typology, symbol, and mimesis.
In “Et oculi mei conspecturi sunt: Interdiegetic Gaze and the Meditative Image,” Brennan Breed engages the play between border and center in five pages of an illuminated manuscript, a fifteenth-century Book of Hours from Poitiers (Pierpont Morgan Library Ms. 1001). Within the Book of Hours, between gospel readings and the Hours of the Virgin, appears an image of the miraculous host of Dijon, the point of departure for Breed’s visual analyses. Breed takes up concepts, “the intradiegetic gaze” and “the interdiegetic gaze,” which he might have made more analytically explicit, but which are illumined by his careful visual analyses of specific pages, revealing particular plays of narrative and scriptural narrative time in viewing images.
Reindert Falkenburg pursues a visual hermeneutic in “‘Diplopia’: Seeing Hieronymus Bosch’s St. Jerome in the Wilderness Double.” Unlike the earlier two essays, which move outside images to – and sometimes ground images in – Scripture, Falkenburg explores “iconographic and devotional aspects of insien and uutsien” (p. 89) in a single image, Bosch’s St. Jerome, and how looking at it enables viewer interpretation. That careful attention to visual communication he connects to Richard Wollheim’s notion of a two-fold image with viewer projection, which then leads back to the image’s use of anthropomorphisms and teratomorphisms to use the viewer’s imagination to shape hermeneutic.
Walter Melion’s “From Mystical Garden to Gospel Harmony: Willem van Branteghen on the Soul’s Conformation to Christ” concentrates on two works by a single author: Pomarium mysticum, a devotional handbook with anonymous woodcuts; and Iesu Christi vita, a Gospel harmony with woodcuts designed by Lieven de Witte of Ghent. It models a different method, of temporal sequencing of text and images structured by codices, which authors like Van Branteghen then drew upon “to conform” the soul through stages.
Andrea Catellani draws upon semiotic work by Omar Calabrese to consider “spaces” in the images of Jerome Nadal’s Adnotationes et meditations in Evangelia, which she calls “the fifth space.” She then develops the concept of multiple kinds of space in a single work through analyses of nearly thirty images, which offer a sense of “interiority” articulated through the printed image. Catellani offers another most fertile methodological model.
Frédéric Cousinié also takes up the “Ignatian ‘composition of place,’” but to explore representations of the soul, including images in Gregor Reisch’s, Charles Le Brun’s, and Descartes’s studies of the brain. He compares images used in devotional practices, chiefly two works by Jean Aumont, which employ a series of startling heart images to evoke both the interior space of the soul, plus its transformation, again articulated in line.
Christian Belin’s “Process and Metamorphosis of the Image: Ambivalences of the Anagogic Movement in Dionysian Contemplation” considers Dionysius on the image in meditation, specifically in Mystical Theology and the Celestial Hierarchy. Jacob Vance takes up texts by humanists, principally Erasmus, which address philosophical and rhetorical meanings of phantasia and enargeia.
Another model of method in the collection is Barbara Baert, “Decapitation and the Paradox of the Meditative Image: Andrea Solario (1507) and the Transformation and the Transition of the Johannesschüssel from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.” Baert offers deeply informed, wide-ranging historical analysis of the closely linked visual tropes of the Head of St. John the Baptist and the Johannesschüssel. The image at the center of her analysis, Solario’s “Head of Saint John on a Tazza,” is not a Johannesschüssel, but, as Baert shows, invokes the other image and its cult, alluding through, for instance, the rendering of the hair to connections between John and Christ, blood and prophecy.
In “Ad vivum: Pictorial and Spiritual Imitation in the Allegory of the Pictura sacra by Fans Francken II,” Ralph Dekoninck analyzes a little-known painting (Budapest) to explore concepts of spiritual painting, imitation, and how different genres of painting help us to conceptualize complex meditation. Although shorter than most of the magisterial essays – by Melion, Catellani, Cousinié, and Baert – it offers a gem of analysis: incisive, deeply informed, and illuminating.
Judi Loach’s “An Apprenticeship in ‘Spiritual Painting’: Richeome’s La Peinture spirituelle” provides the last methodological model for analyzing spiritual images. Loach brings her vast knowledge of the Jesuits to this important text, both building a sense of its author and his connections to that text’s place of publication, its “apprentices,” and its particular way of conceptualizing materiality.
In “Cutting and Pasting at Little Gidding: Bible Illustration and Protestant Belief in Seventeenth-Century England,” Michael Gaudio briefly takes up May and Anna Collet’s strange production of religious books through the practices of cutting – bibles inter alia – and pasting, so that one cannot feel the edges of the appliqued image, yet knows it is layered. In “Ecstasy and the Cosmopolitan Soul,” Richard Rambuss challenges traditional readings of Richard Crashaw’s meditations on the life of Teresa of Ávila.
The last essay suffers in comparison. Rebecca Zorach’s “An Idolatry of the Letter: Time, Devotion, and Siam in the Almanacs of the Sun King,” is both conceptually and methodologically an outlier.
Many essays in this volume offer models of analysis – not a single model, but multiple. Another strength is the rich literature in the notes. For those engaged in meditative practices and images, this volume offers important analyses of key works, such as Nadal’s Adnotationes and Richeome’s La Peinture spirituelle. A lovely collection.
Lee Palmer Wandel
University of Wisconsin – Madison