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Le petit peuple dans l’Occident médiéval

 | 
Pierre Boglioni
, 
Robert Delort
, 
Claude Gauvard

Troisième partie. Culture du petit peuple. Systèmes, conduites, valeurs

Producing for the People. Late Medieval Assumptions about the Process of reading Art Works

Virginia Nixon

Texte intégral

1Though the majority of surviving works of art were made for members of elite social levels, substantial numbers were also produced for members of lower social groups. Both textual records and the quantity and variety of surviving objects make it clear that large numbers of paintings, sculptures and prints were made expressely to be sold to people in lower income strata. The intent of this paper is to examine some of these works and to propose some hypotheses about the concepts that helped shape their design.

2As popular art is usually defined by art historians as art that can be and is bought by the lower ranks of ordinary people, in one very obvious sense works of popular art must differ from those made for wealthier clients, for they have to be affordable by the popular classes. Thus their production typically involves cheaper materials and shorter production time. However it is not only in production and materials that elite works differ from popular ones. This paper will show that art works made for popular consumption in late medieval Germany also differed from elite works in their composition, in the way their components are put together – in the way they convey information. I will argue that the decisions artists made with respect to composition reflected elite perceptions about how people of lower social groups perceived and thought. It will show that the choice of compositional model seems to have depended on the content and aim of the work: in art works where no ambiguity was involved in the content, popular art works imitated elite ones; however where the content involved complex ideas, popular art works eschewed the complex and atemporal patternings of elite art in favour of simpler, temporally and spatially unified compositions.

  • 1 For examples of pipe-clay sculptures see T. Brandenbarg, W. Deeleman-van Tyen, L. Dresen-Coenders (...)
  • 2 In fact the recognition by artists of the possibilities for heightened expression presented by the (...)

3The difference between these two approaches to artistic composition is easily seen when one compares popular and elite versions of these two categories of image. Popular versions of devotional images of the madonna, the suffering Christ, and the saints, works which typically involve single figures, usually reproduce elite images, but in a less expensive fashion. The small mould-made ceramic statues produced in the region of Siegburg in the Rheinland and elsewhere, and the vast production of inexpensive woodcuts are clear examples1 In the case of the Siebgurg statues, which were mass-produced in moulds, the production method resulted in a significantly cruder version of the elite work. Limbs are of necessity close to the body and definition is rudimentary. In the case of the woodcut, where mass production does not involve a reduction of detail, aesthetic quality can be and often is very high2. But aesthetic quality aside, the point to be emphasized about both woodcuts and inexpensive statues is that artists seemed to feel no need to alter the models established in elite art.

4By contrast, in works where a message content was important, artists worked differently, choosing a different approach to composition than that used in elite art works. Consider for example two early sixteenth-century South German works, an altarpiece created for a wealthy client and a woodcut intended for a popular audience. The difference between the two does not lie simply in the fact that the woodcut cost less to make; it is also a question of a certain coarseness in the representation of the characters and a simplicity in the composition.

  • 3 The Monk and the Maiden (Kupferstichkabinett SMPK, Berlin).

5The woodcut, which is usually titled The Monk and the Maiden, depicts a plump seated monk smiling as he holds the hand of the young woman seated next to him3. He holds out a large coin to a second man who vigorously rejects it; one hand points an accusing finger while the other moves to the hilt of his sword. At right stands an older woman who partially covers her smiling mouth with her cloak, while at the far left stands an elderly monk.

6The story is not hard to decipher even without taking advantage of the speech banderolles beside each character. The monk is attempting to pay a father for taking his daughter as his concubine – and the father is objecting. A central message comes through very clearly: the clergy are sexual predators – not a surprising theme if we consider that the work was produced during the years leading up to the Reformation in Augsburg. It was clearly designed to arouse the viewer’s sympathy for the ideas of the reformers who were already active in Augsburg at the date the work was produced, 1523.

  • 4 Scribner translates as follows: monk: Father, I will hire your daughter / And bring your affairs i (...)

7A second message embedded in the work, connected with the role of women in instigating sexual misconduct, would also have aroused a sympathetic response in many viewers. The smiling woman in the corner is the young girl’s mother. Robert Scribner in his otherwise perceptive analysis of the work, errs in taking literally the words in the mother’s speech banderolle («O what great mockery I must suffer, I cry out to God for my child»), interpreting them as a lament for her daughter’s situation4. In my view it is clear that the mother is dissimulating. If we compare her facial expression with those in some contemporary depictions of bad and sexually knowing women we find identical traits. In Eve, the Serpent and Death painted c. 1510-15 by the Swabian-born Strassburg painter Hans Baldung Grien, we find Eve’s head is similarly tilted, her lips turned up in the same closemouthed smile, her eyelids lowered to cover the pupils looking out of the corner of her eye.

  • 5 R.A. Koch, Hans Baldung Grien: Eve, the Serpent, and Death, Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 19 (...)

8Robert Koch, in a study of Eve, the Serpent and Death, remarks on the sexual implications of Eve’s facial expression: «With her newly-gained knowledge of good and evil – [...] she has taken the apple and, as her smile would seem to attest, has already taken a bite from it»5. The depiction of the mother smirking in the corner in The Monk and the Maiden employs similar devices to suggest that she is duplicitous and sexually knowing: the tilted head, the lowered eyelids, and the pupils shifted towards the corner of the eye. The fact that the mother half covers her mouth with her cloak further contributes to the impression that the artist intends to imply that she is a partner in setting up the arrangement between her daughter and the monk. Notice that he has emphasized her purse, which is large, and placed directly over the genital area.

  • 6 L. Roper, The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg, Oxford, 1989.

9The fact that the mother is implicated in the role of procuress in this reprehensible arrangement is not surprising given the time and place; it is an example of precisely that view of women that Lyndal Roper found to be on the increase in the early sixteenth century in the very city where the woodcut was produced. In her 1989 book The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg which analyses changing patterns of family life and attitudes towards women in late medieval Augsburg, Roper reveals that public discourse, including records from rape trials, shows a change in attitude towards women who made such charges; increasingly suspicions are voiced that the complainants, far from being victims, had actually been engaged in acts of prostitution6. And mothers and daughters were not infrequently suspected of being in collusion in acts of prostitution – the mother suspected of acting as procuress for her daughter.

  • 7 Roper uses it to illustrate her point.
  • 8 It is possible that the placement of the large coin so close to the cup might have been read as a (...)

10This is the very action that is suggested in The Monk and the Maiden7. The artist thus ties in what appears to have been widespread anxiety about female sexual behaviour with his intended audience’s likely anxieties about the sexual, financial, and possibly theological misdeeds of the clergy8. And – as in any good piece of propaganda he suggests a remedy: vigorous resistance. The father, shown in the act of resisting evil, serves as identification figure for the viewer who is clearly a working class man. Under attack through both the wiles of the clergy and the sexual unreliability of women, he draws his sword in a gesture of resistance.

  • 9 It is interesting that North American Marxist propaganda posters in the late twentieth century fre (...)

11Its crude appearance notwithstanding, The Monk and the Maiden has been masterfully composed. The dialogue amplifies the message but it is not necessary, for the work communicates to the unlettered as effectively as to the lettered. Far from signifying lack of skill on the part of the artist, the crudeness in this case was a deliberate choice. For while many inexpensive woodcuts were done by artists of limited skill, this one was not. The artist who produced The Monk and the Maiden was Leonhard Beck, the same artist who painted the altarpiece we shall shortly go on to consider, and one of Augsburg’s best-known painters. By aping the style of the cheap woodcut Beck told his intended labouring and artisan class audience: this message is for you. Long before Marshall McCluhan, this late medieval artist understood that «the medium was the message» and he adopted a medium – the woodcut – that the common man recognized as his own9.

12It was not because Beck had little to say that he produced a work of such plain appearance. He had a good deal to say, but he built it into a simple and familiar type of composition, the summarizing narrative in which a single action – its relatively few components nearly simultaneous in time – is used to convey a single central message, while specific motifs within the work may make additional non-essential subsidiary points. These choices about composition and style were deliberate. When Beck worked for elite patrons he made different choices.

  • 10 Though evidently part of an altarpiece, the two panels were not its outer wings. G. Goldberg, C. A (...)

13A comparison of The Monk and the Maiden with the altarpiece panels Beck painted sometime before 1520 for the Augsburg weaver Martin Weiss and his wife Elisabeth Fackler shows just how different these two approaches were10. This work belongs to a familiar late medieval category, the altarpiece designed for a family altar in a parish or monastic church. Familiar in type the Weiss altarpiece may be, and armed with the cumulative findings of decades of scholarship, art historians feel confident in identifying some of what it said to its original viewers. But in fact, without prior knowledge not only of the meaning of individual symbols but of the mode in which they are to be put together, it would be a difficult work to decipher.

14To begin with, whereas the woodcut depicts a group of individuals interacting together in the same place and time (their actions taking place either simultaneously or in quick succession), the scenes depicted in the panels take place in several different times and places. In the left hand panel in which Saint Martin presents Martin Weiss to Christ, the figure of Christ embodies two separate points in his life: the crown of thorns and the cloak around his shoulders identify him as the Man of Sorrows in his torments before the crucifixion while the nail wounds in his hands signify his resurrected state. The depiction of Saint Martin also combines two different points in the saint’s life: the beggar at his feet illustrates the incident when he shared his cloak with a beggar while his bishops’ garments point to his later election to the episcopacy. Weiss himself, who is shown kneeling before the figure of Christ, lived at still another historical epoch.

  • 11 On eucharistic imagery in fifteenth-century art see B. Lane, The Altar and the Altarpiece: Sacrame (...)

15The complexity is not confined to the spheres of action of the participants. The various narratives combine to create an overall statement: Saint Martin, by virtue of his charity and his holiness while in office has merited the status of sainthood, by which he is able to plead with special power to Christ for his protégé (he points at Weiss while looking directly at Christ who in turn extends a pierced hand towards him). Christ, by virtue of having taken human form and having died for mankind, has the ability to answer the prayers of the two Martins and grant salvation to Martin Weiss and his wife. An argument could also be made that Christ’s white body represents the Eucharist by which, in fifteenth-century belief, the sacrifice of the cross was repeated (the presence of the two angels transforms the cloak of shame worn by the Man of Sorrows into a species of baldaquin)11. Elisabeth Weiss’ panel contains a similar message, the reference to Christ’s saving power here being indicated by the sadness of Mary’s face as she thinks of the coming death of her son.

16The fact that works of art such as these were conventionalized, with versions of the schema described above existing in perhaps hundreds of thousands of examples – does not negate the fact of its complexity.

  • 12 See V Nixon, The Anna Selbdritt in Late Medieval Germany, p. 203-204; H. Oberman, The Harvest of M (...)

17By contrast, The Monk and the Maiden observes the unities of time, place and action with a veritable Aristotelian strictness. In addition, while the individual figures and objects in The Monk and the Maiden are taken from the everyday life of the viewer and thus need no identification, the painting contains elements such as the attributes of the saints that are not immediately identifiable. While Elisabeth’s gesture of giving drink to a beggar is recognizable as a charitable act, Martin’s relationship with the poor man at his side is not depicted, the beggar serving only as his attribute. One has to know it, just as one has to know the significance of the baldaquin-cloak, or of the fact that Mary’s serious expression alludes to her co-suffering with Christ, the co-suffering that some medieval preachers saw as giving her a share in the salvational process12.

  • 13 V Nixon, The Anna Selbdritt in Late Medieval Germany, p. 179-185.

18The complications do not stop here. The various themes interpenetrate to create a master narrative: Mary, through her humble acceptance of the role of mother of God, and through her co-suffering, co-redeemed mankind along with Jesus, who through his death and resurrection makes possible salvation, the acquisition of which is facilitated by the intervention of saints who have special relationships with the couple who paid for the altarpiece, which was intended to be placed in their family chapel in a side chapel of a church, where masses, paid for by an endowment, would be said on a regular basis for their souls. The two figures of Christ allude to the Eucharist which would have been consecrated in front of the art work depicting Him, repeating the sacrifice of the cross in perpetuity (for ever say the endowment documents) by the effigies of the patrons13.

19What is at issue is not how much a given late medieval Christian would have understood of this imagery. It is the fact that there is a consistency in the communication paradigms employed: the altarpiece assumes an insider’s knowledge, an ability to read a language of images. It speaks within what could be called an insider’s realm. The woodcut does not. It speaks publicly.

20The existence of such different ways of speaking is important, for it seems to imply assumptions about how people read images. One group, elites, was perceived as able to handle complicated messages involving symbols, interpenetrating time and space, and the interweaving of multiple stories to convey larger messages. For the other group, a drastically simpler mode of communication was judged appropriate.

21The latter perception is consistent with a commonly encountered view of the mental abilities of non-elites, in which the absence of Latin literacy was widely understood as a synonym for absence of knowledge which was in turn sometimes elided into an image of stupidity. The fifteenth-century preacher Geiler von Kaisersberg’s advice to the illiterate assumes this same incapacity (more tactfully expressed than was sometimes the case) applied to the visual arts. In explaining to the illiterate how to use an image of the visitation he makes no mention of theological content, choosing instead to emphasize the literal story content, as a provoker of devotional feeling:

  • 14 Auf Maria Heimsuchung mahnt er: kanstu nit schreiben noch lesen, so nim ein gemalten brief für dic (...)

«Concerning the visitation he advised: if you cannot read or write, then take a coloured picture on which Mary and Elisabeth are painted as they came together. You can buy one for a penny. Look at it and consider how happy they were, and other things...»14

22Beck may have been acting on the basis of this stereotype. But we cannot rule out the possibility that he may also have been acting on the basis of experience. The proposal that education and social class play a role in how people think is hardly a novel one. As a professional artist Beck was in the business of communicating and it was in his interest to do so effectively.

  • 15 For examples of late medieval German ex-votos see L. Kris-Rettenbeck and G. Möhler, Wallfahrt kenn (...)

23To this circumstantial reasoning we can add some concrete data to support the suggestion that this way of reading images may have been habitual among popular audiences: this is what artists produced when they were creating the one kind of painting that was frequently commissioned by non-elites, the ex-voto paintings that were deposited in churches in fulfilment of vows. Ex-voto paintings recorded the miracle that its commissioners had prayed for: «Help me in my problem and I will donate a painting recording the event to the church»15. What the clients invariably got was works composed in the manner of The Monk and the Maiden in which both content and composition take the form of narrative incidents. Whether the events are combined so tightly as to be virtually simultaneous as they are in Beck’s woodcut, or whether several events are depicted as separate scenes, the ex-voto would seem to minimize choice in its interpretation.

  • 16 Elite groups commissioned ex-votos too, but theirs usually look like other elite paintings. The pr (...)

24Typically the distressful event, whether ship disaster or sickness, is depicted taking place on the ground, while above in the sky the celestial helper is shown ringed with cloud. Though I cannot say what part of the ex-voto’s composition originated with the artists and what with the clients, these works evidently satisfied those who commissioned them for they continued to be produced in this way up into modern times16.

25Along with the possibility that sequential narrative was the preferred composition for patrons of the popular classes, there is an additional possible reason for its ubiquitousness. The statements about the ignorance of the rusticus or illitteratus may not have been solely a way of crystalizing disdain, they may also have represented a fear, the fear that the mind of the rusticus might follow a different and unpredictable track. Untrained and unpracticed in correct ways of thinking, it could not be depended on to follow the leads given it. There was no predicting where it might go.

26Carlo Ginzburg in his study of the sixteenth-century Friulian heretic, the miller Menocchio, The Cheese and the Worms, relates an incident that illustrates this kind of dangerous unpredictability – a misunderstanding caused by an unfamiliarity not simply with the meanings of specific motifs, but with the right ways of putting them together, an inability to draw the correct conclusions. We learn that Menocchio, in reading the account of Mary’s funeral procession in a vernacular version of the Legenda Aurea, the Legendario delle vite de tutti li santi, interprets the priests’ display of disrespect for Mary’s body not as evidence of their perfidy (the writer’s intention) but as evidence that Mary had not been particularly honoured in this world (and by implication that she was not particularly deserving of honour): «about the madonna many honors were neither given nor paid to her and, in fact, when she was brought to be buried she was treated with dishonor». Ginzburg states:

  • 17 C. Ginzburg, The Worms and the Cheese: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-century Miller (transl. J. and A. (...)

«For the author of the Legendario, the chief priest’s insult to the corpse of Mary was resolved in the description of a miraculous cure and, finally, in the exaltation of the Virgin Mary, Christ’s mother. But evidently, for Menocchio, the account of the miracle was unimportant, and the reaffirmation of Mary’s virginity, which he repeatedly rejected, even less so. He singles out only an action by the priest, the “disonor” to Mary during her burial, evidence of her miserable condition. Through the filter of Menocchio’s memory Voragine’s story is transformed into its very opposite»17.

27Whereas Menocchio misinterpreted a text, the Swiss reformer John Calvin recalled how people in his parish misidentified the statues in their church:

  • 18 Jean Calvin, Inventory of Relics, CR 6.452, in C. Eire, War Against the Idols, Cambridge, 1986, p. (...)

«I remember what I saw them do to images [marmousetz] in our parish when I was a small boy. As the feast of St. Stephen drew near, they would adorn them all alike with garlands and necklaces, the murderers who stoned him (or “tyrants” as they were called in common speech), in the same fashion as the martyrs. When the poor women saw the murderers decked out in this way, they mistook them for Stephen’s companions, and presented each with his own candle. Even worse, they did the same with the devil who struggled against St. Michael»18.

28These examples of differing ways of responding to art works are not intended as definitive paradigms. They are presented rather as an aid in thinking about images, communication and perceptions in the late middle ages. There were different kinds of popular art, produced under different circumstances, destined for different ends, and not all are subsumable under a single heading. Nonetheless the conclusions suggested above can, I believe, help illuminate how non-elite consumers of art perceived – and were themselves perceived – in late medieval Germany.

29Looking a little further afield, to Italy, for descriptions of how images were read, we find examples that support the model proposed above: an assumption that untrained minds read works of art differently than trained ones. In a famous passage in which he recommends the use of art works in forming the attitudes and feelings of small children, the fourteenth-century Florentine preacher Cardinal Giovanni Dominici assumes not unreasonably, that children, whom we can reasonably equate with illiterates, read art works as straightforward depictions of actions. For them a picture of the child Jesus is not about salvation or the eucharist; it is about a little boy behaving as he ought:

  • 19 Giovanni Dominici, Rule for the Management of Family Care (Regola del Governo di cura familiare, 1 (...)

«The first [rule] is to have paintings in the house, of holy little boys or young virgins, in which your child when still in swaddling clothes may delight, as being like himself, and may be seized upon by the like thing, with actions and signs attractive to infancy [...]The Virgin Mary is good to have, with the child on her arm, and the little bird or the pomegranate in his fist. A good figure would be Jesus suckling, Jesus sleeping on his mother’s lap. Jesus standing politely before her, Jesus making a hem and the mother sewing that hem [...] It would do no harm if he saw Jesus and the Baptist, the little Jesus and the Evangelist grouped together, and the murdered innocents, so that fear of arms and armed men would come over him»19.

30Another famous Italian preacher, San Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444) made a similar assumption about the teenaged girls listening to him preach; stepping into their shoes he talks about Simone Martini’s famous Annunciation as though it is a picture about a (male) angel talking to a young woman:

  • 20 Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444), «Sermon on the Twelve Handmaidens the Virgin Mary Had», Prediche (...)

«Have you ever seen that Annunciation that is at the Cathedral, at the Altar of S. Ansano, beside the sacristy? It seems to me surely the most beautiful, the most reverent, the most modest pose you ever saw in an Annunciation. You see she does not gaze at the angel, but sits with that almost frightened pose. She knew well it was an angel, so why should she be disturbed? What would she have done if it had been a man? Take her as an example, girls of what you should do. Never talk to a man unless your father or mother is present»20.

31The point is that neither toddlers, nor teenage girls (even if they were the children of elite families) were as yet fully formed and trained members of the elite.

  • 21 Leonardo’s The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (c. 1510) is in the Louvre. Repr. J. Wasserman, «M (...)

32Isabella d’Este on the other hand was a member of the elite, and so was the Franciscan friar Pietro da Novellara to whom Isabella appealed, c. 1501, for an explanation of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne. Fra Pietro’s reply is interesting as an example of a literate and educated observer using the method I described earlier in attempting to interpret an unconventional arrangement of a familiar theme21.

  • 22 For the usual meaning of Saint Anne in Florentine art see R. J. Crum and D.G. Wilkins, «In the Def (...)

33Though the theme of Saint Anne with Mary and the Christ Child, was reasonably frequent in Italian painting, Leonardo’s treatment of it, in which he introduced several novel elements including a lamb, along with gestures that suggest a specific but unknown narrative content, was so unusual as to provoke Isabella to seek an explanation22. As the composition was unique, Fra Pietro does not have a ready-made explanation. He does however understand the possible symbolic meanings of individual elements, and he has a habitual method of dealing with visual imagery which he proceeds to apply to this novel combination. Fra Pietro’s conclusion, that the work represents St. Anne as a symbol of the church attempting to restrain Mary from symbolically hindering the coming Passion of her son, takes for granted the combining of disparate times and places, and the subsuming of individual stories within a larger one:

  • 23 The passage appears in a letter to Isabella of Mantua. A. Luzio, I precettori di Isabella d’Este, (...)

«A cartoon of a child Christ, about a year old, almost jumping out of his mother’s arms to seize hold of a lamb. The mother is in the act of rising from St. Anne’s lap, and holds back the child from the lamb, an innocent creature which is a symbol of the Passion, while St. Anne, partly rising from her seat, seems anxious to restrain her daughter, which may be a type of the Church who would not hinder the Passion of Christ»23.

  • 24 Fra Novellaro’s remarks are interesting in that they express a peculiarly Italian slant: the theme (...)

34The method Fra Novellaro employs to solve his problem assumes that the painting follows exactly those principles I described earlier as underlying the composition of the altarpiece Leonhard Beck painted for Martin and Elisabeth Weiss24.

Leohard Beck, The Monk and the Maiden (Augsburg, 1523).
© Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin.

Hans Baldung Grien, Eve, the Serpent, and Death (c. 1510-15).
© National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

Leonhard Beck, Christ with St. Martin and the Donor Martin Weiss, Weiss-Fackler Diptych (Augsburg, before 1520)
© Diözesanmuseum St. Afra, Augsburg.

Leonhard Beck, Virgin and Child with Saint Elisabeth and the Donor Elisabeth Weiss, Weiss-Fackler Diptych (Augsburg, before 1520).
© Diözesanmuseum St. Afra, Augsburg.

Notes

1 For examples of pipe-clay sculptures see T. Brandenbarg, W. Deeleman-van Tyen, L. Dresen-Coenders and L. van Liebergen, Heilige Anna, Grote Moeder, Nijmegen, 1992, p. 123, 151.

2 In fact the recognition by artists of the possibilities for heightened expression presented by the peculiarities of the print media itself contributed to a flowering of aesthetic excellence and any list of great art works of the late medieval period would include woodcuts by artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Martin Schöngauer, Lucas van Leyden, the Master of the Hausbuch, and others, works which are notable not only for their sheer beauty but also for innovations in compositional format and in the creation of mood through the masterly exploitation of the potentialities of the printed line.

3 The Monk and the Maiden (Kupferstichkabinett SMPK, Berlin).

4 Scribner translates as follows: monk: Father, I will hire your daughter / And bring your affairs into order; daughter: Father, I know what’s going on / Else I’d not have let the monk come along; father: Monk, you have deceived me / And made my daughter leave me; mother: Oh, what a shameful lot, / For my child I’ll plead to God; old monk: This doesn’t happen by my will. / But I must watch and be still. R. Scribner, For the Sake of Simple Folk: Popular Propaganda for the German Reformation, Cambridge, 1981, p. 38.

5 R.A. Koch, Hans Baldung Grien: Eve, the Serpent, and Death, Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1974, p. 5. Koch further alludes to the negative qualities of the depiction by referring to Eve as «audacious», [believing] «that she can change this order of things by joining the infernal forces that have confronted her beneath the forbidden Tree in Paradise». Ibid., p. 6. See also p. 22.

6 L. Roper, The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg, Oxford, 1989.

7 Roper uses it to illustrate her point.

8 It is possible that the placement of the large coin so close to the cup might have been read as a reference to the Eucharist, another issue surrounded with contention in reformation contexts. On the growing anxiety concerning women in late medieval Germany see V Nixon, The Anna Selbdritt in Late Medieval Germany: Meaning and Function of a Religious Image, Ph.D. Diss., Concordia University, Montreal, 1997, esp. p. 99-102; T. Brandenbarg, Heilig familieleven, Nijmegen, 1990, p. 68 & passim; Distaves and Dames: Renaissance Treatises For and About Women, ed. D. Bornstein, Scholars Facsimiles & Reprints, Delmar, N.Y., 1978; F. Brietzmann, Die böse Frau in der deutschen Literatur des Mittelalters (Berlin, 1912), London, 1967.

9 It is interesting that North American Marxist propaganda posters in the late twentieth century frequently imitated the style of the woodcut.

10 Though evidently part of an altarpiece, the two panels were not its outer wings. G. Goldberg, C. Altgraf Salm and G. Scheffler, Staatsgalerie Augsburg Städtische Kunstsammlungen, 1. Altdeutsche Gemälde Katalog, Munich, 1988, p. 22-25.

11 On eucharistic imagery in fifteenth-century art see B. Lane, The Altar and the Altarpiece: Sacramental Themes in Early Netherlandish Painting, New York, 1984.

12 See V Nixon, The Anna Selbdritt in Late Medieval Germany, p. 203-204; H. Oberman, The Harvest of Medieval Theology: Gabriel Biel and Late Medieval Nominalism, Cambridge, 1963, esp. p. 295 ff.

13 V Nixon, The Anna Selbdritt in Late Medieval Germany, p. 179-185.

14 Auf Maria Heimsuchung mahnt er: kanstu nit schreiben noch lesen, so nim ein gemalten brief für dich, daran Maria und elisabeth gemalt ston als zusammen kumen sein, du kauffst einen umb ein pfennig, sihejn an und gedenk daran, wie siefrölich gewesen sein und guter ding..., Johann Geiler von Keisersberg, Evangelibuch, Strassburg 1515, fo 180, cited in Erlâuterungen und Ergänzungen zu Janssens Geschichte des deutschen Volkes, ed. L. Pastor, vol. 6, part 1, «Beiträge zur vorreformatorischen Heiligen- und Reliquien-verehrung», Freiburg, 1907, p. 21-22.

15 For examples of late medieval German ex-votos see L. Kris-Rettenbeck and G. Möhler, Wallfahrt kennt keine Grenzen: Themen zu einer Ausstellung des Bayerischen Nationalmuseums und des Adalbert Stifter Vereins, Munich, 1984; Heiltum und Wallfahrt, Innsbruck, 1988.

16 Elite groups commissioned ex-votos too, but theirs usually look like other elite paintings. The proportion of surviving examples that stem from modest «milieux» however is large, and they typically follow the method of the woodcut, not the altarpiece, in telling their stories.

17 C. Ginzburg, The Worms and the Cheese: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-century Miller (transl. J. and A. Tedeschi), New York, (1976) 1989, p. 35-36. See also p. 34, for another example of Menocchio’s «misinterpretations» of his reading material.

18 Jean Calvin, Inventory of Relics, CR 6.452, in C. Eire, War Against the Idols, Cambridge, 1986, p. 317-318.

19 Giovanni Dominici, Rule for the Management of Family Care (Regola del Governo di cura familiare, 1860, 130-33, p. 182), in Italian Art, 1400-1500: Sources and Documents, ed. C. Gilbert (Englewood Cliffs, 1980), Evanston, Ill., 1992.

20 Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444), «Sermon on the Twelve Handmaidens the Virgin Mary Had», Prediche volgari, 1935, 673, 972, in Italian Art, 1400-1500: Sources and Documents, ed. C. Gilbert.

21 Leonardo’s The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (c. 1510) is in the Louvre. Repr. J. Wasserman, «Michelangelo’s Virgin and Child at Oxford», Burlington Magazine, 3 (March 1969), p. 122-131.

22 For the usual meaning of Saint Anne in Florentine art see R. J. Crum and D.G. Wilkins, «In the Defense of Florentine Republicanism: Saint Anne and Florentine Art, 1343-1575», in Interpreting Cultural Symbols: Saint Anne in Late Medieval Society, ed. K. Ashley and P. Sheingorn, p. 131-168.

23 The passage appears in a letter to Isabella of Mantua. A. Luzio, I precettori di Isabella d’Este, Ancona, 1887, p. 32, n. 1, transl, in P. Burke, The Italian Renaissance: Culture and Society in Italy, Princeton: Princeton University Press (Batsford, 1972), 1986, p. 170. Isabella and the friar proceed on the assumption that the painting, along with being a literal depiction of the three holy figures that would have functioned to arouse devotional feelings, or to serve as a model for imitation, also called for what Irwin Panofsky called an iconological interpretation – a broad underlying message that knit together the various individual themes and stories. See I. Panofsky, Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance, New York, 1972.

24 Fra Novellaro’s remarks are interesting in that they express a peculiarly Italian slant: the theme of Mary’s reluctance to accept the death of her son. A well-known example is the thirteenth-century Franciscan Jacopone da Todi’s dramatization of the Passion, in which Mary, on learning that her son has been taken, cries out in protest: Vergine : O Pilato, non fare. lo figlio mio tormentare: / ch’io te posso mostrare. como a torto è accusato. Turba : Crucifige, crucifige!. Omo che se fa rege, / secondo nostra lege,. contradice al senato. Vergine : Priego che m’entendàti,. nel mio dolor pensàti: / forsa mò ve mutati da quel ch’avete pensato. Iacopone da Todi, «Pianto de la madonna de la passione del figliolo Iesu Cristo», The Penguin Book ofItalian Verse, ed. G. R. Kay, Harmondsworth (1958) 1972, p. 8-13.

Table des illustrations

Légende Leohard Beck, The Monk and the Maiden (Augsburg, 1523).© Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin.
URL http://books.openedition.org/psorbonne/docannexe/image/14109/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 522k
Légende Hans Baldung Grien, Eve, the Serpent, and Death (c. 1510-15).© National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
URL http://books.openedition.org/psorbonne/docannexe/image/14109/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 244k
Légende Leonhard Beck, Christ with St. Martin and the Donor Martin Weiss, Weiss-Fackler Diptych (Augsburg, before 1520)© Diözesanmuseum St. Afra, Augsburg.
URL http://books.openedition.org/psorbonne/docannexe/image/14109/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 445k
Légende Leonhard Beck, Virgin and Child with Saint Elisabeth and the Donor Elisabeth Weiss, Weiss-Fackler Diptych (Augsburg, before 1520).© Diözesanmuseum St. Afra, Augsburg.
URL http://books.openedition.org/psorbonne/docannexe/image/14109/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 438k

Auteur

Concordia University, Montreal

© Éditions de la Sorbonne, 2002

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540