Images of Plague and Pestilence: Iconography and Iconology

Images of Plague and Pestilence: Iconography and Iconology

Images of Plague and Pestilence: Iconography and Iconology

Images of Plague and Pestilence: Iconography and Iconology

Synopsis

Since the late fourteenth century, European artists created an extensive body of images, in paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures and other media, about the horror of disease and death, as well as hope and salvation. This interdisciplinary study on disease in metaphysical context is the first general overview of plague art written from an art historical standpoint.

Excerpt

I gratefully acknowledge two generous grants from the Research Services Council of the University of Nebraska, which helped me pursue my studies over the last seven years and bring this book to completion. I am also grateful to the Graduate School of the University of Maryland for granting me a dissertation fellowship in 1989 that funded the original project. A number of scholars have shared their knowledge and given me valuable information for this interdisciplinary study. My sincerest thanks go first and foremost to the medical experts: Profs. Henri Mollaret and Jacqueline Brossollet, Pasteur Institute, Paris; John Bennett, M.D., National Institutes of Health, Washington, D.C.; Thomas Butler, M.D., Chief of the Division of Infectious Disease, Texas Tech University; and Franz Enzinger, M.D., Walter Reed Hospital. In the field of theology I am beholden to Profs. Helen Rolfson, O.S.F., St. John's University, and P. Lenders, S.J., University of Antwerp. I am particularly grateful to Professor Jean Caswell, University of Maryland, for her unflagging support of my art historical research and her editorial assistance, and to Dee Fischer, who spent endless hours preparing my manuscript for the publisher. Thanks are also due to my friends Drs. Edith Wyss, Shirley Bennett, Sally Wages, Lisa Hartjens, and Norma Uemura. Further, the expertise of my colleague Professor James May, University of Nebraska, who helped me with the production of some of the photographic images, was much appreciated. Finally, I thank my family for their help and patience during the years of research and the writing of the text.

Recent interest in epidemiology has generated a plethora of publications on the history of pestilential diseases, but studies on plague imagery are rather rare. In fact, the catalogue of the Library of Congress lists only a few book titles under “Plague in Art,” none in English. There are, of course, numerous published journal articles and some recent dissertations that discuss plague art.

Research on bubonic plague and its relation to the visual arts goes back to Emile Mâle's studies of the 1930s. His seminal work on plague iconogra-

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