Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Caput Johannis in Disco (Essay on a Man's Head)

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Caput Johannis in Disco (Essay on a Man's Head)

Article excerpt

Barbara Baert, Caput Johannis in Disco (Essay on a Man's Head), trans. Irene Schaudies, Visualizing the Middle Ages 8 (Leiden: Brill, 2012). xxi + 264 pp.; 121 figures. ISBN 978-90-224117. euro131.00.

Barbara Baert's book, like her subject - images of the head of St John the Baptist on a platter, often known by their German name, Johannesschüsselcould, in her own words, be considered 'a metaphor for its own epistemology: the wild, hypnotic, tumbling, intangible'. A series of interlinked essays on various aspects, some literal, some material, some symbolic, some anthropological, of her subject, the book acquires a kaleidoscopic quality that permits its topic to merge and morph into an object as complex and multifaceted as the arresting, enigmatic sculptures that constitute its focus. Among the many admirable aspects of the study is the way in which it exemplifies a method, in this case a conception of iconology indebted less to Panofsky, who, however, in contrast to much recent criticism, is held up for praise, than to Warburg. The Warburg who informs this book is the anthropologist who visited the Hopi in search of imagistic practices with the power to heal and tap into the cosmos. Also pervasive is the Warburg who was indifferent to boundaries between high and low art, mixing elite and popular images in search of their rootedness in basic human desires. Baert gathers an astonishing variety of examples, famous and forgotten, establishing typologies that in turn are linked to different patterns of perception and ritual use. It is only a pity that so many of the examples reproduced were clearly photographed from other publications, with grainy, murky images often the result. In light both of the book's cost and the unfamiliar nature of most of the material discussed, this really is regrettable, as are a fair number of errors in the German in both texts and notes. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.