Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Social Life of Illumination: Manuscripts, Images, and Communities in the Late Middle Ages

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Social Life of Illumination: Manuscripts, Images, and Communities in the Late Middle Ages

Article excerpt

The Social Life of Illumination. Manuscripts, Images, and Communities in the Late Middle Ages. Edited by Joyce Coleman, Mark Cruse, and Kathryn A. Smith. [Medieval Texts and Cultures in Northern Europe, Vol. 21.] (Turnhout: Brepols. 2013. Pp. xxiv, 552. euro120,00. ISBN 978-2-503-53212-7.)

In The Social Life of Illumination, art and literary historians examine French and English illuminated manuscripts produced between the thirteenth and earlysixteenth centuries. The volume's essays demonstrate that manuscript imagery expresses, instigates, and solidifies social interactions and relationships.

The volume's first section, "Spiritual Community," analyzes illuminations that integrate the reader-viewer into communities of people with similar devotional practices, religious beliefs, or theological agendas. Marlene Villalobos Hennessey argues that illuminations depicting Christ's blood indicated that the book itself signified Christ's suffering body, a medieval metaphor that spread to varied audiences through communal viewing of these images or sermons preached to the laity. Alixe Bovey asserts that illuminations depicting the Eucharistic ritual reinforce the viewer's participation in the ceremony of the Mass. Lucy Freeman Sandler articulates that the creation and use of an Old Testament picture cycle necessitated communication between the patron's household and the Augustinian friars who worked in their service as artists and spiritual guides. Kathryn Smith claims that the prevalence of heraldic imagery in Books of Hours allowed the patron to pray while contemplating marital and feudal alliances. David Joseph Wrisley argues that images of an imagined debate between a Christian and a Muslim express the mid-fifteenthcentuiy Burgundian court's shared anxiety regarding the expansion of the Islamic Ottoman empire. Robert Clark and Pamela Sheingom suggest that the illuminations depicting scenes from a passion play enable viewers to envision themselves as audience members witnessing a performance. Laura Weigert asserts that images depicting the destruction of Jerusalem c. 70 AD motivated readers to share the ideology of late-fifteenth-centuiy French crusaders in their desire to invade Jerusalem.

The book's second section, "Social and Political Community," examines images that inspire a collective awareness of worldly values and shape secular relationships. …

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