Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia: A Study of Manuscript Transmission and Monastic Culture

By Felice Lifshitz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
“;I AM CRUCIFIED IN CHRIST”;
(GALATIANS 2:20): THE KITZINGEN
CRUCIFIXION MINIATURE AND VISIONS
OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

AN IMAGE AND ITS THEOLOGIAN-ARTIST

This chapter analyzes the full-page Crucifixion miniature (Plate 4) that was created as a frontispiece for the Kitzingen Pauline Epistles.1 The image is both famous (according to one specialist, the most famous of all the insular and insular-inspired manuscripts of the early Middle Ages)2 and little understood. It is commonly treated as a copy of a lost model and explained through the prism of ethnic (or national) artistic tradi­; tions. One recent treatment, for instance, described how the artist combined “;oriental,”; “;insular”; and, “;continental”; elements by depicting Christ and his companions in an “;Egyptian”; bark of the dead, while utilizing “;Frankish”; orna­; mental motifs (rosettes and interlace in the arcade) and an “;Irish”; color scheme (orange, yellow, and black); another appealed to its “;bright colors”; as a sign that the miniature might have been copied from an Irish model.3 This view of the image persists despite Spilling’;s 1982 demonstration that the grounds for positing an Irish model are slim at best; for instance, the Kitzingen image placed Stepha­; ton (represented by his sponge, a triangle at the tip of Christ’;s beard) on the left of Jesus and Longinus (represented by his lance, whose tip is aimed at Christ’;s belly) on the right, following Anglo-Saxon and continental practice, whereas Irish crucifxion images reversed the sides.4 As for the color scheme: it repro­; duced the palette of the Spessart in the autumn; no Irish experience was required for a visual artist to think in these pigmented terms.

The paradigm according to which early medieval art was primarily an ex­; pression of racially based aesthetic preferences is now being vigorously ques­; tioned. For instance, ideas about which artistic elements (such as bright color) “;must”; derive from Irish tradition have been shown to be especially suspect and linked to modern racist stereotypes about the (feminine) “;nature”; of the Irish people.5 Furthermore, the paradigm according to which early medieval art was essentially imitative is also under attack6 and is particularly unhelpful for under­; standing eighth-century crucifixion imagery. Depictions of the crucifixion were just becoming common only when the Kitzingen artist was at work, virtually

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