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Veil and shroud: Eastern references and allegoric functions in the textile imagery of a twelfth-century gospel book from Braunschweig


Bücheler, Anna (2012). Veil and shroud: Eastern references and allegoric functions in the textile imagery of a twelfth-century gospel book from Braunschweig. The Medieval History Journal, 15(2):269-297.

Abstract

This article discusses two medieval textile-inspired images that evoke the repeat of Eastern silk, and argues that so-called textile-pages in illuminated German manuscripts are not merely a sophisticated form of decoration, but that textile imagery generates iconological meaning in certain contexts and serves specific functions. The article proposes an iconological reading of two textile-pages in the Aegidien Gospels, a twelfth-century manuscript. It identifies one textile image as a visual commentary on the allegory of scripture as a veil of revelation, and the other as a representation of the shroud, which is shown to have mnemonic and contemplative functions in relation to the historic narrative and sacred truth of Christ’s death and resurrection. A kufesque inscription in the image of the shroud marks the depicted textile as an object of Eastern origin, and can be interpreted as a reference to the Holy Land in particular. By visually evoking the holy site of Christ’s tomb, the shroud image participates in a transfer of loca sancta from Jerusalem to twelfth-century Braunschweig, and in turn, connects with other holy sites that mark a larger sacred landscape of medieval Saxony. Interpreting the two textile-pages in the Aegidien Gospels from the viewpoint of recent approaches towards medieval court culture, textile imagery in this manuscript is shown to not be the result of the passive copying of textile patterns; rather, it is a distinct artistic contribution and form of appropriation that reflects the spiritual needs of the twelfth-century Saxon audience.

Abstract

This article discusses two medieval textile-inspired images that evoke the repeat of Eastern silk, and argues that so-called textile-pages in illuminated German manuscripts are not merely a sophisticated form of decoration, but that textile imagery generates iconological meaning in certain contexts and serves specific functions. The article proposes an iconological reading of two textile-pages in the Aegidien Gospels, a twelfth-century manuscript. It identifies one textile image as a visual commentary on the allegory of scripture as a veil of revelation, and the other as a representation of the shroud, which is shown to have mnemonic and contemplative functions in relation to the historic narrative and sacred truth of Christ’s death and resurrection. A kufesque inscription in the image of the shroud marks the depicted textile as an object of Eastern origin, and can be interpreted as a reference to the Holy Land in particular. By visually evoking the holy site of Christ’s tomb, the shroud image participates in a transfer of loca sancta from Jerusalem to twelfth-century Braunschweig, and in turn, connects with other holy sites that mark a larger sacred landscape of medieval Saxony. Interpreting the two textile-pages in the Aegidien Gospels from the viewpoint of recent approaches towards medieval court culture, textile imagery in this manuscript is shown to not be the result of the passive copying of textile patterns; rather, it is a distinct artistic contribution and form of appropriation that reflects the spiritual needs of the twelfth-century Saxon audience.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Art History
Dewey Decimal Classification:700 Arts
Language:English
Date:October 2012
Deposited On:27 Feb 2014 10:31
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 01:20
Publisher:SAGE Publications
ISSN:0971-9458

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