IMC 2006: Sessions

Session 615: Deciphering Gestures in Visual Images

Tuesday 11 July 2006, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Susan L'Engle, Vatican Film Library, Saint Louis University, Missouri
Paper 615-aGesture in Christine de Pizan Illuminations
(Language: English)
Mary Weitzel Gibbons, Independent Scholar, New York
Index terms: Art History - General
Paper 615-bThe Gesture of Killing Christ: Jews in a Late Medieval Christian World
(Language: English)
Carlos Espí Forcén, Departamento de Historia del Arte, Universidad de Murcia
Index terms: Art History - General, Hebrew and Jewish Studies
Paper 615-cSadness and Anger: The Visualisation of Emotions in a 13th-Century Willehalm Manuscript
(Language: English)
Henrike Manuwald, Institut für Deutsche Sprache und Literatur, Universität zu Köln
Index terms: Art History - General, Language and Literature - German, Manuscripts and Palaeography
Paper 615-dGesture and Emotion in the Reliefs of Giovanni Pisano
(Language: English)
Pavel Kalina, Fakulta Architektury, Czech Technical University, Praha
Index terms: Art History - Sculpture, Gender Studies, Religious Life, Theology

Abstract paper -a: In this paper I will explore the significance of gesture in a selection of illuminations found in Christine de Pizan’s oeuvre. Among the many questions that arise when tackling this vast subject I will call attention to the following:
Does gesture encompass the whole body or only a part? Does it include posture as well as hand and arm. How does glance enter in? Is the image under scrutiny a close-up or a distant view? And does the gesture engage the viewer or not? How does the theme or subject of the image figure in the type of gesture? To what extent are gestures in such scenes as the author portrait and dedication scenes canonical? Are there paradigms for legends and archetypes? To what extent does precedent (visual and verbal) determine the gesture? And finally, can we detect any Christine signature motifs? The final paper for presentation will deal with at most two or three of the issues just mentioned.

Abstract paper -b:
During the Middle Ages Jews were frequently blamed for reenacting the Passion of Christ through three particular accusations: ritual murder and host and image desecration. Images representing these stories were frequently produced, giving a new light to the legend and promoting the persecution and extermination of Jews in Christian communities. Medieval artists put emphasis on depicting the malevolence of the “perfidious” Jews through grotesque features and the showing of pleasure at the performance of their actions. I will discuss images of these legends, both from manuscripts and altarpieces, and the power they had to keep prejudices alive in the mentality of a medieval Christian.

Abstract paper -c:
Sadness and anger, expressed by powerful gestures, are crucial motives in the Willehalm by Wolfram von Eschenbach. Although the pictures – in a densely illustrated 13th-century Willehalm manuscript (fragments preserved in Munich and Nuremberg) – are very close to the text, they do not mirror the gestures described, but draw on stereotyped pictorial formulae for displaying sadness and aggression. At the same time, they reflect the evaluation of emotions given in the text by the narrator and the protagonists. The paper will examine by what means these assessments are incorporated into the pictures despite the use of stereotyped emotional gestures.

Abstract paper -d:
Normally, the gestures were expressing rather conventional emotions in medieval art, depending almost completely on the visual tradition. In Giovanni´s case, however, it is possible to trace a radical transgression from the social to the individual. Evident is also the gender differentiation of gestures: some gestures could be used both by men and by women, other gestures were used exclusively by members of one sex. We may further speculate how far were these gestures able to awaken an emotional response at the side of the spectators, and whether this was the proper goal of the sculptor’s radical reform of the gesture language of his time.