IMC 2008: Sessions

Session 112: The Tree as Symbol, Allegory, and Structural Device in Medieval Art and Thought, I: Trees of Genealogy

Monday 7 July 2008, 11.15-12.45

Organiser:Andrea Worm, Cambridge University Library, University of Cambridge
Moderator/Chair:Andrea Worm, Cambridge University Library, University of Cambridge
Paper 112-aArbor genealogiae: Manifestations of the Tree in Royal French Genealogies
(Language: English)
Marigold Anne Norbye, Department of History, University College London
Index terms: Genealogy and Prosopography, Historiography - Medieval, Manuscripts and Palaeography
Paper 112-bLiber Generationis Jesu Christi: The Tree of Jesse on Late Medieval Altarpieces
(Language: English)
Uwe Hienz, Universität Augsburg
Index terms: Art History - Sculpture, Biblical Studies
Paper 112-cRadix, Arbor, Flos: Adaptations of Biblical Stemmata in Profane Iconography
(Language: English)
Andrea Lermer, Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Index terms: Art History - General, Genealogy and Prosopography

The tree with its vitalistic character, growing, flowering, extending its roots into the ground, its branches and leaves to the sky suggests itself as a polyvalent metaphor, symbol, and allegorical subject. During the Middle Ages, different iconographical schemata are based on the image and structure of the tree. Particularly from the 12th century onwards such pictorial formulae are increasingly used as a device for the structuring and the visual systematisation of knowledge. But even in these often quite abstract images, the symbolic and allegorical qualities of the trees are still inherent. The proposed panel aims at exploring the intellectual tradition behind these images and the various adaptations and interpretations of the tree motif: the tree as a structuring/mnemonic device, the connection and interplay between the tree as symbol/metaphor, and the way trees are looked upon and interpreted in natural history and theological exegesis.
The panel is subdivided into a set of six sessions comprising case studies with a specific thematic focus, but in many ways interlaced.

The first session takes as a point of departure the pictorial formula of the Tree of Jesse, which developed at the turn of the 11th century, presenting the ancestry of Christ (Paper I.1 and I.2), and its adaptations in other, profane contexts (I.3). Apart from the exegetical connotations of the topic, it can be understood as a visual model of sacred history; since the image of the Tree of Jesse is often adapted as a device for structuring sacred history, a topic that will then also be pursued also in the interlinked session II. on Trees and Sacred History.