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IMC 2020: Sessions

Session 1309: Representing the Ineffable

Wednesday 8 July 2020, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Diane J. Reilly, Hope School of Fine Art, Indiana University, Bloomington
Paper 1309-aCrossing Temporal Borders: The Zodiac on 12th-Century Church Portals
(Language: English)
Shelley Williams, Brigham Young University, Utah
Index terms: Architecture - Religious, Art History - General, Art History - Sculpture, Religious Life
Paper 1309-bImages of the Cosmos in Scandinavian Medieval Art
(Language: English)
Christian Etheridge, Centre for Medieval Literature, Syddansk Universitet
Index terms: Art History - General, Science, Theology
Paper 1309-cA Divine Presence: Approaches to the Representation of Spiritual Agency in the Buddhist, Christian, and Hindu Traditions
(Language: English)
Gamble Madsen, Faculty of Art, Monterey Peninsula College, California
Index terms: Art History - General, Theology
Paper 1309-dIcon Revetments as Iconostases in a Dynamic Sacred Space
(Language: English)
Özlem Eren, Department of Art History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Index terms: Architecture - Religious, Art History - General, Art History - Decorative Arts, Byzantine Studies

Paper -a:
Why was the zodiac sculpted into at least 30 church portals across western Europe in the 12th century? I argue it answered a need not readily provided by the Christian iconographical canon. Portals needed to invite the medieval viewer to participate in the art by traversing the temporal boundaries represented in the program. The zodiac was where the cosmological boundaries separating the immediate, terrestrial world and the eternal, celestial world were traversed as the access point to participants. I suggest this supports the most critical function of portals, which was to unite community through a shared temporal construct.

Paper -b:
In depicting the cosmos, medieval artists and scholars had to interpret the very cursory descriptions from the Bible that they supplemented with information stemming from medieval science. This created a huge corpus of artistic portrayals of the cosmos in the form of illustrations and diagrams that owed as much to information gleaned from the natural sciences as it did to medieval theology. This paper looks at portrayals of the cosmos in medieval Scandinavian art during the period 1000-1550. This includes depictions found in church art, monumental sculpture, manuscript illuminations, early printed images, and instruments such as clocks.

Paper -c:
As perspectives that emphasized a believer's transcendence of the physical realm, the visual cultures of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity negotiated a complicated process in the representation of spiritual paradigms from which the faithful could take inspiration. This presentation will address the distinctive approaches within each movement, considering images that articulate a unique 'presence' (and at times an 'absence') for their respective agents of personal salvation: the deities of the Hindu pantheon, Siddhartha Gautama (the 'Historic Buddha'), and Jesus Christ. The survey will include both iconic and aniconic examples found in India, China, and certain locations in the West. Ultimately it will be recognized that inspirational representations of divinity transcend assigned restrictions of time and location into the medieval period.

Paper -d:
Icon revetments have long been analyzed in terms of their function as protections to the material of the icon from the outside elements, i.e. to hide the icon. But instead, I argue that revetments have a deeper theological significance in the sense that they are analogous to iconostases in the church. The aim of the act of covering is not to hide but to reveal the mystery of the divine. The symbol of veil is the key. The revetment marks the point of mental entry into the divine realm. Iconostasis embodies the paradox of revelation and concealment of the two natures of Christ, that is the mystery of the Incarnation. The participation of the beholder in the rituals inside the church helps understand how Byzantines perceived icons, hence revetments.