10.05.23, Lane/Pastan/Shortell, eds., Four Modes of Seeing

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Heather Gilderdale Scott

The Medieval Review 10.05.23

Lane, Evelyn Staudinger, Elizabeth Carson Pastan and Ellen M. Shortell, eds.. The Four Modes of Seeing: Approaches to Medieval Imagery in Honor of Madeline Harrison Caviness. Farnham: Ashgate, 2009. Pp. 610. ISBN: 978-0-7546-6010-1.

Reviewed by:
Heather Gilderdale Scott
The University of York

In this volume, the editors Evelyn Staudinger Lane, Elizabeth Carson Pastan and Ellen M. Shortell have created not only a spectacular and entirely fitting tribute to the broad and extensive research of Madeline Harrison Caviness, but also a work that will surely become a standard reference book for scholars and students in the field of medieval art history.

The title, The Four Modes of Seeing, references one of Cavinesss most influential works ("Images of Divine Order and the Third Mode of Seeing," Gesta 22 [1983], 99-120) in which she explored the modes of seeing articulated in the writings of the twelfth-century cleric, Richard of Saint-Victor (d. 1173), to suggest new approaches to medieval imagery. The title also flags effectively the varied subject matter and perspectives that have characterised Cavinesss scholarship more generally, as well as the differing approaches and methodologies of the authors who have contributed to this volume.

The thirty contributors to the festschrift are impressively interdisciplinary, including art historians, historians, literary scholars and curators, many of whom are leaders in their disciplines, and also international, representing England, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, as well as the United States. Their essays are organised within the volume thematically, each of the nine sections reflecting aspects of Cavinesss work, and spanning the subjects of "The Material Object," "Documentary Reconstruction," "Post-Disciplinary Approaches," "Multiple Readings," "Gender and Reception," "Performativity," "Text and Image," "Collecting and Consumption," and "Politics and Ideology."

A central concern of Cavinesss research has been the study and interpretation of Europes medieval stained glass, as illustrated in the select bibliography that forms pp. 565-70. As such, it is with this subject that many of the essays throughout The Four Modes of Seeing engage most directly. Renée K. Burnam begins the volume with a discussion of the collaborative relationship between the Sienese painter Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1255-c. 1318) and an as-yet unknown master glazier that underscored the production of the fenestra rotunda magna in the apse of Siena Cathedral. Michael Cothren explores further the issues and problems surrounding the use of painted detail as indicators of workshop practice, using three windows in the Virgin Chapel of Beauvais cathedral as a case study. Richard Marks, author of the standard work on Stained Glass in England during the Middle Ages (London, 1993), uses the unusually-rich extant will of a late-fifteenth-century wool-merchant to reconstruct the appearance and production process of a lost window at the parish church of Snailwell, Cambridgeshire. An impressive essay by Rdiger Becksmann offers a revised reconstruction of the complex glazing scheme that once filled the north aisle windows of the Carmelite church at Boppard on the Rhine, panels from which can now be found on both sides of the Atlantic. The reconstruction of a lost scheme is also the focus of one of the volumes editors, Evelyn Staudinger Lane, who examines the information provided in two medieval manuscripts (dated 1185 and 1425-9 respectively) to suggest much about the original iconographic programme of the glazing of Noyon Cathedral. The late Anne Prache flags the complementary nature of stained glass and architectural research at Saint-Remi of Reims and at Braine. Claudine Lautier highlights the sophisticated inter-relationship at Chartres Cathedral between the reliquary chasse of Virgins tunic, housed in the choir, and the subjects of stained glass windows throughout the church. Another editor, Ellen Shortfell, contributes a piece that both reconstructs the original appearance of a panel representing benefactors responsible for a window at the former collegiate church of Saint-Quentin in Aisne, northern France, and uses it to explore these individuals relationship with the church and its clergy. Engagement with the fashionable issue of narrative strategy in medieval imagery is the focus of Brigitte Kurmann-Schwarzs discussion of some of the windows in the choir of the former abbey church at Königsfelden, Switzerland, whilst Meredith Parsons Lillich examines a series of archibishops in the nave of Reims Cathedral, solving the puzzle of why only six of the fifteen figures bear name inscriptions by suggesting that these figures are probably post-medieval insertions, added in the late sixteenth century when there was high interest in honouring the history of the cathedral. Marilyn Beaven offers a fascinating account of the role of the English dealer, Grosvenor Thomas (1837-1923), in the creation of an American market for medieval stained glass in the early part of the twentieth century. Somewhat similarly, the efforts of Alexandre-Marie Lenoir (1761-1839) in bringing to national attention the importance of medieval stained glass in post-revolutionary France are explored by Mary Shepard. Elizabeth Carson Paston, the volumes third editor, presents a compelling account of the inter-play in between politcs and patronage of the arts, in the city of Troyes in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, highlighting that this context produced some excellent stained glass, once thought to belong to Troyes Cathedral, but probably originating instead in the now-destroyed church of Saint-Etienne in the city, which formed the focus of noble, rather than episcopal, patronage. The volume also closes on a stained glass note, with Alyce A. Jordans excellent discussion of the window in Sens Cathedral devoted to St Thomas Becket, installed in the wake of Beckets murder and canonisation in 1170 and 1173 respectively.

Despite this wealth of stained glass material, this volume is, however, by no means of exclusive, or even primary, interest to glass historians. As the above details make clear, almost every one of the essays in which stained glass forms the central subject matter also engages with broader, non-glass-specific, issues in the study of medieval imagery, whether the question of how lost works of art can be reconstructed, how medieval imagery can provide insight into historic relations between benefactors and institutions, how medieval pictorial narrative was constructed and read, how interest in medieval art has been revived in different post-medieval periods, or how art could be a manifestation of political rivalries and identities in the Middle Ages.

Furthermore, numerous other essays within the volume engage, as has Cavinesss own research, with various other aspects of medieval (and indeed post-medieval) art. Manuscripts of different kinds form the focus of Pamela Sheingorn, Martha Easton and Joan A. Holladays contributions on gendered readings and the depiction of women in examples of English and French works, as well as of Peter Fergussons examination of Prior Wiberts Fountain Houses at Christ Church, Canterbury, and Charles G. Nelsons essay on 'Performance Authority in Eike von Repgows Sachsenspiegel, a late thirteenth-century German law book. The lavishly illustrated Vie de Saint Denis manuscript is also the subject of Elizabeth A. R. Browns longer contribution examining the dynamics of text and image. Sculpture is treated in Dorothy Gillermans exploration of readings of the central portal of the west faade at Reims Cathedral, in Elizabeth C. Parkers examination of a relief of the life of St. Margaret of Antioch carved around 1200 for the church of Santa Maria Assunta at Fornovo di Taro, near Parma, and in Agostino Paravicini Baglianis consideration of representations of Boniface VIII to present a complex and legitimizing view of the papacy, and to distinguish Boniface from his predecessors. Decorative vessel, rather than window, glass is the focus of Timothy Husbands analysis of the origins of the Hedwig Glasses: a group of high medieval drinking vessels related to the legend of St. Hedwig.

Indeed, a major theme of The Four Modes of Seeing is the inter-connectedness between disciplines and artistic media, emphasising the potential rewards (as well as challenges) of multi-faceted research in working to understand medieval art, architecture and imagery more fully. Praches essay on the potentially complementary nature of architectural and stained glass research, and Lautiers examination of the relationship between the Virgins reliquary chasse and its artistic context at Chartres have already been flagged. Michael T. Davis also considers the interplay between art forms, arguing that the Rayonnant style of architecture "was conceived from the outset with its multimedia context in mind" (198), with the architecture serving as a frame for multiple layers of imagery and devotional experience. Corine Schleif takes a different but equally multimedia approach in her examination of female possession of portable devotional figures, using both extant figures themselves, along with manuscript illustrations and textual descriptions of their use. More general, and something of a high point of the volume as a whole, is Paul Crossleys eloquent and authoritative piece on Holism and Gothic architecture, in which he reviews more than a century of thought on the subject (concluding--as Caviness herself observed--that whilst cathedrals, of northern France in particular, may deserve to be treated as totalities of glass, sculpture, architecture and other ars sacra, it should not be assumed that they were the product of an all-encompassing, single, integrated idea), before setting out a test case for plotting holistic pathways in the context of Chartres Cathedral, "whose near-complete ensemble of architecture, sculpture, and painting invites investigation as an integrated undertaking" (166).

Naturally, even within a volume as impressive as this one, there are always items that might feature on an ideal wish-list. It seems a pity, for example, that no colour illustrations, from which stained glass seems to benefit in particular, could be included. In one or two places, an additional image would help to strengthen the excellent arguments. For example, although it is well-known, an illustration of Duccios work would underscore the attribution of the cartoni for the Siena window to his hand. It would also have been helpful to have been provided with even a sentence or two about each of the contributors to the volume, particularly given its scope: it is unlikely that any single reader will be familiar with every author. But these are minor points. Overall, the book forms an impressive and important contribution to the field, highlighting not only Dr. Cavinesss formidable achievements, but the vitality, richness and potential of the study of medieval art.

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Heather Gilderdale Scott

The University of York