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13.10.10, Melion, Dekoninck, and Guiderdoni-Bruslé, eds., Ut pictura meditatio

13.10.10, Melion, Dekoninck, and Guiderdoni-Bruslé, eds., Ut pictura meditatio

The title of this volume, Ut pictura meditatio (a phrase clearly echoing the Classical analogy ut pictura poesis--"as is painting so is poetry"--of Horace's ars poetica) points to its central theme of the constellation of relationships between late medieval and early modern meditational practices and the arts: between the visual and textual image and the meditative imagination. This volume comprises fourteenth individual essays, with its origins in the 2006 Lovis Corinth Colloquium at Emory University, "The Meditative Image in Northern Art 1500-1700." The contents range chronologically primarily between the late fifteenth century into the late seventeenth century (with side excursions into late antique thought), and geographically embrace materials from diverse European settings including England, the Low Countries, and France (with, despite the volume's title, forays into Roman and northern Italian traditions), and both Counter-reformation and Protestant settings.

Walter Melion's opening introduction, "Meditating on Pictures," introduces the theme of the volume via the concept of prosoche--an attentive examination of one's conscience--and its relationship to meditative practices that functioned to elevate the Christian's soul, especially the image-based mediations that form the subject of the collection. Melion's substantial essay that follows, "Meditative Images and the Portrayal of Image-Based Meditation," delves deeper into this topic by investigating a number of case-studies, proceeding from Robert Campin's Merode Altarpiece to several sixteenth- and early-seventeenth century devotional manuals illustrated by a range of artists, including Jacob Cornelisz, van Oostsanen's work for the 1523 Passio Domini nostri Iesu Christi of Alardus, Johnannes Weirix and Abraham de Bruyn's engravings for Montano's 1570 Humanae salutis monumenta, and Theodor Galle's works for 1607's Paradisus Sponsi et Sponsea, authored by the Jesuit Jan David. The paintings and prints discussed each, through an interaction between visual form and the accompanying text, encourage the votary to explore the nature of meditation itself, the production of meditative imagery, and how that process enables a spiritual conformitas. Brennan Breed's "Et oculi mei conspecturi sunt: Interdiegetic Gaze and the Meditative Image" focuses on selected late fifteenth and early sixteenth century Franco-Flemish manuscripts, in particular Morgan MS M. 1001. In these works--characterized by play between core narrative scenes, the complex borders in which they are embedded, and the related blocks of text--non-narrative relationships (such as typology) as well as "inter-diegetic" relationships between the various elements of the illuminated page break not only traditional boundaries within the painted spaces in novel ways but also break "the fourth wall," facilitating a meditative devotional response. Reindert Falkenburg in "'Diplopia': Seeing Hieronymus Bosch's St Jerome in the Wilderness Double," considers the relationship between different modes of devotional viewing: insien (an "inward" sight) and uutsien ("outwardly" seeing). Focusing his attentions on Bosch's Jerome in the Wilderness (Ghent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten), Falkenberg points to instances of ambiguous or double imagery in this and other works, in which an element of the setting or landscape can be read alternatively as "anthropomorphic" or "teratomorphic" and hence as either a neutral/positive or a malevolent force, via imaginative projection, underlining this "diplopic" mode of seeing the outer and the inner worlds in oscillation.

In "From Mystical Garden to Gospel Harmony: Willem van Branteghem on the Soul's Conformation to Christ," Melion, again, investigates two separate illustrated tracts authored by Willem van Branteghem and published in mid-sixteenth-century Antwerp: the first a meditational cycle entitled Pomarum mysticum tum novorum tum veterum fructum ("The Christian soul's mystical orchard of fruits new and old"), and the second text a Gospel harmony entitled, Iesu Christi vita, iuxta quatuor Evangelistarum narrationes ("The Life of Jesus Christ drawn from the narratives of the four Evangelists"). Each of these publications works in its own way, Melion argues, to facilitate the reader's process of self-reformatio via the imitation of Christ, and in both works the visual and verbal images included are central to that process of meditation, guiding the reader through a process of spiritual conformatio. Andrea Catellani's "Before the Preludes: Some Semiotic Observations on Vision, Meditation, and the 'Fifth Space' in Early Jesuit Spiritual Illustrated Literature" strives to derive a seventeenth-century semiotic grammar from the study of the relationships present among the texts and images of a group of south Netherlandish publications. Catellani focuses on a corpus of Jesuit productions derived from Ignatius of Loyola's well-known Exercitii spirituali, in particular Jerome de Nadal's Adnotationes et meditations in Evangelia, Jan David's Veridicus christianus and Duodecim specula, Antoine Sucquet's Via vitae aeternae, Ioannis de Pineda's Commentariorum in Iob libri tredicim, and the images of Antonius Wierix II's Cor Jesu amanti sacrum. Catellani introduces this approach via an application of Omar Calabrese's "four spaces" of pictorial and verbal structure (as well as a "fifth space"--that of the appeal to the viewer/reader, "the place of the imagination and of the animation of the image" (185)). Describing the interplay between text and image and objects and reading/viewing subjects (through the concepts of "map-texts" and "flux-texts") demonstrates how such works served to assist the devotee in an act of conformitas.

In "The Mental Image in Representation: Jean Aumont, L'Ouverture intérieure du royaume de l'Agneau occis dans nos coeurs (1660)," Frédéric Cousinié investigates two works of the Paris author Jean Aumont, a founder of the seventeenth-century "cordial-prayer" (oraison cordiale) mystical movement in France. In these tracts the faculty of devotional imagination is, in contrast to Cartesian and anatomical models centered on optics and the brain, instead fittingly visualized in terms of the heart as the seat of the spirit and of the interiority of meditational practice. Christian Belin's contribution to the collection, "Process and Metamorphosis of the Image: Ambivalences of the Anagogic Movement in Dionysian Contemplation," provides some further theoretical context for this primarily early modern collection by returning to late antiquity in order to investigate in some depth the image philosophy of Dionysius the Areopagite, often-cited in literature that advocated the eventual achievement of an anagogical meditation. Belin explores several aspects of the complex language and concepts used in the Greek Dionysian works (including the Mystical Theology, Celestial Hierarchy, and Divine Names) and their Augustinian and Thomist successors, revealing that the relationship between the visual/sensible and contemplative or aniconic vision in this tradition is no simple dichotomy. Similarly grounded in Humanist philosophy, Jacob Vance's essay, "Type and Counter-type: The Ocular and the Imaginary in Erasmus," traces the sources of Erasmus's use of the antique concept of the image as "type" (tupos) as it appears in his Disputatiuncula, Sileni Alcibades, Ciceronianus, and Praise of Folly. Investigating the background of the concept in late antique rhetoric, particularly in the writings of Basil, Vance suggests that Erasmus's pairing of the rhetorical concepts of enargeia (vivid visual descriptiveness) and phantasia (mental representation or imagination) can together result in an experience of astonished ekplexis; Erasmus thus rehabilitates Classical concepts of the visual imagination into a useful tool for Christian Humanism.

Returning to a discussion of the intersections between meditative experience and individual examples of artworks, in "Decapitation and the Paradox of the Meditative Image: Andrea Solario (1507) and the Transformation and the Transition of the Johannesschüssel from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance," Barbara Baert traces the cult related to the Baptist and his relics and the visual culture related to it, in particular a devotional painting of Head of John the Baptist on a Tazza, created for a French Cardinal by the Milanese artist Andrea Solario. Through a description of visual character of the panel and its mimetic virtuosity, Baert reveals how the panel contributes to a typological identification between John and Baptist and Christ and initiated a new iconographic trend. In "Ad vivum: Pictorial and Spiritual Imitation in the Allegory of the Pictura sacra by Frans Francken II," Ralph Dekoninck invokes the epigraph ut pictura meditatio in his discussion of an allegorical painting of the interior of a collector's cabinet by Francken, now in Budapest. Revealing the ways in which this panel differs from better known examples of the genre, Dekoninck points out via comparative texts and images from printed tracts of the same post-Tridentine time period a number of pictorial and literary trends that elucidate the fuller meaning of the piece: that the painting of religious artworks shares with the process of Christian devotional meditation a goal of the continuing process of the imitatio Christi. In Judi Loach's "An Apprenticeship in 'Spiritual Painting': Richeome's La Peinture spirituelle" a similar analogy between the processes of painting and meditation is explored. She considers Louis Richeome's work within Counter-reform contexts, suggesting that this work, using the apprentice painter's experience as a metaphorical model for the training of "spiritual painters," served to guide novices in the development of devotional meditations skills via the use of a number of didactic strategies. These strategies included the use of memory prompts--namely visual tableaux and imagined settings (in this case based on the various sites associated with the Jesuit novitiate on the Quirinal hill in Rome) used as loci for artificial memory--and the use of complex visual mnemonic devices and the periodical "review" of topics. Despite the centering of the work's guidebook-like structure on the Quirinal hill novitiate, Loach argues based on a number of visual-iconographic and historical details that the work was intended specifically for the community of French-speaking novices in Lyon.

Michael Gaudio, in "Cutting and Pasting at Little Gidding: Bible Illustration and Protestant Belief in Seventeenth-Century England," focuses on the delightfully singular collage activities of the Collet family. The family's creative appropriation of the printed imagery found in Catholic publications and manual redeployment, recontextualizing, and "remixing" in a Protestant religious context of that visual material, Gaudio argues, both served as a unique form of mediation on the image, and reflects the complex battle over the theology of images in pre-civil war England, representing the conflicted approach to imagery of the followers of Archbishop John Laud, situated in a delicate spot between the two poles of an iconophilia perceived as Roman Catholic and a Calvinist iconophobia. In "Ecstasy and the Cosmopolitan Soul," Richard Rambuss likewise tackles the complex religious environment of the English seventeenth century in investigating the religious poetry of Richard Crashaw. Rambuss highlights a number of evocative devices in Crashaw's body of devotional poems, especially those dedicated to the Spanish Carmelite Teresa of Avila, which are flavored by powerfully gendered language and a religious eroticism. Initially packaged for a nominally Anglican public but reedited and republished with his flight to the continent, conversion to Roman Catholicism, and death, the poems argue for a universal, trans-national and trans-confessional brotherhood of Christians unified in baptism. In the last and the chronologically latest essay in the collection, "An Idolatry of the Letter: Time, Devotion, and Siam in the Almanacs of the Sun King," Rebecca Zorach considers the printed images in propaganda almanacs that document the visit of a group of ambassadors of the King of Siam to the court of Louis XIV. Through these images recording the visit and the selection and treatment of diplomatic gifts, which invoked traditional Christian religious imagery of liturgical texts, relic veneration, and devotional works, a campaign of imagery was supported through which the practices of Christian devotion were extrapolated into a meditative devotion to the Sun King.

on of specific objects of study within the greater topic of the relationship between the arts and meditation, a few themes recur, including, for example the imitatio Christi, the concept of conformatio, and the Ignatian "composition of place"; the Jesuit tradition is particularly well-represented in this collection. The volume is satisfactorily illustrated, with 155 black and white figures throughout and a block of 10 color plates placed in the prefatory material. Given the number of contributions in this sizable collection, and their diversity as well as their commonalities, a thematic index or an index of persons and places would have been very helpful, but Melion's introduction does aid the reader in locating the essays most relevant to one's interests. This collection will be of interest to not only art and literature historians but scholars of religious history as well as the history of ideas.