CFP: Picturing Death 1200-1600 (Edited Volume)

Date/Deadline: September 1, 2016

Picturing Death 1200-1600
Proposals sought for a peer-reviewed edited volume

The glut of pictures of and for death has long been associated with the Middle Ages in the popular imagination. In reality, however, these images thrived in Europe in a much more concentrated period of time that straddles the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, as conventionally defined. Macabre artifacts ranging from monumental transi tombs to memento mori baubles, gory depictions of the death and torment of sacred figure as well as of the souls of the lay, gruesome medical and pharmacological illustrations, all proliferate in tandem with less unsettling works such as supplicant donor portraits and chantry chapels, with the shared purpose of mitigating the horrors of death and the post-mortem state. The period in question is bracketed by two major moments in European cultural history. At its end is the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, which altered Europeans’ approach to death. The beginning, 1200, is marked by the culmination of a conceptual shift that Jacques le Goff termed the spatialization, or more famously, birth of Purgatory.

Le Goff observed that in the second half of the twelfth century a hitherto vague and changing idea about a third place for the dead coalesced into a notion of a concrete locale for posthumous penance and spiritual cleansing. Crucially, this fixed “third place”—Purgatory—was subject to the influence of the living. This perception altered the relationship between the living and the dead in Europe, spawning a complex economy of Salvation. First embraced in a 1254 letter by Pope Innocent IV, belief in the efficacy of prayer in addressing the plight of the souls in Purgatory became official Church doctrine at the Council of Lyons in 1274, and was subsequently affirmed, repeatedly, through the Council of Trent (1545-1563). The influence of the Salvation economy on image making is unmistakable.

The purpose of the present volume is to further probe the many open questions still surrounding the logic and purpose of Salvation-industry imagery, and especially to explore connections hitherto obscured by artificial modern divides of periodization, national school, and perceived aesthetic merit. We ultimately seek to raise an ambitious question: Was the new sense of agency in the face of death a major driving force behind the phenomenon now known as the Renaissance? Numerous images from the period 1200-1600 are directly related to this newfound economy of Salvation, likely accounting for a substantial portion of the era’s dramatic quantitative expansion in artistic production. The qualitative change that followed, from heighted interest in realism to an obsession with affective engagement, likewise seems curiously entwined with that economy. We seek chapters on any objects or questions that may contribute to our understanding of these broader themes.

Please send a 500-word abstract and a short CV by September 1, 2016 to the editors:
Stephen Perkinson
Noa Turel

Article deadline: December 1, 2016
Article length: c. 4,000 words
Publication, in Brill's Studies on Art, Art History, and Intellectual History series is projected for late 2017