Binding the Absent Body in Medieval and Modern Art
Abject, virtual, and alternate bodies
This collection of essays considers artistic works that deal with the body without a visual representation. It explores a range of ways to represent this absence of the figure: from abject elements such as bodily fluids and waste to surrogate forms including reliquaries, manuscripts, and cloth. The collection focuses on two eras, medieval and modern, when images referencing the absent body have been far more prolific in the history of art. In medieval times, works of art became direct references to the absent corporal essence of a divine being, like Christ, or were used as devotional aids. By contrast, in the modern era artists often reject depictions of the physical body in order to distance themselves from the history of the idealized human form. Through these essays, it becomes apparent, even when the body is not visible in a work of art, it is often still present tangentially. Though the essays in this volume bridge two historical periods, they have coherent thematic links dealing with abjection, embodiment, and phenomenology. Whether figurative or abstract, sacred or secular, medieval or modern, the body maintains a presence in these works even when it is not at first apparent.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
List of Figures
List of Tables
Notes on Contributors
Emily Kelley and Elizabeth Richards Rivenbark
The Abject Body
Chapter 1: Blood, Sweat, Tears, and Milk: ‘Fluid’ Veneration in Medieval Devotional Art
Chapter 2: "No Living Presence": Human Absence in the Early Work of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg
The Virtual Body
Chapter 3: Maria Ecclesia: The Aachen Marienschrein as an Alternate Body for the Virgin Mary
Chapter 4: Drawn to Scale: The Medieval Monastic’s Virtual Pilgrimage through Sacred Measurement
Chapter 5: Cloth as a Sign of the Absent Body in American Sculpture from the 1960s
Elizabeth Richards Rivenbark
The Alternate Body
Chapter 6: Imagining the Sorrows of Death and Pains of Hell in the Hours of Catherine of Cleves
Chapter 7: The Absent Body as Divine Reflection in Parmigianino’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
Chapter 8: A Clear Preoccupation with Death: The Absent Body in Mark Rothko’s Mature Style
Michael R. Smith, Jr.
Emily Kelley is Associate Professor of Art History at Saginaw Valley State University. Her research examines mercantile patronage in late medieval Spain. She has published in the Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies and the Hispanic Research Journal. She is co-editor of Mendicants and Merchants in the Medieval Mediterranean (Brill, 2013).
Elizabeth Richards Rivenbark is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of South Alabama. She has published essays on American art in the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries with special interests in gender studies, war imagery, and the body. Her essays appear in Artibus et Historiae, the Women’s Art Journal, and The SECAC Review.