Binding the Absent Body in Medieval and Modern Art : Abject, virtual, and alternate bodies book cover
1st Edition

Binding the Absent Body in Medieval and Modern Art
Abject, virtual, and alternate bodies

ISBN 9780367200169
Published May 23, 2019 by Routledge
200 Pages 35 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

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

Vibeke Olson

Chapter 2: "No Living Presence": Human Absence in the Early Work of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg

Rebekah Scoggins

The Virtual Body

Chapter 3: Maria Ecclesia: The Aachen Marienschrein as an Alternate Body for the Virgin Mary

Lisa Ciresi

Chapter 4: Drawn to Scale: The Medieval Monastic’s Virtual Pilgrimage through Sacred Measurement

Natalie Mandziuk

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

Jennifer Feltman

Chapter 7: The Absent Body as Divine Reflection in Parmigianino’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

Margaret Morse

Chapter 8: A Clear Preoccupation with Death: The Absent Body in Mark Rothko’s Mature Style

Michael R. Smith, Jr.



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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.