Imagining the Human Condition in Medieval Rome
The Cistercian fresco cycle at Abbazia delle Tre Fontane
The first monograph on the Vita Humana cycle at Tre Fontane, this book includes an overview of the medieval history of the Roman Cistercian abbey and its architecture, as well as a consideration of the political and cultural standing of the abbey both within Papal Rome and within the Cistercian order. Furthermore, it considers the commission of the fresco cycle, the circumstances of its making, and its position within the art historical context of the Roman Duecento. Examining the unusual blend of images in the Vita Humana cycle, this study offers a more nuanced picture of the iconographic repertoire of medieval art. Since the discovery of the frescoes in the 1960s, the iconographic programme of the cycle has remained mysterious, and an adequate analysis of the Vita Humana cycle as a whole has so far been lacking. Kristin B. Aavitsland covers this gap in the scholarship on Roman art circa 1300, and also presents the first interpretative discussion of the frescoes that is up-to-date with the architectural investigations undertaken in the monastery around 2000. Aavitsland proposes a rationale behind the conception of the fresco cycle, thereby providing a key for understanding its iconography and shedding new light on thirteenth-century Cistercian culture.
Table of Contents
Contents: Preface; Introduction: the Vita Humana cycle at the abbey of Tre Fontana; Part I Contexts: The settings of the Vita Humana cycle; Learning, piety and the rhetoric of images. Part II Analyses: Paradise lost; The man in the tree of life; The eagles; The fisherman; The wheel of senses and the ages of man; The harvest of fruit in the garden of life; Birds and cages; The Vita Humana cycle: a visual florilegium? Concluding remarks; Bibliography; Index.
Kristin B. Aavitsland is an art historian and medievalist, engaged as a Fellow in the Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo, Norway.
'Overall, Aavitsland’s book is a tremendous contribution to the understudied subject of painting in medieval Rome. Ashgate is to be commended for this addition to their list of excellent recent titles exploring medieval Italy.' CAA Reviews
'The author brings an impressively wide range of iconographic comparative material to bear...' Burlington Magazine
'... Aavitsland takes the scholarship of Roman Duecento to a new level, and one that shows great promise. ... Aavitsland has not merely provided us with a new and compelling understanding of a fresco program that has remained enigmatic among art historians for half a century, but she has also given late-duecento painting in Rome the broader artistic and intellectual context that it so often has been denied.' Speculum