1st Edition

The Viewer and the Printed Image in Late Medieval Europe

By David S. Areford Copyright 2010
    346 Pages
    by Routledge

    346 Pages
    by Routledge

    Structured around in-depth and interconnected case studies and driven by a methodology of material, contextual, and iconographic analysis, this book argues that early European single-sheet prints, in both the north and south, are best understood as highly accessible objects shaped and framed by individual viewers. Author David Areford offers a synthetic historical narrative of early prints that stresses their unusual material nature, as well as their accessibility to a variety of viewers, both lay and monastic. This volume represents a shift in the study of the early printed image, one that mirrors the widespread movement in art history away from issues of production, style, and the artist toward issues of reception, function, and the viewer. Areford's approach is intensely grounded in the object, especially the unacknowledged material complexity of the print as a portable, malleable, and accessible image that depended on a response that was not only visual but often physical, emotional, and psychological. Recognizing that early prints were not primarily designed for aesthetic appreciation, the author analyzes how their meanings stemmed from specific functions involving private devotion, protection, indulgences, the cult of saints, pilgrimage, exorcism, the art of memory, and anti-Semitic propaganda. Although the medium's first century was clearly transitional and experimental, Areford explores how its potential to impact viewers in new ways”both positive and negative”was quickly realized.

    Contents: Introduction: the aura of the printed image; The materiality of the printed image; Acts of viewing; The ship and the skeleton: the prints of Jacopo Rubieri; Little Simon's body; Printing the side wound of Christ; Epilogue; Bibliography; Index.


    David S. Areford is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Massachusetts Boston, USA. He is coeditor of Excavating the Medieval Image and coauthor of Origins of European Printmaking: Fifteenth-Century Woodcuts and Their Public.

    Prize: Honorable Mention for the IFPDA Book Award, 2011

    'Areford's compelling study restores to early prints, Italian as well as northern European, the urgency, vitality and interest that they commanded of their late medieval viewers. Learned, yet lively, his book breaks down barriers between high and low, and, most of all, for the modern viewer schooled to disregard popular printed imagery, between past and present ways of seeing.' Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Harvard University, USA

    'This book is a major contribution to the study of European prints, meticulously bringing together many fascinating fifteenth-century examples to build a sustained discussion of their use in medieval and early modern religious life. Areford examines the hand embellishments - ranging from painting on colors to cutting out printed figures deemed extraneous - present in many of these prints, and links them to the devotional practices, visual habits, and communal concerns of their early viewers.' Lisa Pon, Southern Methodist University, USA

    ’This is a splendid book, copiously illustrated and clearly and engagingly argued. While medievalists will relish it, anyone with an interest in prints or religious art will learn a great deal from it.’ The Art Newspaper '... important and thoroughly researched study...' Renaissance Quarterly

    '... pursues the new directions in scholarship and generates an original, compelling, accessible, and thought-provoking contribution to the study of the visual world of the fifteenth century... the book contains some of the most satisfying art historical writing I have come across for a good while - clear, evocative, and firmly engaged with the images... deserves a wide audience.' Oxford Art Journal