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Title: The early iconography of the 'Speculum Humanae Salvationis!' : the Italian connection in the fourteenth century
Author: Silber, Evelyn Ann
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1983
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The origin, character and early development of the SHS are re-examined in the context of the discovery of a group of fourteenth century Italian copies . The SHS was a bestseller during the later middle ages, especially north of the Alps ; it has been thought to have been written by a Dominican in Alsace in 1324, and barely to have reached Italy . The arguments for this view are shown to be ill-founded . Evidence is produced to show that a number of SHS mss . were produced in Italy, probably in Bologna, before 1350, and to have been dispersed to Germany, Bohemia, Hungary, southern France and Spain. This 'Bolognese' group comprises unpublished and misidentified mss. as well as the famous copy, Munich Bay. Stbib. clm.146, previously accepted as closest to the original. Its drawings are shown to depend on a Bolognese model and to be themselves Bolognese in character. The 'Bolognese' group mss. are examined in the context of later 14th century Italian copies, of northern mss. belonging to the same iconographic family, and of other early mss . which differ in character. It is argued that the hieratic, stark compositions typical of the 'Bolognese' mss. were dictated by their function as memory aids carrying the didactic message of the text. The intermittent survival of the full '~olognese' cycle well into the fifteenth century suggests that, ~here this function was understood, fidelity to the model could override contemporary stylistic considerations . Conversely the accretion of pictorial detail rapidly vitiated the original mnemonic role of the illustrations even while such detail enhanced the relationship of picture to text as a reminder of the stories told there. The origin of the SHS is reviewed in the light of these findings . The role of Italian mss . in the early dissemination of the text and miniature cycle was considerable, and some evidence (inconclusive) points to Italy as a possible place of origin for the SHS. The extant manuscript evidence strongly suggests that the composition of the book predates 1324. However it is suggested ~hat its localisation and author~hip are less significant for an understanding of its importance in late medieval art than a recognition of its international character . It crosses geographical, political, economic and class boundaries . It appealed to a clerical and lay audience over two hundred years through a combination of traditional teaching, innovatory devotional themes and lucid exposition. The author's sophisticated use of popular mnemonic techniques widely used in preaching - rhythm, rhyme and repetition - is parallelled by the early illustrator's use of their visual equivalents.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Arts