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Iconography on the Edge/s: constructing space and the sacred in Anglo-Saxon...

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Paul Mellon Centre

16 Bedford Square

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WC1B 3JA

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Research Lunch by Meg Boulton (University of York)

As is widely acknowledged, ideas of viewer, viewing and perception are an integral part of the study of art history in the Anglo-Saxon period. A central aspect of the development of visual culture in a Christian context throughout the Medieval period is the pervasive relationship between the earthly world and the heavenly kingdom. These two disparate sites of physical and metaphysical experience and imagining are linked by iconographical constants (re)imagined, (re)interpreted and (re)represented across the earthly Christian landscape and the material artworks which inscribe it. Drawing on ideas of the spatial, the temporal and the im/material, alongside a consideration of the role of the viewer, this lecture examines the forms and motifs of the constructed, carved and painted borders found across the Medieval world, exploring how the imagined space of the heavenly Kingdom was made viscerally present for the earth-bound viewer. Looking at several examples, including monumental mosaic programmes, carved stone monuments and painted pages this paper focuses on the role of marginal motifs found alongside more famous iconographic scenes. By focusing on these liminal, marginal aspects of art(works), I suggest there are a series of concrete textual, temporal and material motifs that allowed for the imagined construction and actualisation of heaven for theological informed viewers. Further, I suggest these motifs were developed in an anachronic idiom that reflects and refracts a broader imagined constant: a performative actualisation of the atemporal locus of the kingdom of heaven through the display of precious stones in the margins of ecclesiastical art.

Image credit: The Easby Cross, c.800-820, carved sandstone © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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Paul Mellon Centre

16 Bedford Square

London

WC1B 3JA

United Kingdom

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