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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32009

Title: "Tears of Compunction": French Gothic Ivories in Devotional Practice
Authors: Guerin, Sarah Margaret
Advisor: Cohen, Adam S.
Department: History of Art
Keywords: Ivory
Medieval Art
Trade Routes
Thirteenth Century
Spiritual Exercises
Private Devotion
Issue Date: 17-Jan-2012
Abstract: This dissertation presents a new perspective on the function of objects in late-medieval devotional practice through a study of the so-called Soissons group of thirteenth-century French Gothic ivories. These ivory diptychs were sophisticated tools constructed to guide the user through various spiritual exercises that led to prayer. The hitherto unexplained increase in the availability of ivory in mid-thirteenth-century France is accounted for by an alteration in the trade routes that brought elephant tusks from the Swahili coast of Africa to northern Europe: a newly-opened passage through the Straits of Gibraltar allowed a small amount of luxury goods to be shipped together with bulk materials necessary to the northern textile industries. The increasing supply required a revision of the structure of the thirteenth-century craft of ivory. The Soissons group, the first ivory diptychs fashioned during this time of growth in ivory markets, is subdivided into two sections. An itinerant master who traveled throughout the Picard region between 1235 and 1270 crafted the first group. Concurrently, three separate Parisian artists produced the second group based on a Picard model. This dissertation redates all the ivories substantially earlier than previously thought, conclusions which were attained through stylistic analysis. The dense Passion iconography shaped the diptychs’ function in private devotion. The narrative encouraged the viewer to practice a number of spiritual exercises—reading, memorization and compunction—analogous to the three reasons for allowing images in the Christian Church, the triplex ratio. The Passion diptych format introduced with these objects was immensely popular throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and its conservation over time underscored its effectiveness. The small differences in iconography and composition among the seven Soissons diptychs, however, were subtle modifications to adjust to different audiences and to hone the objects’ efficacy as tools for prayer.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32009
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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