Getting Started.

I’m not a fan of religious imagery and especially not from that period of time. It does nothing for me because I just can ‘t relate to it. But then, that’s probably a huge thing with art – the fact you can relate to it means it’s relevant and therefore significant. It’s the significance bit which elevates it to a place of importance…and ultimately raises its price. I suppose the trick for all artists is to be relevant to the right people. Knowing your audience appears to be more of a thing among writers – something I’ve read on many occasions. There doesn’t seem to be as much emphasis on visual art being a commodity and yet it’s clearly an incredibly lucrative market. Maybe the visual arts are still seen as something which is supposed to be done for the sake of creativity. You do it for love, not the money. Although the ghost of Andy Warhol would beg to differ, I’m sure.

I’m reading how the role of imagery within the church was debated between the 6th and 16th centuries. The arguments would swing back and forth between those in favour who felt imagery was an effective way of strengthening devotion and worship, to those who felt it encouraged idolatry. I can’t help but think of Instagram and how the symbolic intent of any image is now largely ignored in favour of glorifying the person posting it. I’m also wondering how the next round of iconoclasm will play out… will they burn magazines and posters…or maybe social media sites which rely heavily on imagery will be ditched in favour of those which emphasise the written word. The excessive attention given to the cult of celebrity and the meteoric rise in popularity of the selfie is bound to see pushback at some point surely? Or maybe not… the public have always had their icons and artists have long-since dabbled in the self-portrait (think Rembrandt and later Frida Kahlo to name just two). Maybe what we’re seeing is no more than a natural progression from what has already been deemed acceptable by the upper echelons so many moons ago.

Anyway, I finally finished working my way through the first chapter last night and a couple of things I did find interesting:

i) The Bible of the Poor, or Biblia Pauperum was a term used for a very basic block-book originating in the mid-1460s. The books were printed using a single woodblock per page and consisted of a central new testament scene with an old testament incident to either side of it. It actually existed in handwritten format from the 1300s onwards but neither format was designed to be used by the poor. They were produced for wealthy laypeople and some of the clergy.

ii) The complexity and quality of art which has managed to survive since the 15th century. I was particularly enthralled by a statue from the mid-fifteenth century by an unknown artist. I couldn’t get a clearer image from the net and this one simply ain’t doing it justice.

Christ as Man of Sorrows (alabaster)
Christ as a Man of Sorrows, mid-15th century. Alabaster, 40 cm high. Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp, Belgium. Photo: Jean-Luc Elias/KIK-IRPA, Brussels.

Gregory the Great, a sixth-century pope, granted an indulgence to all who viewed an image representing Christ as a Man of Sorrows. A person would usually have to recite prayers to lay claim to the indulgence. Rather than its common usage today, an indulgence was a way to reduce the amount of suffering for sin committed during a lifetime to ensure a speedier passage to heaven upon death. The sale of which, yes, these indulgences were sold, became a widely abused practice.

Philosophy for this week is a re-read of a chapter on The Self. I actually managed to do it the week before last but realised I needed to be meticulous in my note-keeping if I actually want to pass the exam next year. I’m fighting the urge to nap. I have a cake to make in honour of a friend’s birthday and ginger biscuits for Savannah who is having her first chemo session as I type. It’s a rainy and damp day which is doing nothing for my psyche whatsoever. Oh, and youngest son pulled a sicky from school; blamed a ‘migraine’ which always pisses me off but it does mean I’ll be saving myself a trip to the shop because he can go instead.

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