- The Rothschild Canticles: art and mysticism in Flanders and the Rhineland circa 1300 (review)
- Australian and New Zealand Association of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Inc.)
- Volume 9, Number 2, December 1991
- p. pp. 157-158
- View Citation
Reviews 157 analysed as a quite different problem of empowerment to the obvious, a deconstruction which owes a great deal to Mauss's analysis of the gift and the problem of reciprocity. Halpern's conclusion is that Lear ends with society thrown back into feudal mode. Throughout Halpern is concerned to show that the discourse is developing concepts which are appropriate to Marx's idea of primitive accumulation; for example, the idea of surplus, exchange value, and use value. Sybil M . Jack Department of History University of Sydney Hamburger, Jeffrey F., The Rothschild Canticles: art and mysticism in Flanders and the Rhineland circa 1300, N e w Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1990; cloth; pp. xii, 336; 237 figures (12 colour, 225 monochrome; R.R.P. US$50.00. The volume takes its name from that of a recent owner, before the codex was acquired by Yale University Library and became its M S . 404. A codicological silhouette, complete with a diagram of the gatherings and a list of the illustrationsfillsappendices 4 and 5. The case is argued for Parts I and II of the manuscript as complementary, in spite of the divergent nature of the textual matter in each and of the disturbed gatherings in Part II. Both parts contain excerpta and,tikemany medievalflorilegia, the flowers here have been culled from the liturgy, the Bible and the Church Fathers. Those of the Part I resemble a series of spiritual soliloquies. All have been transcribed (in Appendix I), with sources indicated in most cases. The extracts of Part II are analysed but not transcribed in Appendix III. The subject matters they embrace are monstrous races, exempla, the Ten Commandments, signs of the Epiphany, the Assumption of the Virgin, and the like, while the sources are the Elucidarium of Honorius Augustodunensis, the Pharetra, the Bible, Augustine, John Chrysostom, Bernard and Bonaventure. It is, however, the illustrations in both parts thatrightlyattract the most attention from Hamburger. Seven substantial chapters are devoted to then iconography. H e represents the themes as prefatory, paradisical, Song of Songs, Marian, mystical union, Trinitarian and Vitae Patrum. Within each the reader finds a learned theoretical development section structured closely on the intenelation oftextand illustration or, in the case of miniatures withouttext,on the association of traditional icons with those in the Yale manuscript's programme. Limitations of space allow for categorization of only one of Hamburger's commentaries. Three prefatory miniatures depict the Palm of Contemplation with its seven branches or 'Steps of the mystical ascent'. This configuration is paralleled by a portrayal of the seven handmaidens of 158 Reviews Philosophy and Theology: the Liberal Arts. Hamburger reminds his reader that the 'study of the arts forms an essential precondition to mystical knowledge'. Art historians, in particular, will welcome the critic's linear and tangential approaches, as evidenced in his discussion of the Trinity miniatures. They are demonstrated to be firmly anchored in Biblical traditions, but also to exemplify mysticism and mystagogy, apophatic imagery, geometrical abstraction and anthropomorphism. In the light of suchtextualand pictorial illumination one may appropriately raise the question of the manuscript's patron. Hamburger believes it was a 'woman of aristocratic descent attached to a convent or a foundation of canonesses'. H e records a certain Dominican aura pervading the textual extracts, arising perhaps from the intervention of a Preaching Friar as a spiritual adviser. Three areas of concern about passages in Hamburger's exposition may also be mentioned. In the interest of accuracy there is little point in invoking extraneous apparatus, in this instance the form of the Oriental mandala (p. 128), if Christian artists had no knowledge of it. Characterizing the presence of thorns and Jews around the recumbent's bed in the Tree of Jesse icon, as an 'antiSemitic interpretation' (p. 91) is untoward. The accompanying text does proclaim positively the commonplace sicut spina protulit rosam, ita iudea mariam. Again, it is a shaky methodological approach to claim that artist Y of the year 1400 is said to 'anticipate' the work of artist Z who lived centuries after him (cf. p. 48). Does not the verb 'anticipate' imply an act of knowledge. The art work is by a competent painter...