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  • Temporality and Mediality in Late Medieval and Early Modern Culture ed. by Christian Kiening, and Martina Stercken
  • Frank Swannack
Kiening, Christian, and Martina Stercken, eds, Temporality and Mediality in Late Medieval and Early Modern Culture (Cursor Mundi, 32), Turnhout, Brepols, 2018; hardback; pp. x, 257; 50 b/w illustrations; R.R.P. €75.00; ISBN 9782503551302

Editors Christian Kiening and Martina Stercken focus their volume 'on the period around 1500' (p. 3). They argue that the 1500 period engages in a crucial temporal intersection of medieval and early modern mediality. The essays collected also reflect a recent trend in academic studies of the medieval period's important influence on early modern texts.

Temporality and Mediality in Late Medieval and Early Modern Culture begins with Barbara Schellewald's analysis of the Cappella della Madonna dei Mascoli mosaic in St Mark's, Venice. The mosaic's depiction of celestial light represented by gold ground captures shifting light within the medieval church, to imply a viewer's engagement with 'sacred time' (p. 33). Schellewald makes an interesting observation that during the fifteenth century scientific advancements in optics led to gold ground being abandoned in images. The mosaic's traditional use of medieval gold ground, conversely, transcends early modern scientific developments.

Marius Rimmele examines the symbolic folding and unfolding structures of religious triptychs in late medieval Antwerp and Cologne. Space and time are collapsed and extended so that the viewer either becomes part of the painting's spiritual world, or the 3D triptych infiltrates the viewer's temporal reality.

The mediation of heavenly and earthly space and time is also the backbone of Britta Dümpelmann's study of St Mary's altarpiece by Veit Stoss in Kraców. By studying sculpture rather than paintings, Dümpelmann argues that touch is more important than sight. By 1500, the medieval sinful sexual connotations of touch are displaced by notions of embodiment and disembodiment. Heavenly and earthly time merge in the tangible visible spectacle of St Mary's sculpture.

Kiening's contribution identifies how medieval salvation history mediates past, present, and future temporalities through the mortal and divine notions of the Passion. Examining texts of Christian pilgrimages to Palestine, Kiening infers that spiritual experiences contained by time and space are dwarfed by an eternal perspective. [End Page 221]

Stercken explores Gerhard Mercator's world map of 1569. The common critical assumption is that Mercator's famous map showcases technical advancement over medieval cartography. Stercken argues that the medieval influence on Mercator of mediating time in pictorial and textual map-making has been ignored by academics. Mercator follows the encyclopaedic mappae mundi by inserting images of exotic beasts and written histories of newly discovered regions. He also uses early modern scientific technologies to augment his new map. As Stercken notes, Mercator borrows liberally from medieval traditions and early modern advancements to create a world map demonstrating universal knowledge that transcends time and space.

Anja Rathmann-Lutz examines the Rudimentum Novitiorum (1475) through its innovative use of discontinuous text, pictorial family trees, charts, and illustrations. As Rathmann-Lutz argues, critics of the compendium have previously failed to acknowledge the Rudimentum Novitiorum's similarity to earlier illustrative histories. Readers are encouraged to flip back and forth through the compendium's different timelines to experience history as a form of medieval time travel.

Marcus Sandl tackles the relationship between prophecies and prophets. He utilizes the medieval theological concept of the figura to argue that the prophet negotiates transition. Time is mediated through a prophetic exchange charting 'salvation history' (p. 221). The prophet's historical and theological knowledge is reinterpreted in an age of reformation obsessed with accumulating wealth, goods, commodities and information.

To close the volume, Aleksandra Prica examines the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, printed in 1499. The close relationship between life and literature informs the essay, and Prica's main interest in the text lies with a particular form of allegorical interpretation. Meaning in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is created by a resonance of 'lingering', a literary conceit signified by narrative stasis or an accumulation of historical knowledge (p. 230), especially, as Prica argues, when the text encounters architectural ruins. The twin narrative functions of historical stagnation and tragedy become...


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