Schermo e porta: due esempi di imago agens nel Medioevo cristiano

Carla Maria Bino


In recent years the idea of ‘performative vision’ has been at the heart of international medieval studies. Such studies, embracing an interdisciplinary approach and re-reading sources and documents from a variety of different perspectives, have been particularly concerned with the meaning of representation and questions of how representation works, in an attempt to rethink radically the status of images and their relationship with the spectator. The paper considers two examples of imagines agentes which stand for two different kinds of ‘performative vision’. The first example concerns the so-called fastentuch, a large and painted cloth used to conceal the altar area during the days of Lent in Catholic churches, especially in German-speaking countries. It is an image which closes (or encloses) the audience’s view and, at the same time, it shows them the history of Salvation, making that narrative active and dynamic. I call it image-screen. The second example concerns the so-called Vierge Ouvrante, an opening sculpture of the Madonna with Child, widespread in Europe from the 13th century on. This is an image that opens its own body to show another image hidden in it. I call it image-door. Both these images were intended to play a specific action during a specific liturgical time, in order to create different relationships with the faithful involved in as many ‘rituals of gazing’.

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