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  • Author or Editor: Patricia Strohmaier x
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Carved, embroidered, painted. Effectual strategies of late medieval devotional images. Based on the assumption that the late medieval tension between the desire for God’s grace (Heilssehnsucht) and the uncertainty of it (Heilsunsicherheit) influenced devotional art, the article focuses on three late medieval images designed for private devotional use. A prayer nut carved from boxwood, a triptych embroidered with silk, gold and silver, and the Leipzig Man of Sorrows by the so-called Master Francke all show a popular image of the late Middle Ages, the Man of Sorrows surrounded by the instruments of the Passion. They all make use of techniques to create both closeness and distance to what they represent. The images pull the beholder close through a multitude of details, a realistic style and the illusion of the Man of Sorrows being palpably present, to the point of triggering an impulse to touch him. At the same time, they fail to provide the closeness they suggest. The border between the beholder’s sphere and that of the Christ represented, marked by the necessity to open the objects first, cannot be crossed. Blurred details, overlappings and the impossibility to touch the fine artworks, lest they be impaired, push the beholder away, leaving the contemplation of the presented image to his or her inner eye instead. This fine balance designed to induce devotion gets lost in the modern era when the images’ skilfulness becomes the main motive for admiration.

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