Martin Roland deposited Martin Roland, Performance and Image Cycles. How the Middle Ages use the ‘Popular Style’ (2022) in the group Medieval Art on Humanities Commons 3 months, 4 weeks ago
Paintings are usually not animated. But: Painters want to tell stories and therefore have cre-ated methods to induce a performance within the viewer’s imagination. An especially apt media for such approaches is book illumination because it is possible to sequence a story into many separate scenes. This happened from Late Antiquity onwards.
I present examples from the Late Middle-Ages, which have a lot in common with methods used in modern comics. Two richly illustrated storylines – both hagiographic dilatations of biblical narratives – stand for a presumably much broader phenomenon: Contents full of sex and crime, folksy language and hauntingly animated images are tools to reach (and all too often also to mislead) the fascinated public.
The first example (Sex on the Noah’s Ark) consists of a sequence of twelve separately framed images situated within a constantly repeated stage setting (the arc). There is strong evi-dence that the author, Jans of Vienna, used an existing medieval play as inspiration for this specific episode within his ‘Weltchronik’. The text mainly consists of stage directions and direct speech.
The second example, also from Vienna and also from 1250/1350, makes use of much more elevated language. The unknown author (Österreichischer Bibelübersetzer) translates, comments and expands the narrative of the gospels. The passion and two extra-biblical affil-iations (Flight to Egypt, Judas Iscariot) are featured as ‘animated’ image cycles. An en-thralling sequence of action fills the margins of the parchment mirroring the very dense nar-rative text.
Popular concepts of narration – in word, image, and performance – are often used by edu-cated elites to mislead the public – in the Middle-Ages and today. The very direct approach toward sexual lust during the deluge is a rare exception: Neither swinging a moral club nor hate or biases are intended. Both the author and illustrator are astonishingly open-minded and sympathetic to those who trespassed.