Going in Eremo: Withdrawal and the Eremitic Ideal in NY, P. Morgan Library, MS. M.626

Research Seminar

  • Online event via Zoom
  • Date: Nov 5, 2020
  • Time: 04:30 PM - 05:30 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Denva Gallant
  • Host: Bibliotheca Hertziana - Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte
  • Contact: rossi@biblhertz.it
Going in Eremo: Withdrawal and the Eremitic Ideal in NY, P. Morgan Library, MS. M.626
At the turn of the fourteenth century, eremitic life—typified by the third and fourth century saints known as the Desert Fathers—was presented as a spiritual ideal not only for mendicant friars but also for the laity who were encouraged to withdraw to their own "desert", any space where they could connect with God. Art historians have traditionally explored the significance of the Desert Fathers by examining wall and panel paintings, while illustrated copies of the tradition’s fundamental text have gone largely unremarked.

This talk introduces (NY, P. Morgan Library, MS. M.626), an illuminated manuscript of the Vitae patrum and considers the role of withdrawal in the desert saint's spiritual journey. It shows how MS. M.626 teaches the fourteenth-century viewer to cultivate a rich inner life by including images that depict the saint’s gradational path toward isolation and seclusion. I argue that rather than exhorting the viewer to withdraw to the wilderness—a step that would have been impractical for viewers in Italy’s urban centers—the illuminations seek to instill the virtue of total reliance in God and inspire them to compunction.

Denva Gallant is a specialist in European medieval art and architecture, with an emphasis on manuscript illumination and the figural arts of the Trecento. Her scholarly work explores themes of narrative and the rise of the eremitic ideal as exemplum virtutis.

For participation via zoom, please find the link HERE
(no registration required)

Scientific Organization: Antonino Tranchina

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