LECTURE: Praying and Meditating With and Through Images in the Late Medieval Low Countries

On 19 October 2022, Ingrid Falque (Université catholique de Louvain) will speak about praying and meditating with and through images at the inaugural meeting of the IMEMS research strand 'Spiritual Writings from the Low Countries (1200-1550): Context, Influence and Transmission'.

In this lecture dedicated to early Netherlandish paintings, Ingrid Falque will explore several artworks in which devotees (both lay and religious persons) are depicted in prayer. By studying the visual strategies of these paintings alongside contemporary spiritual texts of the Low Countries, she will bring to light the strong convergences between late medieval pictorial and textual conventions related to spiritual progression. More precisely, in the first part of the lecture, she will try to demonstrate that the structuring of the pictorial space in paintings with devotional portraits leads to a complex interplay of differentiation, gradation or fusion between the sacred and secular zones and figures of the composition, a fact that is usually underestimated by art historians. In addition, she proposes to explore some paintings with portraits of Carthusians monks in order to investigate the role of the cell as the solitary locus of Carthusian image-based meditative practices during the late Middle Ages. The Carthusians conceived the cell as a solitary but also a secret place, the only one in which they can achieve their purpose on life, that is contemplation of God. In order to facilitate their meditative practices, they could use devotional images. After focusing on Carthusian texts dealing with the importance of the cell in Carthusian spirituality, she considers the use and function of such images by Carthusian monks in their cells, in order to show that they can be seen as images of the monks’ soul ‘metaphorised’ into a cloister wherein they experience mystical union with God.

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