Books in art: the meaning and significance of images of books in Italian religious painting 1250–1400

McGrath, Anthony Charles Ormond (2012) Books in art: the meaning and significance of images of books in Italian religious painting 1250–1400. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis uses images of books in Italian art of the duecento and trecento as pictorial
evidence for the appearance of books and to establish a chronology for changes in the detail
and style of book-bindings during those two centuries. The conclusions from the pictorial
evidence is that there were material differences in the appearance of books in the duecento
and trecento and that gold tooling was used to decorate books from about 1320, a hundred
years earlier than previously thought. The thesis also considers how, and to what extent,
medieval viewers related to images of books and whether it is possible to identify individual
styles in the way artists represented books.

There are four case-studies that are used to investigate how images of books were used, and what religious, social, political and psychological purposes were served. Part of the
methodology is to identify and study those points of change when books appear or when the
way they are shown changes. This is in the belief that when circumstances alter, the artist
responds consciously and creatively rather than by imitation. A number of works of art are
studied in detail and the thesis proposes new interpretations for, inter alia, the Stefaneschi
Altarpiece, Guido de Graziano’sDossal of St Francis, theAnnunciation scene in the Arena
Chapel, the RucellaiMadonna, and the S Caterina Polyptych. The case-studies have
demonstrated that the image of a book was one of the most powerful visual signs, certainly
for the period and region to which this study has been devoted. It shows that in the decades
around 1300 the book became an established attribute in altarpieces, the book displaced the
rotullus as the symbol of authority, and the book became the dominant attribute of the
VirginMary in scenes of the Annunciation, displacing earlier formats. The book was the
symbol of learning and therefore a key attribute for the mendicant orders and especially the
Dominican Order.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > Art History
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR > N7560 Special subjects of art > N8217.B6 Books
N Fine Arts > ND Painting > ND1288 Special subjects > ND1430 Religious > ND1432.I8 Italy
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2012 14:09
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:50

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