Imageon the edge: The margins of medieval art,is a scholarly document about medieval marginal sculptures. MichaelCamille explores some of these medieval sculptures and provides somemeanings into them. This response paper will provide a summary and anevaluation of the main points of Michael Camille’s argument in thisscholarly document.
Oneof the more specific examples of these medieval monuments thatCamille has pointed out is the cloister of the Benedictine Abbey ofLa Daurade. It was located at the center of the city of Toulouse aplace of ritual purity and worldly corruption (Camille, 1992). In theearly 19th century, however, these ancient monastic buildings weredestroyed, but the remarkable ruins of the Abbey still survive. Theyare currently in the Toulouse museum. The monument was arepresentation of the narrative transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew17 and depicts Jesus and the prophets, Moses and Elijah.
Anotherancient monument focuses by Camille was the Cistercian Bernard ofClairvaux. It refers to gesticulating bodies of a tumbler and amusician flanked by two spectators. This Romanesque representationwas placed outside the sacred archivolt of the church at Civray.Camille thinks that the kind of meaning that can be found in thissculpture is that to the rich, we are an object of reproach and tothe proud, ridicule. The spectators, jongieur and acrobat stonevoussoir, at the Church of St Nicholas in Civray, is another examplehighlighted in this book. Other examples of ancient ‘marginal’monuments highlighted include the monument of Cain and Abel and theeater, Josephus’ Antiqurities by Samuel the scribe. This is foundat St. John’s College, in Cambridge. Others are the man-eating vineat the Cloister capital in Montmajour Abbey, the Carnival of animals,and Elders of the Apocalypse and saints. Also included are the Corbelcreatures, the Mock Mass, and the Thing on the corner, all of them atthe Church of St. Pierre in Attlnay-de-Saintonge (Camille, 1992).
Inhis suggestive study of late medieval manuscripts and monuments,Michael Camille finds a transitional and divided mentality. Thissituation ensured that these medieval monuments did not have stablesingle meanings, but instead many different interpretations.Different scholars can interpret them differently. Many of thesecarvings and paintings seem less useful and are the differentscholars looked at them in generalized views as mere decorationswhich do not clearly communicate the details intended by the artistor carver. They could see them as charming, comical and othersastonishing, but Camille provides a different use for them. Accordingto him, during this era, the unitary certainties of religion andfeudalism were being countered by a rise in humanism in art andthought. There was a strong sense of kingship coupled with anincrease in the influence exerted by merchants and artists (Camille,1992).. However, the old system of unities was still intact, andinstead of the two differing systems coming into conflict, theyco-existed for some time. However, gradually, it was inevitable thatone would be confronted and overthrown. To support his conclusion,Camille provides sufficient evidence. He provides a wide range of theexamples of these monuments and their locations as pointed out above.This is good evidence, and as a reader, I was convinced.
Theimage makers during this era of medieval monuments and monasteriesfocused on the excluded and the ejected aspects of the society. Intheir works, the peasants, prostitutes, servants, and beggars hadtheir place along with knights and clerics. Camille has succeeded inmaking us understand medieval marginality, and how art during thistime was scandalous, amazing and subversive.
Camille,M. (1992). Imageon the edge: The margins of medieval art.
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