Elliott Wise

Colloquium: Elliott Wise

Date(s) - 12/06/2018
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

3108 JKB


Please join us for the final colloquium of the semester given by Assistant Professor Elliott Wise, Comparative Arts & Letters, on Thursday, December 6th at 3:00 PM in 4010 JFSB. He will be discussing his current research on the history of religious art.

 Title: “Amber, Blood, and the Holy Face of Jesus: The Materiality of Devotion in Late Medieval Bruges”

One of the hallmarks of the cosmopolitan city of Bruges in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was its thriving amber industry.  Bruges enjoyed a special relationship with the Order of Teutonic Knights that monopolized the export of Baltic amber.  Sadly, very few of the small-scale sculptures and rosary beads produced by Bruges’s amber workshops have survived.  In fact, there are only four extant amber carvings from the late Middle Ages, three of which depict frontal portraits of Christ’s head.  Known as the “Holy Face of Jesus,” this image type has a rich devotional and exegetical tradition in Christian visual piety.  This colloquium will investigate the spiritual rationale for carving these images from amber.  In addition to its monetary value, the red-orange, semi-translucent substance of amber encapsulated cultic power through its likeness to blood.  Pliny identified amber as fossilized resin, exuded like blood from trees, and medieval accounts of amber’s warmth, sweet scent, and healing properties pointedly evoke Christ’s blood.  Significantly, the archetypal image of the Holy Face of Jesus was itself made from blood, when Jesus pressed his wounded countenance onto St. Veronica’s towel.  More importantly, the amber Holy Faces—carved from blood-like resin—mimicked the preeminent relic of Bruges: a vial of Christ’s blood, which was believed to miraculously liquify and solidify in its rock-crystal vial, like a fragment of metamorphosing amber.​

Refreshments will be served.

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