Cover image for The Absent Image: Lacunae in Medieval Books By Elina Gertsman

The Absent Image

Lacunae in Medieval Books

Elina Gertsman

COMING IN JUNE

$124.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08784-9
Coming in June

264 pages
9" × 10"
49 color/71 b&w illustrations
2021

The Absent Image

Lacunae in Medieval Books

Elina Gertsman

“This is an intellectually ambitious, rigorously argued, and erudite book that explores visual strategies and their theoretical underpinnings of ‘empty spaces’ in medieval manuscripts. A must-read for scholars of medieval and northern Renaissance art and intellectual history.”

 

  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Bio
  • Subjects
Guided by Aristotelian theories, medieval philosophers believed that nature abhors a vacuum. Medieval art, according to modern scholars, abhors the same. The notion of horror vacui—the fear of empty space—is thus often construed as a definitive feature of Gothic material culture. In The Absent Image, Elina Gertsman argues that Gothic art, in its attempts to grapple with the unrepresentability of the invisible, actively engages emptiness, voids, gaps, holes, and erasures.

Exploring complex conversations among medieval philosophy, physics, mathematics, piety, and image-making, Gertsman explains how nothingness was understood in the medieval world and discusses the different forms that it takes: void, zero, and described by negation. With a special focus on murals and manuscripts, Gertsman studies these visually varied empty spaces. She considers the concept of nothingness in concert with the imaginary, investigates erasure and how it transforms an image, and looks at manuscripts that harbor holes and how they enact meaning for the viewer. These important factors, Gertsman argues, prompted profoundly inventive approaches to emptiness in late medieval visual culture, from ingenious images of the world’s creation ex nihilo to figurations of absence as a replacement for the invisible forces of conception and death.

Innovative and challenging, this book will find its primary audience with students and scholars of art, religion, physics, philosophy, and mathematics. It will be particularly welcomed by those interested in phenomenological and cross-disciplinary approaches to the visual culture of the later Middle Ages.

“This is an intellectually ambitious, rigorously argued, and erudite book that explores visual strategies and their theoretical underpinnings of ‘empty spaces’ in medieval manuscripts. A must-read for scholars of medieval and northern Renaissance art and intellectual history.”
“This is one of the most original books I have read—original in its conception and subject, in the materials studied and illustrated, in the numerous questions posed, and in its compelling conclusions. It is a potentially paradigm-shifting work that will affect how we perceive illustrated manuscripts and that should finally put to rest for art historians the ‘intentional fallacy’ long rejected by literary historians.”

Elina Gertsman is Professor of Art History and Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan Professor in Catholic Studies II at Case Western Reserve University. She is the author of the award-winning Worlds Within: Opening the Medieval Shrine Madonna, also published by Penn State University Press.