Art of Documentation: The Sherborne Missal and the Role of Documents in English Medieval Art

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Art of Documentation: The Sherborne Missal and the Role of Documents in English Medieval Art

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Title: Art of Documentation: The Sherborne Missal and the Role of Documents in English Medieval Art
Author: Berenbeim, Jessica
Citation: Berenbeim, Jessica. 2012. Art of Documentation: The Sherborne Missal and the Role of Documents in English Medieval Art. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation considers an unfamiliar but fundamental aspect of late-medieval art: the role of documentation. Documents played as critical a part in that society as they do in our own. In late-medieval consciousness, the charter loomed as large as the sacred image, and documentation mattered no less than devotion—while the two also had a profound and inextricable connection. Discussion begins with three principal arguments, explained in detail in the first chapter: 1. The materials of documentation are part of the history of art; and accordingly, art-historical methods render an important contribution to diplomatics. 2. Documents are an important subject of representation; and accordingly, works of art are important sources for the cultural reception of documentary practices. 3. Documents are an important model for representation; and, consequently, an understanding of the paradigmatic role of the document suggests an alternative dimension to the interpretation of late-medieval art. The chapters that follow pursue these arguments through the analysis of individual works of art—charters, seals, archival manuscripts, liturgical manuscripts, architecture, and sculpture. These chapters also include a study of one of the great monuments of English gothic art: the Sherborne Missal, produced c.1400 for the Benedictine abbey of Sherborne. Ideas of documentation constitute critical aspects both of the Missal’s subject matter and its modes of representation, and these “documentary” elements also relate closely to the larger ideological project of the Missal’s creators. As details of the manuscript’s patronage, illumination, liturgy, inscriptions, and codicology all demonstrate, its creators associated documentation with central religious ideas about devotional images and the eucharist—essentially, the nature of valid representation and effective action. In keeping with the regional and institutional context of this principal study, the other objects discussed come primarily from English religious institutions. That context, however, by no means implies that the importance of documentation is limited either to England or to the conventual sphere, although it manifests itself differently from place to place and from one estate to another. The studies in this thesis represent only one example of where its arguments might lead, and what its approach might reveal in other works of art.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10336860
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