Iris Brahms (Kunsthistorisches Institut Berlin)

Self-Reflection and Imagination. Visual Concepts of Body and Soul around 1600

In medieval depictions, the soul – embodied by a little angel – escapes from Mary’s mouth to signify her death. But what happens later once this metaphor is not applicable any longer? My lecture will consider Italian drawings from around 1600; they were created during a controversial time in which theological concepts clashed irreconcilably with philosophical and astronomical conclusions. The question of whether Mary was bodily resurrected or not was, for instance, central during the Counter-Reformation. In what way is the soul or an ensouled state depicted at this time? How do we recognize the transient between life and death in the picture? How did the transition from the ontological to the metaphysical come about in artistic representations? To discuss these questions based on drawings poses an uneven challenge since this medium is determined by its own abstraction. Does this abstraction bring more certainty or uncertainty when it comes to the question of the conference: “How is the relation of the soul to the body to be thought and what determines the self?”


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