Movement, Expression, and the Human Figure in Gothic Sculpture by Jacqueline Jung


Movement, Expression, and the Human Figure in Gothic Sculpture by Jacqueline Jung

The book has 6 chapters in addition to its introduction and conclusion:
1 Encountering the Gothic Sculpture: Mimesis, Kinetics, Haptic Engagement
2 Moving Bodies, Dynamic Perception: The Slowscapes of the Strasbourg South Transept Portal
3 Movement, Media & the Quest for Salvation: A Pillar for Thinking in the Strasbourg South Transept
4 From Motion to Emotion: Encounters with the Wise and Foolish Virgins
5 The Donor Figures of Naumburg Cathedral, Part I: Presence
6 The Donor Figures of Naumburg Cathedral, Part II: Meaning

This is a very focused discussion on sculpture in the round, specifically as used in the cathedrals in Strasbourg and Naumburg. The author does branch out to show other examples demonstrating the historical progression of the Wise & Foolish Virgin sculptures in the former Holy Roman Empire’s lands.

It’s wonderful to see a book that emphasizes the dimensionality of sculpture. Books on gothic sculpture often only show a single image from a single viewpoint (in fact, you’ll often see basically the same image/viewpoint of a particular sculpture in all books). The author’s done an excellent job of photographing the examples in the round, from various angles, showing how standing in different spots to view the sculpture changes what you see and sometimes even the meaning of the piece (the South transept tympanum at Strasbourg are a great example of this, with characters coming in and out of view as you move to the opposite sides).

The author is meticulous in her descriptions of the sculptures: their facial expressions, hand gestures, clothing. I was impressed with the level of detail. For example, Uta of Ballenstedt’s statue in Naumburg is wearing a crown with a hinge, indicating that it was meant to fold.

Chapter 6 didn’t interest me as much as the others. It’s an imagined Sic et Non wherein she tries to guess why the medieval planners of the cathedral chose to place the donor’s statues in the west choir. While it’s an interesting exercise, ultimately unless they’ve written their motivations down, it’s simply guesswork.

If you’re interested in medieval gothic sculpture or visiting one of the cathedrals discussed, it’s a great read. I took a ton of notes for my trip.

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