Session 17 (Free Papers): Iconography and organology

Tuesday, 6 July 2021, 14.30-16.30, Room A224 | Chair: Tim Shephard (University of Sheffield)

Musical instruments as an image of peccata linguae in Christian medieval iconography | Dominika Grabiec (Institute of Art Polish Academy of Sciences)

The musical instruments had often ambivalent meaning in medieval Christian iconography, they could appear in the hands of the angels and the demons, in realistic or figurative context. One of the examples of a symbolic meaning seem to be scenes of Mocking of Christ in medieval Tuscan painting. The musical motif was borrowed by Italian artists probably from Byzantine art, where Mocking scenes included groups of various musicians and dancers. The only musical instrument that appears in Italian paintings is horn. There are several possibilities of interpretation of the role and meaning of the instrument in this context and one of them is visualisation of human speech, and precisely derisions. The Italian Mocking scenes reflect very faithfully evangelical narration and the only element of the description lacking in the pictures are just the words of derision. And the horn is the only motif in the scenes, that is not mentioned by the Evangelists.

Such a possibility of interpretation can also be justified by the existence of the other examples of the aerophones symbolizing human sinful speech in medieval iconography: the miniatures in the Prayer Book attributed to St. Hildegard of Bingen (12th c.), where in the cycle of Eight Blessings and Curses, the sinners have a kind of demoniac flutes protruding from their mouths, and the miniatures in The Pilgrimage of the Soul, written by French Cistercian monk, Guillaume de Deguileville (14th c.), showing the Pride, the Boast and the Flattery with a horn as their attribute.

These examples indicate one more, interesting context in which musical instruments appeared in medieval iconography and which connotations could their sound have in medieval theological thought.

The organ in early music theory? The Lambertus diagrams | Barbara H. Haggh-Huglo (University of Maryland, College Park)

Paris, BnF, lat. 11266 is thought to date from 1275-1290, probably after 1280, and is claimed by Mark Everist to be of Parisian origin, though he argues that its layer of seven three-voice motets was copied under the influence of Franco of Cologne’s Ars cantus mensurabilis. Of great interest is a diagram in the treatise of Magister Lambertus/Aristoteles on folio 31rb, which depicts a series of vertical lines that are rests drawn on five staff lines. These rests are disposed exactly like the pipes of the oldest playable organ in the Basilica of Valère in Sion, Switzerland, of which twelve date from around 1435. The original wooden doors of the casing make it certain that the design of the pipes is also original. Lambertus does not use a word meaning silence to represent his rests, but rather the term “suspirium” for the recta brevis and “semisuspirium” for the major semibreve. Breaths, like organ pipes, allow wind flow. Using a variety of evidence from iconography, music theory, and the known history of the organ, I will discuss what this unusual diagram in BnF lat. 11266 can tell us about organs of Paris in the second half of the thirteenth century, which is earlier than the records published by Craig Wright.

Roman d’Alexandre (Oxford, Bodleain Library, MS Bodley 264) and the late medieval instrumental music | Marcus Held (University of São Paulo)

This paper focuses on the manuscript Roman d’Alexandre (Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 264), particularly on its vast and rich musical iconography. The text contained in this manuscript narrates the adventurous paths of Alexander the Great throughout Europe, Asia and Northern Africa. Concluded in 1344, in Tournai, with an appendix added to it in the next century, this particular codex reveals itself as a key to understanding and reconstructing a secular life scenario of the late Middle Ages. In its marginal illuminated miniatures, one can observe scenes not only of warriors and priests, but also of daily life: feasts, parties, dance and music making (both vocal and instrumental). In order to focus on instrumental music, since there is a lack of primary source of its performance practice and repertoire, we compiled all musical instruments representation added to the Bodley 264: a total amount of 238 miniatures. Our aim is to identify the various instruments and its context amongst its representation. Furthermore, we will be able to clarify the late medieval secular music making, with its groupings, occasions and decorum of their usage.

Sixteenth-century female painter-musicians and the arpicordo problem | Laura S. Ventura Nieto (Royal Holloway, University of London) & Samantha Chang (University of Toronto)

The study of early modern female painter-musicians centers on a series of sixteenth-century self-portraits by Catharina van Hemessen, Sofonisba Anguissola, and Lavinia Fontana. In these paintings, the artists are portrayed as musicians playing keyboard instruments. The inclusion of musical instruments in painters’ self-portraits alludes to the concept of painting as a performed art. Paolo Pino describes the parallel between painters and musical performers in his Dialogo della pittura of 1548 and states that artistic inventions can only be manifested through performance.

The identification of musical instruments in paintings often confounds historians, curators, and scholars. The keyboard instrument depicted in Lavinia Fontana’s self-portrait of 1577 (Accademia di San Luca, Rome) is labelled as clavichord, spinet, harpsichord, and/or virginal in numerous catalogues and articles. The various names denote ambiguity and indifference in uncovering the nuances associated with the instrument. In all of the sixteenth-century female musical self- portraits, the instrument presented is, in fact, an arpicordo, a polygonal virginal resembling the shape of a harp. Why do female painters portray themselves with the same type of keyboard instrument? What are the implications for featuring the arpicordo in musical self-portraits? In our paper “Sixteenth-Century Female Painter-Musicians and the Arpicordo Problem,” we take a closer look at the series of sixteenth-century female musical self-portraits and reconsider the problem of identification and the significance of the keyboard instruments presented.