New Perspectives on Urban Entertainment in the Middle Ages

29th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies

Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York City: Saturday, April 4, 2009

Laura Weigert, Medieval Theatricality and its Afterlife in Painting: the Case of the "Vengeance of Our Lord"

The orchestration of dramatic spectacles in French and Flemish churches, courts, and city streets during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries led to an increasing demand for large-scale portable pictures and for images that depicted these diverse spectacles. The static nature of the figures within these late medieval visual artifacts distinguishes them from the movements of the actors and/or audiences in contemporary urban performances. Nevertheless, the two forms of representation share, in some cases, a common and distinct form of theatricality. This paper looks at pictures and plays on the theme of the destruction of Jerusalem, known as the “Vengeance of our Lord,” to determine the characteristics they share. The defining features of this shared theatricality, as I will in turn demonstrate, is obscured in a group of paintings, which paradoxically has been thought to preserve a memory of an actual performance in Reims.

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