Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities
2005—2006 Forum on Word and Image
THE DEVOTIONAL IMAGE IN 13TH-CENTURY FRANCISCAN SPIRITUALITY AND THOUGHT
While the contributions of the Franciscans to the development of devotional art have been well documented, especially in Italy tho less so in the north, little attention has been paid to the relation between the highly visual aspect of Franciscan devotional literature and the art produced under the influence of Franciscan thought and practice. The 13th century witnessed the rising influence of the Franciscan order as a dominant force in lay spirituality, an influence that was spread through direct contact with the laity and through the devotional literature which the Franciscans wrote and lay audiences read. As the popularity and influence of the Franciscans grew, the 13th century also saw a striking rise in the level of participation of the laity in artistic patronage, much of which was devoted to religious art reflecting various aspects of Franciscan ideology. Dr. Ransom is considering the intersection of word and image in Franciscan devotional art, literature, and practice of that period.
Expanding on her dissertation, in which she analyzed the devotional images contained in an illuminated manuscript known as the Verger de soulas, or the "Orchard of Solace," Dr. Ransom investigates the degree to which Franciscans influenced the production of devotional art in the late 13th century, in particular, the ways in which Franciscans used iconography and 'theorized' the concept of the image in their art and literature. Dr. Ransom examines the use of imagery in various artistic media and in literature, focusing on the works of the 13th-century Franciscan theologian St. Bonaventure, to reassess the larger context of devotional art and the ways Franciscan ideology shaped the viewing and reading process.