Petrified passions: bodily rhetoric in architectural sculpture, c.1100–c.1270

Gomolka, Agata (2016) Petrified passions: bodily rhetoric in architectural sculpture, c.1100–c.1270. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis is concerned with the making and workings of the rhetoric of the body in architectural sculpture. An abundance of expressive examples remains from the period that can be considered as the most dynamic in the history of western sculpture. Their communicative power derives from the conceptual modes of rhetoric, adapted by the carvers into the sculpted contexts. Pathos, ethos and logos (the underlying verbal authority of scripture and commentary) are in sculpture conveyed via bodily scale and proportion, spatial dynamics, physiognomies, gestures, and expressions. The analysis of those building blocks of sculpted rhetoric allows us to understand the formal dynamics within the structure of the sculpted performance and provides an insight into the source of its success.
Chapter one aims to immerse the reader in the materiality of the sculpted body. The analysis considers the influence of the material and the processes of its manipulation on the form and rhetoric of the sculpted body, its communicative potential and general viewing experience. Chapter two looks at the aesthetic means of communication between the sculpted body and the beholder, as embedded in a network of physiognomic signs. This chapter shows the range of ways in which sculpted figures engaged with the viewer through the shapes and surfaces of their bodies. Chapter three discusses the use of the body language of the Fall, highlighting the range of invented expressions occurring at the various stages of the story, but particularly at the postlapsarian stage. These emotionally-laden depictions of events of crucial impact on the human condition related directly to every believer, implicating the audience alongside the protagonists. Chapter four deals with sculpted depictions of Job. The complexity of Job’s story fed into the ambitions of the artists who embarked on an exploration of the physiognomic and pathognomic language of their figures. While the attendants offer a range of pathognomic reactions, the body of Job became a field for experimentation with bodily form, surface and movement.
The thesis aims to clarify how the language of the sculpted body is formed, and how it works to reach the audiences. Contrasting attitudes to the sculpted body not only demonstrate the breadth of its potential as a communicative tool, but offer a primary insight into the genesis of the principles of corporeal rhetoric used to establish a link
between the sculpture and its viewer. The thesis challenges the idea of a single trajectory
of development of the physiognomic and pathognomic features in architectural sculpture.
The refinement of physical mimesis was not intrinsically paired with the rhetorical
sophistication of forms. The ubiquitous but complex artistic dialogues, evidenced in the
petrified legacy of constant mediation, responding, updating and calibrating, testify to the
volatile trajectories of the conception of the form and rhetoric of medieval bodies and
medieval sculpture as a whole.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Users 4971 not found.
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2017 16:00
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2020 00:38


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