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The votive scenario Author(s): CHRISTOPHER S. WOOD Source: RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 59/60 (spring/autumn
The votive scenario Author(s): CHRISTOPHER S. WOOD Source: RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 59/60 (spring/autumn

The votive scenario Author(s): CHRISTOPHER S. WOOD Source: RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 59/60 (spring/autumn 2011), pp. 206-227 Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23647791 Accessed: 14-03-2018 09:31 UTC

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206 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011


Figure 1. St. Anthony, southGermany, mid-fifteenthcentury. Hand-colored woodcut, 38.1 x 26.4 cm.

Photo: Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich, inv. no. 118224 D.

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The votive scenario


Three sufferers, bodies convulsed, inflamed limbs things.2 The votaries and supplicants bear or proffer

brandished, beg for the attention of the enthroned healer

(fig. 1).The men at lower left and right, with crutches, fowl, a mannikin, wax models of bodies or extremities.

objects: the badges pinned to the hat, small crosses,

have traveled some distance: The purses at their waists

The objects attest to states of mind and to successful

and the hat with upturned visor adorned with metal

exchanges with entities outside ordinary experience—

badges, souvenirs of shrines visited, suggest as much. The

healer is remote, imperturbable.

divinity itself, or a holy man who manages destructive

fire. At the pilgrimage site—so the picture suggests—th

pilgrims perform for one another. The pilgrim is an

object in the eyes of other pilgrims, no less so than

Flanking his throne, thrusting gifts into his field of

vision, are four healthy visitors, two wearing fur-lined

hats that imply affluence, another with the armor and

are the displayed wax body parts. But above all the

sword of a well-born soldier. These four are completing a

cycle of entreaty and thanks. They or someone close to

them was delivered or spared from the fearsome

affliction, the burning limbs, by virtue of prayer and a

pilgrims perform for the powerful saint, the third- and

fourth-century Egyptian hermit St. Anthony Abbot or S

Anthony the Great. In the eleventh century St. Anthon

relics surfaced in southeastern France, in the Dauphi

promise of future sacrifice, an expenditure of wealth,

generating a shrine cult with wide fame. St. Anthony w

time, and mental energy. Once spared or healed, the

credited with the power to heal an array of diseases.

votary must fulfill his or her promise. Here the votaries

The aim of this paper is to understand better how

crowd the throne of the thaumaturge, competing for his

people's experiences in the late middle ages were

attention; they want their gifts acknowledged. But there is

"paced" by objects. The wax body parts tendered by

no real urgency, for their limbs are intact and the votive

pilgrims testified to ruptures in the body's experience

cycle is complete. Life can resume at a normal pace.

of itself. They transferred personal experience into the

For the supplicants at the foot of the throne, by

spaces of representation, first the shrine itself, then

contrast, time has accelerated. The regular rhythms images such as this woodcut. The print is a portrait of

of calendar, labor, and family have been disrupted. a saint, but its borders are permeated by the rhythms This is an "emergent occasion," to borrow from the of individual even if unnamed lives. These rhythms are

title of John Donne's collection of prose reflections on

imported by the wax offerings, which were in their ow

his own imminent death by disease.1 These devotees

way portraits.

display none of Donne's stoicism, but rather try to strike

The precise role such a woodcut might have played

a deal with the saint who controls the disease. They

are presumably making vows, hoping to return in due

inside the votive cycle it depicts is unclear. The image

printed on paper was a novelty of the fifteenth century.

course to take their places at the sides of the throne,

To make sense of the woodcut we might compare it t

displaying gratitude. They are fearful of emergence the itself, objects pictured inside it. The badge worn by the

a reshaping of time that obscures origins. Emergent pilgrim at the lower left, for example, is testimony to

phenomena evade cause-and-effect relationships, and so

sweep away the partitions that minds erect to make sense

of the flow of experience.

This picture, a hand-colored woodcut printed probably in Swabia in southern Germany around

pilgrimage accomplished, a souvenir, or a trophy. Suc

a badge might also possess protective power by virtu

its provenance, its former proximity to or even contig

1450, models a web of relations between people and

2. The woodcut is a unicum, that is, the sole surviving impressio

from the print run. Munich, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, inv.

118241D. W. L. Schreiber, Handbuch der Holz- und Metallschnitt

XV. Jahrhunderts, 8 vols. (Leipzig: Hiersemann, 1926-30) (= Schreib

For advice and information I am grateful to Laura Fenelli, Milette

no. 1215. Die Frühzeit des Holzschnitts, exhibition catalogue (Mu

Gaifman, ). D. Connor, Larry Kanter, and Jacqueline Jung; and for a

Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, 1970), no. 26. Origins of Europ

close and engaged reading of an earlier draft, Francesco Pellizzi.

Printmaking: Fifteenth-Century Woodcuts and Their Public, ed. Pete

1. J. Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (1624). Donne's

Parshall and Rainer Schoch. Exhibition catalogue, National Gallery o

text was modelled on the meditations composed by King Hezekiah

Art and Germanisches Nationalmuseum (New Haven: Yale Univers

after his recovery from illness (Isaiah 38:9-20).

Press, 2005), no. 93.

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208 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011

with the tomb of a saint.3 Lead badges representing mysterious.about their workings. Mysterious was St.

St. Anthony were attached to the necks of livestock Anthony's to ability to cure illnesses. The offering was a

protect them from disease.4 The woodcut may have had

straightforward sign, a token of gratitude. For visitors

a lot in common with such a badge, for there is evidence

to the shrine, including other votaries, the displayed

that prints, too, could transmit the powers stored offering in symbolized another person's good faith in

a tomb. The print could function as a contact-relic keeping the bargain struck with the saint by making

channeling healing or protective power from a saint's

the trip to the shrine. The offering testified to the saint's

relics to an individual devout.5 Woodcuts not so different

from this were carried home from pilgrimage sites as

trophies and talismans.6

The gift or offering, such as the wax mannikin held by the man at left or the hands and feet suspended from

the rail above, had no such powers.7 There was nothing

3. D. Bruna, Enseignes de pèlerinage et enseignes profanes (Paris:

Réunion des musées nationaux, 1996), pp. 16-18; B. Spencer, Pilgrim

Souvenirs and Secular Badges (London: Stationery Office, 1998), pp.

17-24. For examples of amulets, talismans, and badges associated with

shrines, see the exhibition catalogue Wallfahrt kennt keine Crenzen

(Munich: Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, 1984), pp. 34-51.

4. E. Clementz, "Le culte de St. Antoine en Alsace," in Aufden

Spuren des hi Antonius, Festschrift Adalbert Mischlewski (Memmingen:

Memminger Zeitung, 1994), p. 227.

5. Robert Maniura published a document recording the use in 1485

of a figura di charta, a "paper figure," to heal a sick woman. The image,

presumably a woodcut similar if not identical to a surviving fifteenth

century print reproducing the fourteenth-century fresco known as the

Madonna delle Carceri in Prato, was put in contact with the fresco

and then with the mouth and body of the woman. In 1490 Giuliano

Guizzelmi spent sixteen soldi in Florence on paper reproductions of

the Madonna delle Carceri, Vergini Marie di charta. "The Images and

Miracles of Santa Maria delle Carceri," in The Miraculous Image in the

Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. G. Wolf and E. Thuno (Rome:

"I'Erma" di Bretschneider, 2004), pp. 86-87.

6. This is potentially a large class of objects, but it is hard to prove

that any particular woodcut was used as a talisman. In the Bodleian

Library there is a woodcut image of Flenry VI, a thaumaturgie king,

surrounded by votaries and offerings, adduced by Spencer, Pilgrim

Souvenirs (note 3), p. 7 and fig. 4, as a talismanic souvenir from the

shrine; but it is not clear how he knows it was used this way. Wallfahrt

kennt keine Crenzen (note 3), pp. 39-40, asserts that prints were used

in this way but offers no examples earlier than the seventeenth century.

7. R. Andree, Votive und Weihegaben des katholischen Volks

in Süddeutschland (Braunschweig: Vieweg, 1904), is replete with

interesting and often overlooked material. The most sophisticated

older literature on the ex voto emerged from the field of Volkskunde

or the study of popular culture: see W. Brückner, "Volkstümliche

Denkstrukturen und hochschichtliches Weltbild im Votivwesen,"

Schweizerisches Archiv für Volkskunde 59 (1963):186-203, and L.

Kriss-Rettenbeck, fx voto: Zeichen, Bild und Abbild im christlichen

Votivbrauchtum (Zurich: Atlantis, 1972). Exhibitions and publications

of collections have focused on the small painted panels which have

dominated the votive phenomenon since the sixteenth century: See,

for example, fx voto (Kunsthalle Bern, 1964); F. Faranda, Fides tua te salvum fecit: i dipinti votivi nel Santuario di S. Maria del Monte a

Cesena (Modena: Artioli, 1997); Per grazia ricevuta: CI i ex voto del Museo di San Nicola a Tolentino (Tolentino, 2005). Until recently

successful intervention and so glorified that saint;

the offerings ornamented the shrine and ratified the authenticity of the relics. The mannikin represented the person's self or soul, dedicated to the saint in the hour of need. The wax hand or foot represented the afflicted limb, thus reporting on the disease's symptomatology. The votive offerings also had real material value. A fowl or a quantity of molded wax was useful to the clerics

who managed such a shrine, for the hen could lay eggs

or be consumed, and the wax could be melted down to

make candles.8 But above all the votive offering fulfilled a promise of expenditure, of wealth, time, and attention, made by the votary to the thaumaturgie saint. The proof of expenditure was the aspect of the offering addressed to St. Anthony himself. It was important that he take

notice of the fulfillment of the vow.

few art historians dealt with this material; see, however, E. Battisti,

"Fenomenología dell' ex voto," in Ex voto tra storia e antropología,

ed. E. De Simoni (Rome: De Luca, 1968), pp. 35-48. Today we have

a wealth of analyses: P.-A. Sigal, "L'ex voto au moyen âge dans les

régions du nord-ouest de la Méditerranée (Xlle—XVe siècles)," Provence

Historique 33 (1983): 13-31; A. Reinle, Das stellvertretende Bildnis:

Plastiken und Gemalde von derAntike bis ins / 9. Jahrhundert (Zurich:

Artemis, 1984), pp. 10-30; D. Freedberg, The Power of Images

(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), pp. 136-160; El. van der

Velden, The Donor's Image: Gerard Loyet and the Votive Portraits of

Charles the Bold (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000); M. Bacci, "Pro remedio animae": immagini sacre e pratiche devozionali in Italia centrale

(secoli XIII e XIV) (Pisa: ETS, 2000), pp. 147-226; F. Bisogni, "Ex voto e

la scultura in cera nel tardo medioevo," in Visions of Holiness: Art and

Devotion in Renaissance Italy, ed. A. Ladis and S. E. Zuraw (Athens:

University of Georgia, 2001), pp. 67-91; G. Didi-Huberman, Ex-voto:

Image, organe, temps (Paris: Bayard, 2006); F. Jacobs, "Rethinking the

Divide: Cult Images and the Cult of Images," in Renaissance Theory, ed. J. Elkins and R. Williams (New York and London: Routledge, 2008),

pp. 95-114; M. Holmes, "Ex votos: Materiality, Memory, and Cult," in The Idol in the Age of Art: Objects, Devotions and the Early Modern

World, ed. M. W. Cole and R. E. Zorach (Ashgate, 2009), pp. 159-181 ;

R. Maniura, "Ex Votos, Art and Pious Performance," Oxford Art Journal

32 (2009):409-425.

8. Note that van der Velden (note 7, p. 248), says only that it is

"possible" that wax votive gifts were melted down later for re-use.

There is little evidence, but then it stands to reason that this practice

was not well documented. At any rate, wax was expensive. Maniura

notes that the ten pounds of wax used to make a votive effigy of a

healed child were four times more expensive than the silver used to

coat the effigy (note 7, p. 418). The really expensive alternative was the

effigy or model fashioned entirely in silver.

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Wood: The votive scenario 209

The function of the wax body parts within the cycle of The printed image comments on its own similarity to

entreaty and thanks is clear. Yet in the woodcut image, and in the few other depictions we have of the practice,

the suspended hands and feet compel our attention.

They seem to exceed the role they play within the cycle. it pictures. Many Christian subjects involve people

They are super-representations, powerfully linked to

their referents. Wax in its texture, translucence, and dull Lamentation over the Dead Christ, for instance, or the

and difference from other objects simply by portraying

objects and the ways people attend to them. The woodcut

creates a gradient of values between itself and the objects

looking at scenes, other people, things, and images: the

tone can uncannily resemble flesh. The medium of wax

Crucifixion. Such images deliver the historical event and

symbolizes both the flow of experience—the disease, all

at the same time show how people responded to the

the passions accompanying it—and the stilling of that flow. With its responsiveness to pressure, wax carried a

strong connotation of fidelity to an original, a one-to-one significant for those who know how to look. A depiction

matching.9 Wax models of body parts, as far as we can tell, were life-sized or near life-sized. In the woodcut,

however, they loom large, like great pelts or trophies. They are the key to the image.

event as spectacle. At such a scene, Christ's body is already functioning as an image: static, cynosural, densely

of this scene is recursive in the sense that it encodes

inside itself a set of guidelines for its own beholders. Once you have arrived at that embedded "instruction manual," you have to exit the picture and start all over

A printed or painted picture lacks the direct force of again. Equipped with the principles retrieved from within

a wax model, but it is more articulate, more voluble.

Some pilgrims offered painted pictures, wall paintings

or panels portraying a saint, as votive gifts.10 For many had misread the first time, before you had access to the

centuries such offerings were rare and impressive, beyond the means of most of the faithful. In the late

fifteenth century ordinary worshippers began to deposit its customary art historical niche, let us compare it to a

small painted panels as offerings, completing the votive

the picture, you may now read the picture quite differently and discover new guiding principles that you

instruction manual. And so on.

To go further with this print, and to displace it from

later and very different kind of picture: an oil painting

cycle and at the same time reporting on the nature of the

on canvas by the Ferrarese court painter Dosso Dossi,

injury or the cure.11 The painted panel was in some ways

less valuable to the clerics who managed the shrine

than the wax body part, for they could do little with it other than put it on display as testimony to the efficacy of the system. It did have great value as a generator of confidence in the system, however. There is no record of anyone leaving a print or a drawing as an ex voto.12

9. On the impression in wax as a metaphor for apprehension, memory, or possession, see K. Park, "Impressed Images: Reproducing Wonders," in Picturing Science, Producing Art, ed. C. A. Jones and P.

Galison (New York: Routledge, 1998), pp. 254-271. On the symbolic

associations of wax, see S. Waldmann, Die lebensgrosse Wachsfigur

(Munich: Tuduv, 1990), pp. 9-15. On the "interpretive potential" of the

imprint, see B. M. Bedos-Rezak, "Replica: Images of Identity and the

Identity of Images in Prescholastic France," in The Mind's Eye: Art and

Theological Argument in the Middle Ages, ed. J. F. Hamburger and

a representation of an enchantress, probably the good

sorceress Melissa, a character from Lodovico Ariosto's

modern epic Orlando Furioso (fig. 2).13 The work shows

Melissa seated inside a magic circle and lighting a wax

torch. She has consulted a tablet bearing cryptic writing

and diagrams and is about to perform a spell that will

reconstitute some metamorphized soldiers, their beings

miserably split between animal bodies and effigy-like

souls suspended in the tree; thus undoing the evil spell

of another enchantress. The painting dates from the

late 151 Os and is a paradigm of a category of object

relatively new at that moment: a nearly self-sufficient

image, prepared to go on generating meanings even

if displaced from its original setting, the court of the

duke Alfonso d'Este. The painting comments poetically

on the powers of the witch, a nearly forgotten art,

according to Ariosto, a wisdom preserved only in

A.-M. Bouché (Princeton: Department of Art and Archaeology,

Princeton University, 2006), pp. 51-55.

10. See H. Belting, Likeness and Presence (Chicago: University

of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 82-88, on votive frescoes in sixth- and

seventh-century Thessaloniki.

11. Although the older and local literature on the votive phenomenon addresses these panels, interpretation has really only just

begun. For overviews see Kriss-Rettenbeck (note 7), pp. 155-271, and

Bacci (note 7), pp. 220-223.

12. The Visitation record of 1629 associated with the canonization

process of Margherita of Cortona speaks of offerings of images painted

on canvas and paper; ). Cannon and A. Vauchez, Margherita ofCortona

and the Lorenzetti: Sienese Art and the Cult of a Holy Woman In

Medieval Tuscany (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press,

1999), p. 57, n. 15.

13. The comparison is possibly unexpected but not random. It

builds on an argument I published in these pages, "Countermagical

Combinations by Dosso Dossi," RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics

49/50(2006):! 51-170.

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210 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011

210 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011 Figure 2. Dosso Dossi, Enchantress, ca. 1515-1520. Oil on canvas, 176

Figure 2. Dosso Dossi, Enchantress, ca. 1515-1520. Oil on canvas, 176 x

174 cm. Rome, Gallería Borghese. Photo: Scala / Ministero per I Beni e le

Attività culturali / Art Resource, New York.

the eastern homelands of the enemies of the Frankish canvas, for they circulated in the world, fro

knights celebrated in his poem. Dosso's painting, a hand, in and out of shops and homes. The

fictional image, compares itself to the more efficacious unique, was buried deep inside a ducal

technologies it pictures: The cryptogram on the tablet, And yet how similar the two works are, fo

the torch that will write with smoke in the sky, and Dosso's painting and the woodcut with St

finally the Christian cult image, which is present only as basically depictions of wizards able to def a disguised intertext. For this painting is the "anagram" and possibly unnatural, but anyway invisib of a Madonna and Child, or a Rest of the Holy Family on Both represent seated figures surrounded the Flight to Egypt, a sacred narrative transfigured and in distress. In the painting, the animals ar

transvalued. In its physical closure and boundedness, bodies have been transformed not by dise

and in its confidence in its own semantic fecundity, the magic. They press close to the benevolent painting is asking for nothing more than the privileges hopes of deliverance. Melissa, as she manip enjoyed by Ariosto's poem. This was new for the art of and fire, casts a glance upward toward the painting. Painting here was asking to be upgraded to the men stored in the tree. Melissa and Antho

status of a poem. gods, but technicians. They heal or repair by controlling

The woodcut representing St. Anthony and the oil the elements. Anthony's technology is e

painting representing the magnificent sorceress are and theologically questionable, almost

unlikely pendants. The woodcut together with all its Melissa's. Both pictures are recursive: t

perished siblings—the hundreds of sheets that once each picture is offered a target of attention, made up the print run, identical except for their hand- same time sees attention modeled. Each p

applied coloring—were so much busier than Dosso's itself through embedded analogons of i

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Wood: The votive scenario 211

The painting by Dosso Dossi reveals that the homogeneous facture and the internal articulation of

apparently disenchanted image of the early sixteenth forms and colors—all the elements that together count century, cut off from the ground of mimetic magic as the picture's style and that anchor the picture to its

that had guaranteed the cult image, developed a author—create an effect of closure and self-sufficienc

countermagic involving displacement of intertexts. The institution of the fictional artwork stabilizes the tim

The occluded cult image reappeared inside the new of the image. The painted fiction achieves this stabili

image as the books, the diagrams, the torch and severing as much as possible its referential ties. Chris

brazier, and finally the combinatorially scrambled narratives and icons, profane portraits, symbolic and

Christian subject. The real theme of Dosso's work didactic images were all linked to their authenticatin

was its own distance from its imagined predecessors, sources in remotest times by chains of images. Such

images that were "not yet" artworks—for example, images point to stable realities well beyond their ow

a simple woodcut representing St. Anthony and his bounds. Dosso Dossi's canvas, only loosely attache

votaries. Such an image, unlike the canvas by Dosso, to the past, and aligned with but not dependent for all seems untroubled by competition from poems or from its impact on a poem, was prepared to venture into important contemporary artists. Yet the woodcut, too, the world more or less on its own account (even if th

depicts its own imagined predecessor, a superior kind of picture, in fact, has been moved only very few times i

image, in the form of the wax body parts, which convey five centuries).

their meaning so unforgettably, and possibly in the The contrast with Dosso's painting allows us to ho

figure of St. Anthony, which may represent a painted or in on the nature of the woodcut. The printed image o

sculpted image of the sort that one might find at a shrine. St. Anthony is fundamentally a referential image, th

(Alternatively, this figure may stand in for the tomb portrait of a thaumaturgie saint, a historical personage

shrine, reminding us that nothing signifies an absent holy with a real effectiveness in the world that exceeded

person more effectively than a sample of his body— own lifespan. The authenticity of the portrait is secured

namely, relics—or it may not represent an image or place by substitutional chains linking it to other images of

at all, but simply the saint himself.) Anthony. More interestingly, the woodcut connects real

If art is a flow of attentiveness through minds and and modern people to the virtual reality of the picture

things, then the work of art is a thing specially designed through the attributes of the thaumaturgie saint. Voti

to retard that flow, and then display it, making the flow offerings were among the conventional attributes th visible all at once. At the same time the work is a thing served to identify Anthony, t|ut so too were the devot

that might at any moment be hurled back into the real- Emergent time floods into the picture through the time flow. Both works, the painting and the print, meet attributes. The depicted votaries signify in two direct

these criteria. First, they function as conventional labels, copied

The two pictures also differ in an important way. They from other pictures, secur

manage time differently. The relation between the time Anthony. This reference w represented in the picture and the time of the picture is value. Second, the votaries

in each case different. The painting by Dosso is to a high animation to real trials a degree temporally unified. The painting points, via the by modern people. They ar poem it illustrates, to a historical period remembered of shared experience, the be in legend, the struggles of the Frankish heroes in the emotions that preexists any eighth and ninth centuries against the Muslims in Spain The woodcut depicts the r and southern France. The Roland legend evokes against time—namely, submission t the long-term project of the Crusades, initiated in the in doing so it also vividly d eleventh century. The enchantress's arts evoke against phenomena (disease, fear, h

ancient and medieval reports of magical practice, as cycle. By comparison, th

well as the contemporary phenomenon of witchcraft, the itself, and tranquil. target of Dominican inquisitors. The painting depicts a Anthony is multiply identi technical intervention designed to undo metamorphosis on a scroll affixed to the r and so reverse time. But all these temporal gestures are staff, the tau on the robe, tightly managed by the picture's author. That author, a his feet. The clerics of th

technician superior even to Melissa the enchantress, privilege of keeping pigs.

manipulates all the temporal vectors. The painting's papal bulls and poems me

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212 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011

212 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011 the bells were transferred to Anthony's staff.14 The tau life story.

the bells were transferred to Anthony's staff.14 The tau

life story. But his fourth-century biographer Athanasius,

or Greek T was a sign associated with magical powers;

according to the bull of 1297 the Antonites "call it

potentia.'n5 Healing played a major role in Anthony's

guided by Anthony's own words, insisted at every turn that the Lord was performing the miracles ascribed

to the saint, and not the saint himself.16 Anthony

was essentially a hermit, not a healer. The saint was transformed into a thaumaturge only in the twelfth century, after the clerics attendant on his shrine at St.-Antoine-l'Abbaye or St.-Antoine-en-Viennois in the Dauphiné, gained a reputation for effective treatment

of a brutal disease, widespread in Europe for centuries,

involving inflammation of the extremities and ultimately gangrene.17 The disease was in fact caused by a fungal contamination of grain used in breadmaking, thus cutting a wide swath through society. But until the seventeenth

century no one connected the disease to the bread.

Instead, the society personified the disease by attributing its onset and abatement to St. Anthony, the one who controls the fire, as the crude red flames at the base of

his throne indicate. Fire appears to add to the universe, but it ends up subtracting. Fire is a principle of energy and transformation, life-giving if handled properly,

otherwise destructive. The flames were added in the

late Middle Ages to the roster of symbols that one could expect to find in an image of St. Anthony. The earliest surviving example of an image of St.

Anthony accompanied by votaries is a panel in Fabriano

dated 1353 and attributed to the Master of the Fabriano

Altarpiece, now identified as Puccio di Simone, or to

Allegretto Nuzi (fig. 3).18This painting represents the

Figure 3. Master of Fabriano Altarpiece, St. Anthony, 1353.

Tempera on panel, 195 x 105 cm. Fabriano, Pinacoteca Civica.

Photo: Richard Offner, The Fourteenth Century: Bernardo

14. L. Fenelli, II tau, il fuoco, il maiale: I canonici regolari dl

sant'Antonio Abate tra assistenza e devozione (Spoleto: Fondazione

Centro italiano di studi sull' alto medioevo, 2006), p. 161; L. Fenelli,

"Sant'Antonio Abate: Parole, reliquie, immagini" (Ph.D. diss.,

University of Bologna, 2007), p. 309. The two studies by Fenelli are the

most thorough treatments of the iconography of St. Anthony the healer

and its origins in real practices and institutions.


habitu cum signo T quod potentia

." (Fenelli, II

tau, p. 65); Fenelli, "Sant' Antonio Abate," pp. 93, 302; see also p. 38.

16. Athanasius, Life of St. Anthony, §§ 14, 38, 48, 56, 57, 84.

17. On the disease and the Antonites' role in treating it, see A.

Hayum, The Isenheim Altarpiece: God's Medicine and the Painter's

Vision (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), pp. 13-52;

Fenelli, Il tau (note 14), pp. 33-93; "Sant' Antonio Abate" (note 14),

pp. 87-100; and E. Clementz, Les Antonins d'lssenheim: Essor et dérive

d'une vocation hospitalière à la lumière du temporel (Strasbourg:

Société Savante d'Alsace, 1998), pp. 27-143, esp. 66-88 on the

clerics' therapeutic and surgical activity.

18. R. Offner, The Fourteenth Century: Bernardo Daddi and His

Circle, section III, vol. V, ed. M. Boskovits (Florence: Ciunti, 2001),

Daddi and His Circle, section III, vol. V, ed. Miklós Boskovits

(Florence: Giunti, 2001), pl. XXXVI.

saint standing in a landscape, holding book and staff,

with two pigs at his feet, and flanked by kneeling figures from various social stations, seven men on the left and

seven women plus a baby on the right. None of the

kneeling figures in the Fabriano panel is visibly ill or holding an offering. Nevertheless these figures, like the seven small figures in the woodcut, are attributes identifying the giant saint and reminding beholders why one might direct prayer toward him.

pp. 383-390, pl. XXXVI. An inscription on the lower edge is illegible

except for the date.

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Wood: The votive scenario 213

Wax body parts and other offerings were left at the tombs of many different saints. Our knowledge of this

from the life and miracles of St. Anthony were painted on the walls of the church in the early 1370s by a Florentine artist, probably Niccolo di Tommaso. At the right is an

practice is based mostly on the reports and biographies

drawn up for canonization hearings, so there is a bias in

the evidence toward modern saints, personages of the

thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.19 Not all of these

saints were known in their own lifetimes principally as healers. Votive offerings and votaries do not appear as attributes in images of most of these saints. Only those

altar inside a small shrine-like chapel, adorned by an

apparently painted image of a standing St. Anthony. In front of the shrine is a box whose lid is held open by

several onlookers. In the box is a jumble of what appear

to be wax hands and feet: a different way of storing

the offerings than that depicted in most scenes of tomb

identified as thaumaturges are iconographically labeled


in this way: St. Anthony the Great, St. Anthony of Padua, Two images of the early sixteenth century give us

St. Nicholas ofTolentino.20 Shrine devotions, including

rare glimpses of collections of votive offerings, more

the display of wax models of limbs, are described in

some hagiographical pictorial narratives, either in mural

cycles or in so-called Vita panels, that is, altarpieces

involving full-length portraits accompanied by scenes

from the life. Examples are the images of devotions at the

tomb of St. Margaret of Antioch in her Vita panel in the Vatican and at the tomb of St. Sebastian in a panel by

extensive and informative than the conventional

hagiographical scenes: the Vision of Prior Ottobon

by Vittorio Carpaccio (ca. 1515) and the woodcut

reporting on the pilgrimage to the Schône Maria of

Regensburg by Michael Ostendorfer (ca. 1520).24 In the

Carpaccio, we see models of ships, vessels spared from

shipwreck by prayer. In the Ostendorfer, we see tools

Joose Lieferinxe in Rome.21 Here we also see wax hearts

symbolizing devotion or mannikins symbolizing the soul

and farm implements, perhaps actual objects involved

in accidents, perhaps symbols of the abandonment of

or possibly representing a baby, as well as offerings of

crosses and other devotional tokens; also crutches and

manacles speaking eloquently of ordeals overcome.

A rare representation of devotions at the tomb of St. Anthony is the scene of the Liberation of the Unjustly Condemned Youths at the church of San Antonio Abate,

or the church of the Tau, in Pistoia.22 This image and

others representing scenes from the Old Testament and

worldly concerns.25 In each scene, we see models of

body parts, but also many long slender objects, candle

like lengths of wax in the true measures of healed

children. People gave bundles of wax spun out in thread

like lengths, known as trindles, long enough to encircle the tomb or even the church.26 People gave money, food, and livestock. They gave entire buildings. They vowed to restore or take care of existing images.27 Many categories of ex voto were rarely or never represented in paintings or prints.28 We know from

19. Bisogni (note 7), pp. 68-79, reviews several major cases: St.

Francis, St. Anthony of Radua, St. Elizabeth, St. Louis of Toulouse,

Margherita of Cortona, Chiara da Montefalco, St. Nicholas of Tolentino,

and St. Catherine of Siena.

23. Bacci (note 7), p. 184, adduces another instance of wax

20. On late medieval thaumaturgie saints, see J. Huizinga, The

Autumn of the Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,

1996), pp. 198-200; A. Vauchez, La sainteté en Occident aux derniers

siècles du Moyen Age (Rome: Ecole française de Rome, 1981 ), pp.

544-548; and G. B. Bronzini, "Santi taumaturghi etaumaturgia delI' ex

voto," Lares 56(1990):504-507.

offerings not suspended but stored in a box, the same box that held

monetary offerings.

24. The painting by Carpaccio is in the Accademia in Venice. On

the Ostendorfer, see Christopher S. Wood, "Ritual and the Virgin on the Column: The Cult of the Schone Maria in Regensburg," Journal of Ritual

Studies 6 (1992):87-101.

21. L. Gilbertson, "Imaging St. Margaret: Imitatio Christi and

25. Kriss-Rettenbeck (note 7), p. 45.

Imitatio Mariae in the Vanni Altarpiece," in Images, Relics, and

Devotional Practices in Medieval and Renaissance Italy, ed. S. J.

Cornelison and S. B. Montgomery (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval

and Renaissance Studies, 2006), pp. 115-138. On the St. Sebastian

panel, see C. Sterling, "The 'Master of St. Sebastian' (Josse Lieferinxe?)," measurement relics generally, see C. Ginzburg, The Enigma of Piero

26. Sigaf(note 7), p. 18. Cannon andVauchez (note 12), pp.

57-59. Life-sized effigies were often made in the true weight of the

represented person, as were wax images of babies and children.

See van der Velden (note 7), pp. 253-259, on weighted gifts. On

Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 6eme série, vol. 22 (1942):135—148. For

reproductions of these and other such paintings, see Kriss-Rettenbeck

(note 7), ills. 1-12.

22. E. Carli, Gli affreschi del Tau a Pistoia (Florence: Edam, 1977),

Tav. 66. R. Offner, "Niccolô di Tommaso and the Rinuccini Master," in

R. Offner, The Discerning Eye: Essays on Early Italian Painting, ed. A.

Ladis (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998), pp.

212-215. Fenelli, "Sant' Antonio Abate" (note 14), p. 245.

(London: Verso, 2000), pp. 68-70.

27. Bacci (note 7), p. 160.

28. The best accounts of the range of possible votive gifts are G. Stahl, "Die Wallfahrt zur Schônen Maria in Regensburg," Beitràge zur

Geschichte des Bistums Regensburg 2 (1968):35-282, here 158-174;

Kriss-Rettenbeck (note 7), pp. 19-53; Sigal (note 7); Bacci (note 7), pp.

147-226; and the systematic taxonomy in van der Velden (note 7), pp.


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214 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011

documents, for example, that wealthy votaries deposited

course, many offerings were made to the Virgin Mary,

life-sized effigies made of wax or even silver.29 Others

and she left no relics. Votive cults arose at sites where

left painted panels or murals representing themselves

she was known to have performed a miracle. At such

in prayer.30 Beginning in the late fifteenth century and

sites an altar and a fabricated image, sculpted or painted,

perhaps earlier, votaries offered small panel paintings

provided a focal point. The Virgin through her miracles

depicting their moment of need or the cure. The effigies

and small panels, however, seldom appeared inside

tended to take on local forms; she existed across a range

of "avatars." The local sculpted or painted image of

other pictures.31

A historian of religion would therefore be unwise

to accept the woodcut portrait of St. Anthony, or any

her was a way of naming that avatar. But the theology

was unambiguous: The fabricated image itself had no

powers, nor could it listen to appeals.34 No prop or

portal or medium is necessary to communicate with the

Virgin or any saint. The prayer goes straight to the saint,

of the scenes of shrine-centered cults depicted in Vita

panels, as straightforward evidence of real practices.

Most are highly conventional images, copied from picture to picture. They are also idealized images,

wherever it is enunciated. This principle is made clear by

a woodcut representing the pilgrimage site of Altôtting

offering a normative account of the votive exchange. in Bavaria, where pilgrims crowd an altar topped not by Such paintings, for example, rarely depict the clerics an image but by a figuration of the Madonna, half-length

who managed the shrine.32 Nor do they ever show

and surrounded by clouds (fig. 4).35 The figure of the

worshippers making offerings to painted or sculpted Virgin in the woodcut does not represent an apparition.

images. In principle, pilgrims came to shrines to be near

relics, not an image. In some cases, the documents speak

Rather, it says that the Madonna herself is present and

the target of devotional attention, but that she is not

of votive offerings made to painted or sculpted images

not associated with tombs or relics.33 But the depictions

of tomb cults rarely represented such practices. Of

available to the senses.

Now we are in a better position to say something

about the figure of St. Anthony in our woodcut (fig. 1).

At the shrine of St. Anthony in France, or in the many

Antonite churches throughout Europe, pilgrims were

29. A. M. Warburg, "The Art of Portraiture and the Florentine

Bourgeoisie" (1902), in Warburg, The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity (Malibu, Calif.: Getty Research Institute, 1999), pp. 185-221; J. von Schlosser, "Geschichte der Portràtbildnerei in Wachs," Jahrbuch des

allerhôchsten Kaiserhauses 29 (1910-1911 ): 171-258; translated

in Ephemeral Bodies: Wax Sculpture and the Human Figure, ed.

R. Ranzanelli (Malibu, Calif.: Getty Research Institute, 2008), pp.

172-303. Schlosser mentions that Philip the Bold deposited a wax

of Antioch to substitute for the tomb. The documents nearly always speak of vows made to the saint or the Virgin herself, not to images. But

Giuliano Guizzelmi in 1487 vowed his nephew "to the Most Glorious

Large Crucifix of the pieve of Prato"; Maniura (note 7), p. 412. See

Vauchez (note 20), pp. 524-529, on the displacement of the cults of

the saints from tombs to images.

effigy of his son at the tomb of St. Anthony in 1398; p. 227 in the

English translation. See also Waldmann (note 9), pp. 15-30, as well

as the literature cited in note 7, esp. van derVelden, pp. 223-245.

Georges Didi-Huberman has written extensively on wax sculpture and

casts of the Renaissance and its repression in the historiography; La

ressemblance par contact: Archéologie, anachronisme et modernité

de l'empreinte (Paris: Minuit, 2008) assembles his major examples and


30. On paintings and sculptures as gifts, see van derVelden (note

7), pp. 278-285.

31. See also the Greek votive reliefs discussed by M. Gaifman,

"Visualized Rituals and Dedicatory Inscriptions on Votive Offerings to

the Nymphs," Opuscula 1 (2008):91 ; the deposit of pinakes or small

painted panels at the shrine is not itself depicted in pinakes that depict

votive practices. 32. The shrine scenes at the church of the Tau in Pistoia do involve

clerics. So does the scene of the sick tended by clerics before the open

tomb of St. Anthony in a fourteenth-century Catalan panel, in Fenelli,

"Sant' Antonio Abate" (note 14), pp. 244, 251. 33. An example adduced by Bisogni (note 7), p. 76, is the

y imagines cere deposited before an ymagine of N ¡cholas of Tolentina

at Norcia; see also pp. 82-83 on the capacity of images of Margaret

34. Maniura stresses this point in "The Images and Miracles of

Santa Maria delle Carceri" (note 5). Faranda (note 7), p. 122, notes

that the votive panels at Cesena never represent cult images: instead they represent the Madonna herself. Some images seem to leave the

question open—for example, the prints by the German engraver known

as E. S. associated with the pilgrimage to Einsiedeln. Are the pilgrims

in these engravings addressing the Virgin or a handmade image of her?

One representation of a pilgrimage that does show pilgrims focusing on

an image, two images in fact, can be and was read as a critique of the

institution of pilgrimage: Ostendorfer's woodcut reporting on the cult of

the Schône Maria of Regensburg; see Wood (note 24).

35. Schreiber (note 2), no. 4271. The image is the frontispiece to a

catalogue of miracles performed by the Virgin of Altótting, published

in 1497. The text was published by R. Bauer, "Das Büchlein der

Zuflucht zu Maria: Altôttinger Mirakelberichte von Jacobus Issickemer,"

in Ostbairische Crenzmarken: Passauer Jahrbuch fiir Geschichte,

Kunst und Volkskunde (1964-65), pp. 206-236. Wallfahrt kennt

keine Grenzen, no. 363. A. M. Hind, An Introduction to a History of

Woodcut (Boston: Floughton Mifflin, 1935), vol. 1, pp. 387-388, fig.

180. See also M. B. Merback, The Thief, the Cross, and the Wheel: Pain

and the Spectacle of Punishment in Medieval and Renaissance Europe

(London: Reaktion, 1999), p. 153, ill. 61.

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2? vie bitcbleto t»cr jtiflucbf 511 dbaru tier muter gottee in .llrcn 0oimjl&arum <wcb
2? vie bitcbleto t»cr jtiflucbf 511 dbaru
tier muter gottee in .llrcn 0oimjl&arum
<wcb v:racbvderr'Viiva3,iiV(Iicitt-l\ii&'VtiOin iiia,fiic|-,'
btcbo.-fon.H'rbjgftmgottcamittcr^BntuitcPfrijrccit tT&ma
ct'j.jygt^bcn ybcrtcrv^'c t" irtn ii5tcir-btc |cl(J muter bcr gim
bciv .ntgcrw ffot"virb fycji't ulltcit bang fjuymjtiliit^ci < gc^

Figure 4. Pilgrimage to the Virgin ofAltotting. Woodcut,

frontispiece to Jakob Issickemer, Das buchlein der zuflucht

zu Maria der muter gottes in alten Oding (Nuremberg, 1497). Photo: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich, Rar. 847.

likely to have seen a painting or a sculpture portraying the saint in just this way, enthroned and remote. The

woodcut is not a representation of the image one might

find at a shrine or church, however. It does not depict a

scene of worship in which people approach a fabricated

portrait of the saint, painted or sculpted. Rather, it is a

paper version of such an image. The woodcut is a portrait

in its own right. The depicted figure is simply an image of St. Anthony. The votaries address him, fulfill their vows by giving him the promised gifts. Images of saints that are fundamentally portraits, like the painted and sculpted images of Anthony or like our woodcut, tend to give the attributes in condensed form, with little suggestion of a

scene or story. An example is a hand-colored woodcut, exceptionally inscribed with a name, a place, and a date, "Ludwig Maler ze Ulm [14]68," representing a pair

Wood: The votive scenario 215

San:' ( m ' V, /,^A Mr s
San:' (
' V,

Figure 5. Ludwig Maler, St. Christopher and St. Anthony

1468. Fland-colored woodcut, 38.2 x 25.5 cm. Photo:

Wiirttembergisches Landesbibliothek, Stuttgart. Sign.: X

Inc. 15".

of saints, Christopher and Anthony, side by side (fig. 5).36 St. Christopher, a giant, ferries an unknown child across

a river. His burden becomes ever heavier but with his

great pole he bests the current. Christ reveals himself and explains that Christopher had been carrying the weight of the whole world—the orb in his hands. As proof of

his powers he makes the pole bear leaves and fruit. St.

Anthony is identified by book, bell, Tau staff, pig, and flames. Both figures are upright and tightly wedged into their frames, resisting horizontal narrative extension.

An earlier woodcut, datable to the second quarter of

36. Schreiber (note 2), no. 1379. Hind (note 35), p. 321. P.

Amelung, Der Frühdruck im deutschen Südwesten 1473-1500, vol. 1,

Ulm (Stuttgart: Württembergische Landesbibliothek, 1979), no. 1.

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216 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011

216 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011 Figure 6. St. Anthony, Germany, second quarter of the fifteenth century.

Figure 6. St. Anthony, Germany, second quarter of the fifteenth century.

Hand-colored woodcut, 27 x 19.1 cm. Photo: Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich, Inv. Nr. 118241 D.

the fifteenth century, represents St. Anthony seated sufferers, on a their hands pictured as flames, and a pair of

triangular throne topped by a fanciful three-bay canopy.

hoofed and clawed demons, one of them wielding a

This is the only other woodcut besides ours to picture club. Anthony was frequently depicted in the late mid

him enthroned (fig. 6).37 Here he holds bell and staff ages suffering temptation at the hands of demons, as

described in the Golden Legend. This is a rare, possibl

and is attended by a pig. He is beset by two kneeling

unique, conflation of two iconographies, placing the

suffering devotees in parallel with the harrassing demon

37. Schreiber (note 2), no. 1218. Die Frühzeit des Holzschnitts

thus rendering Anthony as victim and savior at once.

(note 2), no. 12. See also the miniature painting in a French Book of

A later woodcut, dating from around 1500, possibly

Hours of the third quarter of the century, Morgan Library, M. 282, fol.

127v: Here Anthony is enthroned and attacked by demons on both

French, represents a standing Anthony holding an

flanks; there are no votaries, however.

ordinary Gothic crozier instead of theTau-staff (fig.

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Wood: The votive scenario 217

Wood: The votive scenario 217 7).38 Three of the kneeling figures are well dressed and healthy;

7).38 Three of the kneeling figures are well dressed and healthy; they press their hands together in prayer; one has a rosary at her waist. The fourth supplicant is a ragged victim already missing at least one extremity. He

holds an unidentifiable object in his right hand (a bell?).

He has come directly to the shrine in hopes of relief. The

long bent pole above is decked with models of limbs, swaddled babies, and pigs. Scrolls with Latin inscriptions

prompt the prayers of the print's beholders: "Pray for us,

blessed father Anthony; may we deserve to avoid the

morbid fire."

There are many such surviving images of St. Anthony standing and surrounded by a collection of attributes that

includes votaries and offerings. A painted example is a panel at the castle of Issogne in Savoy, a descendant of the Fabriano image.39 Among the depicted ex votos are

three long candles, two feet, one hand, one forearm, and

one bone.40 A later descendant is the sixteenth-century

woodcut attributed to Sebald Beham representing

a relatively avuncular Anthony flanked by kneeling

votaries, one with a flaming hand. A collection of body

parts, mannikins, and candles is mounted on the exterior

of an Antonite chapel or shrine (fig. 8).41 Some works, like ours, show the saint enthroned,

creating an aura of remote authority and suggesting that

he is not merely an intercessor capable of making a case

to the Virgin or Christ on behalf of human sufferers, but

also a redoubtable source of power in his own right. The

Figure 7. St. Anthony, France (?), ca. 1500. Woodcut, 29.6 x

23.2 cm. Photo: Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

image suggests that he is the only mediator capable of

38. Schreiber (note 2), no. *1217c. C. Dodgson, Woodcuts of

the Fifteenth Century in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Oxford:

managing the ravaging fire, symbol of a sacred chaos

Clarendon Press, 1929), no. 28. On prints depicting St. Anthony, see

Kriss-Rettenbeck (note 7), p. 27, and S. Gross, Hans Wydyz: sein

that precedes even the gods. Anthony was considered

vengeful and ill-tempered. In the popular imagination

Œuvre und die oberrheinische Bildschnitzkunst (Hildesheim and New

York: Georg Olms, 1997), p. 134, nn. 398-401.

the disease was understood as a punishment for insults

39. Panel, 133x118 cm. See Fenelli, "Sant' Antonio Abate" (note

or neglect, for example reckless damage to an image of

14), p. 246, with illustration. N. Gabrielli, Rappresentazioni sacre

the saint.42 The historical Anthony, by contrast, according

e profane nel Castello di issogne e la pittura nella Valle d'Aosta alia

to Athanasius, was a humble ascetic who wanted his

fine del '400 (Torino: Industria Libraría Tipográfica Editrice, 1959), pp.

tomb site hidden.43


40. The objects are brown and might be meant to be understood

as wooden. There is textual evidence that models of body parts

offered at shrines in the earlier middle ages were made of wood: see

Gregory of Tours, cited by Freedberg (note 7), p. 136. The tomb of

42. Fenelli, II tau (note 14), pp. 126, 142-146. Erasmus in his

St. Wolfgang depicted in an altar at Pipping near Munich, according

to Kriss-Rettenbeck (note 7), p. 76, is the only late medieval image was more good natured than Anthony?

Colloquies mocked this belief: "When [the saints] were alive


But what terrible diseas

showing wooden ex votos. Many of the examples in Andree (note 7)

are wooden, but they are hard to date.

they send now if they are not, as you have heard, venerated proper

cited by Huizinga (note 20), pp. 199-200. See Luther's comment in


C. Dodgson, Catalogue of Early German and Flemish Woodcuts

his Table Talk, cited by Fenelli, Il tau (note 14), p. 143, n. 116. See

(London: British Museum, 1903), vol. 1, p. 465, no. 115. F. W. Clementz H. (note 17), pp. 51-54, on vindictive saints.

Hollstein, German Engravings, Etchings, and Woodcuts, ca. 1400-1700

43. According to Athanasius (note 16), §§ 90-92, the saint insis

(Amsterdam: Hertzberger, n.d.), vol. 3, p. 202. M. Geisberg, The on being buried underground and made sure that only two brethre

knew the site. Athanasius reported that in his day no one any more

German Single-Leaf Woodcut, 1500-1550 (New York: Hacker, 1974),

no. 1504 (attributed to Hans Weiditz). The print is datable to about 1522.

knew the location.

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218 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011

218 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011 banner on canvas by Spinello Aretino (ca. 1375), in the Metropolitan

banner on canvas by Spinello Aretino (ca. 1375), in

the Metropolitan Museum of Art;46 and the St. John

the Evangelist by Giovanni del Biondo (1380s) in the

Accademia.47 It is not clear what provoked or licensed

these moves, but they are the art historical context for the promotion of Anthony to a throne. Anthony's pictorial enthronement reinforced the saint's reputation

as a distant and godlike personage. There are several

enthroned Anthonys from the fourteenth century,

including a Florentine dossal in a private collection

attributed to the Master of 1343;48 a processional

banner by Barnaba da Modena at the Victoria and Albert

Museum (ca. 1370);49 a panel by Niccolo di Tommaso

in Naples, dated 1371 ;50 a panel by Spinello Aretino at

the Rhode Island School of Design Museum (ca. 1385);51

and a panel by Niccolo di Pietro Gerini at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston (ca. 1380) (fig. 9).

The black-robed saint in this last work is immense and

remote, his gaze fixed and forbidding. His roster of

attributes has been stripped down to a red book and a

staff; he is framed not by human votaries but by four


These panels are the ancestors of the fifteenth-century

enthroned Anthonys, such as the altarpiece by Priamo

del la Quercia (1445) at the Oratorio di S. Antonio in

Volterra, with fire below the robe and small laborers—

Figure 8. Sebald Beham, St. Anthony, ca. 1522. Woodcut, 29.3

x 22.3 cm. ©Trustees of the British Museum.

not victims of disease—hauling goods, apparently salt, as

an offering;52 and our own woodcut. We also have fragments of a tradition of sculpted enthroned Anthonys. The oldest is a French work in stone dated to the mid-fourteenth century that seems independent of the Italian panels.53 Possibly derived from the Italian paintings, or from lost German panels

Before the mid-fourteenth century, only a very few

holy personages were depicted seated on thrones. This

sign of monarchical, judicial, ecclesiastical, or academic

authority was reserved for God the Father, Christ, and

the Virgin, as well as saints whose iconography involved

enthronement: the doctor Thomas Aquinas, for example,

or bishop saints such as Peter, Martin, or Nicholas of Myra. Some Florentine altarpieces of the fourteenth century ventured to promote saints to thrones in excess of their traditional iconographies. Examples are the St.

Bartholomew by Jacopo del Casentino (1330s) in the

Accademia in Florence;44 the St. Lucy by Giovanni di

Bartolomeo Cristiani (ca. 1375) at the Yale University Art Gallery;45 the Mary Magdalene, a processional

46. Metropolitan Museum of Art inv. no. 13.175. F. Zeri,

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Italian Paintings, Florentine School

(Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society, 1971), pp. 101-102.

47. Gallería dell' Accademia, inv. no. 446. Marcucci, Gallerie

Nazionali di Firenze, inv. no. 79.

48. Fenelli, "Sant'Antonio Abate" (note 14), p. 331, with


49. London, Victoria and Albert Museum, inv. no. 781.1894.

50. Naples, Museo di San Martino. Fenelli, Sant' Antonio Abate, p.

305 with illustration. Offner, "Niccolô di Tommaso and the Rinuccini

Master" (note 22), pp. 224-225 and fig. 10.

51. Providence, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, inv. no.


44. Florence, Gallería dell' Accademia, inv. no. 440. L. Marcucci,

Callerie Nazionali di Firenze, I dipinti toscarti del secolo XIV (Rome:

Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato, 1965), no. 27. 45. Yale University Art Gallery, inv. no. 1943.215. C. Seymour,

Early Italian Paintings in the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven:

Yale University Press, 1970), no. 42.

52. Sumptuosa tabula picta: pittori a Lucca tra gotico e rinascimento, exhibition catalogue, Lucca, Museo nazionale di Vill

Guinigi (Livorno: Sillabe, 1998), pp. 330-336. Fenelli, "Sant'Anton

Abate" (note 14), pp. 311-312.

53. Brussels, Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, inv. no. 8783. T

work was first published by Gross (note 38), p. 136 and fig. 82.

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Wood: The votive scenario 219

mediating between the two traditions, are several German wood sculptures of the fifteenth century.54 The best-known is the enthroned St. Anthony by Nicholas

of Hagenau for the Antonites at Isenheim in Alsace (ca.

1490), now in Colmar, the central figure of the altarpiece later completed with two sets of painted wings by Matthias Grünewald.55 The intermediary links between

the Tuscan painted altarpieces (fig. 9), the German

sculptures, and the two German prints (figs. 1 and 6), all representing St. Anthony enthroned, have vanished. It is impossible to construct a coherent art historical


Enthronement opened the image of St. Anthony onto the iconography of the Epiphany. His body rhymes with the figure of the Madonna supporting her son on her lap, target of the wondering gazes of the shepherds and the gifts of the Magi. In our woodcut, too, the company

splits into two classes, low and high, ragged and empty

handed, well-dressed and gift-bearing. If the Dosso

Enchantress is an anagram or veiled transfiguration of

a Rest on the Flight into Egypt, then the St. Anthony

woodcut is an anagram of an Epiphany.

Now we have a sense of the family of images this

picture belongs to. The purpose of such images was

to deliver a true image of Anthony. When it came to

images of saints associated with disease or trouble, the beholding of an image, accompanied by prayer, was sometimes held to bring automatic, immediate

protection. This is explicit with many images of St.

Christopher. The early woodcut known as the "Buxheim"

St. Christopher bears an inscription affirming that

anyone who looks at him will not die unexpectedly on that day.57 Images of St. Sebastian were also associated

on that day.57 Images of St. Sebastian were also associated 54. Examples are at St. Justinus

54. Examples are at St. Justinus at Hoechst (near Frankfurt am

Main); the Antonite church in Würzburg; and the Antonite abbey at

Figure 9. Niccolô di Pietro Cerini, St. Anthony, ca. 1380.

Tempera and gold on wood, 307.5 x 127.2 cm. © Isabella

Zahrensdorf-Tempzin (Mecklenburg). Ibid., pp. 122-125, 135-138. See

Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

also the southern Netherlandish or French sculpture in the Liebieghaus

in Frankfurt, inv. no. St. P. 382. It is believed but cannot be proven

that these works reflect a lost prototype at the main Antonite shrine at


55. On the sculpted St. Anthony at Isenheim, see M. Seidel et al.,

Mathis Gothart Nithart Grünewald: der Isenheimer Altar (Stuttgart:

Belser, 1973), pp. 203-206.

56. Some of the works listed by C. Cozzi, Sant' Antonio Abbate 'il Grande' (Mantua: Sometti, 2005), might be sculptures. Cozzi mentions

many images of St. Anthony but reproduces few; Fenelli, "Sant' Antonio Abate" (note 14), is more selective but more informative.

57. Schreiber (note 2), no. 1349. Origins of European Printmaking

(note 2), no. 35. Many Christians were convinced that a sighting of the image of St. Christopher on a given day would protect the beholder from harm or illness. H.-Fr. Rosenfeld, Der hi. Christophorus: Seine

Verehrung und seine Legende, Acta Academiae Aboensis-Humaniora

with protection from harm.58 An early woodcut of St. Valentine, a saint involved with the treatment of

epileptics, bears an inscription asking Valentine to

"Pray to God for us."59 No image of St. Anthony bears an inscription promising protection by virtue of a mere sighting. Some bear inscriptions asking the saint to

58. See Origins of European Printmaking (note 2), nos. 5 and 36,

images of Sebastian inscribed with prayers for protection from plague.

59. Schreiber (note 2), no. 1717b. Origins of European Printmaking

10, 1937) (Abo: Akademi, 1937), pp. 423^130.

(note 2), no. 98; Dodgson (note 38), no. 24.

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220 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011

"pray for us," to intercede. But the woodcut we looked

fifteenth century.66 One could also hope for contact with

at earlier that couples Anthony with Christopher (fig. relics of the thaumaturge in southern Germany because

5) gives the clue to the function of printed portraits of

Antonite clerics used to travel from town to town bearing

St. Anthony.60 The prophylactic power associated with relics and collecting alms.67 But few viewers of the

Christopher was extended by analogy to Anthony. This

was surely one of the expectations from our image.61

One imagines it mounted in a household like the

woodcut of St. Christopher attached with red sealing

wax to the wall above the fireplace in the Brussels

woodcut were likely to have seen anything like the scene

it depicted. No doubt a contemporary would never

have posed to himself the question of the historical or

topographical siting of the scene. The question would

have made no sense. The image represents a state of

Annunciation by the Master of Flémalle, a panel painting

affairs outside of time: Anthony (or his relics) heals all

of the late 1420s.62

The historical life of our woodcut is obscure. In

those who suffer, yesterday and today and tomorrow,

from St. Anthony's fire.

the nineteenth century it was transferred from the

Hofbibliothek in Munich to the print cabinet. Therefore, like many other surviving woodcuts, it was very likely

found pasted inside a manuscript or printed book,

though the identity of that book was not recorded.63 The St. Valentine print also mentions a place, Rufach,

whereas no image of St. Anthony does. Scholars have

speculated about a possible association of our print

with one or another Antonite hospital, but there is no conclusive link.64 Anthony's tomb was in France, about

three hundred miles to the southwest. St.-Antoine-en

Viennois was a major pilgrimage site, a short detour

from one of the main routes to Compostela. The shrine is mentioned in literature, for example, in the fifteenth-century French prose collection Cent nouvelles nouvelles.65 Many German pilgrims made the trek in the

60. See also a late fourteenth-century Florentine triptych that pairs

Anthony and Christopher on the exterior wings; F. Zeri, Italian Paintings

in the Walters Art Gallery (Baltimore: Walters Art Gallery, 1976), no. 9. The inscription below St. Christopher on that triptych promises

protection from illness for anyone who looks at the image that day; St. Anthony, however, is described not as a healer, but as a lamp of true light, a teacher, a master, and a traveler. At Isenheim, Grünewald pairs

Anthony and Sebastian on the exterior wings; see Hayum (note 17),

pp. 17-20.

61. Kriss-Rettenbeck suggests that the main function of the St.

Anthony woodcuts was propaganda for the order, a hint to us to

exercise caution when assessing their purpose and use (note 7), pp.


The woodcut is a portrait of Anthony that has started

to look like a scene because the iconographie shorthand

is beginning to open up into a typology of devotions, each with its own temporality. The attributes do not

sit still, as labels should—compare, for example, the

kneeling figures in the Fabriano panel of 1353 (fig. 3)—but have taken on a life of their own. They have

been spurred into awareness and action, beseeching

the figure of the saint whom they serve to identify.

The simple portrait of the saint has begun to resemble

a plausible scene unfolding in space and time.

This is the essence of the device developed in early

fifteenth-century Flemish painting known as "disguised

symbolism."68 A "disguised" symbol is a conventional

attribute that the painter pretends to mask by motivating it within a pictorial fiction—that is, giving it a legitimate reason to exist in the fiction. A good example is the panel representing St. Barbara by Jan van Eyck (Antwerp,

Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, 1437)) where

the saint, whose attribute is a tower, sits on the ground in front of a full-size church tower under construction. The

device draws a distinction between a traditional picture

that is content to enumerate attributes and a new-style

picture that describes a plausible scene that might map

onto someone's experience of reality.

The unfolding of the attributes in the St. Anthony

woodcut into a scene reinforces the work's recursive

character. The woodcut "mentions" states of the soul—


Brussels, Musée des Beaux-Arts, inv. no. 785. The Master of

the physiological and mental conditions of the depicted

Flémalle and Rogier van der Weyden, exhibition catalogue, Frankfurt

and Berlin (Ostfildern: Ftatje'Cantz, 2008), no. 3.

votaries—in order to identify the seated saint. But those

63. On the provenances of the early woodcuts, see P. Schmidt,

Gedruckte Bilder in handgeschriebenen Büchern: zum Gebrauch von

Druckgraphik im 15. Jahrhundert (Kôln : Bôhlau, 2003).

66. Ibid., p. 120, nn. 40, 122.

64. Neither the two shields with crosses on either side of Anthony's

67. Fenelli (ibid.), p. 138, cites a text condemning the practice.

head nor the bird has ever been explained. For various reasons,

plausible but not decisive, our print has been associated with Swabia,

The relic-driven alms campaign covered all of Germany by 1395.

See Clementz (note 17), pp. 147-172. Some rel ics of Anthony were

perhaps the town of Ulm; the watermark is shared by two other early

woodcuts, Schreiber (note 2), nos. 471 and 1000; see Origins of

European Printmaking (note 2), p. 297.

permanently transferred to Aries and to Milan, but the order fought

fiercely to limit the fragmentation.

68. E. Ranofsky, Early Netherlandish Painting (Cambridge, Mass.:

65. Fenelli, Il Tau (note 14), p. 125.

Harvard University Press, 1953), pp. 131-148.

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Wood: The votive scenario 221

mentions are also "uses" of the sufferer's condition, in

and a panic-stricken journey. The middle register invokes

the sense that they represent the ordeals of real people a distant prayer—a performative entry into a contract—a

and so enter into possible overlap with the state of

mind and body of a person outside the picture, a person

looking at the picture and hoping not to fall ill.

cure, and a journey. Suspended from the rail above the

throne, finally, is the spellbinding display of offerings, an

archive of past suffering that proves the efficacy of the

The Enchantress by Dosso Dossi is also recursive, but

system. All these time-frames are bodily and experiential,

it does not invite its beholders to project themselves directly into the fiction. There is no place held in the picture for the beholder. There are no immediate existential stakes for the beholder—no interest, in the

making no claims at all about what happens to the soul

after death. The picture, as well as the cult of St. Anthony that it describes, breaks with the salvational function of

devotion. One was supposed to turn to the saints for

classical sense. Most people encountering that painting

help in securing the immortality of the soul. Votaries

in its original (or for that matter its current) setting

understand how to approach it—namely, with no

of St. Anthony are more interested in the integrity of

their bodies.

expectation that it help with an urgent practical problem, The picture heightens tension by contrasting the

but rather with a wondering, savoring, ruminating

delight. The painting represents various modes of cultic The enthronement is exploited as way of introducing

urgency of the sufferers with the saint's implacability.

or magical interaction between mind and thing, but only

to stage a comparison with the different kind of

interaction it offered its own beholders. The beholder of

drama. Now we are well beyond the rhetorical range

of mere attributes, for the picture has been transformed

from a simple portrait, whose efficacy followed from its

the painting by Dosso dominates time. The beholder of

authenticity, into a commentary on interaction between

the woodcut, by contrast, is afraid that he or she will be

humans and the divine in general.

dominated by time. Contingency and emergent

experience have been inducted into the picture through

The woodcut of St. Anthony describes neither the

behavior of the first witnesses of Christ's Passion, remote

the referential elements, the attributes which are at the in time and space, nor the behavior of characters from

same time starting to resemble portraits.

an epic poem based on legendary stories, as Dosso's

The convulsed, indecorous temporality of suffering

painting does, but rather, the behavior of people one

was not alien to the pictorial tradition: Think only of the

might actually know. It is a scene that one might end

Crucifixion—the writhing of the thieves—or the myriad

up joining one day. One prayed to St. Anthony at home,

Christian martyrdom scenes. Martyrs were placeholders,

role models, for ordinary beholders. But how hard

it must have been for most Christians in practice to imagine themselves before an imperial tribunal in

third-century Rome, persevering in their faith in the face

perhaps before a woodcut attached to the wall; one begged to be spared or cured. The woodcut provided

the focal point of prayer, and at the same time presented

the future as a tree of possibilities. One person fails to

seek the saint's grace and is punished with illness; he

of a gruesome ordeal. The effects of St. Anthony's fire must make his way on damaged limbs to the shrine to

were vivid and near. The woodcut hints at the power of

make amends. One person seeks out the Antonites and

this disease and others, above all the plague, to upset

not only lives but also social hierarchy. Money could

buy salvation but not health. The rhyme between the knight on the right and the crippled votary below him,

submits to an examination—the clerics were known for

their diagnostic skill. Another asks for a cure in exchange for proof of respect; he is cured and undertakes a

promised pilgrimage. Another dies, unaccountably

between the sword and the crutch, brings out the image's ignored by the healer. Another seeks relief from a local

biopolitical dimension.

medicine woman, an adept of herbal cures. Still another

Portraits of donors keep a respectful distance from the tempts fate, does nothing, and survives. The theology

targets of their devotion, revealing no state of mind other of the votive exchange insisted that the offering was a

than steady attentiveness. They hope for salvation. The good-faith fulfillment of a promise made after the saint votaries of St. Anthony are interested in a less abstract had performed the cure. After all, it was the votary goal: not salvation but cure, the redemption not of the whose integrity was to be tested, not the saint's. But the soul but of the body. They do not contemplate the saint documents suggest that plenty of believers made their in tranquility, but press inward, wrapping their arms sacrifices before the cure, as propitiations or bribes.69

around the arms of his throne, daring to approach the

hem of his robe. Here there are three time-frames. The

lowest register of figures invokes the onset of a disease

69. Stahl (note 28).

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222 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011

There were many choices. Pilgrimage is voluntary, not proliferation of altars dedicated to St. Anthony. In 1445


The woodcut is a scenario: a script outlining

what might happen in the future. The scenario is a term of art developed by the Italian comedy, the

commedia dell'arte. It is a written sketch of the plot that allows for improvisation; it is not a forecast, nor

is it a prescription, nor does it ramify infinitely. It is a

bounded tree of possible outcomes that helps people

deal with contingency by manipulating expectations

of likelihood.71 The scenario contains several different

narratives of how things will unfold in the future.

The hypothetical narratives influence beliefs about likelihood. The key to the grip of the scenario on its beholders is the compulsion to project the self into the

tree of contingencies. The votaries are placeholders

for the real beholders. The possibility that you might find yourself suspended in the subjunctive mood of the

scenario creates interest.

Hagiographical images show vivid scenes, as if

quoted from a Crucifixion or a Lamentation. The tomb scene in the Vatican Vita panel of Margaret of Antioch may represent a woman in childbirth.72 And yet such images are not scenarios, for until the image is set in motion by the medium of print—until it is liberated from the altarpiece—the beholder will not enter into a direct,

one-to-one relationship with the scene.73 The woodcut is mobile, easily penetrating the domestic and bodily

spheres. The image of the wax hand is now brought

right into people's hands. The medium of the print

makes the connection. The Antonites tried to control the

70. See V. and E. Turner, Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978), p. 3, on pilgrimage as

a voluntary undertaking that crucially involves potentiality. See the remarks by I. V. Small on the ex voto as a "contingent expression of

belief," a "space of doubt" rather than credulity; "Believing in Art: The

Votive Structures of Conceptual Art," RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics

55/56 (2009):304.

71. The concept of the scenario plays a role today in engineering,

systems analysis, and corporate and public policy. Scenarios help

people grasp complex systems, or prepare publics to accept not

necessarily desirable outcomes of policies or situations. See, for

example, I. Alexander and N. Maiden, Scenarios, Stories, Use Cases:

Through the Systems Development Life-Cycle (Chichester and

Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2004).

72. Gilbertson (note21), p. 137.

73. Note the engraving by Baccio Baldini possibly reproducing a

lost Vita panel of St. Anthony by Fra Angélico; Fenelli, "Sant' Antonio

Abate" (note 14), p. 210, nn. 67 and 251. The print does not have the

same effect as ours because the shrine scene, which shows pilgrims below a tomb erected on columns, is barely visible in the lower left


they persecuted a hermit who had set up a shrine to the saint outside the sway of the Order. A compromise was reached: The hermit could keep his altar but had no right to display an image of Anthony.74 The dissemination of

woodcuts or small panel paintings into private spaces

was harder to control.

Grünewald's retable at the Antonite hospital at

Isenheim was a complex symbolic machine offering

a guide for a "total therapy" of the patient, body

and soul, health and salvation.75 But the allegorical

mediation of a retable is considerable. Grünewald's

iconographical inventions create complex parallels

among Christ, Anthony, and patient. The experience of

the painted panels was supplemented by sermons; by

the various participatory theologies of the late middle ages encouraging an Imitatio Christi; and by lore, the subliterary mesh of stories and plays that connected Christian myth to everyday life. Paintings impose a filter of allegory and convention between myth and experience, not to mention their forbidding association

with the altar. A woodcut like ours is suballegorical.

There were other printed images that invited

projection, for example, the image of the bedridden and dying man that often accompanied the text known

as the Ars moriendi, warning the beholder to settle the

state of his soul before death. What was the difference

between this and the image of pilgrimage? The Ars

moriendi confronted the beholder with a simple, even if

not easy, binary choice: Learn to die properly, or else. In

this way it is analogous to the image of the Temptation of St. Anthony. The message of that scene is obvious:

You are supposed to resist temptation. A scenario, by

contrast, projects a more ambiguous and branching

plurality of plots.

The scenario is completely unlike a script for ritual behavior. Ritual tends to "intercept" all attempts at

reflexive communication, such as the recursivity or self observation that complex works like our print invite.76 An individual cannot just barge into a ritual with all his

74. Ibid., p. 103.

75. Hayum (note 17); Clementz (note 17), pp. 271-290; Fen "Sant' Antonio Abate (note 14), pp. 291-293. See also Merbac

35), a study of painted Crucifixions and the culture of punishm

in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Germany, as well as V. Gro

Defaced: The Visual Culture of Violence in the Late Middle Age (New York: ZONE, 2004). The latter two books suggest that his

beholders readily compared images of mythic suffering to thei

real local and personal experiences.

76. N. Luhmann, Social Systems (Stanford: Stanford Univers

Press, 1995), p. 452.

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Wood: The votive scenario 223

or her cares and fears on display. Individuals involved

in rituals are not supposed to communicate with one

and the dead, or the well and the sick. The rhetoric of

the photograph is so potent that a daguerrotype even of

another as individuals, "out of character." The ritual

is immersive and participatory, whereas the scenario

involves shuttling back and forth between distance and painted portraits. The wax ex voto exerts a similar pull

and fascination by virtue of its indexicality: or rather,

an unknown subject is more compelling than almost any

painted portrait, or let us say all but the most remarkable

self-projection. The woodcut devirtualizes the scene at

a shrine, which would still have been governed by ritual its rhetoric oí indexicality, for the wax limb was not in

and conventions.

At the shrine, one would approach relics encased

within an altar or a reliquary. One would see others,

suffering or healed, making their pleas or fulfilling their

vows. One would see the display of gifts, in effect a

portrait gallery, a display of images matched one to one with real individuals. At the shrine, the individual,

no matter how humble, portrays himself. The pilgrim's bodily presence alone is already a kind of self-portrait, for in her devotions the pilgrim is making an image of herself, for other pilgrims. The individuals remain anonymous, but nonetheless they perform for others, and they deposit, in the form of wax body parts, self portraits. The feet and hands refer to individuals even if the content of the reference is lost. The wax body parts

lack any differentiating marks. They were not individually

commissioned but were mass produced by artisans, for

purchase "off the rack," probably from a shop located near the shrine. But the context creates them as portraits.

The site and the display railing signify that this very

object has made its way out of the artisan's shop and into the hands of a votary. Simply by purchasing the object

and transferring it from shop to shrine, the votary makes

it his own.

Some images representing appeals for saintly

intercession include depictions of kneeling petitioners

whose reference is ambiguous. In the St. Anthony panel

by the Master of Fabriano, for example, the kneeling donors with their generic facial features might be generic votaries (fig. 3). But it is also possible that the figures in that painting refer to real individuals, perhaps the very family who commissioned the picture. If so, then they are portraits, despite the low degree of resemblance. The

wax body parts at a shrine similarly occupy a middle

referential state. Their target of reference—the individual

whose limb was healed—is quickly forgotten. But the

medium of wax creates an effect of a direct connection

to a person. Someone was here, the wax foot says. To behold a display of wax hands and feet and organs is something like coming across a box of unlabelled

nineteenth-century photographs. They are portraits even if we don't know the names of the portrayed. The

form of the portrait photograph, even if severed from its

content, suffices to create a contact between the living

fact cast from a real limb. The medium of wax was the

preferred medium for the ex voto because it symbolized the tight link to individual experience that no painting,

poem, or ritual could ever have.

The model of the body part, besides being a gift of valuable wax, introduces a further concept of sacrifice, one not covered by the votive system. The wax body part may also suggest that the vengeful saint required from the victim, if he expected the fiery disease to abate, a sacrifice of flesh. In that case, the wax model

must be understood as a representation not of a healed

extremity, but of a diseased and disfigured or even amputated extremity, a hand or foot surrendered to the thaumauturge as the price of the cure. Only then does

the story of suffering end.

The possibility that the wax models represent not healed but irreversibly damaged limbs, thus invoking the most literal possible concept of self-sacrifice, is supported by evidence that at some shrines one might

have seen displays of real amputated hands and feet,

dried or mummified. Giovanni Francesco Pico del la

Mirándola reported in 1502 that at an Antonite cloister

he saw "scorched limbs and bones" "suspended from the

doorposts of the sanctuary."77 The body parts in Beham's St. Anthony woodcut, which hang not at a tomb but on an exterior wall, have different shapes from the wax

models as well as a shriveled or sinewy character (fig.

8). Laura Fenelli wondered whether the shrine scene in

the Antonite frescoes at the church of the Tau in Pistoia

might depict a box full not of wax models but of real hands and feet, amputated limbs preserved as true relics of diseased but now cured bodies.78 In the woodcut

representing the Altôtting pilgrimage, the man with the crutch in the foreground, missing one foot, also holds

77. Cited in Hayum (note 17), pp. 31-32. She also presents

evidence of amputations at the Antonite hospitals.

78. Fenelli, "Sant' Antonio Abate" (note 14), p. 247. Elsewhere

Fenelli has collected examples suggesting that such offerings were

later misunderstood as minatory displays of the punished bodies of

blasphemers again-st St. Anthony or other sacrilegious criminals; Dall' eremo alla stalle; S. Antonio Abate tra testi e immagini (Rome and Bari:

Laterza, forthcoming). I am grateful to Laura Fenelli for sharing these

texts with me. On cults associated with the bodies and body parts of

executed criminals, see Kriss-Rettenbeck (note 7), pp. 19-25.

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224 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011

a foot in his hand, as if he were offering a part of his your promise, thus closing the deal struck at the mome

own body to appease the Virgin and stave off further of crisis, but in addition you recommend yourself to

punishment (fig. 4).79 The predella of an altarpiece by the saint. The body part does not represent attention

Hans Fries in the Franziskanerkirche of Freiburg im or attendance. The body part, more purely an offering,

Üechtland (Switzerland) (1506) represents a devotee

closes the cycle once and for all.

at the shrine of St. Anthony of Padua carrying his own The double function of the votive effigy is made clear

amputated hand.80 The amputated limb is the most

powerfully signifying self-portrait, a physical sample melted of down for the silver but replaced by a dummy.83

the self: a relic of a still-living body, in fact. It is an "auto

icon," to invoke Jeremy Bentham's term for his own votary could go on with his motionless virtual devotions

preserved and fully dressed body, still on display to this

day at University College, London.81

this way, the clerics could make use of the silver, but th

by a documented example of a silver effigy that was


The wax and silver full-body effigies are often

The wax model displaces the idea of self-sacrifice

compared to painted representations of kneeling donors,

on walls or panels. A celebrated example of the latter is

the Madonna of Canon George van der Paele by Jan van

Eyck (Bruges, Groeningemuseum, 1436). Here the mortal

donor and the holy personages share the same pictorial

space and are portrayed in the same scale. Many lesser

from the body itself to a mere object. This is the key

to the drama of the shrine scene. Depictions of tomb

shrines sustain this drama because they do not make it

easy to distinguish—or can get away with not bothering

to distinguish—between the severed, mummified foot

and the wax model that represents a spared foot.

patrons and artists employed the same sensational

device, for example, in a small panel by Hans Memling

The wax body part is often treated in the scholarly

literature together with the life-sized wax or silver effigy.

(fig. 10).84 The unidentified man at the left kneels in

The body part is understood as a less expensive and

permanent attendance on the Virgin and the saints

elaborate version of the effigy. Many a votary must surrounding have her: Catherine on the left, and on the right,

wished that she could afford to represent herself in true

with her tower, Barbara. The rhyme with the woodcut

proportions, either as a sculpture in precious material representing devotions to St. Anthony is obvious. The

or as a wax effigy outfitted with real clothes and hair enthroned figure is flanked by two figures on each

and with painted resemblant features, rather than as a

side. The mortal man at the left finds an awkward

mere hand or foot. The effigy, like the humble body part,

position neither in nor out of the scene, symbolizing

fundamentally represents an expenditure fulfilling a the vow. ambiguity of his relation to the holy figures. The

But it does something else that the body part cannot: sacred fire or chaos is now translated into drapery folds.

By representing the votary in an attitude of devotion, it

Churchgoers who paused before this altarpiece would

places her in permanent attendance on the shrine. The

know that someone with means had dedicated resources

votary deputizes the effigy to pray for her. The effigy

represents, to the saint and to pilgrims, what the votary

wishes she could do, namely, train her heart and mind

unceasingly on the divine.82 With an effigy you fulfill

and Schlosser thought so; Kriss-Rettenbeck, Brückner, and van der

Velden argue that the effigies were simply representations of a spiritual

process or attitude (see note 7 above). See also van der Velden (note

7), pp. 223-245, and "Medici Votive Images and the Scope and

Limits of Likeness," in The Image of the Individual: Portraits in the

Renaissance, ed. N. Mann and L. Syson (London: British Museum Publications, 1998), p. 133. Bacci (note 7), p. 194, sees the full-body

effigy not as a survival of ancient superstition—Warburg and Schlosser's

argument—but a phenomenon of the late middle ages related to the

increasing involvement of the individual in public religion. Bacci's

view is supported by the fact that the custom of leaving models of body

parts is historically continuous with pagan antiquity, whereas the effigy

79. Bauer (note 35), contends that the image represents one of

the stories recounted in the text, no. 24, in which a man facing an

amputation prays for courage. The Virgin rewards him by replacing

his diseased foot painlessly. It is not clear, however, why the woodcut

would represent this man as a beggar in rags. See Kriss-Rettenbeck

(note 7), pp. 25 and 33.

80. Hans Fries, 1460-1523: Ein Mater an der Zeitwende (Munich:

Hirmer, 2001), cat. no. 9b, pp. 156-157.


R. Brilliant, Portraiture (London: Reaktion, 1991), pp. 123-125.

is not; see A. Rossi, "Tracce di continuité cultúrale fra paganesimo e

82. L. Bruhns, "Das Motiv der Ewigen Anbetung in der romischen Grabplastik des 16., 17., und 18. Jhs.," Rômisches Jahrbuch für

Kunstgeschichte 4 (1940):253^132; M. Denzler, "Ewige Anbetung,"

Reallexikon zur deutschen Kunst (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1937-), vol. 6,

col. 572-600; Reinle (note 7), pp. 31-65, 237-241. The question of

whether this counts as magic or not has vexed the literature. Warburg larger altarpiece of 1479 made for the Sint-Janshospitaal in Bruges.

cristianesimo: le offerte votive," in Ex voto tra storia e antropología

(note 7), pp. 29-34.

83. Van der Velden (note 7), p. 175.

84. D. de Vos, Hans Memling (Antwerp: Fonds Mercator Raribas,

1994), no. 35, p. 166. The composition is based on Memling's own

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Wood: The votive scenario 225


Figure 10. Hans Memling, Virgin and Child with Saints and Donor, after 1479. Oil on

panel, 68.3 x 73.3 cm. © Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

to his relationship with the Virgin Mary, in worshipful respect for her person and in hopes that she might

intercede with her son on behalf of the mortal soul.

That visitor may not know who exactly is represented in the painting. Such portraits were not identified by inscriptions, but at best by a coat of arms. Kneeling figures were recognizable as portraits by virtue of their

compliance with conventions of posture and placement

and by a rhetoric of physiognomic realism. They read as portraits, indeed as self-portraits, in the sense that the agency of the commissioning votary dominated the agency of the fabricating artisan, unless the painting

were done by a famous or autarchic painter. It was no

different at the shrine.

The similarities between the painted donor portrait and the wax or silver full-body effigy reveal the difference between the effigy and the mere body part. The votary who hopes to maintain a permanent virtual presence at a shrine through an effigy may be tempted

to downplay the origins of the vow in suffering—in emergent time—and instead to strive for an image of composure and stability. The effigy represented a

constancy of purpose untouched by time. Some effigies,

it seems, did preserve a memory of the unsettled state

of body and soul that set the whole process in motion.

In 1497 Giuliano Guizzelmi, on behalf of a votary, paid

for a wax image of a kneeling man in camicia—that

is, in his shirt—which he then placed at the Madonna

del le Carceri.85 It would be unthinkable, however, that a

donor represent himself in a state of partial undress in a painting. And indeed most of the wax and silver effigies, as far as we can tell, represented their subjects not only intact but in states of dignity, composure, and worldly splendor, just as did painted portraits. The body part suggests by its incompleteness the anguish of uncertainty

85. Maniura (note 7), p. 420.

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226 RES 59/60 SPRING/AUTUMN 2011

that is the matrix of devotional resolution. The painted

be anxiety. Devotional practice is designed to soothe

donor portrait or the wax effigy with hands clasped this anxiety. The composed features and limbs of the

and expressionless features, by contrast, announces the

kneeling painted devout are attempts to bring into being

intention to overcome contingency altogether.86 There is

an equilibrium of the soul. The donor is represented in a

no reference to any specific occasion.87

The effigy in camicia and the body part, as well

state of spiritual "health." The wax body parts were never the focal point of

as chains and manacles and other relics of a crisis, anybody's devotions. No divine power flowed through

preserved the sense of the "emergent occasion" that

them. They were just tokens of expenditure, and a simple

set the devotional cycle in motion. Every artifact is spelling out of the nature of the disaster. And yet they

"occasioned." It is the product of unique circumstances

were the densest points in the whole scene, whether

and actions. An artifact that strives to transcend its own

the real scene at the shrine or the depicted scene in the

occasion—most any cult image, for example—will try

woodcut. The body parts are dense because they are

to efface the traces of its own historical production. places The within the representation (the scene at the shrine,

votive offering does just the opposite. Its entire meaning

the woodcut) less subject to representational codes. They

is its preservation of a unique experience of suffering.

The moment of origin is not allowed to vanish in the

map onto people's lives. They are "living images" in the

sense developed in a recent book by Fredrika Jacobs.89

representation. Whereas most representations—portraits

of saints, histories, symbolic images—derived their authority by pointing back beyond their own mere

fabrication to a prestigious origin in the remotest past,

It is the same in the fictional painting by Dosso Dossi:

the densest and most compelling point in the scene—the

enchantress is looking straight at it—is the cluster of

mannikins suspended in the tree, weird materializations

the votive offering pointed to a more recent event in the

of the souls of the transformed soldiers.

life of an individual: a new origin. The ex voto registers

The woodcut image that not only shows the

an autobiographical impulse. The individual, encouraged

scene but also puts it in your hands is a flattened

to imitate Christ, performs his or her story in public.

pictorial field with unexpected depths. It compares

All these tendencies were only augmented in the small

conventionalized ritual behavior to the surging, stalling

painted panels that would proliferate from the sixteenth

century to the present.88 The votive scenario seems true to life because it

describes a passage from health to illness to health that

we have all experienced. It is not difficult to imagine the

body in a state of steady well-being: we call that good

health. The painting or effigy that represents the donor in permanent attendance on the shrine, by contrast,

is not interested in health but in the soul. The work

helps the donor achieve for his soul what he knows

his body is capable of: equilibrium, ease, security. But

the soul is never at rest; as long as the soul can foresee

the inevitability of the unforeseen, there will always

flow of everyday consciousness, summoned by the

wax limbs. The print appears homogeneous but is in

fact an unsettled house of many compartments. The

print reduces the four-dimensional experience at the

shrine to two dimensions. And yet the experience of

the woodcut is in important ways like the experience

at the shrine. It "belongs" to its beholder in the same way that a pilgrim's perceptions "belong" to her.

For unlike the expensive painting mounted on an altar with an embedded portrait, the woodcut was

not commissioned. The woodcut did not in any way

testify to any other individual's experience and will.

The scene at the shrine, the collective performance

involving self and strangers and objects, was a form of publication. The print amplified that publication in

the sense that it delivered the scene into the hands and

homes of strangers. It preserved the essential features

of the publication, displaying votive offerings that were instantly legible as rudimentary self-portraits and thus as

placeholders for the beholder. It was a script indicating

different points of entry into the votive system. Within

86. Votive body parts apparently did not represent the limbs in their

diseased state. Holmes, however, mentions silver ex votos with marks

of the plague (note 7, p. 163). See also Andree (note 7), pp. 114-115.

In most cases it would seem that the severed status was enough to

represent trauma.

87. Bacci (note 7), pp. 218-219, makes the same point: In the

votive panel—the small-scale image that has dominated votive

exchanges since the sixteenth century—the accent is on the accident

or illness or on the concession of grace, whereas effigies or painted

self-portraits are about commendatio and the securing of a privileged

relation to the sacred in the future.

89. F. H. Jacobs, The Living Image in Renaissance Art (Cambridge:

88. Battisti (note 7), p. 45.

Cambridge University Press, 2005).

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Wood: The votive scenario 227

the scene at the shrine, in the presence of the saint, the votive offering restored order. But within the scenario, the script of the many possible scenes, the offering

took on a new meaning. The distance provided by the

modern medium of print brought this second meaning

to the surface. It opened a window onto a hidden depth of other people's experiences that was both the basis for the working of the scenario—one superimposes

oneself on the ex voto—and the introduction of a wild

temporality that most pictures were not equipped

to handle. The votive scenario, a story that invited

projection, anticipated symbolic forms developed only

much later, not pictures at all but texts: the first-person

confessional or conversion narrative encouraged by the

Protestant Reformation, or even the bourgeois novel of

the eighteenth century, especially when it took the

form of an astonishing but finally believable first

person narrative.

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