Activating the Effigy!

Here are Hannah’s Questions:

1) Why do you think Johnson chose this particular work (Donatello’s Floor Tomb of Bishop Giovanni Pecci) to illustrate her argument?

2) How might this work interact with Duccio’s Maesta? How do they influence each other’s meaning?

3) Would the holiness of the tomb and the “perpetual mass” (455) lose their effectiveness or be somehow diminished if members of the general public viewed the tomb on a regular basis? Why or why not?

4) Do you think Donatello’s main focus in this work (Pecci tomb) was facilitating an ongoing mass for the bishop’s soul? Or, do you think this was one of several factors he took into consideration? Why or why not?

5) Would Masses said for Pecci be more significant if they did not occur automatically and one had to make an explicit effort to conduct them?

6) How would one’s interpretation of this work be different if it were in a different environment, like another part of the cathedral or in a different kind of building?

7) Feel free to leave a comment about anything else that confused or surprised you. I’ll try to work these into our in-class discussion.


4 responses

  1. #3 is such an interesting question that ties back to our first reading. So I’m going to give a try. In this article, the author mentions that the implied viewing position is at the feet of the effigy. But the beholder isn’t any viewer standing at the correct position, rather” a historically specific viewer whose presence enhances, or even completes the meaning of the tomb”. The emphasis on the “historically specific viewers” might lead us to conjecture that the tomb scene isn’t intended for the general public. But I think there is some difference between “the view from the public” and the worship/ memorial from the public”. As written in his will, Pecci wanted to have a perpetual mass after his death and to be memorized by the public. To me, the specific view point is more or less the midpoint in between the real world and the eternity. When a priest is leading a mass standing at this point, his every own memory of Pecci’s funeral would convey to the general audience, and through their pray together, the perpetual mass was completed. Since the general public might not very well know who is on the tomb, the priest standing at the point functions as a guide. Therefore, I wouldn’t say that the view from the general public would diminish the effectiveness of the “perpetual mass”, rather that specific spot is reserved for those historically significant ones to elevate the meaning of the tomb.

  2. Interesting that you should situate the viewer somewhere between the “real world and eternity”—-not just at a specific geographical position within the church! You give the article a much broader meaning! But we need to talk more about the efficacy of the perpetual mass! Must run to a meeting!

  3. I apologize for not directly addressing any of the questions, I try to save those responses for the class discussion. First of all, I just wanted to say how much more I appreciated this essay than the one from last week. I found her approach and honesty quite refreshing. She addresses the skeptic in all of us, by admitting that her theories are a bit of a stretch that cannot be fully proven.

    As for the context of the article, I was intrigued about the concept of placing one’s remains in a particular area to call attention to themselves. Forgive me, but it very much reminded me of when certain artists make statements like, my work will let me live forever. If I have my remains placed in this specific spot, people will keep running into me and ergo they won’t be able to forget me (rather cynical). This also made me curious as to who would make the decisions regarding death requests. How would they determine who would be placed in important places and who would not? Would they look at ‘figurative placement of remains applications’ on a panel and decide which people could be placed in the nicer areas, and which would be sent into the unappealing areas. I digress, can’t wait to discuss this in class tomorrow!

  4. I also enjoyed this essay much more than the last- it was definitely more direct and the author admitted that she might not be correct with all of her theories.

    Addressing Question #6: I think that, if the tomb were in a, say, back room or other building, it would definitely not garner the attention that it does where it’s located now. Even if it were /more/ ornate or ostentatious, the fact is that if it were out of direct line of sight, people would be a lot less likely to hold the bishop in such “high regard”. I’d like to talk more about this in class.

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