Questions on “The Tactile and the Visionary”

Questions on “The Tactile and the Visionary”


  1. What role does sculpture play in forming imaginative perception? In other words does art inspire visions?


  1. Under what circumstances do we find sculpture animated in the medieval period?



  1. In what way are the Gero Crucifix and the crucifixi dolorosi “betwixt and between?” How are works of this ilk “embodied templates for imaginative projection?” And are you happy with that term?!


  1. Discuss the role of Nicodemus as the “arch creator.”


  1. Does Jung’s discussion of the role of touch in the Silos reliefs resonate with Bynum’s ideas about Christian materiality?



11 responses

  1. The term “embodied templates for imaginative projection” caught my attention immediately while reading Jung’s essay, and although I’ve given some thought to it, I feel like I’m still grappling with it. While I think there is something to be said about the ways in which the liminal qualities of crucifixes (dead but alive, defeated but triumphant, literally hanging between floor and ceiling) allows viewers to map onto it their own meaning derived from devotional experience, I feel as if the term is a bit too heavy-handed. I believe it’s problematic to view these works as simply blank canvases that require visionary experiences to become something; there seems to be more to crucifixes than sculptural qualities and a blank template.

    • I agree with Nicole on this point. I think it’s the word template that bothers me the most. A “template” implies that there is indeed room for creative imagination, but it also implies that such an image invited certain preconceived visions. However, Jung does not communicate what these templates may be.

  2. The story of Berta seeing Christ as suggestive of sculptures of Christ with St. John (p211) is especially compelling for consideration of sculpture inspiring visions. Berta in a field having a “vision” could easily have been evoked by memories of what she saw previously in her community. What is interesting in the descriptions of Medieval visions is that the blood of Christ described as gushing and dripping from his hand (as with the story of Hedwig) does not remain as a trace, nor is it of any real interest. The focus is on the Saint being touched and blessed by (statue) Christ.

    The vision thus is a result only of what the Saint imagined in her prayers (and was “documented” by a nun watching from a distance and never seen by the Saint herself). Imaginative thinking is given prominence to vision and physical proof, thus requiring will and faith of the audience. These perhaps are important aspects for the purpose of the statues in the first place—embodied versions of the Bible’s stories/Christianity in a visual and material form to facilitate beliefs read and talked about.

    Jung had an interesting point in that tactuality “registered and reflected the will of the percipient” (209). This kind of religious sculpture encouraged if not required participation (or at least willingness to be involved) with the holy image. Something that caught my eye was the part about seeing and taking in a flat image entirely versus a statue that one touches (and only touches the part desired). It seems that touch accesses the idea of individual beliefs/faith and will power whereas paintings may not necessarily be able to do so.

  3. Very interesting ideas! I am intrigued by the role of the witness in these visions (does the light stay on in the refrigerator, etc….) and also by the charged parts of the statue, that part that acts as an agent of the sacred. The implied hierarchy of sculpture and painting in accessing the divine seems like a medieval twist on the Paragone discussion. I’m eager to hear more!

  4. The section on Nicodemus was interesting but Jung lacks proof to support her supposition, “it was tempting to think that it was his hands on engagement with the corpse itself which made him a fitting prototype for creators of tactile arts.” This seems a bit of a stretch but Nicodemus’s interaction with Christ undoubtedly underscored his role as a saint.

  5. Question 1 reminds me of how Worth discusses the influence of the Meditations on visual art. I think art can definitely intensify imagination. I’m looking forward to comparing the treatment of imagination in both of these articles in class tomorrow.

  6. Do you feel like a lone voice crying out in the wilderness, Hannah? Do you feel that sculpture has a greater pull on the imagination (a louder voice, shall we say?) in light of its tactile nature? Hmmm…much to discuss! Thank you for your comments!

  7. Jung’s article was unique in its exploration of sculpture as a three-dimensional medium for art, and I felt that her arguments for the theme of touch in this medium were strong (214-5, 220). She claims the three-dimensionality of sculpture made viewers more sympathetic (or empathetic?) to the situation the figures represented. For instance, Lukardis’s experience involved being crucified face-to-face with Christ and feeling all the terror and pain involved (217).
    This transitions easily to your third question. I believe that Jung refers to the lack of singular depiction of Christ on the cross as the justification for an “interpretive openness” of these crucifixion sculptures (220). The dichotomy between the triumphant depictions and those of Christi dolorosi allowed viewers to present their own interpretation on the sculptures, thus using their imagination and potentially leading to an imaginative experience or a vision.
    This also resonates with the question of Bynum’s notion of Christian materiality and the Silos reliefs. Bynum argues that holy objects held devotional power in themselves, not only for artifacts but also for artwork, and the artists were aware of this internal power when creating their works (28-9). This relates to the sculptural depiction of Thomas in that the viewer perceives depth differently when looking at sculpture. Surely Thomas’s incredulity was communicated in two-dimensional art, but as Jung argues, there is a noted difference of the implications when viewing sculptural representations instead.

  8. I agree Amy! During the Renaissance artists would argue about which art was the most persuasive (the paragone debates)—for me, sculpture “wins” hands down! The verisimilitude of a Northern Renaissance painting (a Van Eyck or Van der Weyden) can’t be matched—but that genre elicits a different response in the viewer. Statues of the infant Christ and the crucified Christ seem tailor made for experiential participation in the life and death of Christ—I am anxious to have the class read Merleau-Ponty and try on his theories of art in this regard! Onward!

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