Cultural Syncretism and Interpicturality: The Iconography of Throne Benches in Medieval Icelandic Book Painting
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionOpen Cultural Studies. 2023, 7 (1), 20220166. 10.1515/culture-2022-0166
In relation to the major topic of the present volume, this article is intended to provide new methodological and iconographic insights into the cultural adaptation and integration of European iconographic motifs in the medieval western Scandinavian arts and culture, as well as the relations between the iconographic detail and its surrounding texts. At the same time, this article offers a new approach to existing research on the basis of two methodological theories hitherto little investigated in iconographic research: cultural syncretism and interpicturality. In archaeology and media studies, these approaches are used to interpret cultural–historical artefacts that were created for one and then reused in a new context which may alter their meaning. The present article seeks to explain how both meaning and appearance of a single motif change between the vernacular texts it accompanies, and how the working methods of the illuminators differ between manuscripts. As a qualitative example, the investigation will focus on a complex iconographic motif that is found in six Icelandic manuscripts from the fourteenth century, namely the feature of animal heads as extensions on throne seats. Although little studied in the context of manuscripts, this is a motif widely used throughout the Middle Ages and with various secular and religious connotations. In particular, this is linked to the specific narrative roles that iconographic details play in relation to the written text and generally to the physical objects that carry both text and iconography: the manuscripts.