The Texture of Images

The Relic Book in Late-Medieval Religiosity and Early Modern Aesthetics


Author: Livia Cárdenas
Translator: Kathleen Anne Simon
This study is the first fundamental analysis and synopsis of the printed relic-book genre. Printed relic books represent, both by image and text, precious reliquaries, which were presented to the faithful audience during special liturgical feasts, the display of relics. This study brings into focus the specific aesthetics of these relic books and explores the immense influence that patrons had on figuration as well as on the forms of these books. The analysis focuses on the interaction of image and text as manifestation of authenticity. This book then contributes to clarifying the complex medial role of printing with movable type in its early period and offers a novel interpretation of the cultural significance of artefacts in the Renaissance.

This book is a translation of Die Textur des Bildes: Das Heiltumsbuch im Kontext religiöser Medialität des Spätmittelalters (De Gruyter, 2013)

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Livia Cárdenas (PhD 2011, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), art historian, is a postdoctoral researcher at University of Basel and Leuphana University Lüneburg. She has published on medieval and premodersn art and culture.
Preface to the English Edition
Translator’s Note
Key German Terms
List of Illustrations
 1 Relic Books: Issues of Genre and Classification
 2 The State of Scholarship
 3 The Aims of This Study

Part 1: The Diversification of the Genre

1 Mimesis as Politics
 1 The Title Page of the Nuremberg Relic Book
 2 The Introductory Text
 3 Processional Sections and Epilogue
 4 The Organization of the Book
 5 Hans Mair’s New Edition of 1493: Commission or Free Enterprise?
 6 Excursus: The Manuscript of 1458
 7 The Book as Pictogram of the City
 8 The Motivation of the Book’s Commissioners
 9 The Self-privileging of the Citizens

2 Competition between Cities and Printers
 1 The Basic Type and Layout of the Bamberg Relic Book
 2 Competition between Cities
 3 Competition between Printers

3 Speculating on Similarity
 1 The Preface of the Würzburg Relic Book
 2 The Sequence of the Relics: An Open Problem?
 3 Speculating on Similarity in the Text: The Copied Intercessory Prayers
 4 Speculating on Similarity in the Image
 5 Hans Mair: Printer in His Own Name

4 Familiar Means – New Piety
 1 Preface and the Calendar of Indulgences
 2 The Location of the Event
 3 “Is Clearly Displayed in Image and Word”
 4 The Martyrdom of Saint Stephen
 5 The Saint’s Martyrdom and the Reader’s Own Death
 6 From Didactics to Endowment
 7 One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The New Title Page

5 Aesthetic Enhancement
 1 Lucas Cranach: The Art of Court and Book
 2 The Wittenberg Relic Book
 3 Shifting Statements: A Comparison between the B-Edition and the A-Edition
 4 Model, Copy and Aesthetic Sublimation
 5 Functional Aspects

6 The Relic Book as Stage Mask: The Media Staging of Social Climbing and the Accumulation of Salvation
 1 The Commissioner of the Manuscript
 2 The Starting Point for the Endowment
 3 The Structure of the Manuscript
 4 Reference Values

7 Troy, Rome, Halle: History and Genealogy
 1 The Artists of the Halle Relic Book
 2 Exquisitely Archaic or Exclusive: The Title Page
 3 Troy, Rome, Halle: Albrecht Dürer’s Engraving
 4 The Donors Are in the Picture: Portraits and Coats of Arms – The Beginning and the End
 5 The Introduction
 6 The Organization of the Book
 7 Fidelity to and Distance from the Object: Strategies of Realization
 8 The Fine Art of Trumping

Part 2: Synthesis of a Genre

8 The Mediality of the Relic Book
 1 “diser maß und gestalt”: Text and Reality
 2 Autonomy and Aesthetics of Reproduction
 3 Analogy versus Genealogy: The Relic Book as Precursor of Collection and Exhibition Catalogues

9 The Texture of the Book
 1 The Realm of Possibilities: Social Compensation, Didactics, Memorial Object and Objet d’art
 2 The Image as Genuine Narrative
 3 Interaction of Image and Text
 4 The Commissioners of Relic Books
 5 The Book as Realm of Piety
 6 The Book as Realm of Mediality
 7 Texture

Appendix 1 Catalogue of Relic Books
Appendix 2 Bamberg Relic Books: Comparison of Distribution and Number of Reliquaries in All Editions
Appendix 3 Bamberg Relic Books: Comparison of the Emendations in the Editions by Hans Mair, 1493/1495
Appendix 4 Würzburg Relic Book: List of New Woodcuts
Appendix 5 Wittenberg Relic Book: Changes between Edition A and Edition B
Appendix 6 Vienna and Hall Relic Books: Comparison of Liturgical Chants
Appendix 7 Hall Relic Book: Index of Headings
Appendix 8 Hall Relic Book: Distribution of Woodcuts in the Manuscript
Appendix 9 Libellus demonstrativus (c. 1517)
Appendix 10 Indulgentiae ecclesiae metropolitanae Magdeburgensis

The interdisciplinary approach of this publication makes it appealing to art historians, medievalists, early modern researchers and religious historians and all scholars interested in visual culture and history of collecting.