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'Otherness’ in Space and Architecture

Jews, Muslims and Christians in Western European Art (1200-1650)

Maria Portmann

This conference proceeding (Sessions on "Otherness in Space and Architecture", International Medieval Conference, Leeds, 2017 and 2018) is a compilation of articles written by both young and senior scholars, who are working on the question of the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ in Christian, Jewish and Islamic cultures. The articles examine how material, ‘oriental’ objects and knowledge originating in non-Western communities helped building and strengthening the identity of Iberia’s, southern France and northern Italian nobility and its lineages. It is shown how, in the perception of Christians, the public image of Jews and Moslems became constructed as that of adversaries, while their cultural knowledge, at the same time, would be integrated into Christian culture in a paradox manner, in which the ‘self’ necessarily depends on the ‘other’ and how visual tensions in art and space have been used as symbols of power.

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10. Survivals of Otherness: Astrological Frescoes in the Palazzo of Schifanoia in Ferrara, Italy: (Catherine Schaller Perret)


Catherine Schaller Perret

With reference to the notion of inalienable hereditary as heritage theorized by Aby Warburg in his conference on Italian Art and Astrology at the Palazzo of Schifanoia in Ferrara, 1912, I wish to enrich his work on genealogical history by referring to various sources of astrological imagery.494 The Palazzo of Schifanoia marks an interesting turning point: the astrological motives are taken from various traditions and invested with a new sense, in keeping with the new Renaissance codes. These survivals cause a significant reading problem that is linked to the narrative structure and otherness of the models from Arab and Persian cultures.

In his lecture entitled Italian Art and International Astrology at the Palazzo of Schifanoia in Ferrara, Warburg sought to grasp the general functioning of images. As a critical iconographer, his main task was to remove the unexpected layers that had covered the symbols (of Greek origin) in order to recover the primitive image. Warburg recognized and described how this iconography survived by disguising itself.

Warburg wanted to understand the life of images, their strength, their survival and their modifications. With his objective of grasping the “survival of antiquity as a mnemonic function,”495 Warburg favoured the Renaissance because of its renewal of images.496 The reservoirs of images that modern artists can draw on have to be detached from their initial anchorage, and linked to a given period, in order to integrate their re-use successfully into a new socio-cultural context. The...

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