CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

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Depicting Sinners and Heretics as Others in Western European Medieval Art

Session 14 The Other and the Foreign: Contact, Curiosity, and Creative Exchange

University of Rijeka


In Western visual tradition there existed a number of special signs that enabled the audience to differentiate evil personages, sinners, heretics and enemies as “the others”, setting them apart from the norm. Different markers (attributes, colors, clothes, hair styles), but also animals, representatives of other races, Biblical and historical persons, mythological monsters and sometimes hardly visible symbols were widely used by artists in all media to represent the “others”. The markers helped viewers to better understand the composition by referring to different cultural norms and canons. Pragmatics of such signs are important as in a certain context they could play different role: visualize features of “other” or being a tool to highlight the evil essence of a person or denote a person led by a sin. The variety of figures and these markers formed the complicated “image of the other” often perceived as the “image of the enemy”, in medieval iconography. There is a difference in representing these subjects between urban centers and so called “high culture or art” and provincial environments and periphery. Whereas elaborated programs of high culture were based upon literary sources and “knowledge” the rural representations often drew upon tradition, folklore and superstition.

This paper will focus on a few artistic examples from the rich patrimony of the north Adriatic medieval fresco cycles and their connection to the Italian and central European centers in comparison of the models and modes of the representation of others in different cultural circles and spheres of influence. The presentation will be focused on different markers of the “others” in the representation of mainly sinners, heretics and enemies of the faith that worked in medieval iconography as well as the contexts and peculiarities of their implementation.


full professor at the Department of Art History of Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and a Director of the Center of Iconographic Studies at the University of Rijeka. She completed her doctoral studies with dissertation Byzantium and the stone sculpture in Istria – origins and influences at the University of Zagreb. She has been principal investigator and participant at several projects that were involved in the research of early medieval and medieval artistic patrimony in the northern Adriatic region. She won several fellowships, among them a Fulbright Fellowship at Princeton University in 2001-2002. She has initiated the project on iconographic studies in Croatia and is the organizer of the annual International Conference of the Iconographic Studies as well as the main editor of IKON - Journal of iconographic studies. She is involved in various committees, boards and groups that work on the strategy of developing art history as a discipline in Croatia and Europe. She is also the member of several national and international associations.

Her main research interest lies in the field of iconography and iconology with specific focus on the early Christian and medieval periods. She participated at many conferences and published articles and other publications as well as two books - Bizant i Istra (Byzantium and Istria) and Ikonologija – kritički prikaz povijesti metode (Iconology – a Critical Approach to the History of the Method).