Bestiaries in Wood? Misericords, Animal Imagery and the Bestiary Tradition

Luuk A. J. R. Houwen

Turnhout: Brepolis Publishers, 2009; Series: IKON 2

Digital resource PDF file available

"Animal imagery on misericords has long since been a favourite topic for research and much work has been done and much progress has been made on the identification and classification of animal scenes. The actual interpretation of animal imagery on misericords is a different matter, however. When such imagery is deemed worthy of discussion this rarely progresses much beyond the inevitable references to the Physiologus and bestiary traditions with their moralised animal lore and well-developed animal iconography. In this paper I shall evaluate the various ways in which such animal imagery can be read and was likely to be read in later medieval times. The paper will concentrate on animal imagery found on British misericords, but its conclusions will be valid for the entire area where such imagery appears. It will be argued that even when traditional iconography is transferred to the misericords this does not mean that it is accompanied by its original (moralised) sense. This, it will be shown, not only holds true for bestiary imagery but also applies to other realms like that of the Roman de Renart. This inevitably has serious consequences for the moral interpretation of misericords, and I will consequently argue that we have to read this imagery differently."

Language: English

ISSN: 1846--855; DOI: 10.1484/J.IKON.3.43


Last update December 6, 2021