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Uprooting 'The Green Man': A Reappraisal of Gothic Foliate Head and Mask Iconography, c. 1200-1350

Harrington, Cassandra Louise (2023) Uprooting 'The Green Man': A Reappraisal of Gothic Foliate Head and Mask Iconography, c. 1200-1350. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.104754) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:104754)

Language: English

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Composite foliate figures flourished throughout the art and architecture of the Gothic period. Despite their lasting influence on the development of illumination and sculpture in Europe, these vegetal hybrids still lack a systematic art-historical study that looks beyond the Anglophone world. This thesis seeks to address this lacuna through an interdisciplinary study of the manifestations of this motif in France and England. Tracing the development of these images in sculpture from Saint-Denis (c. 1200) to Southwell Minster (c. 1285), this thesis also examines its manifestations in manuscripts, from the Beatus Vir initials of Psalters to the bas-de-page illuminations of the Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei (c. 1250). Documenting diverse sources of evidence, including archaeological reports, architectural drawings, marginalia, hagiography, and theological writings, supports a fresh understanding of this motif, starting with its contemporary nomenclature. Abandoning the rather limiting designation 'Green Man', this thesis proposes more appropriate terminology for these figures, whilst highlighting key variations in taxonomy for two distinct, yet related, image tropes. This sets the basis for situating this motif within the intellectual history of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Considering the relation of foliate figures to networks of cultural and intellectual exchange, and taking into account their location, adjacent imagery, visibility, and marginality across media, this thesis sheds light on their cultural and symbolic significance as well as their dissemination and development. This study also explores the ancient precedents of these motifs, and demonstrates their didactic, and not merely decorative, function. Understood in terms of transition and metamorphosis, the Gothic foliate mask was not merely a Roman relic, but an ancient image trope adapted to contemporary demands: rebirthed with a new, allegorical, significance that enriched both manuscripts and buildings. It suggests that Gothic foliate figures were not folkloristic, either in derivation or connotation, but rather, scholastic: gateways into the world, and mind, of medieval humanism.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Guerry, Emily
Thesis advisor: Perry, Ryan
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.104754
Uncontrolled keywords: Art History Medieval Gothic Sculpture Carvings Manuscripts Manuscript Illumination Religious Christian Architecture Cathedrals Churches Architectonic Monumental Classical Reception Material Culture Foliate Head Heads Foliate Mask Masks Tete de Feuilles Masque Feuillu Green Man Blattmaske Blattmasken Heads of Leaves Iconography Visual Culture Cultures Heritage England France Scholasticism Twelfth Century Renaissance
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2024 12:10 UTC
Last Modified: 21 Feb 2024 14:54 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Harrington, Cassandra Louise.

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