Artibus et Historiae no. 82 (XLI)

2020, ISSN 0391-9064

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ANTONI ZIEMBA - ‘Write here whatever you want’: Empty Banderols in Northern European Art of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (pp. 153–185)

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries numerous prints and paintings included empty scrolls, devoid of any text. Though mentioned in previous studies, the artistic strategy remains without a clear explanation. What was the function of these ‘empty spaces’? Do they point to the unfinished state of the work of art or are they conscious rhetoric choices – ‘spaces of the unexpressed’, inviting the beholder – the owner of the print – to inscribe them with personal or widely-known message, with a riddle, something frivolous or an individual commentary on the frequently erotic, sexual, or conversely moralising meaning of the depicted scene? Was the text added only imaginatively, or were words ever actually inscribed in such empty spaces of banderols, coats of arms or cartouches etc.? The article analyses empty scrolls in selected works by Master E.S., Israhel van Meckenem, Martin Schongauer, Albrecht Dürer and Urs Graf. The prints have been juxtaposed with panel paintings that include similar empty scrolls, such as works by Master of Liesborn (Johann von Soest?), the Lower Rhine author of the celebrated Love Spell from Leipzig, by Hans Süss von Kulmbach, and manuscript illuminations.

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