"The worthless stories of pilgrims"? The art historical imagination of fifteenth-century travelers to Jerusalem

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Viator - Medieval and Renaissance Studies, ISSN: 0083-5897, Vol: 44, Issue: 3, Page: 257-328

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Inglis, Erik; Christmon, Elise
Brepols Publishers NV
Social Sciences; Arts and Humanities
article description
This study analyzes what fifteenth century pilgrims from northern Europe wrote about the art and architecture they encountered while on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Although these pilgrims did not have the discipline of art history, they nonetheless had a strong art historical imagination that conditioned their reception of old art and architecture. Their attempts at dating objects demonstrate a pre-modern periodization in which important rulers or dynasties matter most, and the terms medieval and Renaissance are unknown. They expected striking objects to have significant histories, studied those objects appearance for clues to those histories, and read a city's buildings as a trustworthy barometer of its vitality. Lacking our hierarchy of fine and applied arts, they were open to appreciate a wide range of objects, which they frequently praise in terms of their workmanship.