The Matriarchal Nimbus: Matthäus Gutrecht the Younger's The Holy Kinship

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Brigham Young University - Provo

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Jacobsen, Camille J.
Brigham Young University - Provo
Matthäus Gutrecht the Younger; nimbus; matriarchy; patriarchy; semiotics; Classics; Comparative Literature
thesis / dissertation description
In The Holy Kinship (1500-1510), the artist Matthäus Gutrecht the Younger defies convention by portraying the importance of matriarchy, via the semiotics of the nimbus. Within Christian art, the nimbus has been widely used as a signifier of divinity. Saints and angels, as well as members of the Holy Family, are often depicted nimbed in the history of art. In particular, men of divine status are frequently nimbed, as Christianity was predominantly patriarchal. However, there are several cases in which women are also represented with this divine signifier. One work in which the nimbus as a signifier of matriarchal status and lineage is epitomized is Gutrecht's portrayal of The Holy Kinship, in which the women, but not the men, are shown nimbed. This thesis explores the varied significance of the matriarchal nimbus. Furthermore, it challenges traditional patriarchal analyses of late medieval, German culture in order to examine how this altarpiece both reflects and constructs attitudes regarding a celebration of women's spiritual and secular roles. In this way, the painting presents a direct challenge to the more familiar representation of patriarchal lineage and power in Tree of Jesse images.