“Holding Your Image in My Bodily Arms”: Multi-Sensory Encounters with Donatello’s Wooden Crucifix


Monday 12 June 2017, 4.30PM

Speaker(s): Geraldine Johnson

The reception of art is often described in terms of vision and looking, but in practice, all five senses could be engaged in encounters with devotional objects in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe. The multi-sensory nature of religious devotion can be explored in interesting ways by considering a Crucifix made by the sculptor Donatello for the church of S. Croce in Florence in the early fifteenth century. Unlike the majority of crucifixes carved in Italy in this period, Donatello’s wooden Christ was fitted with jointed arms that would have allowed the figure to be taken down from the Cross and, with arms folded at the side, placed into a make-shift sepulcher during the annual Good Friday liturgy. Such tactile encounters would have been complemented by devotional rituals that addressed beholders’ other senses, including smell, taste and hearing. By considering devotees’ multi-sensory encounters with Donatello’s Crucifix, we can better understand how such objects enabled beliefs, fears and desires formulated in the mind to be made manifest in material form.

Location: BS/005 Bowland Auditorium