Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Art History


General Art History

Committee Chair

Todd Richardson

Committee Member

Carol Crown

Committee Member

Fred Albertson


ABSTRACT Dilliard, Allison Catherine. M.A. The University of Memphis. May 2010. The Speaking Christ: Gesture in Early Netherlandish Art. Major Professor: Todd Richardson, Ph.D. By the late medieval period, certain compositions and motifs became standard practice when representing Christ with Mary, such as his performing a gesture of blessing. In three fifteenth-century Netherlandish works, of which two are attributed to the Robert Campin Group and one to Rogier van der Weyden, a gesture that is not in keeping with the more traditional motifs is employed by Christ. In this thesis, based on an iconological and semiotic approach, I argue that this gesture can be associated with Quintilian’s oratorical gesture of speech due to the physical resemblance, the application of rhetoric in artistic production and criticism in northern Europe, and the similarity of meaning, which is consistent with, and offers insight on, the already established Eucharistic themes of the paintings. I conclude that the gesture signifies the incarnation and that its possible rhetorical nature relates to the devotional function of the images.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.