(D8) Images of the Wound / The Wound as Image: Conceptions of the Passion in Pre-Modern Christendom and the Visual Art of the Modern Period

The contents of the project are illustrations depicting the suffering of physical violence. Firstly, the project is about images of Christian Passion piety since the late Middle Ages. As regards these works of art, the aim of the project is to investigate their history and development, specify their ways of functioning, and pictorially identify these depictions according to their iconographic and experience-related content and their iconic structure. Secondly, the project is about modern works of art in which the suffering of physical violence is portrayed and, in addition, the basis of the image’s constitution. The aim is to make accessible the correlations of social causes for the depiction of injury and of art’s self-reflexivity which is significant for the art of the modern period. Thirdly, the project is guided by the thesis that imagistic relations can be observed between modern works of art and the Christian images of Passion piety such as, for example, the interconnection of various levels of reality, the turning from representation to presence, making the image the subject of discussion within the image and the relation between image and observer.

The depiction of violence has been increasingly drastic in art since the turn of the 19th century, which is attributed to the requirements of realistic accuracy but also to the pursuit of an augmented expressivity and to a pictorial order that had begun to destabilise. In significant cases, the representation of vehemence and powerlessness in the image reveals iconographic and also compositional relations to subjects of Christian Passion imagination.

In the works of pictorial art of the 20th and 21st centuries, the exercising and suffering of physical violence are not only the object of illustration, but they also become constitutive of artistic processes. In addition to the augmented expressivity of the free painterly gesture, the immediacy of expression is of central importance here. The artist maltreats the canvas violently; in so far as the spontaneous gesture is open to the viewer’s eye without protection, the artist suffers this violence simultaneously. For an artistic self-description of this kind, the figure of Christ still provides an important orientation point as regards both imitation and rejection, which has been elaborated exemplarily.

This Christological background in works of modern art gives reason to look once more into the Christological focus also of medieval Passion imaginations. Key types of the image of Christ (vera icon, portrait, Man of Sorrows) have therefore been reconstructed in systematic-theological respect.