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Domesticating Cannibalism: Visual Rhetorics of Madness and Maternal Infanticide in Fifteenth-Century Italy

Presciutti, Diana Bullen (2015) 'Domesticating Cannibalism: Visual Rhetorics of Madness and Maternal Infanticide in Fifteenth-Century Italy.' Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 45 (1). 159 - 195. ISSN 1082-9636

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Abstract

This article examines a miracle, credited to the Dominican saint Vincent Ferrer, in which a “demented” wife and mother butchers and partially cooks her infant son. In the decades following Vincent’s 1455 canonization, artists like Colantonio and the Erri workshop approached the macabre narrative in very different ways. Beyond this iconographic instability, this essay argues that the unsettled status of the narrative—in both text and picture—enabled its use as a malleable vessel for articulating and projecting certain social anxieties. The Erri version, the primary focus of the article, emerges as a case study in pictorial indeterminancy: saintly power is both pivotal and marginalized; social class is both highlighted and obfuscated; cannibalism is both seen and unseen. These contradictions demonstrate the contested status of the social problems represented: female madness, child-killing, cannibalism, and, in a broader sense, the inability of men to assert control over the spaces of their domestic world.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: madness and infanticide, mothers and children, early modern art and visual representation
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2015 15:09
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2021 20:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/15504

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