Professor of Art History in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont (USA)
research focuses on the art of the Carolingian and Ottonian Empires, the historiography of medieval art, and on the importance of copies, copying, and simulative practices in the Middle Ages. She is also broadly interested in processes of political representation, theories of portraiture, and the incorporation of spolia into medieval art objects. Her work has appeared in Word & Image, the Oxford Art Journal, Gesta, Peregrinations, Postmedieval Forum, and in various anthologies. Her first book, Ottonian Imperial Art and Portraiture: The Artistic Patronage of Otto III and Henry II, appeared in 2012 with Ashgate and was reissued by Routledge in 2017. She is currently at work on a book on the Uta Codex, which will be the focus of her keynote lecture at the AAH in 2021.
Body and Space in the Uta Codex
Nearly one thousand years ago in the Bavarian city of Regensburg, a multimedia artwork was donated to the convent headed by Abbess Uta of Niedermünster (d. 1025). Now known as the Uta Codex, it is among the most sumptuous and complex objects made in eleventh-century Europe, and it is remarkable that it was created for a viewing community consisting largely of female monastics. The Uta Codex comprises two elements that were designed for each other: a massive golden book box and an illuminated manuscript containing text excerpts from the gospels. Artists at the neighboring abbey of St. Emmeram in Regensburg made both components for use in the celebration of the Mass at Niedermünster and also seem to have anticipated that the manuscript would be used in personal devotion. This talk will focus on the Uta Codex’s powerful multimediality, which is connected to a fascinating artistic tendency in this period: the representation of sacred spaces and precious materials in ways that evoke phenomenological and sensory experience. If the shrine-like box made for the Uta Codex emphasizes Christ’s Incarnation and the promise of his return, the manuscript’s visual cycle envisions Christ’s body as an architectonic realm that the viewer could inhabit in the mind’s eye. These golden spaces were further aligned with actual venues within Niedermünster Abbey itself. Placing their precious book at the center of ritual and meditative practices, Uta and her sisters activated the Codex and opened a portal through which they envision themselves as one with the heavenly sphere.