Guided by Aristotelian theories, medieval philosophers believed that nature abhors a vacuum. Medieval art, according to modern scholars, abhors the same.
The notion of horror vacui—the fear of empty space—is thus often construed as a definitive feature of Gothic material culture. In The Absent Image, Elina Gertsman argues that Gothic art, in its attempts to grapple with the unrepresentability of the invisible, actively engages emptiness, voids, gaps, holes, and erasures.
Exploring complex conversations among medieval philosophy, physics, mathematics, piety, and image-making, Gertsman considers the concept of nothingness in concert with the imaginary, revealing profoundly inventive approaches to emptiness in late medieval visual culture, from ingenious images of the world’s creation ex nihilo to figurations of absence as a replacement for the invisible forces of conception and death.
Innovative and challenging, this book will find its primary audience with students and scholars of art, religion, physics, philosophy, and mathematics. It will be particularly welcomed by those interested in phenomenological and cross-disciplinary approaches to the visual culture of the later Middle Ages.
About the author: Elina Gertsman is Professor of Art History and Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan Professor in Catholic Studies II at Case Western Reserve University. She is the author of the award-winning Worlds Within: Opening the Medieval Shrine Madonna.