In the Christian art of western Europe images survive from as
early as the sixth century that show figures of founders or donors
bearing a model of the building they caused to be constructed,
renovated or embellished. Previous studies have tended to turn on
the question of how accurately these models represent the buildings
they were intended to portray. But the donors’ model cannot
be explained exclusively by comparison with its built equivalent.
The sculptors, goldsmiths, minters, mosaicists, painters, weavers
and sealmakers who created these little buildings were not always
aiming to produce a straightforward likeness of the edifice in
question but rather to represent its significance. The
donor’s model could underline the function or symbolic
importance of a building or be an expression of support for a
particular ruler. It could document real or fictive family ties,
validate a patron’s position or enhance his prestige. It
could operate as a policy statement by lords temporal and
spiritual, be deployed as a weapon in ecclesiastical rivalries, or
serve as a visual charter to underpin the lawfulness and legality
of gifted privileges, properties and possessions.
Compressed Meanings approaches the donor’s model
primarily as part of an iconographic tradition whose origins can
shed light on the message the model-bearers and their models were
intended to convey.
Emanuel Klinkenberg studied history of art at Leiden
University (Netherlands), where he received his Ph.D cum laude
in 2006. His research interests cover medieval European art and
its relationship with architecture and theology.
"(...) it impressively demonstrates the richness and variety of model-bearing portraits in Western medieval art and that they are indeed worthy of continued scrutiny." (Charles B. McClendon, in caa.reviews, 16 February 2012, http://caareviews.org/reviews/1772)