Ingrid Falque

GEMCA's researcher

Institut des civilisations, arts et lettres (INCAL)
st-doctoral fellow, Art history

Title of the thesis
“Portraits de dévot, pratiques religieuses et expérience spirituelle dans la peinture des anciens Pays-Bas (1400-1550)”

Title of the post-doctoral project
New Insights on Henry Suso's image theory and its Influence on Early Modern Mystical discourse

Research fields

History and theory of images (14th-16th centuries); text/images issues; relations between art and spirituality; attitudes toward devotional imagery and visual experience; Early Netherlandish painting; history of spirituality (mystical tradition of the Rhineland and the Low Countries, Modern Devotion)

Holding a PhD in Art history, I dedicate my research to the relationships between art and spirituality during the Late Middle Ages and the Early modern Period. My PhD dissertation (2009) focused on the links between Early Netherlandish religious paintings that include devotional portraits and the meditative practices of the time. I did so by studying these images in conjunction with contemporary spiritual literature (esp. Jan van Ruusbroec and the writers of the Modern Devotion).

I am currently pursuing my research on the links between religious literature and devotional imagery by focusing on the question of images in the works of the mystical writer Henry Suso (Heinrich Seuse, ca. 1295-1366). During my first post-doctoral fellowship – carried out at Leiden University with a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship for Career Development – I focused on the texts/images relationships and the image theory of Suso’s Exemplar, a compilation of his vernacular texts accompanied by drawings. My second post-doctoral fellowship – started in September 2013 within the GEMCA – extends this research by replacing Suso’s image theory in its context and by examining its reception during the Early modern period.

Abstract of the thesis

Portraits de dévot, pratiques religieuses et expérience spirituelle dans la peinture des anciens Pays-Bas (1400-1550) (publication in preparation)

The aim of this research was to enlighten the function of religious images in the meditative practices of the time, by focusing on the devotional portrait in Early Netherlandish painting and on the mystical literature of the Low Countries in the Late Middle Ages. In the particular case of paintings that include devotional portraits, the confrontation between text and image necessitated an appropriate methodology, which I developed. It is based on an exhaustive corpus of paintings containing devotional portraits (663 items). The first part of my thesis offers a complete presentation of this corpus based on a typological analysis which takes into account both iconographical and formal elements of the images. It aims to describe pictorial conventions – such as the structuring of space and the ordering of sacred and secular zones – that have a particular bearing on the picture’s meaning. These elements are then brought to bear on the second, interpretative, part of the thesis, where I argue that these paintings can be understood as visualizations of the contemplative process of the devotee. I also deliver a new interpretation of the place of images in the spiritual process by studying the concept of the ghemeine leven in relation to the writings of Jan van Ruusbroec and Geert Grote. By studying the pictorial/iconographical content of the paintings and the texts of the major writers of the mystical tradition of the Low Countries together, this research showed the strong convergences between pictorial and textual conventions related to the spiritual ascent and the transformation of the soul.

Academic responsibilities

  • Member of the committee of the “Réseau des médiévistes belges de langue française”
  • Scientific in charge of the group INTERSECTION (young researchers in Humanities from the University of Liège)
  • Member of the editorial board of MethIS. Méthodes et Interdisciplinarité en Sciences humaines

Most representative publications

« Entre traditions flamande et ibérique. Les œuvres religieuses flamandes comportant des portraits d’Espagnols (1400-1550) », in Publication du Centre européen d'Études bourguignonnes (XIVe-XVIe s.). Rencontre de Madrid (23 au 26 septembre 2010). Diplomates, voyageurs, pèlerins, marchands entre pays bourguignons et Espagne aux XVe et XVIe siècles, 51, 2011, p. 275-301.

« Ung petit tableau fermant a deux fuilletz. Notes sur l’évolution formelle et les voies de diffusion du diptyque à portrait dévotionnel dans les anciens Pays-Bas aux XVe et XVIe siècles », in Le Moyen Âge, CXVII/1, 2012, p. 89-127.

« “Mise en mots” et “mise en image” du processus spirituel : vers une nouvelle approche du portrait dévotionnel dans la peinture flamande de la fin du Moyen Âge », in Ralph Dekoninck, Emilie Granjon et Agnès Guiderdoni (eds.), Fiction sacrée. Esthétique et spiritualité au début de la période moderne, Leuven, Peeters (coll. Art and Religion), 2013, p. 289-317.

« See, the Bridegroom Cometh; Go out to Meet Him. On Spiritual Progress and Mystical Union in Early Netherlandish Painting », dans Walter S. Melion et Michel Weemans (eds.), ‘Ab historia proprie figurativa’: Visual Images as Exegetical Instruments, 1400-1700, Leiden, Brill (forthcoming)

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