Sense and spirituality : seeing Jan van Eyck's Ghent altarpiece
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This thesis emphasizes the senses of the audience in reception of Jan van Eyck’s heroic Ghent Altarpiece. This pivotal work may have demanded the viewer engage in a hierarchy of devotion ranging from intimate and private to public and liturgical. Jan van Eyck engages in a strategy of representation that focus and specify various aspects of vision to create a multivalent devotional experiences for the viewer. This thesis compares some of the visual uses of frames in miniatures and how they relate to altarpiece formats and hierarchies of vision. Reception of the Ghent Altarpiece is also discussed in relation to Augustine of Hippo’s theory of tri-partite vision as well as his theory of cross-modal uses of the sense in dialogues of spiritual truth. Sound is also a vital component of the devotional experience of the Ghent Altarpiece. Issues of music and speech acts are discussed to underscore the multivalent devotional uses of the Ghent Altarpiece.