Costume in the Moralities: The Evidence of East Anglian Art


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

A great deal has been written about the influence of medieval drama on art and art on drama. At the tum of this century, Êmile Mâle argued that major changes in. religious art could be traced to direct influence from medieval drama: "ce changement s'explique par l'épanouissement du théâtre religieux dans la chrétienté tout entière au commencement du xve siecle."1 In the 1930's, scholars in the field of Byzantine studies also argued for the influence of drama on art,2 and in a paper originally read in 1939 but published ten years later, W. L. Hildburgh noted: "The idea, long since accepted, that alabastercarvers . . . depicted in their reliefs things that they had seen in presentations of religious plays . . . has, I believe, not seriously been questioned."3 The shift of the critical pendulum however, is suggested by the recent remark of one critic who referred to the 1930's as "the, heyday of near-blind faith in the passion-play theory of late medieval realism."4 In the second half of this century, philosophers have argued that it was nominalism that accounted for the growth of realism in the :fifteenth century; art critics have countered that we have misread art-what seems like naturalistic detail is actually complex symbolism.

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