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Book (peer-reviewed)

Publisher FedOAPress-Federico II University Press , Naples
ISBN 978-88-6887-018-8

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Following Percy Ernst Schramm’s studies on Staatssymbolik, historians have in general considered medieval royal portraits as images mirroring medieval notions of power and political ideology that can legitimate power and strengthen admiration of the king. This interpretation has also had a crucial impact on the analysis of monarchic ideologies and sacral kingship during the Middle Ages. However, the research prompted in Germany on the social praxis of Memoria has opened up new perspectives, by creating an active historiographical debate about the social function and meaning of royal portraits in the liturgical context during the Middle Ages (political/propagandistic vs religious/devotional). This book aims to foster this debate by analysing the functions and meanings of monarchic pictures characterized by sacral figures and symbols and religious and liturgical contexts in the Norman kingdom of Sicily (1130-1189). In the specific, it investigates three royal portraits: St. Nikolas blesses Roger II in the Basilica of St. Nikolas in Bari; Christ crows Roger II in the Church of St. Mary of the Admiral in Palermo; and Christ crowns William II in the Cathedral of Monreale. By going beyond traditional methodological tactics, its exegesis avoids a ‘one-way’ approach in which artwork is analysed in an ‘autonomous’ manner that extrapolates it from its historical, political and functional context. Moreover, it studies royal portraiture as part of a wider communicative strategy to create a mise-en-scène around the monarchic figure by comparing the iconographic sources and the information provided by written evidence regarding the monarch’s official kingship. This new analysis of the Norman royal portraits in the religious and liturgical context leads to original perspectives and uses new cues to reformulate the traditional ideas held by historiography in this regard and on political ideologies and royal sacrality.