Mystic, Language, Image. Visualising the Invisible / Mystique, Langage, Image. Montrer l'Invisible / Mystik, Sprache, Bild. Die Visualisierung des Unsichtbaren

Katharina P. Wimmer's picture
October 17, 2019 to October 18, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Medieval and Byzantine History / Studies

How to represent the invisible? Under those, who tried to answer this question over the years, mystic has something special to say about it. Those, who own an experimental and affective knowledge about the divine are searching for languages to express what they have seen, undergone, or heard during this out-of-norm experience that transforms both, body and soul.

God talkes through the Holy Scripture and the book of nature from beyond. He speaks in words without syllables or vowels and in words that show, says Saint Gregory the Great. He talks through signs and visions. What he makes visible and understandable throughout the mystic vision has to be subsequently translated. To cope with the vagueness of the internal images, which allow like dreams to access a world beyond rationality, they have to be fixed in scripture. Thus, the affected person talks about the encounter with God, his sayings, angels, visions.

Along with the narration of the visionary review the question of possibilities and limits on how to transform internal images into words, how to express mental sensations and physical ones during the experience, and how to objectificate subjective language, is raised. It is no coincidence that the reports are full of numerous verbal images or that they become poems (canciones), a topos in figurative language, which arises from common meaning, even words becoming capable of containing the mystic intelligence as long as they are figures (illustrations) and no reasoning, as John of the Cross says. What the person tells is sometimes translated into another language, this time pictorial – statues, drawings, tableaux, murals to represent the mystic experience.

Examining specific examples of the Middle Ages up to the 17th century, the conference days offer to have a deeper look at this range of aspects of relations between mystic experience, language and image in order to decode how the authors and artists attempted to show the invisible through imagery in narration, figurative expressions in lyric, pictorial images in drawing, painting, and sculpture.


Thursday, 17th October

09h00    Accueil/café

09h30    Ouverture : René Wetzel (UNIGE)

                Introduction : Laurence Wuidar (Studio Filosofico Domenicano, Bologna/UNIGE)

10h30    Jean-Claude Schmitt (EHESS, Paris) : L’obsession des démons et la consolation des images saintes dans le Liber revelationum de l’abbé cistercien Richalm de Schöntal (+ 1219)

11h30    Pause

11h45    Barbara Fleith (UNIGE), Christi „saiten spil“. Zu einem Bildmotiv im mystischen Minnedialog

12h30    Lunch

14h30    Nicolas Bock (UNIL), Mystische Malerei? Franziskanische Frömmigkeit und die Kunst Neapels im 14. Jahrhundert

15h15    Delphine Rabier (Centre d'Etudes Supérieures de la Renaissance et Université de Tours), Rendre visible l’invisible : mystique flamande et peinture dans les anciens Pays-Bas au XVe siècle

16h00    Pause: Café

16h30    Wolfgang Christian Schneider (Universität Hildesheim), Die Visualisierung des Unsichtbar-Göttlichen im Genter Altar Jan van Eycks

17h15    Alessandro Vetuli (Université de Rome LUMSA/ Institut Catholique de Paris), Les couleurs de l'invisible. Mystique de la beauté et langage visuel chez Giovanna Maria della Croce

18h00    End of the first day


Friday, 18th October

09h30    Brenno Boccadoro (UNIGE), L’image musicale.  Incarner le sens du  texte dans un trope  sonore  dans la polyphonie de la  Renaissance

10h15    Pause: Café

10h45    Agnès Guiderdoni et Ingrid Falque (UCLouvain-FNRS), Figurata locutio et expérience mystique. La postérité de la pensée figurée d’Henri Suso au XVIe siècle

12h00    René Wetzel (UNIGE), Spiegel und Licht, Erkenntnis und Erleuchtung. Die Bedeutung der Bilder im mystischen Kontext bei David von Augsburg und seinem Umkreis

12h45    Lunch

14h00    Robert Gisselbaek (UNIGE, FNS), Metaphern des Lichts - Analogien des Nichts? Die epistemologischen Grundlagen des Leuchtens in "Gottes Zukunft" Heinrichs von Neustadt 

14h45    Andreas Keller (Akademie der Wissenschaften, Göttingen), Stich und Schrack: Kategorien der Plötzlichkeit im mystischen Versprachlichungsprozeß

15h30    Yves Hersant (EHESS, Paris), Thérèse d’Avila, Jean de la Croix et Bill Viola: trois approches de l’invisible

16h15    End of the colloquium


The confrence is supported by the FNS, the Unité de musicologie du Département ARMUS, the Département de langue et de littérature allemandes de l’Université de Genève and the CEM.


Contact Info: 

Bâtiment Colladon
Rue Jean-Daniel-Colladon 2, Genève

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