Transformations in wood: Between sculpture and painting in late medieval devotional objects

Assaf Pinkus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Late-medieval wooden objects along the Lower Rhine are uniquely characterized in their transformative quality, transitioning from sculpture to painting and vice versa. Being neither painting nor sculpture, these objects are in a perpetual state of “becoming” or metamorphosis, from two-dimensional to three-dimensional representation. Earlier studies classified them as mixed-media objects, restricting their understanding to formalist and aesthetic aspects alone. Following the medieval differentiation between painting (imagine) as knowledge of the divine archetype, and sculpture (simulacrum) as the corporeal and material body, this article explores the interrelationship of the two media in these transformative objects as a transition from essentia to forma, from knowing to matter, and from idea to a real living body. The popular Schreinmadonna, Ursula Busts, and multimedia panel painting, all produced around Cologne, will serve as case studies for interrogating this so-called medieval paragone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-291
Number of pages29
JournalViator - Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017


  • Calcidius
  • Hugh of St. Victor
  • Isidore of seville
  • Materiality
  • Medieval paragone
  • Painting
  • Sculpture
  • Transformative objects
  • William of conches
  • Wood carving


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