Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title Theorizing Medieval Visual Art by Means of Information and Communication Sciences
Author email
About author Cailloux, Marianne — Ph. D., associate professor. The University of Lille, Department of Information and Document Sciences, GERIICO. 42 Rue Paul Duez, 59000 Lille, France. ORCID: 0000-0002-7330-1272
In the section Western European Medieval Art DOI10.18688/aa2212-02-13
Year 2022 Volume 12 Pages 198212
Type of article RAR Index UDK 130+7.034 Index BBK 71; 16.2; 85.143(4)4

For about thirty years now, transdisciplinarity revitalised the history of art almost completely: cultural and visuall studies, and among them French Visual Anthropology has brought cultural history within iconographic and stylistic analysis.

The aim of this paper is to offer some thoughts about innovation in the approach of Art History with a particular reflexion on if et how it is possible to bring about visual arts theory and cultural history through the prism of information and communication sciences, by experimenting this way of analysing on late Middle Ages occidentale images. This communication intends to fit in the thematic section studying medieval and early modern art from an interdisciplinary theorisation and methodology of research. It dwells on the break-through offered by the works of Hans Belting and Jean-Claude Schmidt, but also reflecting on artefacts issues about power (Freedberg), performativity (Bartholeyns and Golsenne) and agency (Gell).

First, we will see an artistic image can be understood as an audio-visual socio-cultural “dispositive”, instead of just apprehend them as stylised representations. There is indeed a completing and cumulative aspect in the semantic links between liturgy, architecture, and iconography. The image builds itself as transitive dispositif of cultural and informational contents (Jeanneret, 2008), that can be experimented as a cognitive semiotic system (Régimbeau, 2007). Then, we will question multimodality and agency for ancient images, based on information reception theory from the “spect-actor”, rather than comparative and attributive approach of artefacts producers, like in classic art history. The goal here is to investigate uses and purposes, rather than functions. We can see that the receiver of an image establishes a complex individual relationship with it, which stratification can be decoded through rational relations, symbolic investments and cathartic emotional responses that are all often operating in this precise time period of the Middle Ages. This can put into perspective networks, communication and information circulations and see producers, patterns, and ideas as transcultural and transmissive carriers (Mucchielli, Corbalan et Ferrandez, 2004; Proulx, 2015).

Reference Cailloux, Marianne. Theorizing Medieval Visual Art by Means of Information and Communication Sciences. Actual Problems of Theory and History of Art: Collection of articles. Vol. 12. Eds A. V. Zakharova, S. V. Maltseva, E. Iu. Staniukovich-Denisova. — St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg Univ. Press, 2022, pp. 198–212. ISSN 2312-2129.
Publication Article language english
  • 1. Agamben G. Qu’est-ce qu’un dispositif ? Paris, Payot & Rivages Publ., 2007. 50 p. (in French).
  • 2. Bailey C.; Gardiner H. (eds.). Revisualizing Visual Culture. Farnham, Ashgate Publ., 2010. 183 p.
  • 3. Baschet J. Logique narrative, nœuds thématiques et localisation des peintures murales. L’emplacement et la fonction des images dans la peinture murale du Moyen Âge. Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, CIAM Publ., 1992, pp. 103–115 (in French).
  • 4. Belting H. Medium, Body: A New Approach to Iconology. Critical Inquiry, 31, 2, 2005, pp. 302–319.
  • 5. Blume H.; Leitgeb C.; Rössner M. Narrated Communities — Narrated Realities. Narration as Cognitive Processing and Cultural Practice. Amsterdam, Rodopi Publ., 2015. 264 p.
  • 6. Bordron J.-F. Dynamiques des images. Signata, 20, 2019 Available at: (accessed 20 February 2021). (in French).
  • 7. Cailloux M. L’interaction dévotionnelle à travers les porteurs de l’Eucharistie dans l’iconographie tardo-médiévale. Horti Hesperidum. Immagini vivi, 1, II, 2015, pp. 95–134 (in French).
  • 8. Cailloux M. Au croisement de l’histoire culturelle et des sciences de l’information et de la communication: une approche transdisciplinaire des transferts culturels dans les Alpes Occidentales tardo-médiévales. Diasporas, 32, 2018, pp. 11–34 (in French).
  • 9. Cailloux M. Voir la religion dans les Alpes à la fin du Moyen Âge: peintures murales et altérités culturelles. Questions de communication, La religion sous le regard du tiers, 2020, 37, pp. 63–88 (in French).
  • 10. Cailloux M. Peindre, voir et croire dans les Alpes. La peinture murale en val de Suse (XIVe–XVIe siècles). Lille, Presses Universitaires du Septentrion Publ., 2021. 346 p. (in French).
  • 11. Colas-Blaise M. Comment penser la narrativité dans limage fixe? Pratiques, no. 181–182, 2019. Available at: (accessed 6 September 2022) DOI:10.4000/pratiques.6097
  • 12. Camille M. The Gregorian Definition Revisited, Writing and the Medieval Image. Baschet J.; Schmitt J.-C. L’image. Fonctions et usages des images dans l’Occident médiéval. Paris, Le Léopard d’or Publ., 1996, pp. 89–107.
  • 13. Eco U. Sémiologie des messages visuels. Communications, 15, 1970, pp. 11–51 (in French).
  • 14. Eco U. Innovation et répétition: entre esthétique moderne et post-moderne. Réseaux, 12, 68, 1994, pp. 9–26 (in French).
  • 15. Greimas A. J. Sémiotique figurative et sémiotique plastique. Actes sémiotiques, no. 60, 1984. (in French).
  • 16. Gombrich E. H. Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. New York, Pantheon Books Publ., 1960. 466 p.
  • 17. Guilhaumou J. Autour du concept d’agentivité. Rives méditerranéennes, no. 41, 2012, pp. 25–34 (in French).
  • 18. Gunthert A. Iconogrammes. Le récit des images. Bulletin de l’Association pour le développement de l’histoire culturelle, no. 18, 2019, pp. 20–31 (in French).
  • 19. Jeanneret Y. Penser la trivialité. vol. 1 : La vie triviale des êtres culturels. Paris, Hermès-Lavoisier Publ., 2008, ch. 5 , pp. 181–229 (in French).
  • 20. Le Goff J. ; Schmitt J.-C. L’histoire médiévale. Cahiers de civilisation médiévale, no. 39, 1996, pp. 9–25 (in French).
  • 21. Le Guern O. De la mise en image d’une métamorphose à la métamorphose d’une image. Colas-Blaise M. ; Beyaert-Geslin A. (eds.). Le Sens de la métamorphose. Limoges, Presses universitaires de Limoges Publ., 2009, pp. 127–137 (in French).
  • 22. Massaert L. Immanence du savoir et configuration du tableau. Signata, no. 20, 2019 Available at: (accessed 20 February 2021) (in French).
  • 23. Meunier J.-P. Des images et des mots. Cognition et réflexivité dans la communication. Paris, L’Harmattan Publ., 2013. 208 p. (in French).
  • 24. Mucchielli A.; Corbalan J.-A.; Ferrandez V. Étude des communications. Approches par les processus. Paris, Armand Colin Publ., 2004. 240 p. (in French).
  • 25. Ory P. L’histoire culturelle. Paris, Presses Universitaires de France Publ., 2004. 127 p. (in French).
  • 26. Plesch V. Le cycle de la Passion dans les chapelles peintes des États de Savoie au XVe siècle. Chambéry, Société savoisienne d‘histoire et d‘archéologie Publ., 2004. 143 p. (in French).
  • 27. Proulx S. La sociologie des usages, et après ? Revue française des sciences de l’information et de la communication, 6, 2015. Available at: (accessed 20 February 2021) (in French).
  • 28. Régimbeau G. Médiations iconographiques et médiations informationnelles. Communication, 26, 1, 2007, pp. 164–177 (in French).
  • 29. Rigaux D. Autour de la messe de saint Grégoire. Visée pastorale et réalisme rural. Bériou N. ; Caseau B. ; Rigaux D. (eds.). Pratiques de l’Eucharistie dans les églises d’Orient et d’Occident (Antiquité et Moyen Âge). Paris, Institut d’Études Augustiniennes Publ., 2009, pp. 951–986 (in French).
  • 30. Ryan M.-L. (ed.). Narrative across Media. The Languages of Storytelling. Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press Publ., 2004. 422 p.
  • 31. Schaeffer J.-M. Narration visuelle et interprétation. Ribière M.; Baetens J. (eds.), Time, Narrative & the Fixed Image, Amsterdam, Rodopi Publ., 2001, pp. 11–27 (in French).
  • 32. Stafford B. M. Cross-Cortical Romance: Analogy, Art and Consciousness. Art Issues, 1996, 1, 42, pp. 22–24.
  • 33. Stafford B. M. Seeing Double, Art Issues, 1999, 2, 59, pp. 22–26.
  • 34. Trippes J. Der Kirchenraum als Handlungstort für Bildwerke. Handelnde. Altarfiguren und hyperwandelbare Schnitzertabel. Bock N. (dir.). Kunst und Liturgie im Mitteltaler. Akten des internationalen Kongresses der Bibliotheca Hertziana und des Nederlands Instituut te Rome, Rom, 28–30. September 1997, Munich, Hirmer Publ., 2000, pp. 235–247 (in German).
  • 35. Vestergen I. Cognitive Iconology. When and How Psychology Explains Images, Amsterdam, Rodopi Publ., 2014. 194 p.
  • 36. Vincent C. Protection spirituelle ou vigilance spirituelle, Le témoignage de quelques pratiques religieuses des XIIIe–XVe siècles. Cahiers de recherches médiévales, iss. 8, 2001, pp. 193–205 (in French).
  • 37. Walker Bynum C. Seeing and Seeing Beyond: The Mass of Saint Gregory in the 15th Century. Hamburger J. (dir.). The Mind’s Eye. Art and Theological Argument in the Middle Ages, Princeton, PUP Publ., 2006, pp. 208–240.