25.11.2016

IMAFOR (2016-2019)

Images of learned magic – formation, continuity, and transmutations.

Anthropomorphic and zoomorphic themes in magical imageries transmitted in Latin manuals in Europe between 1100–1650 

Vastuullinen tutkija / Principal investigator: Tutkijatohtori / Postdoctoral Reseacher Lauri Ockenström

Rahoittaja / Funding: Suomen Akatemia / Academy of Finland (2016-2019)

Magical images are some of the oldest instruments through which human beings have sought health, safety and success. This project will study the imageries in medieval manuals of so-called learned magic, i.e. Latin manuals of magic with connections to academic disciplines. The study focuses on the iconography of representational anthropomorphic and zoomorphic themes (the majority consist of personifications of stellar deities) described or depicted in the manuals in Europe between 1100 and 1650. Written sources are restricted to ca 40 short practical treatises, most of which are translations from Arabic (the Latin Picatrix, for example). Talismans have been preserved in European museums.

Even if the number of studies on magic has increased during the last 25 years, the corpus of magic manuals remains insufficiently examined. Iconographical studies in magical imageries have not been conducted since the work of Gombrich. In order to fill this lacuna, the present project focuses on basic research to collect, systematise and analyse the data. The goal is to produce new knowledge regarding the historical developments of image magic and its significance in medieval society and science. At a societal level, the project examines the reasons for the success of magical systems, both historically and in modern times. The study applies methods of art history, philology, historical sciences and statistical analysis. The project will be carried out at the University of Jyväskylä and other key sites (Florence, London, Vienna, Amsterdam).