The Word, the Picture and the Theatre. Comments on the subject of the 'Dominican Reflections'
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For years now Dominican Reflections, a manuscript originating from 1532 decorated with 119 miniatures describing the life of Christ from his arrival in Jerusalem to being laid to rest in the tomb, have been the object of thematically wide-ranging studies and analyses. Until the present moment a large number of works have been devoted either entirely or in part to the Reflections in relation to the culture of 16th-century Poland and their place in godliness at the turn of the mediaeval and Renaissance eras, the literary source which conditioned their creation, the text's linguistic properties and the miniatures' graphic prototypes. Apart from these, attempts have also been made to relate the manuscript with mystery theatre. It has even become a basis for general considerations on the mutual links between painting, literature and theatre. This article focuses on the question of the assumed dependence of Dominican Reflections, in its textual as well as pictorial level, on the mystery plays. Karol Górski, who discovered the manuscript, first suggested such a link with the theatre might exist, and especially with the non-existent Passion, which was supposedly staged by the Dominicans of Cracow in 1534, exerted a remarkably influence on subsequent research on the subject. Attempts have been undertaken to link the miniature with the tableau painting known as the Torun Passion originating from St. James's church in the city (1480), which is said to be strongly dependent in its form upon the mystery scene. It seems however that Górski's stipulations, just like those of later researchers following the same line of reasoning, find no support in source materials available as well as the ascertainments of researchers active in various academic fields. It is safer to accept Julian Lewanski's suggestion that the miniaturist himself was the author of such an innovative stage construction for which plans were depicted in his drawings. However, no evidence is available to prove his aim was ever to carry out such constructions, just as it is not known for whose use it might have been intended and what objective he had in mind. Stipulating that similarities exist between Reflections and the Torun Passion is completely unfounded. Furthermore, the second of these historical documents does not in itself reveal any dependence on mystery plays.The miniatures illustrating Dominican Reflections are dependent on the text, and not vice versa. 22 Illustrations.
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