[ISHMap-List] Body-Worlds: Opicinus de Canistris and the Medieval Cartographic Imagination

Joel Kovarsky joel at theprimemeridian.com
Wed Jul 9 14:24:53 CEST 2014

Recently released:

Whittington, Karl (2014). _Body-Worlds: Opicinus de Canistris and the 
Medieval Cartographic Imagination_. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of 
Mediaeval Studies, 212 pp., ill. ISBN: 9780888441867. $85.


 From the online description:

"On the last day of March in 1334, an Italian priest named Opicinus de 
Canistris fell ill. His body slowly became paralyzed, and he temporarily 
lost his ability to speak. But during this illness, he had a divine 
vision, and his "interior eyes were opened to discern the images of the 
earth and the sea." These "images," visions of continents and oceans 
transformed into human figures, resulted in drawings that combined 
highly accurate maps of the pan-Mediterranean world with striking and 
often highly sexualized images of human bodies, forms that Karl 
Whittington calls "body-worlds."

Creating allegories of natural and spiritual worlds, these drawings defy 
classification. While they relate closely to contemporary maps and 
seacharts, religious iconography, medical illustration, and cosmological 
diagrams, Opicinus's drawings cannot be assimilated to any of these 
categories. In seeking to visualize the possibilities raised by an 
entire new way of looking at the world they remain sui generis and a 
formidable challenge to interpretation. In their beautiful strangeness 
they complicate many of our most fundamental assumptions about medieval 
visual culture, even as they help us grasp some of its most basic 
operations. "

Some added preliminary details are accessible online: 
http://www.pims.ca/pdf/st186.pdf .

         Joel Kovarsky

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