Kvinnligt och manligt – skilda estetiska gestaltningsprinciper

  • Lennart Karlsson † Emeritus, The Swedish History Museum, Stockholm


Some mediaevalists argue that the study of aesthetic aspects of mediaeval art is anachronistic, but mediaeval sculptors and painters clearly used a wide range of aesthetic means of expression. In hymns and liturgical texts Mary, the Mother God and epitome of all Christian virtues, is presented without defect or blemish. Although the evangelists have little or nothing to say about Mary’s looks, the mediaeval visionaries praised her celestial inner qualities and took it for granted that they corresponded to her outward appearance. Even on her death-bed Mary is depicted as an idealized young girl. The representations of later female saints were strongly influenced by the image of Mary.  – For both men and women humility was a valued Christian virtue, but particularly suited for the weaker sex. In hagiographies, men are sometimes represented as meek and humble, but in pictorial art they are often rendered as quite arrogant. Information on the male saints’ appearances is extremely rare but individualization soon gave their faces a kind of portrait character, a tendency that became even more obvious in the late Middle Ages. Whereas female saints frequently have an anonymously bland, impersonal appearance, men are often represented as individuals. The pictorial means by which these differences were attained cannot be described as other than “aesthetic”.

How to Cite
KARLSSON, Lennart. Kvinnligt och manligt – skilda estetiska gestaltningsprinciper. ICO Iconographisk Post. Nordisk tidskrift för bildtolkning – Nordic Review of Iconography, [S.l.], n. 4, p. 45-58, dec. 2014. ISSN 2323-5586. Available at: <https://ojs.abo.fi/ojs/index.php/ico/article/view/896>. Date accessed: 25 june 2024.


Mediaeval Art, Aesthetics, Female and Male representation, Beauty in the Fine Arts, Idealistic Representation, Individualistic Representation, Virgin Mary, Imitatio Marie