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Moveable Feasts Of Reason: Description, Intelligence, And The Excitation Of Sight

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Chapter Summary

This chapter attempts to treat pictures as a barometer of how people, mainly those in the fifteenth-century Low Countries, conceived of visual and mental agility. It surveys some of the more developed expressions of intelligence and, through them, lays a foundation for further study. To that end, the chapter begins with a relatively muscular assertion of advanced mental competency and its ramifications: the Seven Sacraments altarpiece of Rogier van der Weyden. Variegation of intelligence arises from the degree to which and ease with which spirits move about within the body. Given such variegation, any educational endeavour necessitates the careful selection of those stimuli for less intelligent audiences. Jean Gerson suggests in the Montaigne de contemplation that certain idiotae deserve access to lesser theological complexities, despite the doubts of many authorities. Van der Weyden?s pictorial feast takes the form not merely of subject matter but also of specific visual form itself.

Keywords: Jean Gerson; pictorial feast; Rogier van der Weyden; Seven Sacraments altarpiece; variegation of intelligence

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