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Worlds Within: Opening the Medieval Shrine Madonna

Penn State University Press, 2015

Worlds Within investigates the Shrine Madonnas, or Vierges ouvrantes—sculptures that conceal within their bodies complex carved and/or painted iconographies. The Shrine Madonna emerged in Europe at the end of the 1200s and reached a peak of popularity during the following three centuries. The book argues that the appearance of these objects—predicated as they are on the dynamic of concealment, revelation, and fragmentation—points to the changing roles of vision and sensation in the complex, performative ways in which audiences were expected to engage with devotional images, both in public and in private. Worlds Within considers these fascinating sculptures in terms of the rhetoric of secrecy, the discourse of containment, and the tropes of unveiling. The book demonstrates how the statues were associated with the processes of seeing and memory-making and how they functioned as instruments of revelatory knowledge and spiritual reformation in the context of late medieval European culture.

Winner of the 2018 Karen Gould Prize in Art History from The Medieval Academy of America

Recipient of the Millard Meiss Publication Grant and the Samuel H. Kress Research Award from the International Center for Medieval Art.


Nominated for the 2017 Philip Schaff Prize; shortlisted for the 2016 Charles Rufus Morey Award from College Art Association.