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Monkeys and apes are humankind’s closest relatives. They look like us and yet are utterly different – the ultimate 'other'. This ambiguity of form and behavior relative to people made them good mirrors of much that was good and bad in their human owners. Monkeys appear as emblems of vanity and lust but they can also appear as symbols of status. Even when they are more or less portrayed in a good way there is usually an element of mischief and maliciousness in the image. Bones of monkeys and apes are also found in archaeological contexts, mostly, but not always, associated with an elite lifestyle. Throughout the Middle Ages, the monkey was widely represented in the margins of medieval art, be that in a capital in a Cathedral or in the margins of medieval manuscripts, and their image and symbolism changed too as they became more common in medieval Europe. This lecture seeks to explore the many ways monkeys were woven into the lives of medieval people through their representation in public and private works of art.

Published in: Education, Spiritual
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  1. 1. Monkeys, Monkeys, Monkeys Galore! The Representation of Apes  in Medieval Art Mónica Ann Walker Vadillo University of Waterloo
  2. 2. Apes: The Archaeological Record Green Monkey Skull. One skull from  the Cathedral of Ontrato, Ampulia, 12th c. Another one from Leiden,  14th or 15th c. Ryorik Gorodische palace Cappuchin monkey Russia ca.1180 . Barbary  skull. 16th c. Italy.ape skull.
  3. 3. Ape Types The tailed ape or monkeyThe tailless or Barbary ape  The Baboon
  4. 4. The Ape: The Classical Attitude The ape must have descended from men who failed to heed some Divine injunction and in punishment for their hubris had been debased to the infra-human level. As an unworthy pretender to human status, a grotesque caricature of man, the ape became the prototype of the trickster, the sycophant, the hypocrite, the coward as well as of extreme physical ugliness.
  5. 5. The Ape: The Classical and Early  Christian Sources Aesop (5th c. BCE): Fables. Stories with anthropomorphic animals that illustrate a moral lesson. Anonymous writer (2nd c. CE): The Physiologus. Didactic text consisting of descriptions of animals, birds, etc. “The ape had a beginning, but he has no end (that is no tail); at the outset he was one of the archangels, but his end is not in view. Now the ape, not having a tail, is without species, and his rear without a tail is vile; like the devil, he does not have a good end.” Solinus (3rd c. CE): Collectanea rerum memorabilium (Collection of Curiosities). Characteristics of apes: they like to imitate men, they are excessively fond of their offspring, they rejoice when the moon is full and grieve when it wanes.
  6. 6. The Ape as the Devil: OriginsBABI: Egyptian godassociated to theunderworld.
  7. 7. The Ape as the Devil in  Medieval ArtThe Sttutgart Psalter, 9th century. North Eastern France. Psalm 77, verses 51.52: “And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham. But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.  
  8. 8. The Ape as the DevilBaptismal font of Master Roberto in San Frediano Lucca, Italy. Late 12th c.  
  9. 9. The Ape as the Devil in  Medieval ArtThe Temptations of Christ, Puerta de las Platerías, Santiago deCompostela, Spain. Early 12th century.
  10. 10. The Ape as the Sinner: The Medieval Attitude and SourcesBernardus Silvestris (12th c.): De mundi universitate.  The ape becomes the image of man, but a deformed image representing man  in a state of degeneracy.Revival of the Fable tradition in the form of the animal epic, Reynard de Fox (12th c.), based on Aesops Fables. The Bestiaries (12th­14th c.): A compendium of beasts based on the Physiologus.  New role of the ape as the victim of the devil rather than the devil himself. Mendicant Orders use of animal stories as exempla in their sermons (12th c).  The most important exempla was created by Jaques de Vitry.Increase visibility of apes and their trainers into Western Europe (12th c.)
  11. 11. The Ape from the FablesBeatus  of  Saint­Server,  France,  12th  c.  and  misericords  of  St. Georges Chapel in Windsor Castle, England, 15th c. 
  12. 12. The Ape from the FablesThe Bayeaux tapestry 11th c. and capital from St. Martin of Frómista, Spain, 12th c. 
  13. 13. The Ape in the BestiariesHunters  pursuing    the  mother ape  and  her  twins.    Examples from  the  Bestiaries  at  the Pierpont  Morgan  Library,  at Aberdeen  University  Library,and at the British Library.  12th­13th centuries.
  14. 14. The Ape in the BestiariesHunters  pursuing    the  mother  ape  and  her  twins.   Examples from the Bestiaries at the Bodleian library and the Bibliothéque nationale of France, 12th ­13th  c.
  15. 15. The Ape in Romanesque SculptureApe and Hunter in Saint­Michel­de Cuxa, North of Spain, 12th c., and in a capital of the Abbey of Mozac, France, 12th c.
  16. 16. The Ape in Romanesque Sculpture Apes with ropes, St. Quirce, Spain, 12th c. 
  17. 17. The Ape in Romanesque SculptureApe  capitals  in  the  Romanesque church of  the monastery of Silos and  the  cathedral  of  Jaca  and Loarre. North of Spain. 12th c.
  18. 18. The Ape in Romanesque Sculpture Apes and Camel, from St­Gilles du Gard, France, 12th c.
  19. 19. The Ape in Romanesque  SculptureMonkey and his trainer in theCathedral of Bayeux, 12th c.
  20. 20. Apes in Gothic ArtApes as the symbol of Lust in a FlemishPsalter and the French Voeux du Paon,14th c.
  21. 21. The Ape in Gothic Art Monkeys  playing  instruments  from  several  French  Books  of  Hours  and  a  Pontificial, 13th ­15th c.
  22. 22. The Ape in Gothic ArtMonkeys  mimicking  human  behaviour from  a  Psalter  in  the  Bodleian  Library, 14th century.
  23. 23. The Ape in Gothic ArtFrench and Flemish Books of Hours, 14th­15th  c. 
  24. 24. The Ape in Gothic Art Monkey droleires or babooneries in two French Manuscripts from the Pierpont Morgan Library, 14th century.
  25. 25. The Ape in Gothic Art Monkey Beaker,  France, 15th c.
  26. 26. The Ape in Gothic ArtThe sense of Taste, Smell, Touch. Tapestry at theMuseum of Cluny, France, 15th c.
  27. 27. The Ape in Gothic ArtThe sense of Taste, Smell, Touch. Tapestry at theMusée de Cluny, 15th century.
  28. 28. The Ape in Gothic ArtThe sense of Taste, Smell, Touch. Tapestry at theMusée de Cluny, 15th century.
  29. 29. The Ape in Gothic ArtThe sense of Taste, Smell, Touch. Tapestry at theMusée de Cluny, 15th century.
  30. 30. The Ape in Medieval Art:  Some ConclusionsEarly Christian Period The Ape as the DevilRomanesque Period The Ape in Fables The Ape in the Bestiaries The mother ape represents the sinner with the favored young representing the pleasures of the flesh or riches and the hated young representing the goods of the soul or the weight of the sins. The hunter can then represent the devil taking the sinner to hell or Death. The Ape in Romanesque Art Ape as a generalized vice, but usually lust. The ape as an entertainer and a zoological curiosity.The Gothic Period The ape in the margins representing a parody of human behavior, bits of simian lore or representations of real apes and monkeys. There is always a humorous element to the monkey in these representations.