Åkestam Mia, Bebådelsebilder : Om bildbruk under medeltiden, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2010, (dir. M. Rossholm Lagerlöf, M. Kempff Östlind, Université de Stockholm)
This thesis investigates the Annunciation motif and the use of images in a medieval socio-cultural context. There are almost 400 medieval images of the Annunciation from the period 1150–1550 in Sweden today. It is found in murals, baptismal fonts, paintings, wooden sculpture, stone reliefs, liturgical vessels, textile works and altarpieces. The aim of the thesis is to present this rich and varied material, and also to relate the images to the milieus where they were used and viewed as objects of cult, and to elucidate the historical situation in which they were used for communicative purposes. It is argued that an “image-culture” perspective and a long-term investigation can reveal other aspects than a specific study, and that it is fruitful to equally emphasize the rhetoric of the image, the beholders part and the historical context. Hence the picture analysis is based on semiotics and rhetoric analysis of pictures and reception theory. With this point of departure the thesis addresses iconographic problems and shows that text as a source and explanation of historical image can be insufficient. The study shows that the figures’ gestures and body language, their contenace, is crucial for our understanding, and remains the most important mark of identification. The motif can be identified even with an angel without wings. The meaning of this universal picture could then be enlarged with specific attributes and symbols with a purpose to emphasize specific ideas. In context this elucidates bishopric, monastic as well as worldly use of imagery. The image context includes motifs from classical antiquity, references to the pious Christian worshiper, as well as symbolic staging of the Gospels and Christian faith. More expected is the biblical history. The motif can also be displayed alone, and thus it can be regarded as a sign. An important outcome is that the Annunciation not is used in legendary suites or in narratives of the Virgin Mary. Hence, the relationship between image and text is not uncomplicated. The thesis shows that people in the Middle Ages were fully aware of the use of pictures and skilfully used the rhetoric of the image.