chapter
22 Pages

Introduction

BySusan L. Green

The Tree of Jesse, an illustration of the prophecy of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, was once one of the most prolific images in northern Europe, and from the midfifteenth to early sixteenth centuries could be found on every type of religious object. This book will consider various aspects of the late medieval use of the iconography and, rather than just confining itself to traditional representations, will extend the parameters to include works that have appropriated and adapted the imagery to convey nuanced and subtle shifts in meaning. Now mostly dislocated from their original surroundings, the function of these objects has become unclear to the modern viewer, but by recreating the circumstances in which the Tree of Jesse was employed, it will be shown that they can be seen to reflect, directly or indirectly, the concerns of a society on the brink of great change. By attempting to answer fundamental questions, such as who was commissioning these works and why, this study is able to produce valuable information that can be beneficial to both cultural and social historians, contributing to our overall knowledge of the period. 1