Images of Late Medieval ‘Daily Life’: A History of mentalities
By Axel Bolvig
Medium aevum quotidianum, Vol.39 (1998)
Introduction: Speaking of images of daily life most historians usually refer to those images that depict scenes from contemporary life. To many historians – as far as they use visual source material at all – images of shoes, ploughs, swords, etc are considered as relevant testimony of aspects of daily life contrary to religious, fabulous, innovative, artistic and decorative images. Shortly as images relevant to Sachkultur.
As a matter of fact it is a very narrow attitude relying on traditional methodological ways of thinking. To most historians images are equal or parallel to the written word – as they were centuries ago to Gregory the Great and many others.
From Saint Gregory onwards till today’s historians images are treated in the same way as narrative documents – to the research of which we have developed a refined methodological research system. But an image is not a narrative source and as such it cannot narrate anything about what people were doing, where, when and why. To do this we need a discursive communications system and images are non-discursive constructions.