"The Painted Logos: Abstraction as Exegesis in the Ashburnham Pentateuch"

Included in Medieval Art and Abstraction: Beyond the Ornament, edited by Elina Gertsman, 144-170. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press, 2021.

This article rereads four daubs of pink paint applied by an unknown, ninth-century artist to the fifth century illustrated bible known as the Ashburnham Pentateuch (BNF, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334). I argue that this overpainting - long interpreted as an act of iconoclasm motivated by a doctrinal debate - in fact represented an exegetical argument articulated in visual terms. Borrowing from the writing of the theologian Alcuin of York (d. 804) and the work of the American abstract expressionist Barnett Newman, I interpret these four splotches as an attempt to render the concepts of divine creation and an omnipresent God through abstract painting.

Creation Miniature from the Ashburnham Pentateuch (Pentateuque de Tours) Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 2334, f.1v