Good and Bad Prayers, before Albertus Pictor: Prolegomena to the history of a late medieval image


  • Achim Timmermann



Keywords: allegory, mural paining, Albertus Pictor, prayer, material culture, crucifixion, church reform
The article represents the first comprehensive examination of the late medieval image of the Good and Bad Prayer, a complex and rare visual allegory of the treasures of Heaven and the treasures of earth (Matthew 6:19–21, 24) created sometime during the first half of the fourteenth century and still in use during the second half of the sixteenth. Focusing on the early history of the image, from its likely inception in a monastic milieu to its wider dissemination by itinerant muralists in Denmark and Sweden during the 1470s – 1490s – the workshop of Albertus Pictor being a chief case in point – the analysis is embedded in a wider discussion of late medieval pictorial didacticism, of attitudes toward materialism and conspicuous consumption, and of the later fourteenth- and fifteenth-century
culture of lay prayer. A preliminary catalogue of the forty or so
known examples of the Good and Bad Prayer concludes this investigation.
CV :
Achim Timmermann is Associate Professor at the Department of the History of Art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he teaches medieval and northern Renaissance art and  architecture. His current research interests include the pictorial and architectural stage- management of the body of Christ, the role of public monuments in medieval civic and rural life, and late medieval allegory. He is author of Real Presence: Sacrament Houses and the Body of Christ, c. 1270–1600 (2009), of the forthcoming monograph Representation and Redemption: Sacred Landscape and the Late Medieval Public Monument, and of over thirty articles on various aspects of medieval and Renaissance visual and architectural culture.


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