Small Pipe-Clay Devotional Figures: Touch, Play and Animation

Dr. Lieke Smits 1
  • 1 Leiden University, Centre for the Arts in Society, P. O. Box 9515, Leiden, Netherlands
Dr. Lieke Smits
  • Corresponding author
  • Leiden University, Centre for the Arts in Society, P. O. Box 9515, 2300 RA, Leiden, Netherlands
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Abstract

Small, mass-produced pipe-clay figurines were popular devotionalia in the late medieval Low Countries. In this paper, focusing on representations of the Christ Child, I study the sensory and playful ways in which such objects were used as ‘props of perception’ in spiritual games of make-believe or role-play. Not only does this particular iconography invite tactile and playful behaviour, the figurines fit within a larger context of image practices involving visions and make-believe. Through such practices images were animated and imbued with a divine power. Contemporary written sources suggest that, especially for women, ownership of and sensory engagement with small-scale figures provided them with agency.

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