Hans Fries and the Forensic Gaze: Evidence, Inquiry, and Artistic Knowledge in South Germany and Switzerland, 1430-1530

Tamara Golan

My dissertation provides a critical account of Hans Fries and a number of late medieval artists working in Switzerland and southwestern Germany between the years 1430-1530. I argue that these artists were particularly attuned to the new standards of knowledge established by the judicial inquisitio, or inquiry, in which truth was procured through exhaustive examination and interrogation of material and ocular evidence. My dissertation defines and traces the development of an alternative mode of looking, what I am calling the "forensic gaze," in order to examine the ways in which artists adapted to the new concepts of the miraculous and visionary redefined in the judicial sphere. This project will conceptualize this forensic mode as a method by which artists imparted a new kind of epistemic value to their work, generated by the material presence of the image and guaranteed by a novel valuation of the manual labor and skill of the artist. It addressed a growing desire to test the sacred by verifying it through observation and examination of the material world.


This project was part of the Minerva Research Group The Nomos of Images. Manifestation and Iconology of Law.


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