signatis… vultus tui: (re)impressing the Veronica in the Middle Ages

Aden Kumler

(University of Chicago)


Originating as an impressed image, in the later Middle Ages the Veronica was itself disseminated in the form of “secondary” impressions realized by means of a range of incised forms: not only seal matrices, but also rings, moulds, coin dies, and the presses employed in the making of eucharistic wafers. Significantly, in many such impressed “second-order” Veronicas, we encounter an elision noted elsewhere in late medieval visual culture, namely the blurring of the Veronica with the iconographic type of the Holy Face: in such relief images, indexical and iconic modes of theophany suggestively converge. In this paper I explore how a range of low relief replications or re-enactments of the Veronica extended, and at times altered the sacred image’s auratic presence in medieval culture, at once literalizing the language of Psalm 4:7 (employed in the indulgenced prayer that accompanied many Veronica images) and intervening in a dialectic of material contact and vision, of sealing and being sealed that was conceptually organized in relation to the Veronica and the Holy Face in the late Middle Ages.

The European Fortune of the Roman Veronica ​in the Middle Ages