Art & Art History ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-14-2021


I trace the progression of figural sculpture in the Latin West from the static statues of the late-tenth century to the ecstatic statues of the mid-thirteenth century. I explore the various reasons for the return of freestanding figural sculpture and suggest that the return is indicative of an eroticization of the Christian holy figures. I suggest that Bernard of Clairvaux’s erotic theology in the twelfth century resulted in a synthesis of eros and Christian devotion that allowed latent classicism to find purchase in Christian art. I submit that Bernard’s influence on European art is a form of “queering”—a process by which hegemonic structures are subverted or augmented. I draw from the work of art historians Kenneth Clark, Leo Steinberg, and historian Stephen Moore, to suggest that the artistic breakthroughs in the thirteenth century were heavily influenced by Bernard’s erotic mysticism. I draw upon the work of medieval historian Caroline Walker Bynum to trace the ontological and theological shifts that allowed for such transgressive depictions of the body in the thirteenth century. I argue that, prior to Bernard’s influence, depictions of the glorified body primarily referenced the resurrected body, whereas in thirteenth century depictions of the glorified body increasingly began to make reference to the prelapsarian body. I trace the eroticization of European art in the thirteenth century to the influence of chivalric culture, Bernard’s “queer” theology, and the evolving doctrine of the glorified body.



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Justine Andrews

Second Committee Member

Olivia Lumpkin

Third Committee Member

Susanne Anderson-Riedel


queer, Clairvaux, Bernard, Gothic art, thirteenth century, France