Elaine C. Block Database of Misericords

Elaine C. BlockThe world of medieval misericords is indelibly linked in all of our minds with Elaine Block who, more than anybody else in living memory, did her utmost to get these works relegated to their correct status in the art historical repertoire. My first introduction to Elaine was at one of her many lectures and workshops at the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo and it was here that I decided to invite her to speak at one of our conferences in Princeton University. At that event - in honor of Michael Curschmann in 2001-she presented many images of wonderful subjects and spread her enthusiastic appreciation for these carvings to all who heard her.

Elaine C. BlockAt that event she also spoke of giving her collection of images of misericords to the Index of Christian Art, but understandably she needed to work on them until the time was right. It really was with great pleasure that two of Elaine’s closest colleagues - Naomi Kline and Frédéric Billiet approached the Index after Elaine’s death in 2008 with the idea that the collection should be fully catalogued by the Index and integrated in the broader world of medieval art. If Elaine had started it in her lifetime, then it would be completed after her death. Although the physical collection happily resides with Frédéric in Huppy in France, I am delighted to say that we have a virtual archive here in Princeton.

Elaine C. BlockIn advance of complete iconographical analysis and cataloguing, we decided to make a shorter form available immediately and to offer them to medieval scholarship and not just to subscribers of the Index. Over time, these works will be more fully catalogued and added to the archives of the Index itself. As it stands, we are making some ten thousand images available on the Index website and these cover all the known misericords from Elaine’s archive which is the most extensive and comprehensive in existence. It is a memorial to her life’s work.

Elaine C. BlockThis project could not have been completed without the assistance of a number of colleagues. I would like to thank Naomi Kline (Plymouth State University), for remembering Elaine’s wishes to have the works in the Index and for pursuing the project with charm and ability. Elaine’s successor and close colleague is Frédéric Billiet (Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne), and he too has been a model of collaboration and collegiality. Both scholars in their own right, they have always appreciated the value of these carvings and have kept Elaine’s fire alight. Amongst the most recent scholars to pursue an interest in these works, Welleda Muller of Misericordia International has worked tirelessly on getting the images and data to the Index in Princeton and we are grateful to her for all her help.

All of the Index staff in Princeton were excited at the material they saw arriving every few weeks from France. Image preparation and preliminary cataloguing was undertaken by Beatrice Radden Keefe, Emily Possenti and Robin Dunham, but it was largely the work of Mailan Doquang that you now see in front of you. This was Mailan’s first project after joining the Index in 2010 and I am very grateful to her for all her input and work on the database. Mailan was ably helped by Beatrice in cataloguing these works.

The software that we are using was the brainchild of Jon Niola (Database Manager of the Index of Christian Art) and as always I am very grateful to him for his help on the project. He has constantly attempted to improve the software and cataloguing interface that you now see before you.

Colum Hourihane, Director, Index of Christian Art

Biography of Elaine C. Block

Coverage of the Database

Browse the Elaine C. Block Database of Misericords