Degradation followed display. Reified and emptied, the image was treated like the lowliest of things. Images were broken, burned, toppled, beheaded and hanged. They were spat, pissed and shat on, tossed into toilets, sewers, fountains, canals, rivers, rubble heaps, garbage dumps, pigsties and charnel houses, and lewdly handled in brothels and inns. Stone statues were used as cobblestones, keystones and infill, or were modified to represent something new. In 1608, a statue of the Virgin on the clock of the Basel town hall was turned into a personification of Justice simply by removing the Christ child and replacing him with scales. Wooden statues became table ornaments and toys, or were sold on the markets as firewood or distributed free to the poor. In Bern in 1528, images were taken from the church, broken and buried in a hole before the cathedral. There they would lie until Judgement Day.


Foto: HMB Peter Portner
Marienfigur vom Baldachin des Uhrengehäuses am Basler Rathaus (1510/11), die 1609 in eine Justitia umgearbeitet wurde
H. 117 cm, B. 44 cm, T. 40 cm
Historisches Museum Basel
Inv. 1878.68.