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Auteur : xav le 2009-06-05 16:41:29

Elaine C. Block, founder of Misericordia International and prominent art historian, died in New York on March 7, 2008.

Elaine C. Block, founder of Misericordia International and prominent art historian, died in New York on March 7, 2008. She was 82 years old and divided her time between homes in New York and Paris.

She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin in elementary education and in her professional life taught at Hunter College, CUNY. It was while working on ways to teach reading and writing to children through music and art that she became interested in misericords, then an area of little interest to art historians. By the time of her death, she knew and had photographed probably every misericord and choir stall in Western Europe, and misericords were part of art history’s mainstream.

Some years ago, a serious fire in the historic Cathedral at Saint-Claude (Jura) near the Swiss border destroyed half of the church’s choir. Although tourists FROM around the world sent in their photos of the choir, only Elaine had a full set of photographs with notes explaining the meaning of the images. When he saw her materials, the Chief Architect of France wept: the choir could now be accurately reconstructed. Elaine acted as a consultant to the craftspeople working on the project. In December 1999 the Cathedral at Rouen was struck by lightning and part of the roof fell INTO the choir, destroying or damaging many of the choir stalls. Once again, Elaine came to the rescue. The cathedral did not have photographs of the choir, but she did and the reconstruction was based on her work.

In addition to founding Misericordia International, which sponsored sessions at Kalamazoo and Leeds and which sponsored its own international conferences biannually, Elaine was the founder, editor, and chief contributor of The Journal of Profane Arts. The Journal began as a slim paperback, but recent issues have been more substantial and devoted to single topics like “Tradition iconigraphique au Moyen-Age” or “Les Stalles de la Cathédrale de Rouen: Histoire et Iconographie.”

Elaine’s scholarly work culminated in a projected five-volume Corpus of Medieval Misericords, published by Brepols. The first two volumes, France and Iberia, are in print and the third volume is in its final proofing stages. With her dear friend and collaborator, Frédéric Billiet, she had just published a ground-breaking work, the Lexicon (also Brepols), which standardized the terminology for misericords and choir stalls.

Elaine is survived by her children, Randall Block and Karen Davis, Laurie and Jerry Spigal, and Linda Block, and her grandchildren, Jeffrey, Peter, Kalman, Solomon, Kaley, and Leanne. Because she was a woman of amazing generosity and an amazing zest for life and adventure, she amassed a large circle of adopted children and grandchildren, friends, collaborators, and fellow travelers, all of whom will miss her greatly.

If anyone wishes to make a donation in her memory, checks should be made out to Misericordia International and sent to her son, Randall Block, 45 Lafayette Road, Newton, MA 02462. Checks in Euros should also be made out to Misericordia International and sent to Frédéric Billiet, 190 Chaussée Jules Ferry, 80090 Amiens, France. The funds will be used for June’s Misericordia International colloquium in France and future activities of the organization.

Prepared by Judith Bronfman
For Early Book Society Newsletter