Book Review: Elizabeth Valdez del Álamo, Palace of the Mind: The Cloister of Silos and Spanish Sculpture of the Twelfth Century Page: 115
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Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art and Architecture, Vol. 5, Iss. 1 
of stylistic "connoisseurship." Importantly, however, she takes us deeper than this broad, visually
comparative approach to ground her innovative iconographic reading of the sculptural program
in an equally impressive knowledge of the supporting texts, to include the ancient sources, those
of the early church, as well as those contemporary and local found in the monastery's own
library. Thus building a solid textual foundation, Valdez del Alamo goes about the work of
contextualizing the visual and textual readings within both the liturgical practice of the
monastery and the greater political and ecclesiastical histories of the region, most significantly
the period of reform surrounding the transition from the Old Hispanic rite to that sanctioned by
What makes this complex historical tapestry comprehensible is Valdez del Alamo's
insightful positioning of the reader within the physical parameters of the architecture. Staging her
interpretation of the iconography through the monastic community's ritual movements, as well
as their perceptions of the significant political and ecclesiastical changes occurring around them,
she facilitates our "seeing" the sculpture through the eyes of the monks with whom it would have
been the most familiar. Proceeding incrementally, she moves the reader in a systematic manner
through the cloister and church, developing her analysis chronologically in tandem with the
building's phased production.
Key in this process are del Alamo's beautifully rich descriptions, which in and of
themselves make this book a great teaching tool. Seemingly a lost art, the tonalities and
expressive color conveyed in this work is reflective of the many years of patient looking and
detailed recording that can only be accomplished on site. Also indicative of this on-site
familiarity is the fruitful recognition of the connective sightlines and visual correlations linking
various imagery, which serve to multiply the avenues for meaning. Complicit in this
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Abel, Mickey S. Book Review: Elizabeth Valdez del Álamo, Palace of the Mind: The Cloister of Silos and Spanish Sculpture of the Twelfth Century, review, 2015; Gambier, Ohio. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1213683/m1/2/: accessed March 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Visual Arts + Design.