More on Goya and Getting Medieval

Brian Tierney, November 2008

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To the Editor:

As a fellow medievalist I enjoyed reading Gabrielle Spiegel’s article in the September 2008 issue of Perspectives on History. But I wish you had not perpetrated an ahistorical absurdity by attaching the words “Getting Medieval” to a painting of an early 19th-century tribunal by Goya. Or perhaps it was intended as a subtle reminder of the danger of misapplied analogies?

—Brian Tierney
Cornell University

Editor’s Note: As the correspondent perceptively points out, the cover image of the September 2008 issue of Perspectives on History does serve, in its own anachronistic way, to illustrate the dangers of using analogies in history. We must confess (the mot juste, perhaps, given the circumstances?), however, that we chose the image mainly for aesthetic reasons and because it is, after all, a powerfully evocative image of a persistent institution that transcends boundaries of time and space, it seems, to continually act as an instrument of power.