Lasse Hodne

Professor Department of Art and Media Studies
+47 73590615
Dragvoll, Edvard Bulls veg 1, Bygg 8 * 8447

Background and activities

Iconography of Italian and European art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Other areas of interest: Marian iconography, typology, the contrast between sacred and secular portraits of the Renaissance, neuroaesthetics, fascist aesthetics and caricatures / cartoon controversy.

Image and Architecture

The symmetrical structure of the architecture is a frame within which images must fit. The sculpture group on the pediments of a Greek temple is composed hierarchically, with Apollo or other divinities at the centre, and less important figures at the flanks. In archaic art, such as the temple of Artemis, the central figure, Medusa, who is facing the spectators, is flanked by two identical lions, one of which is the mirror reflection of the other.

A similar system is found in Christian medieval art and architecture. The alignment of altar, cathedra and celebrant constitutes an axis that divides the ground plan of the basilica symmetrically into two equal halves. A central axis drawn lengthwise on the Church plan through the main altar, bisecting all transversal architecture elements and furniture in the church space, will individuate the axial positions of the entrance wall through the main door, the central panel of the pontile, or the Crucifix above the entrance of the choire enclosure, the apex of the triumphal arch, the centre of the apse and apsidal vault, as well as the cathdera situated within the apse. The images found in these "axial positions", such as the Majestas domini or later the Coronation of the Virgin in the apsidal vault, a clipeus image of Christ flanked by the 24 elders of the Apocalypse or the Eutimasia on the triumphal arch, and the Last Judgement above the main entrance, are all motifs of a symbolical order.

Past and future

The typical arrangement of apsidal images, as well as of altar-pieces, is symmetrical, and the portraits of Christ, the Virgin, or saints, are almost always turned frontally towards the spectator. On the long walls of the medieval church building, we find images of a quite different kind. Here we find stories from Genesis, from the Gospels, or from the vita of saints. These scenes, which are ‘off-centre' with respect to the church's main axis, are almost never composed symmetrically. Moreover, whereas the mentioned images that are aligned with the main axis represent scenes from the Revelation and other sources that anticipate or foreshadow future events, the images on the long walls are an account of things that once happened. They represent the past. Thus, the church is a symbolical space that separates centre from periphery, past from future. Apart from being assigned specific positions in the church space, symbolical and apocalyptic images that represent the future are also connected with a specific form: the symmetric one.

The Holy face

A survey of 590 portraits by Italian, Dutch and German masters from the 15th and 16th centuries shows that only about 1.2 percent of the portraits of secular persons are shown frontally. There are not quite as many representations of Christ from the same period, but there are clear indications that the frontal (symmetric) view in this case is much more common. Perhaps as many as half of the Christ portraits from this period are shown frontally (and symmetrically).

How is it that symmetry is used so often in representations of Christ, yet almost never, in the Renaissance, in representations of secular persons? According to written sources, the beauty of Christ was supposed to be of a spiritual kind; some even said that his appearance was ugly. However, the Scriptures connect his ugliness with physical pain. It is not a description of his likeness as such, but rather how he would appear to someone witnessing his suffering during the Crucifixion. In fact, other sources, such as the so-called Epistola Lentuli,gives a totally different account of him, describing him as of "venerable aspect" and having "a face without wrinkle or spot." 

There are basically two types of Renaissance Christ portraits. The first, the Man of Sorrows, corresponds to the ‘ugly type': Christ has a sad expression, he wears the crown of thorns, and blood pours from his forehead – it is the ‘suffering type'. The second, the Holy Face, is totally different. Here Christ turns toward the spectator with a calm and gentle expression. It is interesting to study the way Christ's head is turned in these two cases. In the former (‘suffering') type, we have examples of frontal (en face) view as well as three-quarter profile, but the majority are three-quarters. In contrast, the Holy Face is exclusively full frontal (and symmetric).

The difference between the two types of Christ portrait corresponds to that between ‘past' and ‘present'. As we have seen, whereas images representing the past have no precise structure, representations of the theophany (the Apocalypse and so on) are always symmetrical, and the protagonist is always the central figure, frontally (and symmetrically) turned toward the spectator.

Scientific, academic and artistic work

Displaying a selection of activities. See all publications in the database

Journal publications


  • Hodne, Lasse. (2012) The Virginity of the Virgin. A Study in Marian Iconography. Bardi Editore. 2012. ISBN 978-88-6687-006-7.
  • Hodne, Lasse; Sande, Siri. (2008) Mater Christi. Bardi Editore. 2008. ISBN 978-88-88620-62-6. Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia (XXI).
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2007) Sponsus amat sponsam. L'unione mistica delle sante vergini con Dio nell'arte del medioevo. Uno studio iconologico. Bardi Editore. 2007. ISBN 88-88620-31-1.
  • Hodne, Lasse; Fuglesang, Signe Horn; Wilson, David M.. (2006) The Hoen Hoard. Bardi Editore. 2006. ISBN 88-88620-21-4. Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia (XIV).
  • Hodne, Lasse; Sande, Siri. (2006) Continuatio & Renovatio. Bardi Editore. 2006. ISBN 978-88-88620-38-1. Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia (6).
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2005) Sacro & Profano. Bardi Editore. 2005. ISBN 978-88-88620-37-4. Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia (5).
  • Hodne, Lasse; Brandt, Rasmus J.. (2005) The Demiourgos. Bardi Editore. 2005. ISBN 88-88620-26-5. Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia (XVIII).
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2004) The Images of the Church. Rhetorical and Typological Patterns in the Picture Cycle of the Basilica. 2004. ISBN 82-497-0208-5.
  • Brandt, Johann Rasmus; Sande, Siri; Hodne, Lasse. (2003) Rome AD 300-800. Power and Symbol � Image and Reality. Bardi Editore. 2003.
  • Hodne, Lasse; Sinisgalli, Rocco. (2000) Il Battistero di Firenze. 2000. ISBN 88-7923-216-9.
  • Brokke, Astrid S.; Kleppe, Sandra Lee; Rolf, Gaasland; Wærp, Henning Hovlid; Hodne, Lasse. (1999) Nordlit. 1999. ISBN 82-90423-52-7.
  • Hodne, Lasse; Bakke, Jørgen; Laugerud, Henning. (1993) Love and War: Individet i krig og kjærlighet. 1993. ISBN 82-91320-02-0.
  • Laugerud, Henning; Bakke, Jørgen; Hodne, Lasse. (1993) Love and War. Individet i krig og kjærlighet. Kulturtekster 3. 1993. ISBN 82-91320-00-4. Working paper (3).

Part of book/report

  • Hodne, Lasse. (2011) Livets gang og skjebnens dom: Middelalderens 'Rota Fortuna'som rosevindu. Memento Mori - Døden i middelalderens billedverden.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2008) Faces of Time: Allegories of Change and Fortune in Petrach's 'Trionfi' and Their Illustrations. Rhetoric, Theatre and the Arts of Design.Essays presnted to Roy Eriksen.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2006) The Renaissance Idea of Philosophical Concord and Raphael's School of Athens. Ashes to Ashes. Art in Rome Between Humanism and Maniera.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2000) The Triumphs of Andrea Mantegna and Renaissance "Rappresentazioni". Innovation and Tradition, Essays on Renaissance Art and Culture.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (1999) Aristotelian Rhetor-Ethics and the Formal Kinship of Art and Literature. Nordlit.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (1998) L'interfaccia teatrale. La Prospettiva: Fondamenti teorici ed esperienze figurative dall'antichità al mondo moderno.
  • Bakke, Jørgen; Hodne, Lasse. (1993) Ostrakon. Love and War (Red.: Bakke, Jørgen, Hodne, Lasse, Laugerud, Henning) (nr. 3 i serie Kulturtekster).
  • Hodne, Lasse. (1993) Kunstneren betrakter sitt bilde og signerer det. Love and War: Individet i krig og kjærlighet.
  • Hodne, Lasse; Bakke, Jørgen. (1993) Ostrakon. Love and War: Individet i krig og kjærlighet.


  • Hodne, Lasse. (2004) The Images of the Church. Rhetorical and Typological Patterns in the Picture Cycle of the Basilica. Universitetet i Bergen. 2004. ISBN 82-497-0208-5.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (1995) Bilde og billedoppfatning: rammevilkår for perspektivets endring fra middelalder til renessanse i Italia. Universitetet i Bergen. 1995.


  • Hodne, Lasse. (2011) Fant nakne damer og djevelen i kirketaket. Vitenskap-og-teknologi [Internett]. 2011-04-13.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2011) Jesus + Johannes = sant?. Vitenskap-og-teknologi [Internett]. 2011-04-27.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2011) Jesus + Johannes = sant?. [Internett]. 2011-05-01.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2011) Kunsthistoriker - yrkesintervju. [Internett]. 2011-02-15.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2011) Slik ble Jomfru Maria gravid. Vitenskap-og-teknologi [Internett]. 2011-04-23.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2010) At the Threshold of Death: A Petrarchan Reading of Masaccio’s Trinity. Iconography of Death . Forth International Conference of Iconographic Studies; Rijeka. 2010-05-20 - 2010-05-21.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2010) La verginità di Maria nell’arte italiana. Dante Alighieri: Comitato di Trondheim ; Trondheim. 2010-10-26.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2009) En Madonna fra Byneset – Et lokalt gravsteinsrelieff i lys av europeisk middelalderikonografi. Middelalderseminaret . NTNU; Vitenskapsmuseet, Trondheim. 2009-05-14.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2009) La Ruota della Fortuna e i rosoni della Cattedrale di Santa Maria della Bruna e della chiesa di San Domenico a Matera. Presidio del Libro 'Magna Grecia' . Società Dante Alighieri. Sezione cittadina di Montalbano J.c; Policoro. 2009-07-31.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2008) Bildets hermeneutikk. Litt om en ikke-eksisterende forskningstradisjon. Text And Image. The Premodern After Postmodernism . NTNU; Trondheim. 2008-10-16 - 2008-10-16.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2008) Rota Fortunae: Om lykkens tilfeldighet og den visse død. Memento mori: Døden i kirkekunsten . Det 21. nordiske ikonografiske symposium; Utstein kloster, Stavanger. 2008-08-21 - 2008-08-24.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2008) The Turtledove: A Symbol of Chastity and Sacrifice. Animal Symbolism in Christian Art and Literature . Faculty of Arts and Sciences (University Of Rijeka) ...; Rijeka. 2008-05-22 - 2008-05-24.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2008) ‘Written within and without’: Entangled wheels and typological inscriptions in Angelico's Armadio degli argenti panels. 'Hoc Opus ...' - Inscriptions in Liturgical Spaces . Norsk forum for ikonografi og teologi; 2008-11-28 - 2008-11-30.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2007) Il matrimonio mistico nell'arte del tre e del quattrocento. Lectura Dantis . Società Dante Alighieri. Comitato di Montalbano Jonico; Montalbano Jonico. 2007-08-03 - 2007-08-03.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2007) Sponsus amat sponsam: mystiske bryllup i italiensk senmiddelalderkunst. Nordisk nettverk for eldre europeisk kunsthistorie ; Trondheim, NTNU. 2007-12-07 - 2007-12-08.
  • Hovde, Kari; Hodne, Lasse. (2007) Engler iblant oss. Adresseavisen - Ukeadressa [Avis]. 2007-12-15.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2006) Legendens autoritet: bilder av Marias himmelopptakelse. Ikonografi og teologi . Norsk forum for ikonografi og teologi; Bergen. 2006-11-09 - 2006-11-10.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2006) The Word Incarnate. Interpretation of Scripture in Medieval Art. Nordik 2006. Tradition and Visual Culture . Nordisk komité for kunsthistorie; Bergen. 2006-09-22 - 2006-09-24.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2004) The Bride and the Groom of the Canticum novum. Mater Christi: Immagini di Maria come Vergine, Ecclesia e Mediatrice nell’arte del medioevo . Det norske institutt i Roma; Roma. 2004-10-07 - 2004-10-09.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2004) The Fight for Mansoul in the Petrarchan Trionfi and their Illustrations. Processions in time . Istituto di Danimarca a Roma; Roma. 2004-05-18 - 2004-05-20.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2003) 'Concordia Apostolorum': The Basic Scheme of the Roman Apse from the Constantinian Basilicas to Paschal I. Renovatio and continuatio - Continuity and Change in Antiquity . Det norske institutt i Roma; Roma. 2003-03-06 - 2003-03-07.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2003) Inter duas metas: aspetti topomorfici della rifondazione cristiana di Roma. Sacro & Profano: Antitesi e sintesi nell’arte del medioevo e rinascimento italiano . Det norske institutt i Roma; Roma. 2003-10-02 - 2003-10-04.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2002) I due filosofi di Raffaello e di Bramante. Raffaello - pluralità e unità . Bibliotheca Hertziana - Istituto di Norvegia; Roma. 2002-05-02 - 2002-05-04.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2002) Perspective and Symmetry. Perspective: History, Theory and Application . I. International Conference on Perspective; Roma. 2002-10-15 - 2002-10-19.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2001) Perspective and Symmetry. Speaking Architecture . Det norske institutt i Roma; 2001-12-14 - 2001-12-15.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2001) The Renaissance Idea of Philosophical Concord and Raphael’s School of Athens. Ashes to Ashes: Art in Rome between Humanism and Maniera . Magne Malmanger, Victor Plahte Tschudi and Roy Eriksen; Rosendal. 2001-06-23 - 2001-06-27.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (2000) The Franciscan Temple of Humility. Giotto’s Leggenda: Image, Text, and the Picture Cycle . Det norske institutt i Roma; 2000-06-06.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (1999) Form and Meaning: Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise. Form and the Arts. Renaissance Art and Culture . Det norske institutt i Roma, Roy Eriksen; Fiesole. 1999-10-31 - 1999-11-07.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (1999) Lo sviluppo artistico ghibertiano tra lo spazio gotico e quello rinascimentale. I lunedì della prospettiva . Istituto Svizzero di Roma; Roma. 1999-02-01.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (1998) Aristotelian Rhetor-Ethics and the Formal Kinship of Art and Literature. Rhetoric across the Humanities . Det norske institutt i Roma, Roy Eriksen; Roma. 1998-10-08 - 1998-10-10.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (1998) Triumphal Forms in the Art of Andrea Mantegna. Innovation and Tradition . Det norske institutt i Roma, Roy Eriksen; Fiesole. 1998-10-25 - 1998-11-01.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (1997) Rafaels De dignitate hominis-syklus i Stanza della segnatura. Fiesole 1 . Det norske institutt i Roma, Roy Eriksen; Fiesole. 1997-10-30 - 1997-11-06.
  • Hodne, Lasse. (1993) Kunstneren signere sitt bilde og betrakter det. Love and War. Individet i krig og kjærlighet . Senter for europeiske kultirstudier, UiB; Cinematheket USF, Bergen. 1993-03-12 - 1993-03-13.