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Baldwin The Counter Reformation and Art.doc

Baldwin The Counter Reformation and Art.doc - 1 The Impact...

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The Impact of the Counter-Reformation on Art: Baroque Art in Catholic Europe (Italy, France, Belgium) Robert Baldwin Associate Professor of Art History Connecticut College New London, CT 06320 [email protected] (This essay was written in 1997 and was last revised Sept. 2008.) Contents 1. Council of Trent 2. Rise of Jesuits 3. Counter-Reformation Piety as Triumphalist Catholicism 4. Absolutist Church and State in an Age of Empire 5. Counter-Reformation Catholicism as Visual Piety 6. The Problematic Body in Catholic Art 7. Rhetorical Piety: Emotion, Ecstasy, and Mystical Marriage 8. Martyrdom, Torment, and Violence as Exemplary Image, Affective Piety, and Mobilizing Device 9. Sacramental Piety / Eucharistic Piety / Penitential Piety 10A. The Institutional Politics of Mary in the Counter-Reformation 10B. Immaculacy, Triumph, and the Nexus of Perfection and Power 11. The Counter-Reformation and the Politics of the Saints 12. Counter-Reformation History and the Myth of Early Christianity 13. Penitential Self-Examination and the Creation of a Catholic Self 1. The Council of Trent: Correct Doctrine, Narrative Clarity and Religious Content . To deal with the challenges of the Reformation, Pope Paul III convened a church council which met on and off for twenty years (1544-1566). The Council of Trent reaffirmed correct church doctrine on a wide variety of issues and even accepted a few Protestant complaints by forbidding the sale of indulgences. Among other things, the Council of Trent issued guidelines for religious art, asking for greater clarity, realism, emotional drama, dogmatic instruction, and the avoidance of genital nudity. Biblical subjects were supposed to show maximal fidelity to the Bible and to Christian history, avoiding legendary saints and events invented in the middle ages. (This concern ran into the artistic problem of painting any literary subject, especially Biblical subjects which came with minimal description.) 1
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The focus of the Counter-Reformation on teaching and religious content inspired a reaction against Mannerist aesthetic complexity and "art for art's sake" seen in the religious works of Bronzino and others. The ideal Counter-Reformation painting had a simpler, more legible composition which told a story and aroused religious feeling, not just aesthetic admiration or dogmatic belief. Even large, crowded compositions showed a new focus on major figures as seen in Pozzo's huge ceiling fresco of the Triumph of St. Ignatius . Counter-Reformation spirituality also placed a new emphasis on artistic subjects tied to religious calling, miracles, and conversion, teaching and missionary work, martyrdom and ecstasy, divine providence and world history (history as a coherent series of great epochs leading to the end of time), religious authority and hierarchy, and church triumph over false belief.
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