Genesis and Deployment of New Pictorial Forms for Saints in 15th and 16th-century Italy

Jasmin Kreszentia Sawicki

Jacob Burckhardt's categorization of small format panel paintings of the Virgin, Christ and the saints as "Hausandachtsbilder" (domestic devotional images) has been the subject to a lively debate over the course of the last decades and inter alia problematized as a period term that determines the objects perception in terms of one singular function. Nevertheless, independent panel paintings from the late Quattro- and early Cinquecento that depict saints as half-figures are still often labled as 'private devotional images', although formal characteristics—the similarity to portrait paintings, the lascivious depictions of (almost) naked bodies, the economical use of symbolic attributes and the semantic ambiguity resulting therefrom—suggest an openness to multiple functions and various modes of reception.

The project questions the art historical narrative connected with the term "Andachtsbild", in which the cult image of the Middle Ages is replaced by the image as a work of art in the Renaissance, by arguing that the potential for functional plurality is not only a main feature of this pictorial form, but is also linked to the multifunctional, semi-public domestic context in which the paintings were perceived.


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