Adam Jasienski: Critics from Hell: Evaluating the Truth of True Portraits in Early Modern Spain

Unidentified artist after Julio César Semín, Saint Benedict, 1628. Pen and ink drawing on paper, 6.49 × 8.34 in. (16.5 × 21.2 cm). Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte, Archivo Histórico Nacional, Madrid, Inquisición. Mapas, Planos y Dibujos 238.

This talk analyzes the roles of portraiture in three sixteenth- and seventeenth-century religious cults: of the recently-deceased Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Ávila, whose appearance was known from portraits and descriptions, and long-deceased Saint Benedict. Institutional patrons insisted on producing increasingly portrait-like images of saints for whom there survived few or no reliable portrait likenesses, like the medieval saint Benedict. I analyze a case in which a group of nuns claimed that they had been possessed by demons who subsequently forced them to commission paintings, including of Benedict. It argues that period audiences were eager to accept authoritative declarations about the truthfulness of depictions of ancient and medieval saints, even if their sources were suspect.

Adam Jasienski is Associate Professor of Art History at SMU, where he specializes in 16th- and 17th-century visual culture, particularly in Spain and Latin America. He received his BA, MA, and PhD from Harvard University. His book, Praying to Portraits: Audience, Identity, and the Inquisition in the Early Modern Hispanic World, is forthcoming with Penn State University Press. Most recently, he was a Berenson Fellow at Villa I Tatti. His new project, on the history of emotions and early modern Catholic image-making, is currently supported by the Madrid Institute for Advanced Study at the Casa de Velázquez, the John Carter Brown Library, and the Thoma Foundation.

20 February 2023, 3:00pm

This will be a hybrid event.


Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai
Via dei Servi 51
50122 Firenze, Italia

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