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A Prehistory of the Miraculous Image: Art and Invention in Bologna, ca. 1200 to 1650

Jessica N. Richardson

This project examines the creation and treatment of medieval—especially fourteenth-century—miraculous images in Bologna beginning in the fifteenth century and culminating in the drawings and descriptions of fifty such images ‘catalogued’ in two manuscripts by the Bolognese artist Francesco Cavazzoni in the early seventeenth century. The study presents a new synthesis of medieval and Renaissance painting and sculpture in Bologna that integrates the social and historical circumstances that contributed to the making of some of the most celebrated works from the city. It analyses in detail the biographies of these objects and provides a theoretical framework for understanding their selection and invention as miraculous. Special attention is given to how and why medieval images were promoted as miracle-working and the ways this relates to their prestige within the city’s artistic traditions and its ritual. A major concern is Renaissance and early modern artists’ physical engagement with earlier miracle-working images through reworking, enshrining, copying, and replacing.

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