2014 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, New York
IAS-Sponsored Session

Blood: Representation, Materiality and Agency in Italian Renaissance Art

Hilton, Regent
Saturday, March 29, 2014, 3:00-4:30pm

Organizer and Chair: Theresa L. Flanigan, The College of Saint Rose


Catherine D. Harding, University of Victoria
"Blood: The Relic of the Corporal at Orvieto Cathedral as Divine Witness"

The relic of the Corporal at Orvieto Cathedral came to prominence in Umbria in 1264. The sumptuous chapel housing the miraculous blood-stained cloth, which was marked with twenty-five drops of Christ’s blood, was created in the mid-fourteenth century by a complex team of artists and theological advisers. This paper will examine the multiple agencies at work in this sacred space during the Trecento: relic, reliquary, sculpted tabernacle and altar, and frescoes with detailed written texts explaining the significance of holy blood and the miracle of the Eucharist. Many years later, in September 1506, Pope Julius II venerated the relic on his trip to Orvieto, pausing while on military campaign to engage with the potency of the holy blood of Christ. I suggest here that this miraculous blood offered a powerful instance of an active witnessing to sacred Christian realities at two important moments in Italian late medieval and Renaissance history.

Andrew R. Casper, Miami University
"Painted in Blood: Materiality and Artifice in the Shroud of Turin"

While debates over the Shroud of Turin’s authenticity currently hinge on the diametrics of blood and artistic manufacture, during the period of its most intense and widespread public devotion such notions were not so readily opposed. This paper shows how sixteenth- and seventeenth-century devotional texts dedicated to the Shroud of Turin treat the cloth’s traces of blood as evidence of a divine manufacture wrought artistically, calling it a painting by God. This intersection of the materiality of blood and artistic tropes crediting art making with the formation of living bodies that conspired to render the image of Christ’s corpse grants the Shroud a unique status. Its conception as a work of divine artifice composed of Christ’s blood at once testifies to the veracity of the Passion and broadcasts the authority of artificial procedures that reinforce (rather than detract from) the Shroud’s prestige as a preeminent religious icon/relic manufactured by God.

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