2015 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Berlin
IAS-Sponsored Session

Reception, Reuse, and Repurposing in Italian Renaissance Art II: Re-Framing the Holy

Hegelplatz, Dorotheenstrasse 24/1, 1.103
Saturday, March 28, 3:45-5:15pm

Organizer: Kirstin Noreen, Loyola Marymount University

Chair: Sheryl E. Reiss, Italian Art Society

Abstract for the linked sessions:
These two sessions will examine the reception, reuse, and reworking of earlier art during the Italian Renaissance in order to explore how the active reframing of an object, site or structure develops new layers of meaning and redefines the original liturgical, political or social function.  In the first session, papers will consider how ancient structures, spolia, and grotteschi have been integrated and reinterpreted in Renaissance Rome; the memory of sites, the reception of reused objects, and the repurposing of decorative elements in diverse media will be of special interest.  In the second session, the reinvention and re-framing of representations of the Virgin and Christ will be examined to explore how contemporary devotional practice shaped the installation of venerable images, serving to reinterpret their original functions; the themes of physical, mental, and spiritual pilgrimage will link the three papers.


Dorigen Sophie Caldwell, Lecturer in Italian Renaissance Art, History of Art Department, Birkbeck, University of London
"Re-framing the Virgin in Counter-Reformation Umbria"

In 1513, Julius II approved the erection of an oratory to house a miracle-working trecento fresco of the Virgin and Child, originally situated in a wayside aedicule near Tavernelle, in the diocese of Città della Pieve. The Madonna di Mongiovino soon acquired a prodigious following and by 1524 an ambitious sanctuary church was raised on the site. The structure was built on a centralized plan, in keeping with many similar Marian shrines erected between the end of the fifteenth century and the middle years of the cinquecento, including S. Maria delle Carceri at Prato and S. Maria della Consolazione at Todi. At Mongiovino, two identical facades, each with an entrance portal, were placed on the cross-axis, suggesting the need to facilitate the movement of a large number of devotees. The popularity of the shrine is confirmed by its continued embellishment through the sixteenth century, as the once-lowly image was given an increasingly prestigious setting. My focus in this paper is the Counter-Reformation framing of this late Medieval image, which saw not only its installation on an elaborate, gilded tabernacle altar, but also its ‘completion’ to incorporate the figure of God the Father. The image was now additionally framed by a fresco cycle of the life of the Virgin, in a chapel separated from the main space of the church by a highly unusual arcaded screen adorned with sculptural figures. These later interventions were designed not only to honor this particular image, but also to clearly underline the Virgin’s broader importance to the Catholic faith. This new setting, which is both sophisticated and archaizing, and includes frescoes by that go-to interpreter of the Tridentine decrees on images, Niccolò Circignani, provides an intriguing encapsulation of Counter-Reformatory concerns.

Kirstin Noreen, Loyola Marymount University
"Climbing the Scala Sancta: Reliving the Passion, Ritual Performance and the Lateran Icon of Christ"

The cancellation of the Assumption procession in Rome in 1566 during the pontificate of Pius V altered the ritual topography of the city, removing holy images like the Lateran icon of Christ from an annual contact with local inhabitants. With the construction of the Scala Sancta under Sixtus V, the Lateran icon and the Sancta Sanctorum were reframed as a destination for pious pilgrims and were established as the inner core of an elaborately designed architectural reliquary. This paper will examine how image, site and holy object were integrated to engage and edify the viewer through the particular spatio-temporal experience of climbing the Scala Sancta. The reframing of the Christ icon through ritual performance allowed viewers to physically reenact the Passion.  The establishment of Rome as a New Jerusalem, already expressed in the decoration and contents of the medieval Sancta Sanctorum, could be viscerally experienced through late sixteenth-century devotional practice.

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