BAROQUE PLAGUE IMAGERY AND TRIDENTINE CHURCH REFORMS
Boeckl, Christine Maria
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This dissertation aims to achieve two goals: one, to assemble as many facts as possible about the plague, regardless of period, and to relate this material to images; and two, to present a well-defined group of religious baroque plague paintings in the context of social, political and religious history. This inquiry is primarily concerned with scenes that portray saints actively involved in charitable pursuits, dispensing the sacraments to victims of the most dreaded disease, the bubonic plague. Chapter I contains a bibliographical essay, divided into three parts: medicine, theology, and art history. The next chapter considers the sources and the formation of baroque plague iconography. The remaining two chapters discuss "documentary" plague scenes and how they relate to historic events. They are presented in two sections: Italy and transalpine countries. This interdisciplinary research resulted in a number of observations. First, these narrative plague scenes were produced in Italy and in Catholic countries bordering Protestant regions: Switzerland, France, Flanders, and in the Habsburg Empire (excluding Spain). Second, the painters were mostly Italian or Italian-trained. Third, the artists observed not only the requirements specified by the Church in the 1563 Tridentine Decree on the Arts but also reflected in their work the catechetic teachings of the Council. Fourth, these religious scenes were not votive paintings but doctrinal images that served either didactic or polemic functions. Fifth, the scenes were not intended as memento mori; rather, the iconology conveyed positive images which emphasized that the faithful needed the Roman Catholic clergy to gain life-everlasting. Sixth, these plague paintings were important documents not as recordings of the conditions experienced during an epidemic but as historic testimony of liturgical practices. Last, these selected scenes mirrored the baroque Church's views on the ultimate questions about life and death.