Focussing on the response to the Vatican Pietà
and perversely using as a point of departure a 1549 remark on Michelangelo as an ‘inventor of filth,’ this article aims to present Michelangelo as an involuntary inventor of devotional images. The article explores hitherto unconsidered aspects of the reception of the Vatican Pietà
from the mid-sixteenth into the early seventeenth century. The material includes mediocre anonymous woodcuts, and elaborate engravings and etchings by renowned masters: Giulio Bonasone, Cornelis Cort, Jacques Callot and Lucas Kilian. A complex chain of relationships is traced among various works, some referring directly to the Vatican Pietà
, some indirectly, neither designed nor perceived as its reproductions, but conceived as illustrations of the Syriac translation of the New Testament, of Latin and German editions of Peter Canisius’s Little catechism
, of the frontispiece of the Règlement et établissement de la Compagnie des Pénitents blancs de la Ville de Nancy
—but above all, widespread as single-leaf popular devotional images.
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