Special Issue "Religious Symbolism in Renaissance Art"
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 October 2021) | Viewed by 1179
Regardless of when the Renaissance began, which we can place in the 14th century with great laxity since culture is a continuous process, we can speak of a cultural movement that was spreading, originating in very different locations in space and time up to the 16th century, mainly in Europe, but also, because of Spain, America or Asia (the Philippines).
Events such as the fall of Constantinople and the arrival of scholars and literary materials from the Eastern Roman Empire, the discovery of America and North African and Asian lands, or the invention of the printing press and with it, the rapid dissemination of numerous ideas, as well as the development of commerce and cities are main factors behind the changes that were moving the way of life and culture of the final stage of the Middle Ages forward.
Focusing more specifically on art and religion, from precursors such as Giotto or Nicola Pisano, in the 13th century, to the final Mannerist period, with Tintoretto or Pieter Brueghel the Elder, passing through the great artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael or Leonardo, among many others, events such as the exhaustion of medieval scholasticism, the renovation of the School of Salamanca, the Western Schism, heretical movements and theological discussions, reform attempts, the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation, as well as the rise of missions and evangelization, along with people’s desire for greater piety and religious participation, marked art during this time.
As we can see, this Special Issue offers a very broad research horizon. At the same time, we intend it to be a place for debate and discussion about the concomitances, correlations, and tensions between art and religion at this time, covering themes beyond common and too well-known themes, as well as a reason for debugging some ideas that at times are too Manichean, especially with previous periods, or incorrect readings of the Renaissance from Enlightened visions or authors of the Modern Age. To understand the Renaissance in its artistic and religious expressions, it is necessary to first understand the previous medieval stage, a complex period, with its characteristics and conditions, and to try as much as possible to look at it from there, not from later times, and thus locate the relationships of human beings with God, with themselves, with Nature as a divine creation, and with the entire social and ecclesial order.
In this Special Issue, we seek to better understand art and religion in a time when perhaps the two were not so far apart—or were they?—as we can think, and by artists who felt at the same time as debtors of their immediately previous masters, but also debtors of a classical Greco-Roman era; a period, the Renaissance, where artists perceived on many occasions that they were nothing but re-discoverers of already inhabited lands, as happened to geographical discoverers.
New artistic techniques, the use of perspective and proportion, the variety of motifs and the breadth of uses of art, the unity between beauty and utility, anthropocentrism and the intimacy of the person, or their situation in society, are characteristics to rethink and debate—and with this, the liturgical norms, the prayer and piety possibilities, the public devotional acts, the greater congregational diversity, from brotherhoods to other forms of religious community life, the linguistic openness of the Sacred Text of the Bible, the interest in original biblical language (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), the solutions to theological problems using classical authors such as “auctoritates”, the containment of pagan ideas, especially in morality, against the Christian “ethos”, or the new ecclesial relations with the national states, which are all elements of their own to consider in this period and also mixed and interwoven with the artistic aspects.
Let us mention here the “Christ the Redeemer” by Michelangelo, from the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Rome), made between 1514 and 1521, perhaps one of the best syntheses of Christianity with classical Hellenistic art, as surprising as it is risky. However, and despite what has been said, it would be a mistake to place it as a model and archetype of Renaissance art. This is because another aspect to point out is that perhaps it is more convenient to speak of many Renaissances. Not in all countries, not even in Europe itself, did this stage develop in the same way, neither in the sphere of art nor even in the religious sphere. Even some achievements of Renaissance art were not liked by artists from other areas, as the events experienced were very different and localized many times. The art of the Renaissance is a place where the life that happens is collected, and where the multitude of religious, literary, scientific, legal, and political ideas that are shaping the time are reflected.
After this framework of art and religion, we turn to the substantivity of symbolism, which links them both, through the veiled content present in the artistic work. The symbolic, which always accompanies human culture, in the Renaissance, will be decisive. This is because, against a unified Christianity, heretical proposals will arise, new churches, and with them crypto-Catholicism and crypto-Lutheranism, as well as the persistence of Jewish kabbalistic esotericisms or Muslim magic symbolisms, esoteric readings of Sacred Texts outside of authority, and with them, the renewed strength found in the works of the pagan authors of Rome and Greece, sometimes commented on by Egyptian and Arab authors, which will make alchemist, neoplatonic, and gnostic tendencies flourish, among other currents of initiates, all of them seeking the “Sophia” and the “Prisca Sapientia”. Not only the reality of Nature (animals, flowers and fruits, weather) or the characters, but also the motifs from mythology and fantasy, the geometric elements, the inscriptions, or the colors used, will be an area where the art of Renaissance will shape its wishes and conquests in a veiled way because the symbol is always more than the image.
In this Special Issue, we call for novel research articles that help to better understand the relationship between symbolism, art, and religion during this period. We especially welcome research that expands on the usual themes and authors. We are grateful that they collect the relationship with little explored aspects. Additionally, the extension and geographical diversity of the subject of this Special Issue is an aspect to which we call attention to better understand how Renaissance ideas and the symbols that guarded them were adapted, we could say, in theological terminology, were incarnated, in different places.
Dr. Vicente Jara Vera
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