Real Presence, Iconic Images, and Iconoclasm from Byzantium to the Reformation.

Kim, Anna Marazuela, History of Art and Architecture - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Barolsky, Paul, Department of Art, University of Virginia
Fiorani, Francesca, Department of Art, University of Virginia
Holsinger, Bruce, Department of English, University of Virginia
Reilly, Lisa, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines the relation of iconic images to Real or spiritual presence, analyzing key debates and exemplary case studies in a long history of controversy, from the iconoclastic period of eighth and ninth centuries in Byzantium to the Reformation in Italy of the sixteenth. The focus is the icon of Christ’s Passion-what became the imago pietatis in the Latin West and the related pietà–reexamined as a site of cultural conflict, theoretical reflection and artistic negotiation. The study begins with the icon’s development in Byzantium, emerging in the wake of religious conflict, and examines its cultic appropriation in Italy, where it becomes bound to controversy as the Eucharistic vision of Gregory the Great. It culminates in the icon’s transformation by Renaissance artists in the sixteenth century, when Reformation critique of cult images as mediators of spiritual presence lay at the center of a crisis that would define modern Europe.

By articulating a shared history of spiritual imaging between Byzantium and Italy, my study offers an alternative to canonical narratives of artistic progress that cast them in hierarchical terms, contributing to a reevaluation of Renaissance art history currently underway. Attending closely to the work of images in relation to their viewers – as mediations of presence, beyond their status as representation – the dissertation articulates the mutual interrelation of artistic and cultic functions, integrating realms of study traditionally divided in scholarship. More broadly, by setting Renaissance artworks within a longer historical dynamic of icons and iconoclasm, this study reflects upon the deep structure of tensions regarding images and idolatry that were formative to the thought and culture of early modern Europe, and continue to resonate with force in our day.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
iconoclasm, image theory, Italian Renaissance art, Byzantine icon
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