"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God": Contrition, Confession, and Satisfaction in Baroque Painting

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Abstract

The centrality of the idea of penance in seventeenth century Catholicism found expression in paintings of the time in a broad range of subjects. The deep feelings discernable in the devotional works of art of that period, which focus on penance, reflect the culmination of the religious, spiritual, and political development undergone by Catholics after the council of Trent (1545-1563).
One of the most popular scenes relating to penance was that of a penitent saint in solitude. The artists of the seventeenth century remained within the well-codified pictorial tradition evident in sixteenth century depictions of such scenes. They continued to render the saints alone in the wilderness, with only their personal attributes to accompany them–St. Peter’s keys, St. Jerome’s lion or Mary Magdalene’s jar–clad in very scant clothing that usually covered only part of their bodies and with bare feet. In this traditional scheme, the devotional saint concentrates on his ritual act, recognizable through expressive hand gestures, sorrowful facial expressions, and symbolic objects such as a crucifix, a skull and a whip. In this regard, one should mention Cesare Ripa’s model of the penitent, as defined in his Iconologia, first published in 1593, but extended and illustrated in the third edition published in Rome ten years later. 2 Ripa based himself on traditional presentations of penitent saints. To mention only two of the better-known examples from the Renaissance, one should point out Leonardo da Vinci’s unfinished St. Jerome, 1481 (Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome)
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Tradition, Heterodoxy and Religious Cultures: Judaism and Christianity in the Early Modern Period
EditorsChanita Goodblatt, Kreisel Howard
Place of PublicationBeer-Sheva
Publisherהוצאת אוניברסיטת בן-גוריון בנגב
Pages367-389
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2006

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