The Sacred Heart of Jesus: Art and religion in eighteenth-century Italy

Jon L Seydl, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This dissertation examines representations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in eighteenth-century Italy. The Sacred Heart provoked some of most intense religious debates of the Enlightenment, many centering on the devotion's novel iconography. The Sacred Heart grew from a local cult in southern France into the most important eighteenth-century devotional phenomenon. It reached across the globe, embracing and transforming earlier religious, literary, and physiological conceptions of the heart, and operating on both popular and ecclesiastical levels. Depictions of the Sacred Heart articulated the new, controversial devotion while revealing the widening gulf between advocates of a Enlightened, rationalist, and moderate Catholicism and supporters of traditional, Counter-Reformation Catholicism—committed to a papal-centered, mystic, emotive, and populist spirituality. The cult sparked debates over Catholic reform, the embodiment of Christ in modern worship, the role of images in religious practice, and the place of mysticism and popular spirituality in the Enlightenment. ^ I examine images of the Sacred Heart through five case studies. The first concentrates on the best-known representation: the small painting, designed in 1767 by Pompeo Batoni and the Jesuit Domenico Maria Saverio Calvi for Rome's Church of the Gesu. Chapter Two investigates the diffusion of this image through popular prints and the networks of religious figures who circulated these images. To understand how representations fueled the devotion's move from periphery to center, Chapters Three and Four investigate the first Italian altarpieces depicting the Sacred Heart and the reasons for their local success, in the case of the altarpieces emerging in Emilia Romagna from the 1750s through the 1780s, and the failure of the altarpieces (in contrast to the successful use of prints and ephemera) at the Archconfraternity of the Sacred Heart at San Teodoro al Palatino in Rome. Finally, expanding to an international, diplomatic dimension, I conclude with the set of seven enormous altarpieces, commissioned in the 1780s by the Portuguese queen from Pompeo Batoni for Lisbon's new basilica of the Sacred Heart, which point to the universal success of the cult in the nineteenth century. ^

Subject Area

Religion, History of|Art History

Recommended Citation

Seydl, Jon L, "The Sacred Heart of Jesus: Art and religion in eighteenth-century Italy" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3095938.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3095938

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