Caravaggio and Carlo Borromeo
Chapter 1. Sacred Art before the Council of Trent
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SACRED ART BEFORE THE COUNCIL OF TRENT
Two pilgrims kneel before the doorway of the Virgin’s home in Loreto. They are poor, weary, and dirty, yet their eyes shine with hope and awe. The Virgin and Child have miraculously appeared before the pilgrims’ eyes as a reward for their prayers and devotion. The Madonna di Loreto (see Fig. 38) is among Caravaggio’s most powerful altarpieces. It intricately merges the immediacy of traditional icons with the narrative exigency of Renaissance istoria, the past with the present, and the devotional with the didactic. Caravaggio, however, did not arrive at this formulation of sacred style alone. His style is informed by the conflict between the traditional role of sacred imagery as devotional aid and its transformation into a vehicle for displaying narrative artistry during the Renaissance on the one hand, and the development of a tangible and affective style in Lombardy during the cinquecento on the other.
Drawing upon the naturalistic tradition established by Leonardo during his Milanese years and the affective realism of the sculptural tableaux at the Sacro Monte di Varallo, Lombard sacred painting transformed into an experiential art by the end of the second decade of the sixteenth century. The development of a natural, affective, and tangible sacred style in Lombardy and the formulation of the Tridentine decree on images occurred independently. However, shortly after the closing of the Council of Trent in 1563, Lombard ← 11 | 12 → sacred style, I would...
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