Votive Panels and Popular Piety in Early Modern Italy
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In the late fifteenth century, votive panel paintings, or tavolette votive, began to accumulate around reliquary shrines and miracle-working images throughout Italy. Although often dismissed as popular art of little aesthetic consequence, more than 1,500 panels from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are extant, a testimony to their ubiquity and importance in religious practice. Humble in both their materiality and style, they represent donors in prayer and supplicants petitioning a saint at a dramatic moment of crisis. In this book, Fredrika H. Jacobs traces the origins and development of the use of votive panels in this period. She examines the form, context, and functional value of votive panels, and considers how they created meaning for the person who dedicated them as well as how they accrued meaning in relationship to other images and objects within a sacred space activated by practices of cultic culture.
Lonigo conspired along the way to rob and murder a third in their company. Having committed the heinous crime, the pair entered a nearby church. There, they assumed, they could divide their ill-gotten gains without being seen. Yet, as the murderous thieves split the spoils, they became aware that they were in the presence of eyes far more observant than those of any mortal. A painting of the Madonna appeared to be watching their every move. Unnerved, they called the Virgin a whore and stabbed
Saints and Doge Agostino Barbarigo, 1488. Oil on canvas. Murano, S. Pietro Martire. (Photo: Scala/Art Resource, New York) formatted painting began its life as a private devotional work. Until Barbarigo’s death in 1501, it hung in the “crossing” (crozola) of the doge’s palace. By bequest, it was displayed thereafter on the high altar (sopra l’altar grando) of the Convent of Sta. Maria degli Angeli in Murano with the stipulation that the sisters pray before it for the eternal good of
himself suspended from the rope hoist in the Bargello. Like Machiavelli, he survived interrogation. His ex-voto records two stages of the ordeal or, rather, two moments in the story that explain the painting’s raison d’être. In the picture’s foreground, Figiovanni is seen in the process of being hoisted by a torturer, who strains with the exertions of the gruesome task.40 Interrogators are conspicuously absent, leaving room for a secondary scene.Visible through an arched opening, the interior
“votive moment” is said to form “the symbolic core of the narrative,” is but one of several monumental canvases commissioned by the Scuola Grande for the Sala della Croce, the room in which the confraternity kept its prized relic.Viewed together, these images bear comparison with the ensemble of tomb, statue, fresco cycle, and ex-votos seen by pilgrims entering the Grand Chapel of San Nicola da Tolentino discussed in the preceding chapter. In fact, it can be compared to the image and object
life of the Madonna, Longhi’s frieze begins at the southeast corner of the nave with Mary’s miraculous birth. It then wraps around the expansive basilica interior with scenes of chronologically sequenced events relating to the miraculous incarnation of Christ, the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, the Miracle at Cana, and other signal moments in the Virgin’s life on earth. With Longhi’s depiction of Mary’s Assumption into heaven, the cycle ends across the nave from Narrati ve M o d e s where