„Powabny wdzięk ciał” a kreacja nowej sztuki religijnej w epoce wielkiej reformy trydenckiej
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The internal reform of the Catholic Church, which was smoothly changing the image of this institution at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, occasioned a significant transformation in the religious art of that period. Apart from purely legislative changes and reforms improving morals of congregations and their clergy, members of the Church hierarchy dynamically participated in a very ambitious project of renovation of religious art, whose use and moral sense were weakened by Protestant thinkers. Particular objection raised by Protestant and Catholic reformers concerned the presence of excessive nudity in religious art. The Renaissance cult of the body quickly became a target of attacks of theologians, art theorists and sometimes artists too. This period was marked by an urgent necessity to perform artistic actions under close scrutiny of the Church. Religious art thus quickly evolved into an effective instrument in the struggle with the progression of Protestantism. The moral influence of religious art that had eliminated the “shameless” nudity was supposed to be reinforced by close cooperation between artists with theologians. It was evident that some themes which used nudity as a very important, inseparable and most eloquent element were not possible to be excluded. The iconography of Saint Mary Magdalene or nudity of the tortured body of Saint Sebastian became problematic. Doubts were also raised by the manner in which Saint John the Baptist’s clothing or the nudity of the little Child Christ were presented. The way in which the body of the Man of Sorrow was presented was also controlled. Nothing was allowed to arouse any kind of improper thoughts. Numerous works of art created before the Council of Trident also prompted criticism. The “Last Judgement” fresco by Michelangelo was furiously attacked and finally censored by means of painting over some fragments of the textile in order to cover the shocking naked body parts. Other works of art were modified in a similar way; some were destroyed, having been labelled as sacrilegious and kindling impure thoughts. Special treatises were written to define the manner in which the nudity of saints could be exposed. All these requirements beared on the late works of Titian, naturalistic paintings by Caravaggionists or aestheticizing pictures by the Carracci family. It is well known that controlling art is utopian and harmful in the long run. Literal application of the obligation introduced by the Council of Trident, going as far as to describe punishments for dissenting artists, could cause impoverishment of the iconography. Some artists were well adapted to the rules that began to reign in art in the period of Counterreformation; for another group of artists this new situation became unbearable. Therefore, it was necessary to achieve balance and restore common sense and a possibility to draw on creative achievements of previous generations. Total removal of nudity from religious art was not possible. In the wider context, disappearance of nudity would be tantamount to rejecting the heritage of antiquity and the Renaissance, which inspired secular and clergy thinkers alike. It would also be necessary to limit the Christian tradition, whose continuity and importance were the subject of discussions during the Council of Trident itself.
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