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Sacred Possessions: Collecting Italian Religious Art, 1500–1900

  • Edited by Gail Feigenbaum and Sybille Ebert-Schifferer

    When works of art created for religious purposes outlive their original function, they often take on new meanings as they move from sacred spaces to secular collections. Religious art embodies a complicated amalgam of the aesthetic and the numinous, and the fourteen essays in this volume explore how the admixture changes—often radically—with changes of function, setting, audience, and the passage of time.

    Focusing on the centuries in which the phenomenon of collecting came powerfully into its own, these essays analyze the radical recontextualization of celebrated paintings by Raphael, Caravaggio, and Rubens; bring to light a lost holy tower from fifteenth-century Bavaria; and offer new insights into the meaning of "sacred" and "profane."

    Collecting represents the primary mechanism by which a sacred work of art survives when it is alienated from its original context. In the field of art history, the consequences of such collecting is its tendency to reframe an object, metaphorically and physically, and have only begun to be investigated. Sacred Possessions charts the contours of a fertile terrain for further inquiry.

    Gail Feigenbaum is a former associate director of the Getty Research Institute. Sybille Ebert-Schifferer is director of the Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Rome.

    “[This book] opens on a new way of considering the meaning of ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’ art, and offers an affirmative answer to the question as to whether religious art collecting and the survival of sacred art, even when taken out of its context, can be a promising research path.”
    Renaissance Society of America

    “The standard of scholarship is high, as is usual with Getty publications.”
    —Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance


    256 pages
    7 x 10 inches
    86 b/w illustrations
    1 chart
    ISBN 978-1-60606-042-1

    Getty Publications
    Imprint: Getty Research Institute
    Series: Issues & Debates