Browsing by Author "Westergård, Ira"

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  • Westergård, Ira (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2007)
    The study focuses on the Visitation as a narrative subject of altarpieces in late fifteenth-century Florence. Although the Visitation was a well-known story in both verbal and visual representations since the early medieval period, it became a popular subject of altarpieces only towards the end of the fifteenth century. In this study, the first part provides an overview of the complex religious and historical background to an emerging cult of the Visitation. Devotional practices focusing on the Visitation belong in a context of late medieval Marian devotion and in 1389 a new feast of the Visitation was introduced into the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church. Because of the ongoing schism within the Catholic Church, the feast was not unanimously accepted across Western Europe until the later part of the fifteenth century. Contrary to a widely disseminated view, the feast of the Visitation cannot be associated with Franciscan spirituality, but was rather a clearly defined Dominican project that primarily emphasised the importance of peace and unity within the Christian Church. Simultaneously with the gradual acceptance of the new feast, visual representations of the Visitation began to appear at the centre of altarpieces. The Visitation exemplifies an increasing preference for narrative subjects within the genre of the altarpiece. The second part of the study presents an analysis of the concept of the narrative altarpiece and highlights the complexities involved in combining a narrative content with the traditional devotional function of the altarpiece. In detailed case studies some prominent art works produced in Florence between 1490 and 1503 are discussed within a framework of contextual analysis, narrative theory and iconography. Altarpieces by Domenico Ghirlandaio, Piero di Cosimo and Mariotto Albertinelli represent visual manifestations of a cult of the Visitation with roots in late medieval devotional practices. At the same time, the altarpieces highlight the multiple functions of altarpieces in a culture where art works responded to a variety of social and religious needs. Building on earlier studies, each case study presents new insights and evidence not considered in previous art historical research.