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Broken Bodies and Unruly Images: Representations of Martyrdom in Counter-Reformation Rome

Kissane, Conor Daniel; (2019) Broken Bodies and Unruly Images: Representations of Martyrdom in Counter-Reformation Rome. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This project is concerned with martyrdom and its representation in the unique cultural climate of post-Tridentine Rome. The devotional virtues of violent martyrological imagery came to be extolled by many of the most important thinkers in the Roman church in the wake of the Tridentine Council, and depictions of martyred saints proliferated all over the city during the closing decades of the 16th century. Visceral displays of maimed holy bodies were theorised as effective spurs to devotion in ideologically motivated programmes of ecclesiastical decoration, shoring up and even inventing collective memories of persecution for contemporary audiences still preoccupied with the spectre of confessional schism. In this milieu, artists such as Nicolò Circignani would make their entire careers on their ability to effectively image the brutalised body. But the adoption of the unruly medium of representational violence was also problematic, proving to be an uneasily fluid semiotic code that might lead its viewers towards undesirable acts of beholding. As a discursive site that rejected univocal interpretations, the represented martyred body can be seen to encompass many of the contradictions inherent to the reforming Church's promotion of imagery during the Counter- Reformation. Recognising that the concept of martyrdom is discursively flexible, I argue that only a fundamentally interdisciplinary approach to its study can hope to recover something of its complexity as a practice of cultural formation. Accordingly, this thesis proposes a series of inter-medial encounters centred on the martyrological fresco cycle produced by Circignani for the church of Santo Stefano Rotondo in 1582. In exploring both the productive possibilities of Circignani’s violent images and the ways in which these bodies were simultaneously reluctant to speak with the voices they had been assigned, new light will be shed on the complexity of the early-modern visual encounter between beholder and image.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Broken Bodies and Unruly Images: Representations of Martyrdom in Counter-Reformation Rome
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request. - Images have been removed from this e-thesis (pages 411-548).
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10074057
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