Pictures and Popery: Art and Religion in England, 1660-1760

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Pictures and Popery: Art and Religion in England, 1660-1760. By Clare Haynes. (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Company. 2006. Pp. xii, 185. $99.95.)

This excellent, accessibly written, and carefully evidenced study addresses the intriguing and long-neglected issue of religious painting and (in a deliberately more limited way) sculpture in England after the Reformation. The received notion has always been that antipapist iconoclasm and widely disseminated propaganda against imagery in Protestant churches, along with well-publicized laments from artists about the lack of native patronage for religious paintings, meant that there was indeed no pictorial work to speak of in churches in this period. The fact that wealthy and educated aristocrats who had undertaken the Grand Tour bought works of religious art by Italian artists has been explained by invoking the prevailing aesthetic hierarchy that-following the model taught by the French Academy and adopted in England-placed "history painting" (i.e., subjects inspiring moral virtue whether from classical history or the Bible) as far superior to other genres. Few have asked what, in fact, the owners of these paintings-whether situated in private chapels or in grand saloons-understood these paintings to signify or how they reconciled their imagery with the dictates of Protestant teaching. Moreover, anyone who regularly explores English cathedrals and parish churches can see for themselves a remarkable number of religious paintings from this period survive, not to mention stained glass and other church furnishings. Furthermore exhibition catalogues of the Royal Academy in London (founded in 1768-outside this book's chronological limits) furnish many more examples of religious art than might popularly have been supposed.

Haynes draws out the complexities and nuances of these issues. Her proposition that "religion in England was not all of the plainness of Puritanism, the fervor and political dominance of which tends to overshadow our understanding of this period," provides the premise for chapters that deal specifically with Grand Tour education, the interpretation of Catholic pictures in England with particular reference to Raphael's cartoons (commissioned by Pope Leo X and purchased by Charles I-now on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum from the Royal Collection), the collecting of Catholic pictures with particular attention to Holkham Hall and Horace Walpole's sermon of 1752, and the dispute over the positioning of an image of St. …