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

By Haydon, Colin | Anglican and Episcopal History, December 2008 | Go to article overview

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


Haydon, Colin, Anglican and Episcopal History


Pictures and Popery: Art and Religion in England 1660-1760. By Clare Haynes. (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2006. Pp. xi, 185. $103.95.)

In Pictures and Popery, Clare Haynes examines English responses to European religious art during the century after the Restoration. For the English, such art posed a dilemma, crystallized in Edward Gibbon's judgment that "the Catholic superstition ... is often the parent of taste" (3). How far could a painting which, in Protestant eyes, seemed idolatrous or capable of encouraging idolatry, be valued or appreciated? Could not such art, in the words of Jonathan Richardson, "pollute . . . [the] mind with impure images" (83)? Two subsidiary themes are investigated in this book. First, in an age which judged earlier states not only by their political and military successes but also by their cultural achievements, there was concern that an increasingly powerful Britain seemed unable to produce art which matched that of ancient Greece and Rome and Renaissance Florence. The second theme is the somewhat ambivalent nature of the Church of England - Protestant, but less emphatically so than other reformed churches in Europe.

Haynes explores her themes from a range of perspectives. She examines the responses of Englishmen who, on the Grand Tour, viewed "popish" art in Continental Europe and, above all, in Roman Catholic churches, religious houses, or cathedrals in the Italian states. Haynes argues that "tourists developed a number of strategies for handling Catholicism and the dangers of idolatry. . . . Descriptions of paintings tended to exclude discussions of their subject matter, emphasizing qualities of invention and expression" (44-45). Back in England, the famous Raphael cartoons were perceived as "almost iconic images . . . [and] considered close to perfect works by a near perfect artist" (46). Haynes investigates the "Englishing" of Raphael, describing, for example, how Richard Steele neutralized "the 'Popish' message" of Raphael's depiction of St. …

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