Art, devotion and patronage at Santa Maria dei Carmini, Venice : with special reference to the 16th-Century altarpieces
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This study is an art history of Santa Maria dei Carmini, Venice, from its foundation in c. 1286 to the present day, with a special focus on the late Renaissance period (c. 1500-1560). It explores a relatively overlooked corner of Renaissance Venice and provides an opportunity to study the Carmelite Order’s relationship to art. It seeks to answer outstanding questions of attribution, dating, patronage, architectural arrangements and locations of works of art in the church. Additionally it has attempted to have a diverse approach to problems of interpretation and has examined the visual imagery’s relationship to the Carmelite liturgy, religious function and later interpretations of art works. Santa Maria dei Carmini was amongst the largest basilicas in Venice when it was completed and the Carmelites were a major international order with a strong literary tradition. Their church in Venice contained a wealth of art works produced by one of the most restlessly inventive generations in the Western European tradition. Chapter 1 outlines a history of the Carmelites, their hagiography and devotions, which inform much of the discussion in later chapters. The second Chapter discusses the early history of the Carmelite church in Venice, establishing when it was founded, and examining the decorative aspects before 1500. It demonstrates how the tramezzo and choir-stalls compartmentalised the nave and how these different spaces within the church were used. Chapter 3 studies two commissions for the decoration of the tramezzo, that span the central period of this thesis, c. 1500-1560. There it is shown that subjects relevant to the Carmelite Order, and the expected public on different sides of the tramezzo were chosen and reinterpreted over time as devotions changed. Cima da Conegliano’s Adoration of the Shepherds (c. 1511) is discussed in Chapter 4, where the dedication of the altar is definitively proven and the respective liturgy is expanded upon. The tradition of votive images is shown to have influenced Cima’s representation of the donor. In Chapter 5 Cima’s altarpiece for the Scuola di Sant’Alberto’s altar is shown to have been replaced because of the increasing ambiguity over the identification of the titulus after the introduction of new Carmelite saints at the beginning of the century. Its compositional relationship to the vesperbild tradition is also examined and shown to assist the faithful in important aspects of religious faith. The sixth chapter examines the composition of Lorenzo Lotto’s St Nicholas in Glory (1527-29) and how it dramatises the relationship between the devoted, the interceding saints and heaven. It further hypothesises that the inclusion of St Lucy is a corroboration of the roles performed by St Nicholas and related to the confraternity’s annual celebrations in December. The authorship, date and iconography of Tintoretto’s Presentation of Christ (c. 1545) is analysed in Chapter 7, which also demonstrates how the altarpiece responds to the particular liturgical circumstances on the feast of Candlemas. The final chapter discusses the church as a whole, providing the first narrative of the movement of altars and development of the decorative schemes. The Conclusion highlights the important themes that have developed from this study and provides a verdict on the role of ‘Carmelite art’ in the Venice Carmini.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Electronic copy restricted until 22nd November 2021, pending formal approval
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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