Place Published: Philadelphia
Publisher: Saint Joseph's University Press
Date Published: 2001
Book ID: 34
239 pages + foreword, preface, bibliography, and index | 10.25 x 7.5 inches | 79 color and b/w images
This study assembles for the first time a wealth of evidence of cult veneration of St. Joseph in Renaissance Italy. From this base, Carolyn C. Wilson argues for broad revision of our understanding of devotion to St. Joseph during the late pre-Tridentine period. She newly indicates an important role for Renaissance Italy in the history of St. Joseph's liturgical exaltation. Here challenged are the long-held view of the saint's unimportance prior to the Counter-Reformation and old assumption that pre-Tridentine images were often intended to demean him.
Pictorial analysis focuses on art commissioned by confraternities and high-ranking patrons devoted to Joseph. A selection of sixteenth-century St. Joseph altarpieces — including paintings by Perugino, Pontormo, Correggio, Savoldo, Veronese, and Jacopo Bassano — examined with particular respect to the saint's theology and contemporary veneration. Wilson offers fresh observation and original argumentation for many specific works of art and constructs an overarching framework for reinterpretation of Renaissance pictures and subjects in which St. Joseph appears.
Carolyn C. Wilson completed her Ph.D. at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts with a pioneering contextual study of Giovanni Bellini's Coronation of the Virgin altarpiece. Wilson has held curatorial positions at the National Gallery of Art and in Houston. Her publications on Renaissance art include Italian Paintings, XIV-XVI Centuries, in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, recipient of the Vasari Award and Roland H. Bainton Prize, both for art history, and finalist for the Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Award for museum scholarship.
"[A] magisterial work — a rich, thickly woven text, dense with information and insight—that constitutes an invaluable contribution to the scholarship on the pre-Tridentine cult of Saint Joseph in theology, art, and culture in Italy. […] Wilson's greatest contribution is not so much the introduction of new material (though there is plenty of that), but is instead her appraisal of the historiographic and art-historical significance of the rich and persuasive material that she amasses here. […] The presentation of the material in the book is logical and effectively organized. […] [Wilson's] analysis and reassessment of various early-sixteenth-century altarpieces is compelling and insightful. […] What is so refreshing about this book is its self-conscious participation in an ongoing scholarly dialogue, weaving past, present, and future academic pursuits into the fabric of its discourse. […] it should be assured of a central and lasting place in the study of the cult of Saint Joseph and its visual manifestations in the Italian Renaissance. […] essential reading for anyone interested in Renaissance art (particularly of the cinquecento) and in the visual manifestations of saints' cults."
Scott B. Montgomery, College Art Association Reviews On-Line
"Carolyn Wilson proves how enlightening a single study of a saint can be. […] Wilson guides us among an esoteric and neglected collection of votive paintings, sculpture, illuminations, narrative panels, and works on paper. […] Wilson acknowledges that there is still work to be done — on his [St. Joseph's] affiliation with antique hero types, and on connections with the Immaculate Conception, for example — and this study will be an authoritative and instructive resource."
Meredith J. Gill, Renaissance Quarterly
"The text is complemented by excellent illustrations and an extensive bibliography. […] Wilson's book provides a sound point of departure for the future identification of undocumented or incompletely documented altarpieces that may be associated with St. Joseph confraternities."
Erin J. Campbell, Confraternitas
"An important truth woven into this work: The 'language' of Christian art is multilayered. […] If there is one thing I learned from a leisurely reading of this book, it is that I will never again look at Christmas cards or Christmas crèches in quite the same way."
Lawrence S. Cunningham, Commonweal