Theses Doctoral

Sacred Impressions in Seventeenth-Century Sicily

Kobasa, Clare Marie Somsel

This dissertation reveals significant aspects of the use and understanding of prints in seventeenth-century Sicily by exploring their function in the realm of sacred images. It centers on three of the most substantial printmaking ventures carried out in Palermo and Messina: Ottavio Gaetani's Icons of Mary (Palermo, 1663), Placido Samperi's Iconology of the Virgin (Messina, 1644), and Giordano Cascini's St. Rosalia (Palermo, 1651). All three books treat religious subjects and feature intaglio prints claiming to reproduce the sacred images – paintings, sculptures, and mosaics – that constitute a crucial element of each narrative. The project examines the production of these works and the subsequent textual and visual responses made on the island and at farther distances. The three chapters treat each book both as a collection of prints and as an exchange between text and image that renders those prints as evidence for the value and flexibility of images.

The first chapter focuses on Gaetani’s collection of icons of the Virgin from through the island and the utilization of prints as effective surrogates for those miraculous images. In the second chapter, the lines between devotional and art historical value are questioned in Samperi’s illustrated collection of paintings and sculptures depicting the Virgin. The third chapter unfolds the strategies by which prints were presented as evidence of a cult’s material history and continued to inform St. Rosalia’s legitimacy. In doing so, the chapters reveal a range of possible understandings of the relationship between prints and their sources, as well as active manipulations of that relationship to a range of ends. The dissertation identifies a Sicilian approach to generating historical, political, and sacred narratives that was inventive in both depending on and incorporating the reproduction of images in print.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Cole, Michael
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 14, 2020