Art and the Relic Cult of St. Antoninus in Renaissance Florence: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Art and the Relic Cult of St. Antoninus in Renaissance Florence

1st Edition

By Sally J. Cornelison


388 pages

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Tracing the history of St. Antoninus' cult and burial from the time of his death in 1459 until his remains were moved to their final resting place in 1589, this interdisciplinary study demonstrates that the saint's relic cult was a key element of Florence's sacred cityscape. The works of art created in his honor, as well as the rituals practiced at his fifteenth- and sixteenth-century places of burial, advertised Antoninus' saintly power and persona to the people who depended upon his intercessory abilities to negotiate life's challenges. Drawing on a rich variety of contemporary visual, literary, and archival sources, this volume explores the ways in which shifting political, familial, and ecclesiastical aims and agendas shaped the ways in which St. Antoninus' holiness was broadcast to those who visited his burial church. Author Sally Cornelison foregrounds the visual splendor of the St. Antoninus Chapel, which was designed, built, and decorated by Medici court artist Giambologna and his collaborators between 1579 and 1591. Her research sheds new light on the artist, whose secular and mythological sculptures have received far more scholarly attention than his religious works. Cornelison draws on social and religious history, patronage and gender studies, and art historical and anthropological inquiries into the functions and meanings of images, relics, and ritual performance, to interpret how they activated St. Antoninus' burial sites and defined them in ways that held multivalent meanings for a broad audience of viewers and devotees. Among the objects for which she provides visual and contextual analyses are a banner from the saint's first tomb, early printed and painted images, and the sculptures, frescoes, panel paintings, and embroidered textiles made for the present St. Antoninus Chapel.


'In this finely produced, eloquent, and meticulously researched volume Sally J. Cornelison draws together a wealth of archival and rare materials to trace the development of Antoninus’s relic cult from his death to the completion of the St. Antoninus chapel in San Marco in 1591, designed by Giambologna and financed by the Salviati family, clients of the Medici.' Catholic Historical Review

'Overall, this is an admirably detailed and clearly-written account of a Florentine cult and monument that have long deserved monographic treatment; it will be a standard art-historical reference for anyone wanting to understand the saint's history and that of his legacy.' Meredith J. Gill, Associate Professor, Italian Renaissance, Art Department of Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland, College Park

'Cornelison’s study admirably achieves its proposed objective of placing the commission of the Salviati chapel in the larger context of Renaissance devotion to Antoninus. In doing so, Art and the Relic Cult of St. Antoninus in Renaissance Florence brings new light to a deeply underestimated artistic complex and its interlaced figurative program.' Caa.Reviews

'One of the goals of the book was to rehabilitate the significance of St. Antoninus’ cult. In this it succeeds. Moreover, it gives us the most comprehensive and substantial description of the sixteenth century chapel until now. Even though Cornelison approaches the subject from the perspective of the Antoninus’ cult, she delivers a balanced story, considering all aspects, from the saint’s life and cult, to the patrons and the artists.' Journal für Kunstgeschichte

'The successful integration of the artistic, religious, and political components of the Antoninus cult and its display make this a most illuminating and satisfying work-it is recommended reading.' Sixteenth Century Journal

'…excellent volume… The author achieves her objective through the perspicacious reading and interpretation of a wide variety of visual and textual sources, presented in the numerous illustrations and listed in the ample bibliography.' Burlington Magazine

'… stunning book… a fine addition to Ashgate's Visual Culture in Early Modernity Series, and it will be an equally fine addition to the bookshelf of any serious art lover or anyone interested in exploring the power of myth and memory.' Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Part I: The humblest of men; Miracles, images , and St. Antoninus' first tomb; Nurturing the cult, c.1512-1579. Part II: Opus Iohannis Bolognae Belgae; A very rare thing; Sculpting the image of Antoninus; Ritual piety and Medici pomp; Epilogue; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Sally J. Cornelison is Professor and Director of the Florence Graduate Program in Renaissance Art at Syracuse University, USA.

About the Series

Visual Culture in Early Modernity

A forum for the critical inquiry of the visual arts in the early modern world, Visual Culture in Early Modernity promotes new models of inquiry and new narratives of early modern art and its history. We welcome proposals for both monographs and essay collections that consider the cultural production and reception of images and objects. The range of topics covered in this series includes, but is not limited to, painting, sculpture and architecture as well as material objects, such as domestic furnishings, religious and/or ritual accessories, costume, scientific/medical apparata, erotica, ephemera and printed matter. We seek innovative investigations of western and non-western visual culture produced between 1400 and 1800.


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / History / Renaissance