The Reformation of the Image
Reaktion Books, 2004 M02 27 - 494 pages
With his 95 Theses, Martin Luther advanced the radical notion that all Christians could enjoy a direct, personal relationship with God—shattering years of Catholic tradition and obviating the need for intermediaries like priests and saints between the individual believer and God. The text of the Bible, the Word of God itself, Luther argued, revealed the only true path to salvation—not priestly ritual and saintly iconography.
But if words—not iconic images—showed the way to salvation, why didn't religious imagery during the Reformation disappear along with indulgences? The answer, according to Joseph Leo Koerner, lies in the paradoxical nature of Protestant religious imagery itself, which is at once both iconic and iconoclastic. Koerner masterfully demonstrates this point not only with a multitude of Lutheran images, many never before published, but also with a close reading of a single pivotal work—Lucas Cranach the Elder's altarpiece for the City Church in Wittenberg (Luther's parish). As Koerner shows, Cranach, breaking all the conventions of traditional Catholic iconography, created an entirely new aesthetic for the new Protestant ethos.
In the Crucifixion scene of the altarpiece, for instance, Christ is alone and stripped of all his usual attendants—no Virgin Mary, no John the Baptist, no Mary Magdalene—with nothing separating him from Luther (preaching the Word) and his parishioners. And while the Holy Spirit is nowhere to be seen—representation of the divine being impossible—it is nonetheless dramatically present as the force animating Christ's drapery. According to Koerner, it is this "iconoclash" that animates the best Reformation art.
Insightful and breathtakingly original, The Reformation of the Image compellingly shows how visual art became indispensable to a religious movement built on words.
What people are saying - Write a review
We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.
Other editions - View all
action adiaphora Albrecht Dürer altar altarpiece altarpiece’s Anonymous apostolic artist Augsburg Confession baptism behold believe Bible biblical blood bread broadsheet carved catechism Catholic celebrated centre centurion century choir Christ Christ’s body Christian church pictures cleansing communication Communion confessional congregation Cranach the Elder Cranach the Younger Cranach’s altarpiece cross crucifix crucifixion cult depicted Dessau Dinkelsbühl display doctrine Dürer effigies engraving Eucharist evangelical faith Flacius Friedrich German gesture Gnesio-Lutherans God’s word Göding Gospel heart holy icon iconoclasts idolatry idols illus image-breakers inscription invisible Johann Karlstadt kernel laity Last Supper Lord’s Lucas Cranach Lutheran Mass means Melanchthon oil on panel painted painter Passion person portrait preacher preaching predella priest princes Protestant pulpit Reformation Reformer’s religion religious representation retable rite ritual sacrament sacred saints Saxony scene Schweinfurt Scripture secular sermon space spirit stands Testament things Torgau triptych true understanding viewer visible visual Weimar Wittenberg Wittenberg Altarpiece woodcut