A Printed Icon in Early Modern Italy

A Printed Icon in Early Modern Italy

Lisa Pon

Language: English

Pages: 310

ISBN: 2:00296984

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In 1428, a devastating fire destroyed a schoolhouse in the northern Italian city of Forlì, leaving only a woodcut of the Madonna and Child that had been tacked to the classroom wall. The people of Forlì carried that print - now known as the Madonna of the Fire - into their cathedral, where two centuries later a new chapel was built to enshrine it. In this book, Lisa Pon considers a cascade of moments in the Madonna of the Fire's cultural biography: when ink was impressed onto paper at a now-unknown date; when that sheet was recognized by Forlì's people as miraculous; when it was enshrined in various tabernacles and chapels in the cathedral; when it or one of its copies was - and still is - carried in procession. In doing so, Pon offers an experiment in art historical inquiry that spans more than three centuries of making, remaking, and renewal.

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Mary’s knees: the enthroned Madonna had been holding her Child but when an earthquake struck unexpectedly, she dropped him into her lap in order to clasp her hands in prayer. The unusual composition – however unsuccessful in artistic terms – thus signals the immediacy of Mary’s intercessions.109 35 36 Printed Icon: Forlı`’s Madonna of the Fire in Early Modern Italy 15. Madonna Bianca, in the church of San Lorenzo, Portovenere. Photo: author The Madonna Bianca of Portovenere is another icon

Rieuwertsz (II), for the proper use and storage of the new continuous-stream water pump that had been invented in 1672 by the Fire Master General Jan van der Heyden.182 Against a wall supporting torches (labeled M), a hand lantern (labeled N), and ladders (labeled L), we see the 56 Printed Icon: Forlı`’s Madonna of the Fire in Early Modern Italy 25. Instructions for Jan van der Heyden’s Water Pump, 1648. Etching and moveable type, 315 mm  384 mm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam water pump, with all

logistical limits on the number of impressions of a print that could be produced, such as wear on the wooden or copper printmaking matrix, and on the men and women who printed them. The carved wood block could chip or crack; the finely engraved or etched grooves of a copper plate would wear from the friction of wiping away printing ink and the pressure of the intaglio press. It is also true that early modern connoisseurs and collectors of Imprint: Paper, Print, and Matrix prints were aware of

discussions of this print.2 As a work of art, displayed in the modern museum; a printed image, kept in a cabinet of pictures produced with a printing press and other works on paper; and a cult icon, the focus of organized communal religious devotion; the Madonna of the Fire occupies the intersection of three potent 1 2 Printed Icon: Forlı`’s Madonna of the Fire in Early Modern Italy Color Plate I. Madonna of the Fire. Cathedral of Santa Croce, Forlı`, Italy. Photo: Liverani categories of

especially elevated and potent in its invisibility.495 Indeed, Daniel Papebroch, a Jesuit from Antwerp who traveled through Forlı` en route to Rome in November 1660, would describe the chapel’s architecture and furnishings, but not the Madonna of the Fire itself: “[In the chapel of the Madonna of the Fire] there is a gilded wooden altar, worked with mastery. This chapel exceeds [that of the Madonna della Canonica] because its dome and side walls are sublimely worked in paint and gilding, whereas

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