Art in Dispute

Catholic Debates at the Time of Trent. With an Edition and Translation of Key Documents


The Catholic Church answered Reformation-era contestations of the cult of images in a famous decree of the Council of Trent (1563). Art in Dispute revisits this response by focusing on its antecedents rather than its consequences. The mid-sixteenth century saw, besides new scholarship on Byzantine doctrines, heated debates about neo-scholastic interpretations. Disagreement, suppressed at Trent but re-emerging soon afterwards, centered on the question whether religious images were solely signs referring to holy subjects or also sacred objects in their own right. It was a debate with major implications for art theory and devotional practice.

The volume contains editions and translations of texts by Martín Pérez de Ayala, Matthieu Ory, Jean Calvin, Ambrogio Catarino Politi, and Iacopo Nacchianti, along with a previously unknown draft of the Tridentine decree.

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Wietse de Boer, Ph.D. (1995) is Professor of History at Miami University. His research focuses on Italian early-modern religious and cultural history. His publications include The Conquest of the Soul: Confession, Discipline, and Public Order in Counter-Reformation Milan (Brill, 2001).
“[...] the value of Art in Dispute is undeniable. It is a necessary reference for graduate students and scholars in early modern religious history and art history. For art historians, the book opens avenues to consider the potential impact these debates had on sacred style during these respective periods.”
Anne H. Muraoka, Old Dominion University. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 76, No. 4 (Winter 2023), pp. 1478–1480.

“Wietse de Boer’s superb book delves into the intense mid-sixteenth-century debates among Catholic scholars, about sacred images. […] I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the early modern image debate. De Boer enriches our understanding of the heterogeneous opinions and intense discussions among leading Catholic theologians before, during, and after 1563.”
Jeffrey Chipps Smith, University of Texas, Austin. In: Church History, Vol. 91, No. 4 (December 2022), pp. 925–926.

“De Boer setzt einen neuen Standard […] und leistet einen zentralen Beitrag zur aktuellen Reflexion über den medialen und ontologischen Status von Bildern.”
Theresa Gatarski, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum. In: Kunstchronik, Vol. 75, No. 12 (December 2022), pp. 609–614.

"essential contribution"
Ralph Dekoninck, Université catholique de Louvain. In: Francia-Recensio, 2023/2.
List of Illustrations

Part 1: History

1 Premises: The Sacred Image in an Age of Religious Crisis
 1 The Thomist View and Its Critics
 2 Early Catholic Responses to Reformation Critiques
 3 The Image Question in the Mid-Sixteenth Century
 4 Marcello Cervini and the Image Debate

2 Disputes: The Sacred Image and the Counter-Reformation
 1 The Traditions of Martín Pérez de Ayala
 2 In Defense of Thomism: Matthieu Ory
 3 Ory and Calvin
 4 How to Honor Images: Ambrogio Catarino
 5 Nacchianti’s Road to Orthodoxy

3 Reverberations: St. Germain, Trent, and Beyond
 1 On the Sidelines of Trent: Eliseo and Ninguarda
 2 Diego Laínez between St. Germain and Trent
 3 Trent: The French Connection
 4 A Previously Unknown Draft
 5 A Question about Honor
 6 Beyond Trent: Paleotti to Bellarmino
 7 Conclusion

Part 2: Documents

Note on Editions and Translations

I Martín Pérez de Ayala
Corollarium de imaginibus sanctorum / Corollary Concerning the Images of Saints

II Matthieu Ory
De cultu imaginum / The Worship of Images

III Matthieu Ory – Jean Calvin
Opposing Views on Sacred Images

IV Ambrogio Catarino Politi
Disputatio de cultu et adoratione imaginum / Disputation on the Worship and Adoration of Images

V Iacopo Nacchianti
Digressio de imaginum usu ac cultu in ecclesia dei / Digression about the Use and Worship of Images in God’s Church

VI Council of Trent
Draft of the Decree on Saints, Relics, and Images / Draft of the Decree on Saints, Relics, and Images

Selected Bibliography
Those interested in the history of the Catholic Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and in the theory and history of art in the late Renaissance and Baroque. Keywords: art theory, religious art, sacred images, iconoclasm, idolatry, meditation, Counter-Reformation, Catholic Reformation, Council of Trent, Colloquy of St. Germain, Martín Pérez de Ayala, Matthieu Ory, Ambrogio Catarino, Iacopo Nacchianti, Diego Laínez.
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