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CRRS Friday Workshop — Erin Campbell

October 18, 2019 at 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait of a Widow (c. 1588-89, Walpole Gallery, London)

Erin Campbell University of Victoria
“Space, Place, and Devotion in the Early Modern Domestic Interior: Ludovico Carracci’s Portraits of Widows”

Abstract: The restrained intensity of the praying widows in Ludovico Carracci’s Portrait of a Widow (c. 1585, The Dayton Art Institute,) and Portrait of a Widow (c. 1588-89, Walpole Gallery, London,) compellingly evokes the devotional imaginary of Tridentine Bologna. In each painting, the subjects participate in an unfolding rite that engages with body, materiality, and space, suggested not only by their respective poses and gestures, but also by the prayer beads, devotional books, and crucifixes. Although recent scholarship has begun to address the impact of the Catholic Reformation on the home, more scholarship is needed on this distinct social and religious moment in the history of the domestic interior. Surprisingly, relatively little attention has been focused on Bologna, yet, over the course of the sixteenth century, Bologna emerged as the most important city in the Papal States after Rome. It was also one of the key centres for religious reform, even hosting the Council of Trent in 1547-48. Under the guidance of Cardinal Gabriele Paleotti (1522-97), who became a cardinal in March 1565 and archbishop of Bologna in February 1566, reforms were disseminated in legislation, pastoral letters, treatises, and other directives. In particular, Paleotti promoted a renewed emphasis on the family, especially through his prescriptions on family piety and above all family prayer.

Adopting the lens of placemaking, and drawing on the evidence of Paleotti’s directives on prayer in the context of household inventories, prescriptive writings, and material culture, the paper argues that Ludovico’s paintings—which have received scant attention in scholarship—are valuable sources for perceiving how prayer is given form by, or is enmeshed with, the ongoing bodily and conceptual labor in the material ecology of the home in Tridentine Bologna. In thinking about how the properties of space and materiality mediate the spiritual imagination in the Bolognese home, the lens of placemaking helps us see that the home and devotion, and the people, objects, spaces, rituals, and practices scholars have associated with them, are fluid, relational processes unfolding in everyday life. Rather than lives being lived contained in space and separate from all else, we might think of the home as meshwork. The home, like meshwork, is always being woven, and therefore is never finished. Through a close reading of Ludovico’s images, this paper will show that the creative labor of devotion in the home is continually formed and re-formed through the generative forces of space and materiality.

Bio: Faculty profile.


October 18, 2019
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm


Victoria University Common Room (Rear Entrance Burwash Hall)
89 Charles Street West
Toronto, Ontario M5S1K7 Canada
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