"Such old monuments of superstition and idolatry" : the enigmatic appeal of religious imagery in iconophobic seventeenth century England




Warrington, Seanine Marie

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The popularity of religious art in late seventeenth century Protestant England stands in apparent contradiction to the profound anti-Catholic sentiment that many current scholars argue characterizes the period. A close analysis of London auction catalogs from 1690 reveals that a significant number of all pictures listed for sale featured typically Catholic subject matter. Consulting both seventeenth century literature and current scholarship provides a rationale for this apparent contradiction. Factional conflict within Protestantism itself was often focused on the issue of religious imagery. Accordingly, it functioned as a means of articulating religious difference. While the radical Puritan mission may have involved abolishing all English "monuments of superstition," Anglicanism held biblical and hagiographic imagery to be an essential aspect of Christian worship. This thesis argues that Anglicans embraced religious imagery as a means of rejecting the Puritan cause and, in doing so, forged a unique Anglican identity.



Christian art, Symbolism, England, 17th century