Transformations of the Renaissance iconography of antichrist concept and image (2 Volumes: Vol. 1: text & Vol. 2: plates)

Barnes, John (2008) Transformations of the Renaissance iconography of antichrist concept and image (2 Volumes: Vol. 1: text & Vol. 2: plates). Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.


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The thesis analyses the transformations of the image of Antichrist in European art during the Renaissance. Antichrist is defined as the false Christ, based on patristic writings and scriptural exegesis and the typological tradition established in mediaeval illustrated manuscripts and encyclopaedic literature. The introductory section defines the tradition and gives an account of the contrasting Protestant interpretation of Antichrist which developed later. An identification and analysis of Antichrist's typological make-up and mode of rule take up the four succeeding chapters.

The further development of the imagery is then explored in a representative selection of influential 15th century illustrated manuscripts and block books. Bosch's Prado Epiphany (1500), Luca Signorelli's The Rule of Antichrist (1499-1504), DUrer's 15 woodcuts of the Apocalypse (1498), and other selected material, are discussed in detail and generally indicate typological expansion, experimental processes in format and presentation and interpretational changes. An analysis of the total content of Bosch's Prado Epiphany adduces arguments supporting the presence of Antichrist depicted as a Jewish priest.
Signorelli's, the Rule of Antichrist, is a major endorsement of the traditional viewpoint, confirming the authority and doctrines of the Church of Rome which were re-affirmed during the Counter Reformation in terms which protestants could not accept. A distinct movement towards a clearer and more persuasive message in the block books develops further in the literature of the Lutheran reformation, and by the early 1520s the identification of Antichrist as the pope is sufficiently defined to constitute a second distinctive point of view. Lucas Cranach's Passional Christi und Antichristi (1521), which is based almost entirely upon episodes in Christ's ministry, sets Christ and Antichrist as the pope, in close antithesis. This seems to be a revival of the anti-papal arguments advanced by Nicholas of Dresden in The Old Colour and the New (c.1412).

The succeeding chapter tracks the crucial developments in Luther's translations of the September and December Testaments (1522), and other similar publications, which contain definitive anti-papal interpretations of recognised Antichrist chapters in the Apocalypse. A mid-16th-century Apocalypse commentary by Sebastian Meyer, illustrated by Matthew Gerung, adds substantially to the existing
body of polemical imagery. Five sub-chapters present a selection of Antichrist themes from the Commentary, which develop notions of the false church, its doctrine and practice, and the differentiation of Protestant and Catholic in relation to truth and error, Christ and Antichrist.

The obligation to separate from the false ecclesia was fulfilled at national level in the English Reformation, the subject of the final chapter, where a wide range of imagery confirms yet again the continuing influence of Antichrist's typological make-up. Further issues of importance which are also addressed are the characteristically English traits and attitudes, the imperial principle upholding English sovereignty, and Italian humanist influences.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
June 2008Completed
Uncontrolled Keywords: Renaissance, iconography, antichrist
Subjects: CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-02 - art
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts > Birmingham School of Art
Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Carrie-Anne Bryan
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2017 11:31
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:50

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