Mapping All Above: Sixteenth-Century Ceiling Painting in Venetian Churches at a Time of Religious Reform
The objective of this thesis is to examine seventeen Venetian church ceiling cycles and to demonstrate how many of them, particularly the ones painted from the 1550s onward, corresponded to Catholic reform and the decrees set forth at the Council of Trent. Demonstrating the importance of the partnership between traditional methodologies and digital applications as an approach to art historical research and presentation, this thesis determines that the subject matter and display of the ceiling cycles after 1550 shifted due to the decrees related to imagery. The first chapter provides an overview of the Catholic Church in Venice and its imagery as well as the controversy over religious imagery in the sixteenth century. Chapter One also provides historical context on the Council of Trent and the decrees laid out on imagery, as well as Venice’s response to the decrees in relation to the ceiling painting cycles. The second chapter focuses on the methodological implementation and implications of digital tools for the art historical analysis. It includes a discussion of the process of building the visualization database in Omeka and constructing three interactive maps in Carto DB that indicate the location of Venetian churches containing the ceiling cycles, where they are placed inside the complex, and the types of iconography depicted. This chapter considers why the exhibitions on the website, Iconography, Placement in the Complex, and Patrons are relevant to the art historical content along with the decisions that guided which tools could best show this content. The chapter also addresses how photographing each church ceiling painting in Venice helped to shape the database and also to reconstruct the experiential mode of viewing these cycles. The third chapter summarizes the findings of this thesis through an analysis of the Overview, Iconography, and Placement in the Complex maps. The digital overview map clearly shows the abundance of church ceiling painting during the sixteenth century, which seems to be a Venetian phenomenon, and a strong affirmation of sixteenth-century Catholic faith in the elaborate decoration of churches. An analysis of the three layers of the Iconography map serves as a synopsis of how the visualization program provides novel, multiple ways of comparing and assessing Catholic reform and Counter Reformation imagery. In addition, an examination of the Placement in the Complex map allows the user to recognize that the decoration of sacristies was probably a direct result of the emphasis on the Blessed Sacrament during the Tridentine period and as such, is an appropriate case study for visualization. The chapter also addresses potential ways to expand this thesis and opportunities for further research.
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