Defining the sacred in fine art and devotional imagery
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© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Beginning with a definition of the sacred as a two-fold process of making things special, which consists of accentuation and affiliation, this essay proceeds to argue that things are made sacred in devotional piety and in fine art in parallel ways that configure images within webs of agents. The two kinds of imagery perform in practices of sacralization that move toward different ends. The production of aura is at work in each case, but operates with distinct aims. The essay then presents a historical account of fine art as a modern development tied to the rise of the nation-state, in which secularization extended to making art independent of religious institutions and patrons, allowing it to develop in a way that should be distinguished from devotional imagery. This does not mean that religion withers in the modern era, but that art developed its own mode of sacralization.
Published Version (Please cite this version)10.1080/0048721X.2017.1361587
Publication InfoMorgan, David (2017). Defining the sacred in fine art and devotional imagery. Religion, 47(4). pp. 641-662. 10.1080/0048721X.2017.1361587. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/17383.
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Professor of Religious Studies
David Morgan is Professor of Religious Studies with a secondary appointment in the Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies at Duke. He chaired the Department of Religious Studies from 2013 to 2019. Morgan received the Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1990. He has published several books and dozens of essays on the history of religious visual culture, on art history and critical theory, and on religion and media. Images at Work: The Material Culture of Enchantment, was pu