Early Modern Studies, Vol. 11
Secrets in all their variety permeated early modern Europe, from the whispers of ambassadors at court to the emphatically publicized books of home remedies that flew from presses and booksellers’ shops. This interdisciplinary volume draws on approaches from art history and cultural studies to investigate the manifestations of secrecy in printed books and drawings, staircases and narrative paintings, ecclesiastical furnishings and engravers’ tools. Topics include how patrons of art and architecture deployed secrets to construct meanings and distinguish audiences, and how artists and patrons manipulated the content and display of the subject matter of artworks to create an aura of exclusive access and privilege. Essays examine the ways in which popes and princes skillfully deployed secrets in works of art to maximize social control, and how artists, printers, and folk healers promoted their wares through the impression of valuable, mysterious knowledge.
The authors contributing to the volume represent both established authorities in their field as well as emerging voices. This volume will have wide appeal for historians, art historians, and literary scholars, introducing readers to a fascinating and often unexplored component of early modern culture.
Secrecy was a prominent concern for early modern Europeans in many walks of life, not only statesmen and princes. Artists, craftsmen and those who were their patrons were no exception, as this fascinating collection of illustrated essays consistently shows. Treating a wide range of artistic products and practices, from engraving and acting to printing, architecture and painting, Visual Cultures of Secrecy in Early Modern Europe breaks new ground in the study of visual secrets and their unveiling, chiefly in Italy, between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. Interwoven with the detailed analysis of material objects and archival documents are to be found fresh insights into the discourses of early modern philosophy, medicine, religion, cartography, politics, and gender.
—Jon R. Snyder, University of California,