Saint Joseph’s rise to recognition in art took a long time, suited to the patron saint of hard work. Conspicuously absent in paleo-Christian art—he is never featured in early Nativity or Magi scenes—he made his first appearance in the history of art in the fifth century, in the apse of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.
Elizabeth Lev is an art historian who teaches, studies, and writes in Rome with a special focus on Renaissance and Baroque art. Her most recent book is How Catholic Art Saved the Faith: The Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art, reviewed in Issue 34.
Articles by Elizabeth Lev
From the earliest mosaics gracing church apses, images of the apocalypse have played an essential role in the history of Christian art.
As the lights dimmed on the Jubilee year of 1600, Caravaggio’s star was on the rise.
While any attempt to return the oft-shunned Renaissance painter Fra Bartolommeo to the public eye should be lauded, Albert Elen, Chris Fischer, Bram de Klerck, and Michael Kwakkelstein deserve special mention for Fra Bartolommeo: The Divine Renaissance. Written as the catalogue to accompany the eponymous exhibition held in the Rotterdam Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen from October 2016 to January 2017, the book not only highlights the technical skill and careful craftsmanship of the artist, it explores the religious nature and significance of his art, something all too often sidelined in major exhibitions.
Art history, which came of age during the secularizing nineteenth century, has spent over a century grappling with the problem of interpreting religious imagery.
To this day, the sixteenth-century artistic crisis in the Catholic Church remains choppy water for the art historian to navigate.