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    Art: Crossed out

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    In his study of Reformation iconoclasm (The Reformation of the Image), Joseph Leo Koerner makes the provocative observation that even in the age before iconoclasm “the Christian image was iconoclastic” (p. 12).  Iconoclasm is inherent in Christian convictions about Jesus:

    “Pictures of a God who suffered and died, of the deity transformed into a monster through his abject, fleshly wounds: these were meant to train our eyes to see beyond the image, to cross it out without having to do something to undialectic as actually destroying it.”  In Lucas Cranach’s Lutheran art, and especially in his depiction of Luther’s preaching of of the crucified Christ, we see a renewal of an image that, from the start, displayed its object by negating it.  Christ’s incarnation was iconoclastic: the pagan idols crumbled before the infant Jesus; Christ’s humble birth and humiliating death overturned the equation, made concrete in classical art, of the beautiful with the true and the good; his disciples martyred themselves rather than honour the emperor’s portrait; his suffering mortified vision itself.  To do as Protestants did and aim the hammer at the crucifix is to reiterate the gestures that made it.”

    posted by Peter J. Leithart on Monday, October 29, 2012 at 5:28 am