Quid est secretum?: On the Visual Representation of Mystery and Secrecy in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700

29 mars 2018

31 mars 2018


Colloque international organisé à Atlanta par Walter Melion, Agnès Guiderdoni et Ralph Dekoninck

Lovis Corinth Colloquium VIII will be devoted to the visual and verbal representation of mystery and secrecy in sacred and profane contexts in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe.

Mystery and secrecy were complementary, often interchangeable notions in early modern times. The term mysterium (divine mystery) was sometimes specifically applied to the celebration of the Eucharist, but more generally, it signified a divine truth revealed by the Spirit and ultimately discernible by faith. Within the meditative tradition, codified in such treatises as the Pseudo-Bonaventure’s Meditationes vitae Christi and Ludolphus of Saxony’s Vita Christi, and later adapted by Ignatius in the Exercitia spiritualia, the appellation mysteria further designates the chief biblical episodes from the life of Christ—mysteria vitae Christi—each of which is comprised by one of the greater mysteries of salvation—the Incarnation, the Passion, and the Resurrection. Secretum, in its usual definition, denotes something that is reserved, withheld, following its etymology se-cernere. Because the secret is reserved, like the mystery, it necessarily somehow eludes the reader and the beholder; it implies ‘une mise à distance d’un savoir’; it is both known and yet not known, discernible yet indiscernible, and this quality of self-contradition constitutes a first point of difficulty in the representation of mysteria and secreta.

Moreover, the representation of both secreta and mysteria rests on a paradox, which may end as an aporia. Louis Marin (Lectures traversières, 1992) showed that the secret consists in a dual discourse, oscillating between ostentation and occultation, more than in a position of ‘make believe’. For a secret to exist, it must make known its status as a secret; Marin thus proposed that we speak of a ‘secret effect’ (effet de secret). What are the conditions of possibility for the representation of such an aporetic paradox?

Already in the 17th century, the Jesuit image theorist Claude-François Ménestrier asked: ‘If I see a painting of Moses in his basket on the river, of Job lying on a dunghill, of a Virgin holding the child Jesus, of the Transfiguration, […] how can I recognise that it is an enigma, since there is nothing of the enigmatic in it?’ And the logicians of Port-Royal emphasized this paradox: ‘Because the same thing can be at the same time and thing and sign, it can hide as a thing what it reveals as a sign. […] Thus the Eucharistic symbols hide the body of Jesus-Christ as a thing and reveal it as a symbol’. The paradox consists in the fact that the representation of a mystery or secret, the marshalling of forms that ostensibly transmit what is veiled, contains its own revealing. Otherwise, the mystery could not be known as a mystery and would remain ineffectual. So, it seems, the representation of mystery and secrecy is always something fashioned to adduce the mystery or to produce a ‘secret effect’.


Thursday, March 29 - Harland Cinema

9:00-9:15 Opening Remarks, Sarah McPhee and Walter Melion, Emory University

Session 1: 9:15-10:15

Christine Göttler, Universität Bern, Secrets, Mysteries, and Hidden Knowledge in Early Seventeenth-Century Netherlandish Art

10:15-10:30— Coffee Break

Session 2: 10:30 - 12:00

Carme López Calderón, University of Santiago de Compostela, Virgine prô quanta hâc mysteria clausa videmus! (Un)concealed Marian Mysteries in Petrus Stoergler’s Asma Poeticum (1636)

Mara Wade, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, Hidden in Plain Sight: The Adage Emblematized by Melchior Lorck

12:00 - 1:00 — Lunch

Session 3: 1:00 - 3:15

Tom Conley, Harvard University, Secret est à louer: Secrecy and Evidence in Baroque Cartography (1580-1640)

Peter Eversmann, University of Amsterdam, What Did They See? – Science and Religion in the Anatomical Theatres of the 17th Century

Eelco Nagelsmit, University of Groningen, The Portrait as Parable: Pierre Mignard and the Secret Marriage of Madame de Maintenon

3:15 - 3:30 — Coffee Break

Session 4: 3:30 - 5:00

Mark Meadow, UC Santa Barbara, An Open and Shut Case: On the Dialect of Secrecy and Access in the Early-Modern Kunstkammer

Walter Melion, Emory University, Vera latent: Secrecy, Identity, and Analogy in Silvestro Pietrasanta’s De symbolis heroicis of 1634

Friday, March 30 - Pitts Theology CST360

Session 1: 9:00-10:30

Ingrid Falque, Université Catholique de Louvain, In the Secret of the Cell: Carthusian Devotional Imagery and Meditative Practices in the Beginning of the 16th Century

Alicja Bielak, University of Warsaw, “Teach Me, Reveal the Secret to My Heart”. The Role of a Spiritual Guide in the Meditative Works of Marcin Hińcza (SJ)

10:30-10:45 — Coffee Break

Session 2: 10:45-12:15

Jean Campbell, Emory University, The Sienese Goldsmith and the Secrets of Florentine Painting

Madeleine Viljoen, NYPL, Riddles of the Goldsmith-Printmaker

12:15-1:30 — Lunch

Session 3: 1:30 -3:00

Alexandra Onuf, University of Hartford, Secrets of the Dark: Rembrandt’s Entombment (c.1654)

Monika Biel, Herzog August Bibliothek, The answer lies in the eye of the beholder: A Multiperspectival View of the Emblematical Ceiling Program in the Town Hall of Gdánsk

3:00-3:15 — Coffee Break

Session 4: 3:15-4:45

Suzanne Karr Schmidt, Newberry Library, Wheels of Fortune: Playing with Lorenzo Spirito's Libro de la Ventura at the Newberry Library

Stephanie Leitch, Florida State University, Secrets in Print: Chiromancy, Physiognomy, Metoscopy and Getting to How-to

Saturday, December 2 - Pitts Theology CST360

Session 1, 9:00-10:30

Bret Rothstein, Indiana University, La cosa tanto sia bella quanto sia occulta: Luca Pacioli and the Ethics of Difficulty

Agnes Guiderdoni, Université Catholique de Louvain, To Hide is to Reveal: The Ambivalence of Symbolical Theology

10:30-10:45 — Coffee Break

Session 2, 10:45 – 1:00

Xavier Vert, EHESS, In abscondito: Vision and Testimony in Raphael's Transfiguration

Ralph Dekoninck, Université Catholique de Louvain, To Think and to Paint the Mysteries with Mystical Figures: Nicolas Poussin between Louis Richeome and Claude-François Ménestrier

Caecilie Weissert, Universität Stuttgart, 'Roger de Piles’ Concept of Grace and the Secrets of Art

1:00 – 1:15 — Concluding Remarks: Publication

1:15 – 2:00 — Lunch

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