Historiography of the Art and Architecture of the Jesuits

in Jesuit Historiography Online

(21,264 words)

Jeffrey Muller Last modified: October 2017

What historical concepts and traditions have framed our views of the art and architecture of the Jesuits as we see them now? This question of historiography demands answers different from those given for other topics of Jesuit history. Two decisive breaks have placed historical understanding of the art of the Jesuits partly outside the standard chronology that measures in periods the historiography, let us say, of Jesuit pedagogy or of the Jesuits in Flanders.1 The conventional periodization starts with the founding of the Society of Jesus in 1540, breaks with the worldwide suppression of the Society in 1773, considers the interim on its own, and picks up again in 1814 when the Jesuits were permitted to regroup. In the case of art, Evonne Levy has demonstrated that Jacob Burckhardt in 1844 formulated the term “Jesuit style” to furnish Calvinist Swiss liberals with a weapon of attack against Jesuits.2 Burckhardt himself quickly dropped it as inadequate to account for the variety of Jesuit art. Later writers continued to use “Jesuit style” in their anti-Jesuit polemic. Defenders of the Jesuits during the nineteenth century did not attempt to disprove the myth of a Jesuit style. In the first decade of the twentieth century, Joseph Braun, S.J. (1857–1947), mounted this defense and demonstrated that a uniform Jesuit style imposed by Rome never existed.3 Nevertheless, writers starting in 1951 found it necessary to repeat Braun’s arguments. The incessant attacks against Jesuit style that followed have raised a new historiographical puzzle that remains to be solved.

In a second break with the conventional historiography of the Jesuits, the field of what used to be the fine arts or, as Vasari called them, the arts of design, has in the last several decades expanded beyond architecture, painting, and sculpture to include every kind of object or action used for visual communication. Along with Rubens (1577–1640) and Bernini (1598–1680), the experiences of peasants, workers, women, and indigenous peoples around the world have entered into history. Cheap devotional prints, Jesuit vestments, picture catechisms, and much more offer the sources to reconstruct broader experiences of religion among a diverse variety of people. The desire to include those who had been forgotten has proven strong enough to generate forgeries when surviving evidence could not accomplish this purpose. In this new enterprise the contributions of historians and anthropologists, along with the different methods and questions they bring, count for as much as the work of art historians.

These two historiographical breaks divide the sections of my essay. In the first part, 1540–1844, I consider the dominant approaches to a history of the art of the Jesuits taken from the founding of the Society to Burckhardt’s introduction of the term “Jesuit style.” In part two, I trace the use of Jesuit style as a concept up to the first decade of the twentieth century when Braun demolished it. Braun emerges as a pivotal figure. At the same time that he destroyed the myth of a Jesuit style, Braun designed a positivist model (not meant here at all in a negative way) for the history of Jesuit architecture that still is applied today. His work put an end to Jesuit style and started the new historiographical period, 1907–99, that I discuss in the third part of my essay. In that third section, I also question why Braun was widely ignored and why writers until recently have been compelled to prove again and again that a Jesuit style never existed. Part four starts in 1999 when the conference proceedings of The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540–1773, and Pierre-Antoine Fabre’s “Dossiers bibliographiques: Histoire des arts visuels,” were published, marking an explosion in the quantity of contributions and indicating the major changes in methods and questions that would follow.4

1540–1844: An Art Historiography of the Jesuits

According to the dictionary definition of historiography no separate historiography of Jesuit art and architecture existed during the early modern period. No one wrote a history of Jesuit art, let alone, through a critical use of sources. Sparse instructions on the arts that the Jesuits included in their founding documents did not reflect on history.5 Questions that only later writers could ask about Jesuit art of the first three centuries—whether for instance St. Ignatius of Loyola’s (c.1491–1556) Spiritual Exercises determined a particular Jesuit approach to images—are the concerns of recent times that I will discuss in the last two sections of this essay.

An early modern historiography of Jesuit art did not exist, but there was indeed an art historiography of the Jesuits. Jesuit writers during the early modern period engaged with different histories of art to compose a historiography that furthered the Society’s goal of saving souls for the greater glory of God. This historiography conformed to the Council of Trent’s decree on images (1563), which Jesuits had a direct hand in formulating.6 It existed in a world of sacred history for which the true reality between the fall of humankind and judgment day moved inside the battle between the armies of God and Satan.7 Theories of art, practices of painters and architects, histories of art, theologies of idolatry, and even the probabilistic cases of Jesuit confessional manuals were mined as sources to forge a weapon that could defeat the works of the devil. Until late in the eighteenth century when they accepted the new understanding of history based on natural and human causes, Jesuit writers composed histories of art to serve as guides for sacred practices, responsive to changing conditions. The challenge now is to identify in the sources a reflection of history, a historiography, that grappled with issues very different from current dominant points of view; for example, how the figures of naked women in paintings might inflame a desire that could inflict mortal injury on the viewer’s soul.


If St. Ignatius of Loyola and others among the founding group of Jesuits wrote nothing about the history of Jesuit arts, then it was Antonio Possevino, S.J. (1533–1611), who started that historiography in his 1593 Bibliothecae selectae pars secunda.  Possevino assembled this compendium as a digest of books untainted by heresy.  He intended it for the benefit of laypeople, Christian princes, soldiers, and even for painters who could read Latin.  Possevino included in his library separate chapters devoted to architecture and painting.8 Each art grew from a larger body of knowledge. Architecture, inserted as the last three chapters in Book XV on mathematics, follows a classification established by the leading Jesuit mathematician of the time, Christoph Clavius (1538–1612).9 Painting fits in the next-to-last Book XVII, united with poetry, its sister art of imitation, and allied with architecture by their common grounding in proportion and the geometry of perspective. Painting and poetry follow, as Possevino argued, Book XVI, the history of humankind. The arts of design, although at the bottom of a hierarchy, were based on arts and sciences that rested on a stronger theoretical foundation in the measure and order of God’s creation. Matteo Ricci, S.J. (1552–1610), judged Chinese painting inferior because it was ignorant of the universal truth of geometry that awarded European art its superiority. Relative taste that could prize both on their own terms was conceptualized within a changed system of historiography only in the early eighteenth century (see below, the Jesuit painter Jean Denis Attiret’s [1702–68] appreciation of Chinese painting).10

If the point is to search for some advocacy that agrees with the current preoccupations of art historians, then it is easy to ignore Possevino’s chapters on art.11 But from the vantage point of a Jesuit historiography he is vital.12 He engaged critically with the written histories of painting and architecture, ancient and modern, to stake out positions on what were the most pressing questions for the Jesuits. Possevino integrated this exemplary theoretical knowledge drawn from history with practical experience he collected from two friends who were preeminent and authoritative sources: the Florentine architect and sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati (1511–92) and the painter and architect Giuseppe Valeriano (1542–96), “now a priest of our Society.”13 Their cooperation assured Possevino of the expertise in architecture and painting that he tried but failed to obtain from fellow Jesuits versed in mathematics, music, medicine, and law.14 Both artists contributed to major early projects of Jesuit architecture and decoration that would put their stamp on future works. Valeriano sat on a board in Rome that reviewed programs of painting submitted for the decoration of Jesuit churches. With his own hand he painted important pictures for the mother church of the Society, Il Gesù. He also was the architect of numerous Jesuit buildings, including the Collegio Romano.15 Ammannati was both donor and architect of Florence’s new Jesuit college and church, S. Giovannino, where his gifts of money and expertise served as an act of contrition in the penitential state he had attained under Jesuit guidance.16

In collaboration with Ammannati and Valeriano, Possevino wrote a flexible and practical guide to architecture. It required first a mastery of drawing. Possevino and his artist informants conceived of drawing as the practical skill that could express what the mind conceived and therefore as the organizing principle for good architecture, painting, and sculpture, in the sense of Giorgio Vasari’s (1511–74) arts of design (disegno).17 This skill united reason, careful observation, familiarity with materials, direct study of ornament from extant monuments, and acquaintance with books on architecture by the best ancient and modern writers: Vitruvius (d. after 15 CE), Leon Battista Alberti (1404–72), and Andrea Palladio (1508–80).18 Possevino’s ideal architect was erudite and versed in the rules necessary to design sturdy, useful, and attractive buildings.19 Summarizing Palladio’s instructions for the siting of churches, Possevino recommended that they be located in the noblest part of the city, not only to enhance the majesty of religion, but more, he added in a particular expression of the Jesuits’ ultimate goal, out of care for the salvation of souls. Facades of churches should look out over a major section of the town so that religion might appear as the citizens’ protector.20 Possevino adapted the modern architect Palladio’s guidelines to flesh out the spare directives on building set down by the Jesuit Constitutions. In this active engagement with the historiography of architecture, he integrated Jesuit practice into the broader tradition, but with a purposeful edge.

Possevino sharpened that edge against an alternative historiography conceptualized early in the 1590s, just before publication of his Bibliotheca selecta. Two Spanish Jesuits, Juan Bautista Villalpando (1552–1608) and Jéronimo del Prado y Villa (1546–95), had been transferred to Rome in 1592 so that they could use the city’s unequalled scholarly resources to complete a three-volume commentary on the book of Ezekiel, one volume of which reconstructed the Temple of Solomon measured according to the principles of Vitruvius.21 It was a speculative enterprise that combined biblical knowledge and ancient Roman architectural theory to contrive a divine and perfect model for sacred architecture. That hermetic investigation of ancient history, seeking answers based on universal truth, would reach both its climax and end later in the seventeenth century through the projects of the Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher (1622–80) who tried, for example, in similar fashion to reconstruct the true measurements of Noah’s ark.22 Possevino, in opposition, attacked the exclusive reliance on Vitruvius that Villalpando and also the Venetian editor of Vitruvius, Daniele Barbaro (1514–70), espoused. Possevino argued instead for an open approach patterned on the experiences of Valeriano, a working architect more concerned with roofs and sewers than with the perfect order of mystical numbers.23

Wearing today’s blinders, intent on erasing any trace of the tainted “Jesuit style” (see below), it would be easy to conclude that Possevino founded a historiography of flexible practice separate from prescribing exemplary styles of beauty and that this flexibility itself was the true Jesuit way of proceeding.24 But Possevino quoted Valeriano’s words in particular to invoke the principle of style in a sense that agrees with art theory of his own time.  Good architecture never would rely exclusively on the writings of Vitruvius, but would turn instead to rational observation of the best style (modus) visible in the surviving buildings of the ancients.  Possevino glossed the Latin word modus in his marginal note to state unequivocally that  architects referred to it in Italian as maniera, which we would now translate as style.25

Possevino again took up the concept of maniera, or style, in his chapters on painting. Among late-sixteenth-century books on the art that he included in his Bibliotheca, Possevino commented on the account “of modus, which the Italians call maniera” given in Giovanni Battista Armenini’s (1530–1609) De’ veri precetti della pittura of 1587, where the guiding precept repeats Possevino’s argument on architecture. The painter must form a style by imitating the good works of the ancients, in this case the ancient sculptors.26 Apparently a good Jesuit style in architecture or painting, just as in poetry or rhetoric, would imitate judiciously the examples of antiquity.

However, Possevino’s advocacy of a good ancient style in art conflicted with his own condemnation of the ancient statues that he saw rising from the ground to populate the city of Rome. He praised Gregory the Great (r.590–604) who had destroyed these images of false gods. Possevino approved as well the efforts of recent popes, Pius V (r.1566–72) and Sixtus V (r.1585–90), who sought to remove pagan idols from the Vatican and the Capitoline.27

Possevino admitted only those books and practices that would reform painting according to the needs of the Catholic Church. No painter would regret reading Archbishop Gabriele Paleotti’s (1522–97) Discorso intorno alle imagini sacre e profane,28 but it was to the 1564 Dialogo against the errors and abuses committed by Michelangelo in his Sistine Chapel Last Judgment by the Dominican Giovanni Andrea Gilio (before 1550–84) and to Bartolomeo Ammannati’s 1582 letter against the corrupting effect of nudes that Possevino devoted his full attention in a program to root out demonic evil from art and to encourage in its place painting’s capacity to lead souls through imitation towards devotion.29 Painters must accommodate themselves prudently to person, place, and time in the sense of proper decorum. They must keep to the truth of sacred history. Using examples drawn from Gilio, Possevino attacked Sebastiano del Piombo’s (c.1485–1547) great Flagellation, based on Michelangelo’s design, still in place for where it was painted around 1520, the Borgherini Chapel of S. Pietro in Montorio on the Gianicolo in Rome. Christ in this picture appears as if he were scourged by cotton or soft wool whips, with no trace of the suffering he accepted.30 Possevino turned instead to the Laocoon as an example for expressing the torment that painters should depict in Christ and the martyrs. How could one show the death of Stephen without stones, of Sebastian without arrows, of Lawrence without white-hot fire? “I find the highest art,” he says, “where the thing itself is imitated, tortures in martyrdoms, pain in suffering, glory and joy in the resurrected.”31 This demand for unvarnished truth was met in the martyrdom cycles painted for the churches of Jesuit colleges in the years before Possevino’s Bibliotheca was printed.32 Possevino advised that painters will gain the most intimate sense of these torments from meditations on the life and passion of Christ written by Franciscus Costerus, S.J. (1532–1619), and Vincenzo Bruni, S.J. (also Bruno: 1532–94), thus connecting the invention of pictures with prayer that will in turn inspire devotion.33

This beauty in sacrifice opposed the diabolical pleasure elicited by lascivious figures of fauns, satyrs, and pagan gods.34 Possevino used Ammannati’s penitential conversion both to dramatize the contrast between evil and good and to admonish artists, just as Ammannati had done in the public letter of confession he sent to his fellow members of Florence’s Accademia del Disegno on August 22, 1582.35 Painters and sculptors who wanted to save their own souls would abstain from making figures that thwarted at every turn what one prays for in the Lord’s Prayer. Artists who fashion these things make an offering to Satan, co-opt themselves as demons, and encourage the heresy of iconoclasts by discrediting images.36

Warning against the evil of nudity, insisting on the truth in sacred images, recommending to painters meditation on the passion of Christ as a source of invention, counseling a style that would imitate the ancients, invoking recent books about painting that filled in the outlines of the Council of Trent’s decree, relying on the expertise of artists closely associated with the Jesuits, advocating a flexible practice of architecture guided by Vitruvius but open to reason and experience; it would seem that Possevino combined a variety of elements into a distinctive Jesuit historiography of art and architecture. But here, and in the rest of my essay, I will follow Ralph Dekoninck’s advice to steer clear of either exaggerating or ignoring the significance of Jesuit innovations.37 From this more balanced position, it is evident that Possevino’s historiography of art shared much in common with one of the books he recommended to painters, Paleotti’s 1582 Discorso. But the differences are significant. Although both writers drew on the expertise of artists and architects, Possevino, who compiled an encyclopedia of knowledge, relied more on that advice and turned it to purposeful ends in the penitential example of Ammanati and the practical architecture of Valeriano.38 While Paleotti exhorted painters to choose their examples carefully, Possevino encouraged them in particular to meditate on Jesuit devotional books of Christ’s passion.39 Despite these and other differences, Possevino’s chapters on art and architecture contributed to the larger enterprise for which Paleotti wrote his Discorso. In his capacity as archbishop of Bologna, Paleotti worked hard to establish the Jesuits in his city and asked the former rector of the Jesuit college, Francesco Palmio, S.J. (1518–85), to read a draft of his Discorso.40

Possevino’s Jesuit historiography of art is thus distinctive for the close collaborations in which expertise and religious devotion were united. That union of art and religion is strengthened by Possevino’s recommendation to artists that they use Jesuit books of meditation on the passion of Christ to fill their imaginations with sacred images for inventions of pictures that would save other souls. Saving souls was the strongest motivation in recommending content or the best sites for churches. Possevino also promoted a style in painting that would convey truth through marks of suffering in which beauty would be found in pain and horror endured for love of God.

Truth to history as found in the rhetoric of sacred texts was matched by the imitative truth of painting and the rightness of architecture based on linear perspective, proportion, and number representative of the geometrical order in God’s creation.

In the second edition of his Bibliotheca, published at Venice in 1603, Possevino added, at the end of Book XVII on poetry and painting, a separate chapter devoted to emblems along with other signs and symbols.41 He thus extended the historiography of the imitative arts to include emblems that combined word and picture in a new synthesis that proved of value for Jesuit teaching and devotion, to the degree that it is given its own historiography in this series.42

Robert Bellarmine’s Theology of Images and Idols

Possevino’s Jesuit historiography generated its polemical force through the opposition between sacred images and diabolical idols, which rested on a deeper foundation laid down by Robert Bellarmine, S.J. (1542–1621), in two books of his Seventh controversy in general of the church triumphant (1587). The second book addresses relics and images of saints. The third considers material things pertaining to the cult of the church in its wanderings on earth: the construction and ornamentation of churches as well as the performance of sacred rites such as blessing of holy water, pilgrimage, and the offering of votives to saints. In agreement with his stated purpose of refuting the heretics of his own time, Bellarmino engaged with recent history only through the books of Luther and Calvin whose errors he opposed with eternal truth. Whereas Possevino calibrated the correct relationships between the art of painting and sacred images or between the art of architecture and sacred buildings as they had played out and should develop in history, Bellarmino’s exclusive concern was to defend the Catholic uses of images and architecture against Protestant attacks. He states that an image is the true similitude of the thing, as when we paint a man or horse, in contrast to an idol that is  a false similitude because it represents what does not really exist, as among the gentiles who presented statues of Venus or Minerva as goddesses, but which are idols because they are not and cannot be gods. From which we understand that images of Christ and saints are not idols and that if imitated accurately, they are a licit part of the cult.43

Bellarmino considered the material objects of the Catholic liturgy and cult purely to justify their uses. He did not discuss images, churches, or the ornament of churches in terms of a history of art, as Possevino did, but rather according to a polemical history of theological arguments about images. When he cited Pliny the Elder’s story of birds trying to eat grapes painted by the Greek painter Zeuxis, he did so to prove that painters had the means through colors and figures to depict the whole human being, including an illusion of the soul, so that it also is permissible to paint God in whose image humankind was created. 44

This different frame of reference to understand the sacred character of representations opens up another path of more explicit historiography through which Jesuits could support the whole range of their practices with images. They could justify the Catholic use of images and liturgical objects in opposition to Protestant accusations of idolatry and superstition. They could turn around in the other direction to identify, classify, condemn, and extirpate the uses of idols among the indigenous peoples they encountered on their missions or even the vestiges of pagan idolatry in Europe. Just as important, they could distinguish the idolatrous from the merely civic and political customs among barbarians. Because Jesuits argued that these civic customs, such as the use of caste signs by Brahmins or the placement of ancestor portraits on altars by the Chinese, did not impinge on religion, the Jesuits could include these customs in their strategy to accommodate the habits of the groups they hoped to convert.

José de Acosta on Idolatry

In his On Attaining the Salvation of the Indians (1588) and Natural and Moral History of the Indies (1590), José de Acosta (1540–1600), the Jesuit provincial of Peru, established a historiography of idolatry that would guide missionaries and later Jesuit writers.45 Indeed, in his Moral History of customs, Acosta started with the religion of the Indians, centered around their idolatry, for “the benefit that knowledge of such things can bring, which is to help these peoples to their salvation and to glorify the Creator and Redeemer who led them out of the profound darkness of their heathen beliefs.”46 Satan is the first cause of all idolatry, so that in Acosta’s account of idols, or of their opposites, sacred images, God and Satan battle each other in human moral history through these true and false representations. A double history of art and architecture was elaborated in which Satan mirrors in evil seduction what the church presents of God on earth. In this historiography, the past is given form to shape the present. Acosta introduced his extensive descriptions of Peruvian and Mexican temples with the warning that “just as the Supreme God decreed that a dwelling be dedicated to him, in which his holy name would be celebrated with special devotion, so the devil for his purposes persuaded the heathen to make him splendid temples and special places of worship and sanctuaries.”47 He presented the history of idolatry as if it were a disease to be cured. A good doctor needs to know the causes, classify the varieties, and list the best methods to root it out.48 Rites and ceremonies of the natives not scandalous to the church should be left in place until they were no longer necessary.49 These guidelines set the direction for Jesuit practice throughout the seventeenth century.

Ottonelli and Cortona

The next major Jesuit contribution to the historiography of art directly picked up and elaborated on Possevino’s arguments. The Jesuit Giovanni Domenico Ottonelli (1581–1670) and the great painter Pietro da Cortona (1596–1669), who published their Trattato della pittura, e scultura: Uso, et abuso loro at Florence in 1652, cited Possevino’s reasons for why painters should avoid depicting “nude women, and other impure and scandalous images,” and in particular, they noted how Possevino had addressed the painter’s conscience, encouraging penitence, and offering Ammannati as the noble example.50 On a larger scale, Possevino’s chapters about painting served as one important model for the later treatise. Both center on the contrast between sacred and lascivious images, directly address the salvation of painters, draw on earlier writers such as Paleotti and Armenini, and collaborate with eminent artists to combine theory with the immediate examples of practice. Maria Loh observes in turn how the 1697 La pittura in giudicio of Carlo Gregorio Rosignoli, S.J. (1631–1707), reiterated the arguments of Ottonelli and Cortona’s Trattato. Possevino, Ottonelli, and Rosignoli mark stages in a century-long Jesuit project to shape the history of art—both style and content—according to the needs of the Catholic Church.51 All three writers proceeded from the theoretical principle that painting and poetry are sister arts of imitation, and for this reason each of them composed his rules on painting as a companion piece to chapters or to a treatise that demanded the Christian use of poetry and theater to save souls from the lascivious abuse that would lead to damnation. Jesuits developed a moral historiography of good and evil examples that sought to control powerful forces for the greater glory of God.

Considering this long and deep continuity, it is to me an open question why some art historians persist in the claim that no substantial body of art theory is available as a means to understand the art of seventeenth-century Rome. That view may result in part from a blind spot that cannot credit as serious the primary agenda to suppress nudity and promote the standards of sacred painting.52 But it also is perpetuated by entrenched opposition between writers who understand Ottonelli and Cortona’s Trattato as either a collaboration that incorporates the painter’s theory of art or as a rhetorical tract by Ottonelli with minimal and insignificant contributions from Cortona.53

Even though Casale and Sparti still argue one side or the other, both recognize that the exchange between Ottonelli and the Jesuit censors who scrutinized his text before publication furnishes evidence for a more balanced account of the book’s purposes and of the painter’s role in it.54 Sparti argues persuasively that, just as the title page states, Ottonelli wrote the whole Trattato.55 It fitted, as Colareta understood, into the theologian’s sustained effort to suppress lascivious obscenity in theater, and a substantial part of it serves as a confessor’s manual debating the probable cases of sin into which painters might fall, replete with citations from the numerous confessor’s manuals that Jesuits had recently composed in their support for probabilism as the best way to engage penitents in the confessional.56 The Trattato addressed priests, collectors, and patrons as well as artists. Cortona provided the expertise on which Ottonelli could confidently base his instructions to painters. Cortona communicated this information by word of mouth or by notes rather than in an extended written theoretical argument. Ottonelli answered the censors who questioned his professional authority to write on painting, saying that it was the painter who insisted on publication of the book.57 Cortona served to exemplify the good Christian painter. But Casale makes the persuasive case that significant places in the book depend on Cortona’s direct testimony and that this is true most decisively in the “Admonitions or means by which a painter can make works of probable, or perhaps universal satisfaction.”58 These precepts are credited to the lectures delivered by a certain Sig. Niccolò Musso to the Accademia del Disegno in Rome, starting in 1634 and continuing for several years. Musso was a famous preacher and assembled a valuable collection of art in his Roman studiolo.59 It is however no coincidence that Cortona was appointed principe of the Accademia in 1634 and served four years in that capacity during which time he breathed life into what had been a moribund institution.60 Casale accurately points out that the “Admonitions” reported by Ottonelli agree as well with the theoretical positions defended by Cortona against Andrea Sacchi (1599–1661) in the dispute that Missirini records as having taken place at the Accademia during Cortona’s term as principe.

These “Admonitions” mark an important change in the Jesuit historiography of art. They advocate a copious variety of painting on an epic scale, exemplified by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel and Raphael in the Vatican Stanze. These works in the grand manner should be painted with the boldness and vigor that Tintoretto displayed in his Crucifixion for the Scuola di S. Rocco in Venice. Further, artists should avoid fixation on one perfect line (the line of Apelles, associated here with the slow style of Andrea Sacchi) and should concentrate instead on forming animate bodies in whole and part, then surrounding them with all the ornaments appropriate to variety in time and place: animals, landscape, vestments, rites, and customs, knowledge that required an erudite and judicious painter. These principles advocated in a Jesuit treatise on sacred painting the innovative synthesis that Cortona already had achieved in his masterpiece glorifying the providence of the papacy of Urban VIII painted on the vault of the great hall, the salone, in the Palazzo Barberini during the late 1630s. The intervention of a Jesuit helped Cortona win that commission in the first place.61 It was this overwhelming profusion of figures descending from an effulgence of light and heavenly glory that formed the style with which the Jesuits later chose to decorate the vaults of their two major churches in Rome, Il Gesù (1672–85) and S. Ignazio (1685). The style that Ottonelli and Cortona recommended as exemplary practice was very different from the somber and gruesome view of martyrs’ wounds judged by Possevino as the most beautiful. Ottonelli and Cortona promoted the new kind of painting that would in the nineteenth century be identified as “Jesuit style.”

Of course Cortona painted for many patrons other than Jesuits. But his new style was written by Ottonelli into the Jesuit historiography of art and then was emulated in Jesuit churches. Ottonelli and Cortona’s Trattato was in other respects distinctively Jesuit. Like Possevino, Ottonelli consulted with a great artist to give his Trattato immediate practical authority that was grounded in theory. It is anachronistic to draw a divide between theory and practice in early modern art because each kind of knowledge informed the other. Ottonelli gave religious and theoretical authority to Cortona’s practice. Ottonelli stressed in his reply to censors that Cortona was his penitent and so there existed a personal bond as had been true also for the relationships among Possevino, the penitent Ammannati, and the Jesuit father Valeriano. An exchange both spiritual and professional characterized these relationships. In the significant portions of the Trattato where Ottonelli concerned himself with probable cases of sin into which painters might fall, his penitent Cortona may have discussed the questions and conditions with him. In this regard, Cortona’s status as exemplary Christian painter was not just a model that Ottonelli held up for others to emulate. Cortona actively collaborated, and, according to Ottonelli, it was the painter who insisted on publication of the book.

Ottonelli and Cortona’s Trattato continued and changed the Jesuit historiography of art by justifying a new epic style of decoration for churches and confirming the suppression of nudes with now some room for cases that did not fall into sin (Adam and Eve before the fall), engaging with probabilism in the sacrament of penance.

Up to the eighteenth century one predominant theme runs through Jesuit historiography of art and image: the battle between the armies gathered under the two standards, the standard of Satan and the standard of Christ, the fundamental conflict that serves as a meditation in Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises. The separation between past and present held as the organizing principle of modern historiography did not exist for Jesuits who wrote about the history of art and images from the late sixteenth to the late seventeenth century as an aspect of the church on earth with the salvation of souls in the balance.

It is in service of this goal that the epic history of the Society’s own first one hundred years, the Imago primi saeculi (1640), mentions the variety of visual works used by the Jesuits to carry out their ministries. Marble churches, images of Mary, devotional prints are never praised for their own sake as art, but only for the devotion they inspire. It is not our greed for gold, they say, that lends magnificence of ornament and splendor to our churches, altars, and vestments, but rather the munificence of kings, princes, and magistrates, for the good of the people, and without any harm to our vow of poverty. And if you judge us according to these exterior things of splendor, you will be mistaken, for in our own dwellings we Jesuits own nothing precious.62 Perhaps this statement provides a key to understanding Jesuit indifference to the worldly beauty of art, to why they paid little direct attention to it. Rather, they were indifferent, but would use it if needs be.

A Fragmentary Early Modern Historiography of the Art of the Jesuits

But other writers, inside and outside the Society, included Jesuit painting and architecture in the separate historiography of art that progressed during the early modern period. Rubens praised the new Jesuit churches of Brussels and Antwerp as the prototypes for a gradual change in style that would turn architecture in the Netherlands away from its “barbaric” Gothic past and towards an order of rules and principles based on the ancient Greeks and Romans. This historiography of artistic styles credited Jesuit architecture as the work of “beautiful minds [belli ingegni]” who, for the dignity of the divine office, rightly were the first to import the new idea. Religion and the Jesuits in particular set an example in architecture that greatly enhanced the splendor and ornament of the country and, if followed in the houses of gentlemen, would change the whole body of the city for the public good throughout all the regions north of the Alps. At the end of his book, Rubens also published plans and elevations of Genoese churches, above all, four engravings of the Jesuit church, so that Jesuit architecture was offered as a particular model for emulation. Jesuit architecture in this historiography exerted a transformative power that radiated outwards from religion and gave health to the body politic.63

Andrea Pozzo’s Books on Perspective for Architects and Painters

Although Rubens’s Palazzi di Genova presented Jesuit churches as exemplary of a new antique style for northern Europe, the book’s influence on future Jesuit architecture was limited and hard to detect. By contrast, Jesuit Brother Andrea Pozzo’s (1642–1709) two-volume publication of his own perspective designs (1693–1700), was distributed worldwide in multiple editions and translated into English, German, French, modern Greek, and Chinese.64 Pozzo also executed major projects of architecture and painting for the Jesuits in Rome, Vienna, and throughout Italy. His printed, built, and painted works gained a widespread and durable currency that marked them as representative of Jesuit architecture and painting.

Its representative status determined that Pozzo’s work would change the historiography of Jesuit art. The most striking characteristics of his style were identified, for good or bad, as distinctively Jesuit. First, Pozzo celebrated the art of perspective for its power to deceive the sharpest sense, the sense of sight. He extended in this direction Athanasius Kircher’s earlier project to manipulate the senses in a spectacle that would lead to sacred truth.65 Second, he illustrated this marvelous trickery with engravings and descriptions of the paintings, altars, and temporary altar decorations he had designed for the two eminent Jesuit churches in Rome—Il Gesù and S. Ignazio. Pozzo included the altar of St. Ignatius that he had completed for Il Gesù in 1700 because, he insisted, it would ennoble the book through reproducing a monument that honored the saint. Third, Pozzo’s description of the altar emphasized traits that more precisely defined his style. According to Pozzo, Ignatius was exalted by the unrivalled variety of the work, by the richness of its metals, the gilded bronze reliefs, the choice array of stone, the vast scale, and by the mastery of the artisans who competed so that their names might live forever. The oblique perspective of the engraving depicts the altar in a calculated display of magnificence. When Pozzo illustrated and described in similar terms the altar he had fashioned in S. Ignazio for the chapel of the Blessed Aloysius Gonzaga in 1700, he called attention again to the material splendor. Precious and rare spiral columns of ancient green marble around which wind gilded bronze vines, lapis lazuli, whitest marble, silver and gold figurines, overflow in the description and in the work itself as a surfeit of riches. In the engravings and descriptions of the illusionistic cupola and the nave vault that he had painted to transform the interior of S. Ignazio along with the fabulous stage designs he conceived for forty-hour devotions in Il Gesù, Pozzo trumpeted how mastery of perspective left viewers uncertain whether they beheld architecture built of stone or conjured from paint. In a variation on the altar for Aloysius Gonzaga he vaunted the bizarreness (bizarria) of the invention, but acknowledged that obedience to his patrons and Jesuit superiors made it impossible to display it in public. All these elements were brought together triumphantly in the two great Roman Jesuit churches at the height of the Society’s worldwide expansion and then disseminated through the many editions and translations of Pozzo’s books.

Jesuits’ celebration of their triumph was turned by Jansenist and Protestant enemies during the eighteenth century into an image of corruption and deceit. A negative stereotype here entered the historiography of Jesuit art. This attack on superficial ornament that distracted from inner devotion was directed at first against all Catholic decoration of churches.66 But it soon concentrated on the Jesuits in particular. Friedrich Nicolai (1733–1811), a Lutheran book seller and man of letters in Berlin, equated Pozzo’s style with Jesuit manipulation in his account of a 1781 visit to the Jesuit university church in Vienna:67

The church built in 1682 is presented in many books as something especially beautiful; I must confess that I could not view it without inner disgust. It is arranged and decorated with much pomp, but without taste, all is bright and garish. It rests on spiral columns [inserted by Andrea Pozzo in 1703] which have an unbearable [unerträglich] appearance; and the oh so famous perspectival ceiling paintings of Brother Andrea Pozzo can, when observed from one single point of view, awaken admiration, but since one must walk in several places inside the church, so everywhere the objects disintegrate, and help to augment the repulsive impression. Such a manner of painting strikes me almost as like the Jesuit order itself. If one stands in the one indicated point of view of strict obedience, then the structure [Verfassung] of the order appears as a glorious and cohesive building. If one moves a foot outside the point of blind obedience, then one sees, and sees all the more clearly the further one moves away from the point, that everything is a false veneer [Verblendung], and that the structure of this Order with all its various connections, in which God has situated humankind, is incoherent, and thus detrimental to the well-being of humanity.

Nicolai transformed Pozzo’s style into a simile of Jesuit superficiality, blind obedience, deception, ostentatious material splendor, and spiritual confusion. Nicolai’s attack against the bad taste and decadent immorality of Jesuit art depended on a new historiography of art that the Jesuits themselves helped fashion during the eighteenth century.

Luigi Lanzi, S.J.’s Storia pittorica, 1795–96, Winckelmann, and Chinese Painting

Luigi Lanzi’s (1732–1810) three-volume history of Italian painting offers a retrospective view from late in the eighteenth century that indicates the radical changes in a Jesuit historiography of art. Lanzi entered the Society of Jesus in 1749 at Rome and between 1765 and 1772 served in the professed house of S. Andrea al Quirinale where he taught rhetoric. After the suppression in 1773, Lanzi, through his knowledge of antiquities, rose in the administration of Florence’s Real Galleria (now the Uffizi).68

In his history of Italian painting Lanzi never referred to a separate historiography of Jesuit art. His text and extensive bibliography ignored the writings of Possevino, Bellarmino, Ottonelli and Cortona, and Rosignoli, the Jesuits who during the previous centuries had cultivated a moral historiography of art. Instead Lanzi adhered closely to the method that Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–68) had applied in his history of ancient Greek and Roman art (1764). By emulating this model, Lanzi could organize his history according to a repetitive cycle that began in simple necessity, attained perfection in beauty, and then declined into superfluity.69 This chronology branched into the divergent, permanent, and recognizable patterns marked by the distinctive traits that separated Italy’s regional schools in a division that adapted the taxonomy conceived for the history of Italian literature by Lanzi’s Jesuit colleague Girolamo Tiraboschi (1731–94).70 Lanzi and Tiraboschi both joined in the larger project to develop a national history of Italy. The only way they could imprint a Jesuit version on that history was by employing credible methods of proof that others had turned against the Jesuits.71 Lanzi also conformed to the political force of his patron in Florence, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo (r.1765–90), son of the Empress Maria Theresa (r.1740–80), brother of the Emperor Joseph II (r.1765–90), and then himself Emperor Leopold (r.1790–92), the Austrian Habsburg dynasty of enlightened despots who systematically limited the power of the Catholic Church in their territories.

Lanzi included paintings made for and by Jesuits only when they fitted into his sequence of regional schools. He analyzed the vast painted ceiling of Il Gesù not as a religious image depicting The Triumph of the Name of Jesus in celebration of Jesuit spirit, but rather as the most conspicuous work of its painter, Giambattista Gaulli (1639–1709)—called Baciccio—who appears in a section devoted to the school of Rome, more in particular, “The Fifth Epoch: The Cortoneschi badly imitating Pietro harm painting,” a period of decadence ascribed to the cyclical rise and fall of art, the tyranny of fashion, political turbulence, the devastating effects of plague, and, following Winckelmann’s argument, to the insidious force of Bernini’s example and dominance over patronage.72 Of Pozzo he wrote that “[i]n this era of decadence one branch of painting made considerable progress, namely perspective; thanks to Father [sic] Pozzo Jesuit.”73

Lanzi skillfully adapted Winckelmann’s explanation of art history as the result of natural and man-made causes. Winckelmann of course derived his causal analysis of history from earlier writers, so that it is evident how Lanzi, in turn, conformed to a new historiography developed during the eighteenth century.74 He listed natural causes to explain what previous generations of Jesuits had understood as a battle between Christ and Satan in which the ministries of the Society fought to save souls for the glory of God. Reason produced a history of art in which religion was circumscribed and studied as one among many causes.75

Lanzi and Tiraboschi could, however, base their new histories of Italian painting and literature on the deeper certainty of Aristotelian causation, just as the Society of Jesus insisted that their adaptations of Newtonian physics should conform to Aristotelian terms.76 Because Lanzi developed his method before the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773 it is not convincing to ascribe his turn towards innovation as the result of some new found freedom won by separating from the Society’s discipline and vow of obedience.77 Lanzi read the books of Winckelmann and of the painter Anton Raphael Mengs (1728–79) as guides to good taste that would reverse the decadence he found exemplified in the work of Pozzo.

Style, for Lanzi, assumed a historical contingency that clearly displayed its origins in a particular civilization. Among the arguments he assembled to prove that the Hamilton Vase is of Greek and not Etruscan origin, Lanzi noted that the vase depicts Greek stories:78

How conclusive this proof might be, the following comparison will demonstrate. For whoever might doubt from where painting in China originated, it would suffice him to look at the most ancient works which survive there; and finding that all breathes the air of idolatry; he would conclude, that one must believe that art to have been born there among the gentiles. He who might make the same observation about the paintings of Paraguay, and found the most ancient to be sacred images, which the catholic religion is accustomed to introduce to the cult of its believers; would not be mistaken in judging these images or their originals born among catholics.

In this comparison Lanzi equated the histories, if not the sacred character, of painting in ancient Greece, China, Paraguay, and Italy. Chinese painting, derived from idolatry, and Italian painting, sprung from sacred images, both were classified as art and understood to follow the same laws of history. Lanzi’s historical method could explain art produced everywhere across the world and in all times.

Lanzi traced art in China back to idolatry through the abundant and detailed reports written by Jesuit missionaries during the seventeenth century and synthesized by Athanasius Kircher in his China monumentis, first published in 1667, then quickly reprinted and translated.79 Indeed, Kircher devoted the third part of his book to the history and practice of idolatry in East Asia. Even though he argued for a historical genealogy of idolatry that began in Egypt and spread through India to China and Japan, Kircher identified the cause of this prevalent “superstition,” just as Acosta had for the Americas, in Satan’s strategy to injure God by leading millions of souls astray.80 Through his demonization of Chinese religious customs, Kircher tacitly disagreed with the Jesuits in China who so controversially followed a policy of accommodation that permitted Confucian practices as part of Catholic worship by drawing a distinction between superstitious and civic observances.81

Lanzi also could learn about the art of China from the reports that French Jesuits sent to Europe in their famous letters published during the eighteenth century. Brother Jean-Denis Attiret, S.J. (1702–68), missionary in China and painter for the Qianlong Emperor (r.1735–96), insisted on the difference in taste between Chinese and European design, but described the emperor’s palace in the imperial gardens close to Beijing with admiration: “in the different Apartments of which you see all the most beautiful things that can be imagin’d, as to Furniture, Ornaments, and Paintings (I mean, of those in the Chinese Taste;) the most valuable Sorts of Wood; varnish’d Works, of China and Japan; ancient Vases of Porcelain; Silks, and Cloth of Gold and Silver. They have there brought together, all that Art and good Taste could add to the Riches of Nature.”82 He argued more in principle “…that the Manner of Building in this Country pleases me very much. Since my Residence in China, my Eyes and Taste are grown a little Chinese. And, between Friends, is not the Duchess of Bourbon’s House opposite to the Tuilleries, extremely pretty? Yet that is only of one Story, and a good deal in the Chinese Manner. Every Country has it’s [sic] Taste and Customs.”83 Attiret also praised the variety of Chinese architecture in comparison with what could be found in European buildings and then added that “[t]heir Eyes are so accustom’d to their own Architecture, that they have very little Taste for ours.”84

How remarkable is this? Attiret was a painter schooled in the grand tradition of Europe who recognized in himself the conditioned nature of taste. He probably learned the concept through Roger de Piles’s (1635–1709) essay on the taste of nations in which taste is analyzed as the subjective and conditioned product of individual experience formed by distinctive national traditions.85 Jesuit painters in China through their service obtained the extraordinary privilege of seeing the wonders of art in the Qianlong emperor’s palaces where they could acquire a new taste. They learned the traditions of Chinese painting in obedience to the emperor’s demand. A Jesuit strategy of accommodation attuned them to the culture of the land despite the isolation, working conditions that bordered on slavery, and the ongoing persecution of Christians. 86 Only they could see with Chinese eyes.

Attiret, in his letter of 1743, after he described the emperor’s garden and collection, reported the hard circumstances in which he worked, which were bad enough, he said, to drive him back to Europe “if I didn’t believe my brush useful for the good of the religion, and to render the emperor more favorable to the missionaries who preach it, and if I didn’t see paradise at the end of my troubles and travails. This is the unique attraction which keeps me here, as well as all the other Europeans who are in the service of the emperor.”87 The English translator cut out this expression of motivation in which Attiret affirmed his steadfast faith through acts of personal sacrifice. He included this attestation in a letter meant above all to edify its readers.

Attiret arrived at a new historiographical position, based on the concept of taste relative to the history of each artistic tradition. The Jesuit strategy of accommodation encouraged him in this direction so that he could meet the demands of the Qianlong emperor. He articulated his unique point of view through the conventions of a particular Jesuit literary genre, the edifying letter, meant to serve as a devout example for other Jesuits.

By 1800, Jesuit writers on art had developed a method that recognized historical contingency on a worldwide scale. At the same time, enemies of the Jesuits wrote about Jesuit art by turning the same equation between historical character and visual expression against the Jesuits. All the negative stereotypes of Jesuits were seen as visualized in the style of Pozzo, which had fallen out of fashion and offered a target for condemnation of its bad taste, superficiality, deceptive manipulation of the senses, and superfluous ornamentation. Many components of a “Jesuit style” were in place waiting for a name.

“Jesuit Style” 1844–1907

In the first section of this essay, I mostly use primary sources and sort out the secondary sources about them. In this section I refer the reader more to secondary sources that have scrutinized the historiography of Jesuit style so closely that this theme of historiography now requires its own historiography. Evonne Levy has carried the discussion furthest. She has changed our understanding by setting the origins and ramifications of Jesuit style in their historical contexts with precision and detail that leave no room for confusion. Levy has reconstructed the political conditions, religious views, and personal circumstances that motivated historians to introduce the term “Jesuit style” (Jacob Burckhardt first in 1844) and then to repeat or modify its use.88 Instead of worrying whether or not a Jesuit style exists, Levy investigates how writers varied its formal elements to meet the needs of their political agendas.

Joseph Braun, S.J., Finishes Off the Jesuit Style

Joseph Braun debunked the myth of a Jesuit style in his four books on early modern Jesuit architecture.89 The opponents he attacked and the issues he debated confirm Levy’s thesis that historiography is linked to politics. Indeed, Sibylle Appuhn-Radtke has reconstructed the historiographic contexts that motivated Braun’s work.90 His long-term and massive effort to refute the slander of a Jesuit style heeded the exhortation of the Society’s generals to expose the truth with the positive facts of history.91 Braun stated in the opening pages of his first book the position he defended in all four. A long quotation from Cornelius Gurlitt (1850–1938) encapsulated the assumptions about Jesuit style that Braun would disprove. Contrary to what Gurlitt maintained, the Jesuits, far from rejecting the native Gothic style of northern Europe as a tainted symbol of Protestant heresy, actually built most of their churches in that style until well into the seventeenth century. When they did introduce antique or Italian elements, these were inflected by the local, national style of Renaissance or baroque.92 Braun’s purpose always was to defend Jesuits from the charge that they had betrayed the national heritage of Belgium or Germany by imposing the foreign Italian model of Il Gesù and with it the tyranny of the papacy. That defense was of greatest relevance in Germany where permanent Jesuit settlements had been forbidden out of fear that the Society, at the behest of the papacy, would undermine the new nation-state.

Many writers have recognized Braun’s incontrovertible refutation of “Jesuit style,” though without fully accepting the alternative history he set in its place. Braun participated in the larger enterprise that the Society undertook late in the nineteenth century to write its own history based on archival research and primary sources.93 Insistence on empirical evidence conformed to the practice of historians who collected original documents with a conviction that the facts alone would suffice to tell the truth in a positivist rejection of metaphysical theories.94 Braun added the evidence of the monuments themselves, which he examined in a consistent sequence. Lucid descriptions combined with the visual evidence of ground plans and photographs taken by Braun himself, not for aesthetic effect but rather to illustrate clearly the observations that he made so meticulously, church by church.95 He also was first to use methodically the collection of ground plans and correspondence now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, from the archive of the general of the Society in Rome, which had served as the clearinghouse for Jesuit building projects.96 On the basis of this evidence, he accurately classified the structural systems of churches, charted interrelationships among buildings, documented the participation of architects inside and outside the Jesuit order, considered the contributions of noble, ecclesiastical, and municipal donors, and identified the many innovations that the Jesuits introduced as the practical results of the Society’s ministries.  He paid close attention to the rare surviving ornaments such as Communion rails, altarpieces, and pulpits by which the sacraments and preaching were placed at the center of devotion. Braun emphasized the German and local character of architectural ornamentation.  It was, he said, a consequence of the Jesuits’ desire to be all things to all people in their goal to save souls. Jesuit accommodation to the “national spirit” of the “people” in every country guided their approach to architecture and art, worldly things about which they held no fixed conviction.97 His use of the terms “national spirit” and “people” hints at how Braun subtly adapted his arguments to the debates about German nationalism in which the Jesuits then were enmeshed, as Levy has shown.98

Rudolf Wittkower agreed in 1972 that Braun had refuted incontrovertibly the idea of a “Jesuit style.” Why then, Wittkower asked, “has so much ink been spilled over a question that does not seem to be valid? The fact remains that countless critics and scholars have insisted that there is something recognizably specific about ‘Jesuit art,’ and despite my assessment of Father Braun’s conclusions, we have to enquire whether other writers have labored entirely under an illusion.” Wittkower’s answer only confirmed the truths of his own time, that “it was the artists who influenced the Jesuits rather than vice versa.” Great artists, protagonists of “the full-blooded Baroque,” won the Jesuits over.99

Why, to repeat Wittkower’s question, did the question of Jesuit style continue to dominate the historiography of Jesuit art during the second half of the twentieth century? Braun himself observed how “Jesuit style” was passed on by one book to the next, like a “congenital defect.” His work, however, did actually stop the use of “Jesuit style” among specialists and knowledgeable generalists. Nevertheless, between 1951 and 1999, writers attacked “Jesuit style” again and again, even though it already had been destroyed.100 Why, in particular, did Carlo Galassi Paluzzi, who used his position as founding director of the Institute of Roman Studies to integrate fascist and Catholic understanding of history, publish the most sustained of these efforts in his 1951 Storia segreta dello stile dei gesuiti, graced with an introductory letter by Pietro Tacchi Venturi, S.J. (1861–1956), the Jesuit go-between for Mussolini and the Vatican?101 Only by applying Levy’s political analysis will the answer be found.

Émile Mâle and Iconography

Braun demonstrated that visitors might recognize a Jesuit church by the design of its façade, the galleries that added a second story inside, and the banks of confessionals and a Communion rail, which ordered the sacraments of penance and Communion to which Jesuits devoted their ministries. For the French art historian Émile Mâle (1862–1954), the identifying sign of a Jesuit church, and for the churches of all the Catholic orders, was to be found instead in the subject matter of the painting over its high altar, what Mâle called its iconography.102 In Il Gesù, in S. Ambrogio at Genoa, in the chapel of the Jesuit college at Poitiers, and in many other Jesuit churches, The Circumcision of Christ distinguished this most sacred location in honor of the holy name of Jesus first revealed at the circumcision and chosen by St. Ignatius for the Society he founded.103 Mâle expanded the list of subjects typical for Jesuit churches to include as well representations of the Society’s saints and the Triumph of the Apostolate of St. Ignatius on Earth depicted by Andrea Pozzo in the vault of S. Ignazio in Rome. In the wake of the widespread destruction of church decorations and ignorance of what pictures represented, Mâle accomplished a great feat of restoration. His work on iconography took into account the broad historical contexts of the Counter-Reformation, recorded local differences among the Catholic nations, credited the church with its decisive control over what artists depicted, and searched a wide range of sources through which he could accurately catalog the new themes displayed in churches. Given the act of remembrance that he achieved, it is easy to forgive his failure, in the age of formalism, to integrate the contents of pictures into their physical surroundings and the experiences of their visual elements.


Since the late 1990s, “Jesuit style” has been summarily dismissed and the fruitless debate over whether a Jesuit style existed has been abandoned. Divergent historiographical models have changed the field and sorted it out partly by asking new questions according to the different arts they address.

First, a conference of fourteen specialists from six European countries and twelve institutes of higher education met at Zaragoza in 2010 to determine the state of the question on research about early modern Jesuit architecture and to propose a worldwide database for the most important graphic collections that document these buildings.104 It is striking that Braun’s century-old work provided the model for what promised to be the grandest synthesis to date of Jesuit art. Richard Bösel, in an introductory essay on the rationale of Jesuit building, without citing Braun, reiterated Braun’s principles. Bösel again put to rest the myth of a “Jesuit style,” proposed a study of Jesuit architecture organized according to function, required consideration of the numerous architects, masons, and mathematicians who combined scientific and practical knowledge with religious purpose, noted the give-and-take between central control imposed by Rome and the imperatives of local traditions, returned to the archive of plans in Paris as the most important source now augmented by written documents found in Malta, included recently discovered drawings to demonstrate the familial relationships among Jesuit churches, and explained innovations in Jesuit architecture as solutions to implement sacred ministries. Bösel encouraged his colleagues to identify specific typological categories of buildings cultivated in diverse areas, which is exactly what Braun had attempted.105

One state-of-the-question essay written for the same conference engaged directly with Braun’s work. Joris Snaet and Krista De Jonge acknowledged that Braun’s 1907 book still presents the “most complete overview of the churches of the Jesuits built within the Southern Low Countries” and then gave an extensive account of Braun’s sources and contributions. They endorsed Braun’s argument that the Jesuits innovated for the purpose of function and noted how they followed this approach in their own research.106

Building on the strengths of Braun’s work, the history of Jesuit architecture has developed as the leading area of research in Jesuit visual communication. This accurately reflects the priority set by the Jesuits who insisted that Rome approve all buildings, appointed chief architects, and assembled their own archive, which still provides the most extensive documentation for any Jesuit art. Study of architecture now is supported by detailed and broad historiographical accounts that encompass the whole world.

Braun also offered a model for work that could avoid isolating the history of Jesuit architecture from its larger contexts. Braun consistently related Jesuit buildings to the broader history of architecture. He paid close attention as well to the integration of painting and sculpture as ornamentation that would mediate Jesuit ministries in their churches. He used archives to reconstruct the dialogs between Jesuits and their benefactors that often generated distinctive solutions.

But two books by Evonne Levy have worked the most profound changes in recent years for our understanding of the historiography of Jesuit art. I already have cited Baroque and the Political Language of Formalism (2015) for its precise reconstruction of the historiography of Jesuit style. Although not informed by the detailed research that gives Baroque and the Political Language of Formalism its strength, her earlier book, Propaganda and the Jesuit Baroque (2004), confronted the historiography to clear a path for writing the institutional history behind the production of Jesuit art, analyzing as a case study the chapel honoring St. Ignatius in Il Gesù. By eliminating the mystification of Jesuit style as well as the tacit prohibition against consideration of Jesuit political motivation that followed on its fall, Levy restored dynamic complexity to art history. She used a variety of primary sources to document the process of design and completion in which Pozzo collaborated with his Jesuit supervisors who retained control.107 Another result of this shift in historiography came through Levy’s search for effective models from twentieth-century political writings that she could use to analyze what she termed Jesuit propaganda.108

While the historiography of Jesuit architecture could find its new starting points in Braun, other arts could find no such sure footing. Fabre, in his bibliographic essay of 1999, pointed to the explosion of publications in a broadly defined field of the visual arts, detailed in focus but lacking any grand synthesis of a particular art, period, or geographical location:

One could summarily appraise the situation thus: Jesuit art no longer exists (even in the form of the debate, often rhetorical, which occupied historians of art into the 1960s—in the wake of Carlo Galassi-Paluzzi—over the real existence of such an art); the art of the Jesuits does not yet exist, conceived not as a repertoire and a lineage of forms and figures, but as the aggregates of the visual manifestations with which the Society of Jesus, heavily invested, on a global scale, in the terrain of cultural representations, has surrounded its activities, properly apostolic or pedagogical, civic, etc. The art of the Jesuits does not yet exist, but it is not any more certain that it might not incline to shatter, at least from the point of view of the history of forms, more broadly, of the choice of themes and of cultural sources.109

Fabre predicted that the historiography would reorganize along three major lines of inquiry engendered by this transition from Jesuit art to the art of the Jesuits. First, research would reconstruct the concepts devised by Jesuit theorists to solve the problem of venerating sacred images. Second, the preference displayed by the Jesuits in their decorative systems for a combination of architecture, painting, and sculpture would be accounted for in what Fabre termed anachronistically a “montage des arts.” Third, investigating the place of images in the Jesuits’ missionary enterprise could help articulate the foundation that tied together the extreme diversity of forms attached to Jesuit practice. Finally, the field of book illustration would unite the first three lines of research to uncover the traces of a definition for the art of the Jesuits.110  Some of Fabre’s predictions came true, partly due to their prescriptive value, both for Fabre himself and for other historians. Ralph Dekoninck in his 2005 Ad imaginem, invoked Fabre’s passage just cited.111 Fabre and Dekoninck in their own work have combined the evidence of image theory and practical use to write the history of Jesuit book illustration.112 Walter Melion independently has concentrated on the same topic.113

But for the purpose of historiography, it is important to observe the divergent methods they have employed. Melion’s exegetical approach has taken Jesuit theoretical texts at face value to explain the images.114 He has applied to religious art and texts the method developed by art historians who used the texts of art theory as sources congruent with the works to understand in historical terms how artists conceived and viewers perceived the elements of early modern art. Melion himself started with this approach.115 Fabre has adopted postmodern methods to search for ruptures, slippages, and incongruities between stated intentions and failures to act, or between the contents of texts and images, that might betray a hidden aspect.116

Most significantly, in a book and in essays Fabre has argued with abundant evidence against the assumption that Jerónimo Nadal carried out Ignatius’s wish to illustrate The Spiritual Exercises with engravings for the purpose of meditation.117 Fabre’s proof challenges the unquestioned assumption that distinctive aspects of Jesuit art derived from Ignatius’s appeal to the imagination in The Spiritual Exercises. That assumption has imposed a static model in which the history of Jesuit art has been written, intentionally or not, as a hagiography with its origins in the divinely inspired work of the saint who founded the Society. In Fabre’s account, the use of images follows a history directed by debate, change, personal circumstances, and politics.118

Despite the constant of change that Fabre detected in the historiography of the art of the Jesuits, the quest to trace a distinctive Jesuit contribution in art back to Ignatius and The Spiritual Exercises has persisted from Werner Weisbach’s influential argument published in 1921 to the substantial exhibition and catalog organized in 2003 by Alain Tapié. Baroque replaced “Jesuit style” as the encompassing term for a unified art of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, informed, according to Weisbach, by the stimulation of imaginative fantasy and optical sense in The Spiritual Exercises, or, according to Tapié, by Ignatius’s experience of the new dynamic painting that he saw on his sojourns in Venice, which the saint then incorporated into The Spiritual Exercises.119 Baroque and its Jesuit core shatter, however, against the diversity of styles and networks of exchange that they try to embrace, very similar to the weakness that in the end discredited Jesuit style.

The search for distinctive Jesuit traits fails when it depends on ahistorical terms of style for the classification of its material. It succeeds when the search is narrowed to an identifiable strategy directed by Jesuit founding documents and refined in later exchanges recorded in correspondence and published works. On the basis of that kind of evidence, Thomas M. Lucas, S.J., has demonstrated persuasively how the Jesuit strategy of siting their churches at busy town centers implemented their ministries in the world, followed the directions of their founder, St. Ignatius, remained continuous up to the present, and distinguished the Jesuits from the Franciscans and Dominicans who located their churches at the peripheries of cities.120

Lucas also attested to the persistence of change in the Jesuit historiography of art when he appealed in 2003 for the restoration of images as part of Jesuit spirituality. Richard A. Blake, S.J., in his introduction to Lucas’s essay, testified to the disregard for images that Lucas tried to soften:

I am a prisoner of the Enlightenment, a child of the age of reason grown to maturity in a universe of ideas. Twice victimized are Jesuits like myself, whose ministry imprisons them behind a desk and professorial lectern. Schooled in the Spiritual Exercises in a quasi-monastic setting from our earliest days, we pray in silence, alone in a quiet room. Others may reach God through dance and song, ritual and icon, but most of us in the Society, at least in the West, are hostages to words.121

Jesuits during the twentieth century did not meditate with the help of picture books.

Jesuit predilection for the word over images is a separate tradition of historiography that warrants further research. Exactly at the time when Braun contributed to the history of Jesuit architecture, the general of the Society, Franz Xaver Wernz (r.1906–14) expressed skepticism towards art history as a separate discipline, reduced support for positions in the field, directed that it be absorbed into faculties of philosophy and theology, and commented that it would be better for scholastics to learn languages.122 Only in the last two decades have Lucas’s arguments for the place of images in devotion and O’Malley’s call to include the arts in Jesuit history caught up with the study in humanities and social sciences of “visual culture” and “material culture.”123  Jesuit attention to visual media responded as well to the explosion of digital information communicated visually. The Jesuit Complementary Norms now require Jesuits to be educated

in literature, in the arts, in sciences, also in social sciences, the better to understand reality, and to undertake the analysis of it; and also in history and in various aspects of the culture of the region where the apostolate will be carried on, as well as in the modern means of social communication.124

Fabre’s prescriptions in 1999 for work on Jesuit image theory and book illustration have been answered partly through his own work and participation in conferences. But the progress he called for in understanding Jesuit decorative systems has not followed the terms that he set. Perhaps that is due to misunderstanding of the problem in two senses. First, stating the question as he did, Fabre ignored the decisive innovations that Bernini brought together in his “bel composto” of the arts, certainly a term more congruent for the purpose than a “montage des arts.”125 Second, Braun’s explanation of Jesuit decoration according to the functions of Jesuit ministries offered an effective model, which has been reinvented if not repeated in a number of recent contributions.126

Although the history of Jesuit book illustration has not yielded the new synthesis of the art of the Jesuits that Fabre hoped for, studies of images for Jesuit missions have prompted efforts to account for the diversity noted by Fabre. Gauvin Bailey introduced his Art on the Jesuit Missions in Asia and Latin America 1542–1773 with a historiography of the models drawn from anthropology and postcolonial theories to classify varied exchanges between European and other artistic traditions that often marked the production of architecture and art for Jesuit missions.127 My essay “The Jesuit Strategy of Accommodation” has updated and expanded this aspect of historiography.128 In his Toward a Geography of Art, Thomas Dacosta Kaufmann chose case studies from the Jesuits’ dissemination of artistic ideas across regional and national boundaries. 129 Through them he wanted to clarify the relationships among centers and peripheries and to answer the question of “how things looked and why.”130 Kaufmann traced closely the patterns of transmission that would reveal multiple centers and direct connections across vast distances. In his historiographical analysis of the problem of style, he rejected the value of “Baroque” as a category to understand Jesuit art and recognized that the diversity of forms in Jesuit architecture and decoration resulted from a number of causes beyond the strategy of accommodation to local circumstances. Symbolic statements of Catholic faith, the work of itinerant architects, pressure from aristocratic patrons, and Jesuit recruitment patterns for overseas missions all produced distinctive configurations of visual elements in Jesuit art.

Specialized articles have posed different questions by analyzing the historiographies of major figures and events in the art of Jesuit missions. Susan Naquin, for example, ended her review essay on scholarship about the Jesuit painter Giuseppe Castiglione (1688–1766) at the court of the Qing emperors with a challenge to find the right words for talking about the “encounter between two well developed cultural traditions.”131

Anthropology, cultural history, and recent work in art history have broken the segregation of art from all the functions that it served during the early modern period. This functional approach has led as well to the inclusion of a greater variety of visual media applied to the same purposes. Historians consequently have embraced the study of performances, liturgical rites and ceremonies, scientific instruments, sacred objects, appearances of clothing, grooming of the body, and gestures in preaching as parts of Jesuit practice.132

One historian, Juan Carlos Estenssoro Fuchs, has moved the historiographical starting point in two respects. First, he has investigated the agendas for which Jesuit documents were written, thus subjecting primary sources to a skeptical challenge. This might sound obvious, but Jesuit documents often are taken at face value. Second, he has argued that the historians writing about the interaction between the Catholic Church and the indigenous people of Peru have shifted the weight of evidence and interpretation over time in accordance with the changing consensus of ideological convictions. Both of these revisions add political motivations to the historiographical tradition.133

What Fabre described in 1999 as a fragmentation of the field into a proliferation of specialized studies has only accelerated during the last eighteen years. No grand synthesis on any aspect of Jesuit art has appeared. The project I cited above, to assemble an international database of graphic collections for the history of Jesuit architecture, launched at Zaragoza in 2010, has, at best, gone dormant.134

Beyond 1773 and Other New Horizons of Jesuit Historiography

I have presented a historiography of Jesuit art that began in the sixteenth century and continues to the present. In all its variety, this historiography reflected exclusively on Jesuit art and architecture produced between the founding of the Society in 1540 and its suppression in 1773. Only in the last few years have writers started to ask what might be the questions answered by a history that would advance our knowledge of Jesuit art and architecture beyond 1773. Thomas Worcester, S.J., in his essay for the proceedings of a 2014 conference that celebrated the bicentennial of the Society’s restoration in 1814, posed the question of whether it was “A Restored Society or a New Society?.”  Worcester chose to symbolize the times before and after the 1773 suppression through a comparison between the Parisian Jesuit churches of St. Louis and St. Paul built in the Vitruvian antique style, which opened in 1642, and St. Ignace constructed 1855–58 in the neo-Gothic style. He accurately pointed out the shared characteristics that suggest a continuity of principles underlying the stylistic differences.135 It does not follow, however, that the contrast in styles was superficial. Because nothing like Moisy’s history of seventeenth-century French Jesuit architecture exists for the nineteenth century, it would be necessary to investigate from the ground up what the choice of Gothic meant for the French Jesuits during the 1850s.136 Did it carry special meaning for the Jesuits who were attacked at this time for having built, prior to 1773, in the “Jesuit style” that betrayed the national heritage of Gothic? Did their reliance on particular Gothic models convey messages? What political significance did Gothic hold for them? How did their uses of Gothic fit in with the diverse revivals of Gothic or with the Jesuits’ choice of Gothic for their new churches built in China?137 These questions assume the intrinsic value of researching in depth Jesuit art and architecture produced after 1814. It is a vast unknown area. But should it be explored just because it is there and the more “heroic” early modern field has been saturated with detailed studies?

An alternative historiographical model is offered by Raymond Jonas’s France and the Cult of the Sacred Heart in which the Jesuits fervently promoted a devotion vital to French Catholic belief and to the politics of counter-revolution.138 This cultural history restores a broader perspective in which the Jesuits’ uses of images, visions, and architecture participated in a story of grander proportions. In a similar manner, Estenssoro Fuchs, in his monumental study of the transition from paganism to sanctity among the Indians of early modern Peru, could step back enough to understand how Jesuit uses of visual communications superseded the doctrines practiced by Dominicans and depended on the interests of the Spanish state.

Research on Jesuit art and architecture has reached the stage where it needs to be reintegrated into larger contexts. The syntheses Fabre hoped for in 1999 have not yet appeared. Levy, recognizing the impasse as it applies to architecture, commented in 2014 that “what is desperately needed are scholars who are both willing to work synchronically to reconstruct the Jesuit architectural culture in distinct moments and who are able to cross as many borders as did the Jesuits.”139 The brave individuals who might try would risk stepping on the beast with a thousand toes. Assembling a team of experts might solve the problem, but I already have pointed out that the most promising collaborative enterprise launched up to now, the international project to study Jesuit architecture that met at Zaragoza, has foundered. It remains to be seen whether the conferences organized around one major theme such as Jesuit image theory will stimulate work that unites the separate contributions into coherent histories. Perhaps, given the realities of funding to pay for these projects, thematic conferences are the closest we can come to advancing knowledge of particular topics.


Just as there is no Jesuit style, so there is no separate Jesuit historiography of their art, architecture, and visual communications. From Possevino to Levy the historiography always has applied current versions of truth to the most pressing issues. The truths of sacred history confirming images in worship and prohibiting nudity, of the Enlightenment establishing natural and human causes for change, of monolithic historical styles imposing uniform characteristics, of the histories of nations finding their own legacies, of confessional polemics, of empirical positivist fact based on archives and artifacts, of postmodern investigation into the personal and political hidden truths that can be revealed, all these truths showed themselves in succession as guidelines for the history of Jesuit art.

Blind spots indicate current ignorance. Even though Levy and Estenssoro Fuchs have insisted on the political aspects of Jesuit art and historiography, this motivation has been for the most part ignored. At the same time, O’Malley has warned against the prevalence of worldly historians “trying to study religion without believing possible a self-transcending love of God, as if only the tone-deaf were competent to be musicologists.”140 Can each see the other? Along with politics, women until recently have been excluded from the history of Jesuit art, as well as from the rest of history. Sarah Moran’s forthcoming article about patronage lavished on the Jesuits by their “spiritual daughters” in the South Netherlands suggests both a redress and also a distinctively Jesuit inflection of the historiography.141 The Monita privata (secreta), the forged directive published in 1615 that purported to expose the secret but real policies of the Society that aimed at Machiavellian political control, included the instruction to cultivate rich widows for their money, which would go to building churches and colleges. 142 Did hesitation to confirm that anti-Jesuit slander have a chilling effect on research into female patronage of the order? Moran argues instead that their participation won the “spiritual daughters” recognition and enabled them through images to affirm the religious lives they chose as devout virgins outside the walls of a convent. The women, the possibility of their sincere faith, and the pastoral care of the Jesuits have been restored to history.

Forgeries like the Monita secreta play at the edges of plausibility and by their very nature locate and then manipulate the blind spots of current perception. Fakes and forgeries promoted by and against the Jesuits open the theme of an active historiography that attempts to change the understanding of the past by manufacturing new “facts” that flatter unquestioned assumptions and ride on the momentum of research driven by ideologies in favor of particular answers proven by kinds of evidence that at the time appear most compelling. Two forgeries associated with the Jesuits that surfaced during the 1990s suggest how analysis of these documents might deepen understanding of the historiography. One, the so-called Codex Escalada, combines on one deer-skin sheet a drawing, a text in Nahuatl, and the signature of the Franciscan missionary Bernardino de Sahagún (c.1499–1590) to prove the historical existence of the native convert Juan Diego and of his vision on which the cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe was based. Xavier Escalada, S.J. (d.2006), by publishing the document in 1997, seven years after the beatification and five years before the canonization of Juan Diego, firmed up the legend of the first indigenous American saint and supported the cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe that the Jesuits had championed since the seventeenth century. D. A. Brading commented sarcastically in 2001 on this “great discovery, a rare invention of modern science. Within the context of the Christian tradition, it was rather like finding a picture of St. Paul’s vision of Christ on the road to Damascus, drawn by St. Luke and signed by St. Peter.”143 The second document that I take to be a forgery packages texts, drawings, and even an Inca quipu to revise the life of the mestizo Jesuit Blas Valera (1512–97), so that instead of dying at Cádiz in 1597 as had been recorded, it was proven that he returned to Peru in disguise where he led other Jesuits to restore indigenous language and customs as compatible with Catholic doctrine.144 Whether it was modern forgers or dissident Jesuits of the seventeenth century who contrived this faked evidence, the result conformed to the late-twentieth-century respect for indigenous culture and the enterprise to restore the heritage of those people whose histories had been destroyed by colonization and conversion. Both the Codex Escalada and the Valera file lent authority to different agendas pursued at that time by some Jesuits and by parts of the Catholic Church. As the stories of these forgeries are discovered and told it will be possible to see them in two ways, either as extreme cases of the tendentious character that marks all historiography or as betrayals of the historian’s craft.


I wrote this essay during my stay as a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies, Boston College.  I am grateful to the help offered by my colleagues there:  Cristiano Casalini, Robert Maryks, Eugenio Menegon, and Claude Pavur, S.J.  The suggestions of the peer reviewer also proved very useful.


1 Claude N. Pavur, S.J., “The Historiography of Jesuit Pedagogy,” in Jesuit Historiography Online, ed. Robert A. Maryks (Leiden: Brill, 2017), doi: 10.1163/2468-7723_jho_COM_194129. Gerrit Vanden Bosch, “Jesuits in the Low Countries (1542–1773): A Historiographical Essay,” in Jesuit Historiography Online, ed. Robert A. Maryks (Leiden: Brill, 2017), doi: 10.1163/2468-7723_jho_COM_192551. In general see John W. O’Malley, S.J., “The Historiography of the Society of Jesus: Where Does It Stand Today?,” in The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts 1540–1773, ed. John W. O’Malley, S.J., Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Steven J. Harris, Thomas Frank Kennedy, S.J. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 3–37.

2 Evonne Levy, Baroque and the Political Language of Formalism (1845–1945): Burckhardt, Wölfflin, Gurlitt, Brinckmann, Sedlmayr (Basel, CH: Schwabe Basel, 2015), 36–59, accessed September 3, 2016, ProQuest ebrary.

3 Sibylle Appuhn-Radtke, “Ordensapologetik als Movens positivistischer Erkenntnis: Joseph Braun S.J. und die Barockforschung,” Archivum historicum Societatis Iesu 79, no. 158 (July–December 2010): 299–320. See below, n88 for Braun’s publications.

4 John W. O’Malley, S.J., Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Steven J. Harris, Thomas Frank Kennedy, S.J., eds., The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts 1540–1773 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999); Pierre-Antoine Fabre, “Dossiers bibliographiques: Histoire des arts visuels,” Revue de synthèse 120, no. 2–3 (1999); 462–68; doi: 10.1007/BF03182221.

5 John W. O’Malley, S.J., “Saint Ignatius and the Cultural Mission of the Society of Jesus,” in The Jesuits and the Arts 1540–1773, ed. John W. O’Malley, S.J. and Gauvin Alexander Bailey (Philadelphia: Saint Joseph’s University Press, 2005), 1–26.

6 Wietse de Boer, “The Early Jesuits and the Catholic Debate about Sacred Images,” in Jesuit Image Theory, ed. Wietse de Boer, Karl A. E. Enenkel, and Walter S. Melion (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 53–73; Lydia Salviucci Insolera, “Lainez e l’arte: All’origine della concezione dell’arte nella Compagnia di Gesù” and “Appendice: Edizione critica di De usu imaginum; Ad Reginam Galliae responsio ad obiecta Beza haeretici (ARSI, Opp. NN. 209, fol. 365–366v),” in Diego Laínez (1512–1565) and his Generalate: Jesuit with Jewish Roots, Close Confidant of Ignatius of Loyola, Preeminent Theologian of the Council of Trent, ed. Paul Oberholzer, S.J. (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2015), 565–92.

7 See Simon Ditchfield, “What Was Sacred History? (Mostly Roman) Catholic Uses of the Christian Past after ‘Trent,’” in Sacred History: Uses of the Christian Past in the Renaissance World, ed. Katharine van Liere, Simon Ditchfield, and Howard Louthan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 72–97. Thanks to Pamela Jones for this reference.

8 Antonio Possevino, S.J., Bibliothecae selectae pars secunda: Qua agitur de ratione studiorum in facultatibus, quae in pagina sequenti indicantur (Rome: Ex Typographia Apostolica Vaticana, 1593), The best account is by Cristiano Casalini and Luana Salvarani, “Introduzione” in Coltura degl’ingegni, by Antonio Possevino S.J., 13–86, ed. Cristiano Casalini and Luana Salvarani (Rome: Anicia, 2008). Thanks to Cristiano Casalini for bringing it to my attention. For literature on Possevino, see Emanuele Colombo, “The Watershed of Conversion: Antonio Possevino, New Christians, and Jews,” in “The Tragic Couple”: Encounters Between Jews and Jesuits, ed. James Bernauer and Robert A. Maryks (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 25–42.

9 Frederick A. Homann, S.J., “Christopher Clavius and the Renaissance of Euclidean Geometry,” Archivum historicum Societatis Iesu 52 (1983): 233–46.

10 Hui-Hung Chen, “Chinese Perception of European Perspective: A Jesuit Case in the Seventeenth Century,” Seventeenth Century 24, no. 1 (2009): 97–128; Marco Musillo, The Shining Inheritance: Italian Painters at the Qing Court, 1699–1812 (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2016), 11–16.

11 Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Between Renaissance and Baroque: Jesuit Art in Rome, 1565–1610 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), 11. John Donnelly, “Antonio Possevino, S.J., as a Counter-Reformation Critic of the Arts,” Journal of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association 3 (1982): 153–64, gives a descriptive account.

12 Evonne Levy, Propaganda and the Jesuit Baroque (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 197, recognizes Possevino’s chapters on architecture as “a precious document.”

13 Possevino, Bibliothecae selectae, 208: “Iosephus Valerianus, Michaeilis Angeli Bonarote à puero emulator, multis certe abhinc annis & Pictor, & Architectus, idemq. iam Sacerdos societatis nostre.” On Valeriano, see Pietro Pirri, Giuseppe Valeriano S.I.: Architetto e pittore, 1542–1596, Bibliotheca Instituti Historici Societatis Iesu (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 1970). Michael Kiene, “Bartolomeo Ammannati et l’architecture des jésuites au XVIe siècle,” in Les jésuites à l’âge baroque, ed. Luce Giard and Louis de Vaucelles, S.J. (Paris: Jérome Millon, 1996), 185–87, considers the significance of the collaboration between Ammannati, Valeriano, and Possevino, and in particular argues that Possevino incorporated parts of unpublished treatises on architecture by Valeriano and Ammannati. Pirri, Giuseppe Valeriano, already had made this point and reprinted a transcription from Possevino on architecture under the name of Valeriano.

14 Casalini and Salvarani, “Introduzione,” in Coltura degl’ingegni, by Possevino, 29–30n23.

15 Bailey, Renaissance and Baroque, 32–33; Benedetto Vetere and Alessandro Ippoliti, Il Collegio Romano: Storia della costruzione (Rome: Gangemi), 2003.

16 Kiene, “Bartolomeo Ammannati,” 188–94; Merlijn Hurx, “Bartolomeo Ammannati and the College of San Giovannino in Florence: Adapting Architecture to Jesuit Needs,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 68, no. 3 (2009): 338–57, doi: 10.1525/jsah.2009.68.3.338.  

17 Possevino, Bibliothecae selectae, 209, after enumerating the principles of architecture, notes: “horum omnium quasi fons, atque directrix est graphis, ex qua Pictura, glyphice, Sculptura, ceterequ. artes, quas vocant Mechanicas, rectius dixissent Banausicas [Latinization of Greek for artisans] fluxere.”

18 Possevino does not cite editions. He could have consulted the following: Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, De architectura libri decem, cum commentariis Danielis Barbari, electi Patriarchae Aquileiensis: Multis aedificiorum, horologiorum, et machinarum descriptionibus, & figuris, cum indicibus copiosis, auctis & illustratis (Venice: Apud Franciscum Franciscium Senensem, & Ioan. Crugher Germanus, 1567),; Leon Battista Alberti, De re aedificatoria libri decem Leonis Baptistae Alberti Florentini viri clarissimi, & architecti nobilissimi… (Strassbourg: Jacobus Cammer, 1541),; Andrea Palladio, I quattro libri dell’architettura (Venice: Domenico de’ Franceschi, 1570),

19 Possevino, Bibliothecae selectae, 207–12.

20 Possevino, Bibliothecae selectae, 211; Andrea Palladio, I quattro libri, lib. 4, cap. 1.; on Jesuit sitting of churches, see Thomas M. Lucas, S.J., Landmarking: City, Church & Jesuit Urban Strategy (Chicago: Jesuit Way, 1997). Alessandro Gambuti, “Il gesuita Antonio Possevino: O del come ‘costrurire e fondare’ vantaggiosamente edifici per ‘uomini di religione,’” in Altari controriformati in Toscana: Architettura e arredi, ed. Carlo Cresti (Florence: Angelo Pontecorboli Editore, 1997), 138, on Possevino’s use of Palladio’s text.

21 Jerónimo de Prado and Juan Bautista Villalpando, In Ezechielem explanationes et apparatus, urbis ac templi Hierosoloymitani: Commentariis et imaginibus illustratus, 3 vols. (Rome: Ex typographia Aloysii Zannetii, 1596–1604); on the history of the book’s preparation and Valeriano’s connection with it, see René Taylor, “Hermetism and Mystical Architecture in the Society of Jesus,” in Baroque Art: The Jesuit Contribution, ed. Rudolf Wittkower and Irma B. Jaffé (New York: Fordham University Press, 1972), 63–98. Antonio Secondo Tessari, “Tempio di Salomone e tipologia della chiesa nelle Disputationes de controversiis christianae fidei di San Roberto Bellarmino S.J.,” in L’architettura della Compagnia di Gesù in Italia XVI–XVIII secolo: Atti del convegno; Milano, Centro Culturale S. Fedele, 24–27 ottobre 1990, ed. Luciano Patetta and Stefano della Torre (Genoa: Marietti, 1992), 31–34, notes Possevino’s engagement with the controversy over the Temple of Solomon.

22 Athanasius Kircher, Arca Noë: In tres libros digesta (Amsterdam: Apud Joannem Janssonium à Waesberge, 1675),

23 Taylor, “Mystical Architecture,” 69–70.

24 For example Kiene, “Bartolomeo Ammannati,” 187, draws this conclusion.

25 Possevino, Bibliothecae selectae, 208: “Architecti (aiebat hic [Valeriano]) qui veram Architecturam callent, non omnino è Vitruvio, sed ex ratione, ex attenta observatione, optimq. veterum modo pendent.” In the margin: “Modus hic Italice ab architectis dicitur Maniera.”

26 Possevino, Bibliothecae selectae, 315. The first part of Armenini’s book addresses “finem de modo, quem Itali vocant Maniera.” See Giovanni Battista Armenini, De’ veri precetti della pittura (Ravenna: Appresso Francesco Tebaldini, 1587), 61: “la prima generalissima, & universal regola, sarà di sempre ritrar le cose, che sono più belle, più dotte, & più alle buone opere de gli antichi scultorI prossimane.”

27 Possevino, Bibliothecae selectae, 319.

28 Gabriele Paleotti, Discorso intorno alle imagini sacre et profane diviso in cinque libri (Bologna: Alessandro Benacci, 1582).

29 Possevino, Bibliothecae selectae, 315: “Cap. XXIIII. Ioannem Andream Lilium, & Bartholomaeum Ammanatum Architectum, & Sculptorem Florentinualia de recte pingendis imaginibus praecepta tradidisse.” Giovanni Andrea Gilio, Due dialogi di M. Giovanni Andrea Gilio da Fabriano: Nel primo de’ quali si ragiona delle parti morali, e civili appartenenti a’ letterati cortigiani, & ad ogni gentil’huomo, e l’utile che i principi cavano da letterati (Camerino: Antonio Gioioso 1564),; modern edition in Paola Barocchi, ed., Trattati d’arte del Cinquecento (Bari: Giuseppe Laterza & Figli, 1961), 2:1–115. Bartolomeo Ammannati, “Lettera agli accademici del disegno,” in Trattati d’arte del Cinquecento, ed. Paola Barocchi (Bari: Giuseppe Laterza & Figli, 1962), 3:115–24.

30 Possevino, Bibliothecae selectae, 317; Gilio, “Due dialogi,” in Trattati d’arte, ed. Barocchi, 2:40, on Sebastiano’s Flagellation.

31 Possevino, Bibliothecae selectae, 317: “At ego summam esse artem constantissimiè assero [afferro?], quae rem ipsam imitetur, martyria in martyribus, fletum in flentibus, dolorem in patientibus, gloriam, & laetitiam in resurgentibus exprimat, & in animis figat, haec nimirium substantia artis est: haec, quae arti formam indit...” again based on Gilio, “Due dialogi,” in Trattati d’arte, ed., Barocchi, 2:41–42.

32 Bailey, Renaissance and Baroque, 133–52.

33 Possevino, Bibliothecae selectae, 318; Vincenzo Bruni, S.J., Meditazioni sopra i principali misteri della vita di Cristo (Venice: Giolito, 1586); François Costerus, S.J., Vyftich meditatien van de gantsche historie der passie en des lijdens ons Heeren Jesu Christi (Antwerp: Plantin, 1587).

34 Bailey, Renaissance and Baroque.

35 See above, notes 13 and 29.

36 Possevino, Bibliothecae selectae, 319.

37 Ralph Dekoninck, Ad imaginem: Statuts, fonctions et usages de l’image dans la littérature spirituelle jésuit du XVIIe siècle (Geneva: Droz, 2005), 10.

38 Paolo Prodi, introduction to Discourse on Sacred and Profane Images by Gabriele Paleotti, trans. William McCuaig (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2012), 15–16.

39 Gabriele Paleotti, Discourse on Sacred and Profane Images, trans. William McCuaig (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2012), 256.

40 Prodi, Introduction, to Discourse, by Paleotti, 15. On the collaboration between Paleotti and Palmio, see Paul F. Grendler, The Jesuits and the Italian Universities 1548–1773 (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2017), 283–85.

41 Antonio Possevino, S.J., “Scriptores emblematum, numismatum, signorum, militarium, sive aliorum, quae, vel nudis symbolis, vel brevibus sententiis adiectis proposita spectant quadantenus ad picturam,” chap. XXXVIII in Bibliothecae selectae de ratione studiorum: In facultatibus, quae in pagina sequenti indicantur; Tomus secundus (Venice: Apud Altobellum Salicatium, 1603), 549–53, Possevino intended to add the chapter on emblems and symbols to the separate publication he made of Book XVII on painting and poetry: Tractatio de poesi & pictura ethnica, humana, & fabulosa collata cum vera, honesta, & sacra (Lyon: Apud Ioannem Pillehotte ad Insigne Nominis Iesu, 1594), 309, But the publisher states that he had not received it because Possevino was so burdened with the duties of papal legations.

42 Ralph Dekoninck, “Jesuit Emblematics between Theory and Practice,” in Jesuit Historiography Online, ed. Robert Aleksander Maryks (Leiden: Brill, 2017), doi: 10.1163/2468-7723_jho_COM_192540.  

43 Robert Bellarmine, De controversiis christianae fidei adversus huius temporis haereticos, tribus tomis comprehensae, vol. I, Septima controversia generalis: De ecclesia triumphante; Tribus libris explicata (Ingolstadt: Ex typographia Davidis Sartorii [David Sartorius], 1587), 158–59,, citing the authority of church fathers: “Dicunt inter imaginem & idolum hoc interesse, quòd imago est vera rei similitudo; ut cùm pingimus hominem, equum, &c. Imago enim ab imitando dicta est. Idolum autem est falsa similitudo, id est, repraesentat id, quo revera non est. ut cùm Gentiles proponebant statuas Veneris, aut Minervae. illa signa, idola erant, quia repraesentabant Deos generis foeminini, quales Dii nec sunt, nec esse possunt.” See Valeria de Laurentiis, “Immagini ed arte in Bellarmino,” in Bellarmino e la Controriforma: Atti del simposio internazionale di studi; Sora 15–18 ottobre 1986, ed. Romeo de Maio et al. (Sora: Centro di Studi Sorani “Vincenzo Patriarca,” 1990), 584–87, on Bellarmine’s arguments for basing images on the truth of evidence.

44 Bellarmine, De controversiis, 173, citing Pliny, Natural History, 35:10.

45 José de Acosta, De procuranda Indorum salute, ed. Luciano Pereña, 2 vols. (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1984–87); José de Acosta, Natural and Moral History of the Indies, ed. Jane E. Mangan, introduction and commentary by Walter D. Mignolo, trans. Frances M. López-Morillas (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002).

46 Acosta, Moral History, 250.

47 Ibid., 276.

48 Acosta, De procuranda, 1:268–70.

49 Ibid., 1:274.

50 Giovanni Domenico Ottonelli, S.J., and Pietro da Cortona, Trattato della pittura e scultura: Uso, et abuso loro: Composto da un theologo, e da un pittore; Per offerirlo a’ Signori Accademici del Disegno di Fiorenza, e d’altre città christiane (Florence: Antonio Bonardi, 1652),, cites Possevino, Bibliothecae selectae 81, censoring the production and keeping images of false gods; 144, on following God’s example to clothe the naked; 149, impure images are harmful to the Republic and to the painter’s soul; 150–51, Ammannati as example of penitence and then contrition through the money and expertise he gave to building the jesuit church of S. Giovannino in Florence; 163, on how the painter should attain through prayer and meditation a sense of the pain suffered by Christ during his passion and by saints in their martyrdoms. Barocchi, ed., Trattati d’arte, 3:468, pagina 129n1, noted how Ottonelli and Da Cortona affirmed Possevino’s use of Ammannati as an exemplary figure.

51 Maria H. Loh, “‘La custodia degli occhi:’ Disciplining Desire in Post-Tridentine Italian Art,” in The Sensuous in the Counter-Reformation Church, ed. Marcia B. Hall and Tracy E. Cooper (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 97, makes the connection between Ottonelli and Da Cortona and Rosignoli, but does not include Possevino. See Carlo Gregorio Rosignoli, La pittura in giudizio overo il bene delle oneste pitture, e ’l male delle oscene (Milan: Giuseppe Malatesta), 1697.

52 Loh, “Disciplining Desire,” presents this as a blind spot in current work.

53 See Joseph Connors, “Chi era Ottonelli?,” in Pietro da Cortona: Atti del convegno internazionale; Roma–Firenze 12–15 novembre 1997, ed. Christoph Luitpold Frommel and Sebastian Schütze (Milan: Electa, 1998), 29–35.

54 Vittorio Casale, “Trattato della pittura e scoltura ‘opera stampata ad instanza del S.r Pietro da Cortona,’” Paragone 23, no. 313 (1976): 67–99, for transcriptions of the exchanges between Ottonelli and his censors.

55 Donatella Livia Sparti, La casa di Pietro da Cortona: Architettura, accademia, atelier e officina (Rome: Fratelli Palombi, 1997), 92–97.

56 Marco Collareta, “L’Ottonelli-Berrettini e la critica moralistica,” in Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa: Classe di lettere e filosofia, ser. III, 5, no. 1 (1975): 177–96, Ottonelli and Da Cortona, Trattato della pittura, 114, “Capo Terzo del pittore, e dello scultore. Quesito primo. Se sia probabile, che il Pittor non pecchi dipingendo l’immagini dishoneste”; 134–36, cites for example Fr. Juan Azor to prove that it is a mortal sin to paint the image of a beloved woman unchastely, but that it is not a mortal sin if a painter paints a beloved woman not naked, but dressed, and that here the painter must examine his conscience according to probable choices, for instance, giving the youth who has commissioned the portrait of his beloved the benefit of the doubt that his intentions are honorable. For the probabilistic method of Jesuit confessors’ manuals as distinctive products of Jesuit education from the late sixteenth century, see Robert A. Maryks, Saint Cicero and the Jesuits: The Influence of the Liberal Arts on the Adoption of Moral Probabilism (Farnham: Ashgate, 2008), 33, on Juan Azor in particular.

57 Sparti, La casa di Pietro, 94, quotes and comments on this exchange in which Ottonelli responds to the objection of his censors that “l’Autore lo fa [writes on painting] per haver saputo molte cose, oltre le lette, dal S.r Pietro da Cortona famoso Pittore, e suo Penitente, et ad instanza di cui si stamperà il libro, se sarà approvato.”

58 Ottonelli and Cortona, Trattato della pittura, 172–73: “Degli avvertimenti, e modi, co’ quali può il Pittore far opere di probabile, e forse universale sodisfattione.” “Quindi vien di necessità il considerar molto di proposito gli avvertimenti dati, ò in voce, ò in iscritto da’Valent’huomini: molti de’quali furono già spiegati in Roma dal dotto, eloquente & erudito Sig. Niccolò Musso con molte lettioni Accademiche, le quali cominciò à far circa l’anno 1634. e durò molto tempo, facendone quattro, ò cinque nello spatio di ciascun’anno.” Casale 1997, 109–10.

59 Pompilio Totti, Ristretto delle grandezze di Roma (Rome: Vital Mascardi, 1637), 111–12, “E poco avãti verso il palazzo del Principe Borghese, habita il Signor Nicolò Musso predicatore celbre; hà raccolto una quantità di quadri di pittori famosi, cioè di Raffaele, Corregio, Parmigianino, Titiano & altri.”

60 Melchior Missirini, Memorie per servire alla storia della Romana Accademia di S. Luca fino alla morte di Antonio Canova (Rome: Nella Stamperia De Romanis, 1823), 101–13.

61 John Beldon Scott, Images of Nepotism: The Painted Ceilings of Palazzo Barberini (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 127.

62 Imago primi saeculi Societatis Iesu a Provincia Flandro-Belgica eiusdem Societatis repraesentata (Antwerp: Ex officina Plantiniana Balthasaris Moreti, 1640) 557–58.

63 Peter Paul Rubens, Palazzi antichi di Genova: Palazzi moderni di Genova (Antwerp: Jan van Meurs, 1663; repr. ed., intro. Alan A. Tait, New York and London; Benjamin Blom, 1968), “‘Al benigno lettore’: Vediamo che in queste parti, si và poco à poco inuecchiando & abolendo la maniera d’Architettura, che si chiama Barbara, ò Gothica; & che alcuni bellißimi ingegni introducono la vera simmetria di quella, conforme le regole de gli antichi, Graeci e Romani, con grandißimo splendore & ornamento della Patria; come appare nelli Tempij famosi fatti di fresco dalla venerabil Società di Iesv, nelle città Brusselles & Anuersa. Li quali se per la dignità del Ufficio divino meritamente doveano essere i primi à cangiarse in meglio; non però perciò si devono negligere li edificij privati, poi che nella quantità loro subsiste il corpo di tutta la città.” Figures 64–67, depict the plan, facade, cross section of the high altar, and cross section of the north side of the Jesuit church in Genoa. See Joris Snaet, “Case Study: Rubens’s Palazzi di Genova and the Jesuit Churches of Antwerp and Brussels,” in The Reception of P. P. Rubens’s Palazzi di Genova during the 17th Century in Europe: Questions and Problems, ed. Piet Lombaerde (Turnhout: Brepols, 2002), 161–82.

64 Elisabetta Corsi, “La fortuna del Trattato oltre i confini dell’Europa” and “Perspectiva pictorum et architectorum: La diffusione,” in Mirabili disinganni: Andrea Pozzo (Trento 1642—Vienna 1709); Pittore e architetto gesuita, ed. Richard Bösel and Lydia Salviucci Insolera (Rome: Artemide, 2010), 93–102 and 177–88. For the broader context see Levy, Propaganda, 204–32.

65 See Mark A. Waddell, Jesuit Science and the End of Nature’s Secrets (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015), 153–54.

66 Victor Advielle, “Voyage en Hollande fait en 1719 par Pierre Sartre, prêtre du diocèse de Montpellier, envoyé en mission vers le Père Quesnel,” Bulletin de la Société de géographie de Lille 25 (1896): 371, publishes the distaste of the Jansenist priest Sartre on his visit to the cathedral of Antwerp.

67 Friedrich Nicolai, Beschreibung einer Reise durch Deutschland und die Schweiz, im Jahre 1781 (Berlin, 1783), 2:646–47, “Die 1682 gebaute Kirche wird in manchen Büchern für etwas sonderlich schönes ausgegeben; ich muß aber gestehen, daß ich sie inwendig nicht ohne Widerwillen habe betrachten können. Sie ist mit vielem Prunke, aber ohne Geschmack angelegt und verziert, alles ist bunt und grell. Sie ruhet auf gewundenen Säulen, welche unerträglich aussehen; und die so gerühmte perspektivische Deckenmalerey des Fr. Andr. Pozzo kann aus einem einzigen Gesichtspunkte betrachtet, wegen der Kunst, Verwunderung erwecken, da man aber in mehrern Orten in der Kirche herumgehen muß, so fallen die Objekte allenthalben auseinander, und helfen den widrigen Eindruck vermehren. Eine solche Art der Malery kommt mir beynahe vor, wie der Jesuitenorden selbst. Stehet man in dem einzigen angewiesenen Gesichtspunkte der strikten Obedienz, so kann die Verfassung dieses Ordens als ein herrliches und zusammenhängendes Gebäude erscheinen. Rückt man aber einen Fuß aus dem Punkte des blinden Gehorsams; so siehet man, und siehet es klarer je weiter man von diesem Punkte gehet, daß alles nur Verblendung ist, und die Verfassung dieses Ordens mit allen den verschiedenen Verbindungen, in welche Gott den Menschen gesetzt hat, unzusammenhängend und so dem wahren Wohl der Menschheit hinderlich ist.” On Nicolai, see Pamela E. Selwyn, Everyday Life in the German Book Trade: Friedrich Nicolai as Bookseller and Publisher in the Age of Enlightenment (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000). 

68 Fabrizio Capanni, “Lanzi, Luigi Antonio,” in Dizionario biografico degli italiani, vol. 63 (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 2004), accessed August 16, 2017,

69 Johann Joachim Winckelmann, History of the Art of Antiquity, introd. Alex Potts, trans. Harry Francis Mallgrave (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2006), 111. Chiara Gauna, “La storia pittorica” di Luigi Lanzi: Arti, storia e musei nel Settecento, Fondo di studi Parini—Chirio—Università degli Studi di Torino, Arti, vol. 1 (Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2003), 127–28, on Lanzi’s adaptation of Winckelmann. Winckelmann spent his years in Rome connected to the papal court: see Potts, Introduction, in Winckelmann, History of Arts, 8–9.

70 See Gauna, Arti, storia e musei, 95–120, on Tiraboschi’s connections with Lanzi.

71 See Franco Venturi, Settecento riformatore: L’Italia dei lumi (1764–1790), vol. 1, La rivoluzione di Corsica: Le grandi carestie degli anni sessanta; La Lombardia delle riforme (Turin: Giulio Einaudi, 1987), 589–91.

72 Luigi Lanzi, Storia pittorica della Italia, vol. 1, Ove si descrivono le scuole della Italia inferiore, la Fiorentina, la Senese, la Romana, la Napolitana (Bassano: A Spese Remondini di Venezia, 1795–96),, 524–27, analysis of the “Epoca Quinta I Cortoneschi male imitando Pietro prediudicano alla pittura,” 549–50, on Gaulli. See Winckelmann, History of Art, 240, who blamed Bernini for single-handedly introducing into art the corruption “that continues to this day.”

73 Lanzi, Storia pittorica, 572: “In quest’epoca di decadenza una parte della pittura si avanzò molto, e fu la prospettiva; merito del padre Andrea Pozzo gesuita.”

74 See Potts, Introduction, in History of Art, by Winckelmann, 21–28.

75 Michel de Certeau, S.J., The Writing of History, trans. Tom Conley (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 173–76.

76 See John W. Padberg, S.J., “The General Congregations of the Society of Jesus: A Brief Survey of Their History,” Studies in the Spirituality of the Jesuits 6, no. 1–2 (1974): 31–33,, for decrees of General Congregation XVI, 1730–1731 and General Congregation XVII, 1755–1756, which insisted on adherence to Aristotle in questions of physics and natural science.

77 Chiara Gauma, La Storia pittorica di Luigi Lanzi: Arti, storia e musei nel Settecento (Florence:  Leo S. Olschki, 2003), 17.

78 Luigi Lanzi, De’ vasi antichi dipinti volgarmente chiamati etruschi: Dissertazioni tre (Florence: Fantosini, 1806), “XIII. Altro indizio a favor de’ Greci: Le favole loro rappresentate in queste stoviglie. Quanto tal prova sia concludente, lo dichiara questo paragone. Chi dubitasse onde abbia avuta origine la pittura nella China, basterebbegli riguardar le più antiche opere che ivi ne restano; e trovando che tutto spira idolatrìa; concluderebbe, che quell’arte si dee credere nata ivi da Gentili. Chi facesse la stessa osservazione su le pitture del Paraguai, e le più antiche trovasse essere immagini sacre, quali la cattolica religione suol proporre al culto de’ suoi credenti; non errerebbe giudicando, che quelle immagini o gli originali loro avesser nascita fra’ cattolici.” On this paragone, see Gauma, Storia pittorica, 129–31.

79 Athanasius Kircher, China monumentis qua sacris quà profanis: Nec on variis naturae & artis spectaculis aliarumque rerum memorabilium argumentis illustrata (Amsterdam: Johannes Janssonius van Waesberge and Elizaeus Weyerstraten, 1667). For editions and online links, see

80 Kircher, China monumentis, 129, Preface to Part Three, after observing the prevalence of idolatry throughout the world: “Desinamus itaque mirari: eadem causa manente, ut Physico more loquar, eundem effectum prodire necesse est. Inveteratus malorum iisdem semper Orbem premit machinationibus (Let us cease to marvel at it: the cause persisting, to speak in terms of Physics, the effect must necessarily issue forth. Inveterate of evils always oppresses the world with these same machinations).” See Waddell, Jesuit Science, 166, concerning Kircher’s insistence on physical causes, which could include demons as well.

81 David E. Mungello, Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodation and the Origins of Sinology, Studia Leibnitiana Supplementa, vol. 25 (Stuttgart: Steiner-Verlag-Wiesbaden-Gmbh, 1985), 137–38.

82 I retain the spelling and capitalization of the translation published in Jean-Denis Attiret, A Particular Account of the Emperor of China’s Gardens near Pekin: In a Letter from F. Attiret, a French Missionary, Now Employ’d by that Emperor to Paint the Apartments in those Gardens, to his Friend at Paris, trans. Harry Beaumont [Joseph Spence] (London: R. Dodsley, 1752 ), 23,; French text in Isabelle and Jean-Louis Vissière, ed., Lettres édifiantes et curieuses des jésuites de Chine 1702–1776 (Paris: Éditions Desjonquères, 2001), 235: “dans les appartements […] on voit tout ce qui se peut imaginer de plus beau en fait de meubles, d’ornements, de peintures (j’entends dans le goût chinois), de bois précieux, de vernis du Japon et de la Chine, de vases antiques de porcelaine, de soieries, d'étoffes d’or et d’argent. On a réuni là tout ce que l’art et le bon goût peuvent ajouter aux richesses de la nature.”

83 Attiret, China’s Gardens, 36–37; French text in Vissière, ed., Lettres édifiantes, 239: “la manière de bâtir de ce pays-ci me plaît beaucoup: mes yeux et mon goût, depuis que je suis à la Chine, sont devenus un peu chinois. Entre nous, l’hôtel de madame la duchesse, vis-à-vis les Tuileries, ne vous paraît-il très beau? Il est pourtant presque à la chinoise, et ce n’est qu’un rez-de-chaussée. Chaque pays a son goût et ses usages.”

84 Attiret, China’s Gardens, 34–35; French text in Vissière, ed., Lettres édifiantes, 238: “Aussi leurs yeux, accoutumés à leur architecture, ne goûtent pas beaucoup notre manière de bâtir.”

85 See Roger de Piles, Abrégé de la vie des peintres: Avec des réflexions sur leurs ouvrages; Et un traité du peintre parfait, de la connoissance des desseins, & de l’utilité des estampes (Paris: François Muguets, 1699), 525–32, for his chapter “Du Goût, et de sa diversité, par rapport aux différents nations,”

86 See Léo Keller, “‘Un pinceau utile pour le bien de la religion’: Jean Denis Attiret (1702–1768), dit Wang Zhicheng, peintre jésuite à la cour de Chine,” in La chair et la verbe: Les jésuites de France au XVIIIe siècle et l’image, ed. Édith Flamarion (Paris: Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2008), 47–74.

87 Vissière, ed., Lettres édifiantes, 244: “tout cela me ferait bien vite reprendre le chemin de l’Europe, si je ne croyais mon pinceau utile pour le bien de la religion, et pour rendre l’empereur favorable aux missionnaires qui la prêchent, et si je ne voyais le paradis au bout de mes peines et de mes travaux. C’est là l’unique attrait qui me retient ici, aussi bien que tous les autres Européens qui sont au service de l’empereur.” At this juncture the English translator notes: “Here follow 14 or 15 pages in the original which treat only of the author’s private affairs, or of the affairs of the mission, without any thing relating to the emperor’s gardens; and are therefore omitted...”: Attiret, China’s Gardens, 49. On the literary conventions of Jesuit letters, see Ines G. Županov, Disputed Mission: Jesuit Experiments and Brahmanical Knowledge in Seventeenth-Century India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 32–35.                                

88 Levy, Baroque and Political Language, 34–94 on Burckhardt; 189, 210–15 on Gurlitt. Also see Levy, Propaganda, 15–41.

89 Joseph Braun, Die belgischen Jesuitenkirchen: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Kampfes zwischen Gotik und Renaissance (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herdersche Verlagshandlung, 1907),; Joseph Braun, Die Kirchenbauten der deutschen Jesuiten: Ein Beitrag zur Kultur- und Kunstgeschichte des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts, vol. 1, Die Kirchen der ungeteilten rheinischen und der niederrheinischen Ordensprovinz (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herdersche Verlagshandlung, 1908), 260: “Das Wort Jesuitenstil ist eine Name ohne Inhalt, ein Wort ohne Sinn. Möge es bald aus den Kunstgeschichten und Enzyklopädien verschwinden. Es ist ohne alle Existenzberechtigung (The word Jesuit style is a name without content, a word without meaning. May it soon disappear from histories of art and encyclopedias. There is no justification for its existence),”; Joseph Braun, Die Kirchenbauten der deutschen Jesuiten: Ein Beitrag zur Kultur– und Kusntgeschichte des 16. 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts, vol. 2, Die Kirchen der oberdeutschen und oberrheinischen Ordensprovinz (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herdersche Verlagshandlung, 1910),; Joseph Braun, Spaniens alte Jesuitenkirchen: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der nachmittelalterlichen kirchlichen Architektur in Spanien (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herdersche Verlagshandlung, 1913),

90 Appuhn-Radtke, “Ordensapologetik als Movens.”

91 Ibid., 308–10.

92 Braun, Belgischen Jesuitenkirchen, 1–3, citing Cornelius Gurlitt, Geschichte des Barockstiles, des Rococo und des Klassizismus, vol 2, Geschichte des Barockstiles, des Rococo und des Klassizismus in Belgien, Holland, Frankreich, England (Stuttgart: Verlag von Ebner and Seubert [Paul Neff], 1888), 14, doi:10.11588/diglit.28839].

93 O’Malley, “Historiography of the Society of Jesus,” 15–18; Robert Danieluk, S.J., “Some Remarks on Jesuit Historiography 1773–1814,” in Jesuit Survival and Restoration: A Global History, 1773–1900, ed. Robert A. Maryks and Jonathan Wright (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 36–37.

94 Chris Lorenz, De constructie van het verleden: Een inleiding in de theorie van de geschiedenis, 5th ed. (Amsterdam: Boom, 1998), 29–32; Appuhn-Radtke, “Ordensapologetik als Movens,” 316–17.

95 Braun, Rheinischen und der niederrheinischen Ordensprovinz, vii.

96 Ibid. For the collection see Jean Vallery-Radot and Edmond Lamalle, Le recueil de plans d’édifices de la Compagnie de Jésus conservé à la Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris: Suivi de l’inventaire du recueil de Quimper (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale, 1960).

97 Braun, Rheinischen und der niederrheinischen Ordensprovinz, 268–69.

98 Levy, Baroque and Political Language, 229, and the whole chapter on Gurlitt’s Protestant and German nationalist account of early modern architecture.

99 Rudolf Wittkower, “Problems of the Theme,” in Baroque Art: The Jesuit Contribution, ed. Rudolf Wittkower and Irma B. Jaffé (New York: Fordham University Press, 1972) 12–13.

100 Carlo Galassi Paluzzi, Storia segreta dello stile dei gesuiti (Rome: Francesco Mondini Editore, 1951); D. C. Barrett, S.J., “A ‘Jesuit Style’ in Art?,” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 45, no. 179 (Autumn 1956): 335–34,; François de Dainville, S.J., “La légende du style jésuite,” Études: Revue fondée en 1856 par des Pères de la Compagnie de Jésus 287 (Octobre–Novembre–Décembre 1955), 5–16,; Yvan Christ, “Le ‘style jésuite’ n’existe pas,” Jardin des arts 86 (1962), 44–49; Gauvin Alexander Bailey, “‘Le style jésuite n’existe pas’: Jesuit Corporate Culture and the Visual Arts,” in The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts 1540–1773, ed. John W. O’Malley, S.J., Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Steven J. Harris, Thomas Frank Kennedy, S.J. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 38–89.

101 Donatello Aramini, “‘Caesar’s Rome’ and ‘Christian Rome’: The Institute of Roman Studies between the Fascist Regime and the Vatican,” in Catholicism and Fascism in Europe 1918–1945, ed. Jan Nelis, Anne Morelli, and Danny Praet (Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 2015), 255–76; David L. Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe (New York: Random House, 2014), 88–94.

102 Émile Mâle, L’Art religieux de la fin du XVIe siècle, du XVIIe siècle et du XVIIIe siècle: Étude sur l’iconographie après le Concile de Trente; Italie–France–Espagne–Flandres, 2nd rev. ed. (Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1951), 430–31.

103 Mâle, L’Art religieux, 431–32.

104 Maria Isabel Álvaro Zamora, Javier Ibáñez Fernández, and Jesús Mainar, eds., La arquitectura jesuítica: Actas del simposio internacional; Zaragoza, 9, 10 y 11 de diciembre de 2010 (Zaragoza: Institución “Fernando el Católico,” 2012).

105 Richard Bösel, “La ratio aedificiorum di un’istituzione globale tra autorità centrale e infinità del territorio,” in La arquitectura jesuítica, ed. Zamora, Fernández, Mainar, 39–69.

106 Joris Snaet and Krista De Jonge, “The Architecture of the Jesuits in the Southern Low Countries: A State of the Question,” in La arquitectura jesuítica, ed. Zamora, Fernández, Mainar, 242n5, 254–62, 270.

107 Levy, Propaganda, 77–108.

108 Ibid., 110–17.

109 Fabre, “Dossiers bibliographiques,” 462–63 : “On pourrait, abruptement, résumer la situation ainsi: l’art jésuite” n’existe plus (même sous la forme du débat, souvent rhétorique, qui occupa les historiens de l’art jusqu’aux années 1960 – dans l’héritage de Carlo Galassi-Paluzzi – sur l’existence réelle d’un tel art); l’art des jésuites n’existe pas encore, conçu non pas comme un répertoire et un lignage de formes et de figures, mais comme l’ensemble des manifestations visuelles dont la Compagnie de Jésus, fortement investie, à l’échelle mondiale, sur le terrain des représentations culturelles, a environné ses activités, proprement apostoliques ou pédagogiques, civiques, etc. L’art des jésuites n’existe pas encore, mais il n’est pas certain non plus qu’il n’ait pas vocation à l’éclatement, tout au moins du point de vue de l’histoire des formes, plus largement, des choix thématiques et des sources culturelles.” Thanks to Philip Benedict for help with the translation.

110 Fabre, “Dossiers bibliographiques,” 463.

111 Dekoninck, Ad imaginem, 9.

112 Pierre-Antoine Fabre, Ignace de Loyola: Le lieu de l’image; Le problème de la composition de lieu dans les pratiques spirituelles et artistiques jésuites de la seconde moitié du XVIe siècle (Paris: Éditions de l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociale, 1992); Pierre-Antoine Fabre, “Quelques éléments pour une théorie jésuite de la contemplation visuelle,” in Baroque vision jésuite du Tintoret à Rubens, ed. Alain Tapié (Paris: Somogy 2003), 27–38.

113 Jerome Nadal, Annotations and Meditations on the Gospels, ed. and trans. Frederick Homann, S.J., introduced by Walter S. Melion, 4 vols. (Philadelphia: Saint Joseph’s University Press, 2003–14); Walter S. Melion, “Introduction: The Jesuit Engagement with the Status and Functions of the Visual Image,” in Jesuit Image Theory, ed. Wietse de Boer, Karl A. E. Enenkel, and Walter S. Melion (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 1–52.

114 Walter S. Melion, “Introduction: Visual Exegesis and Pieter Bruegel’s Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery,” in Imago exegetica: Visual Images as Exegetical Instruments, 1400–1700, ed. Walter S. Melion, James Clifton, and Michel Weemans (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 1–44.

115 Walter S. Melion, Shaping the Netherlandish Canon: Karel van Mander’s Schilder-boeck (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).

116 Fabre, Ignace de Loyola, 15.

117 Ibid., 211–74; Pierre-Antoine Fabre, “Les ‘Exercices spirituels’ sont-ils illustrables?,” in Les jésuites à l’âge baroque, 197–210.

118 Evonne Levy, “Early Modern Jesuit Arts and Jesuit Visual Culture: A View from the Twenty-First Century,” Journal of Jesuit Studies 1, no. 2 (2014): 79–81, doi: 10.1163/22141332-00101005, has addressed this question. For further on early modern debates about the use of the senses and imagination in The Spiritual Exercises, see Wietse de Boer, “Invisible Contemplation: A Paradox in the Spiritual Exercises,” in Meditatio: Refashioning the Self; Theory and Practice in Late Medieval and Early Modern Intellectual Culture, ed. Walter S. Melion and Karl A. E. Enenkel (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 235–56, accessed June 2, 2017, eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost).

119 Werner Weisbach, Der Barock als Kunst der Gegenreformation (Berlin: P. Cassirer, 1921), 12–15. Galassi Paluzzi, Storia segreta, 82–84, agreed with Weisbach’s principal arguments. Alain Tapié, “Baroque: Vision jésuite,” 1–2, and “La rhétorique des flux et de la pose dans la peinture religieuse du XVIIe siècle: La différence jésuite,” in Baroque vision jésuite du Tintoret à Rubens, ed. Alain Tapié (Paris: Somogy, 2003) 45–59. See the review by Evonne Levy, review of Baroque vision jésuite du Tintoret à Rubens, ed. Alan Tapié, CAA Reviews (March 11, 2004), doi: 10.3202/

120 Lucas, Landmarking. For the broader historiography see John W. O’Malley, S.J., “The Distinctiveness of the Society of Jesus,” Journal of Jesuit Studies 3, no. 1 (2016): 1–16, doi 10.1163/22141332-00301001; Robert A. Maryks, ed., Exploring Jesuit Distinctiveness: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Ways of Proceeding within the Society of Jesus (Leiden: Brill, 2016).

121 Robert A. Blake, S.J., “The First Word,” to Thomas M. Lucas, S.J., “Virtual Vessels, Mystical Signs: Contemplating Mary’s Images in the Jesuit Tradition,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 35, no. 5 (2003),

122 Appuhn-Radtke, “Ordensapologetik als Movens,” 315.

123 Levy, “Early Modern Jesuit Arts,” 66–87.

124 The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and Their Complementary Norms: A Complete English Translation of the Official Latin Texts (St. Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996), 277: 253 §4.

125 Irving Lavin, Bernini and the Unity of the Visual Arts, 2 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).

126 Pirri, Giuseppe Valeriano; Jeffrey Chipps Smith, Sensuous Worship: Jesuits and the Art of the Early Catholic Reformation in Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002); Piet Lombaerde, ed., Innovation and Experience in the Early Baroque in the Southern Netherlands: The Case Study of the Jesuit Church in Antwerp (Turnhout: Brepols, 2008); Hurx, “Bartolomeo Ammannati.”

127 Gauvin A. Bailey, Art of the Jesuit Missions in Asia and Latin America: 1542–1773 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 3–7, 22–23.

128 Jeffrey Muller, “The Jesuit Strategy of Accommodation,” in Jesuit Image Theory, ed. Wietse de Boer, Karl A. E. Enenkel, and Walter S. Melion (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 461–92.

129 Thomas Dacosta Kaufmann, Toward a Geography of Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 239–71.

130 Ibid., 243.

131 Susan Naquin, “Giuseppe Castiglione/Lang Shining: A Review Essay,” T’oung Pao 95 (2009): 393–412.

132 Juan Carlos Estenssoro Fuchs, Del paganismo a la santidad: La incorporación de los indios del Perú al Catolicismo; 1532–1750, trans. Gabriela Ramos (Lima: Instituto Francès de Estudios Andinos, 2003), 57, 152, 176, 212–37; Nicolas Standaert, S.J., The Interweaving of Rituals: Funerals in the Cultural Exchange between China and Europe (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010), accessed July 19, 2017, ProQuest Ebook Central; Evonne Levy, “Jesuit Identity, Identifiable Jesuits? Jesuit Dress in Theory and in Image,” in Le monde est une peinture: Jesuitische Identität und die Rolle der Bilder, ed. Elisabeth Oy-Marra and Volker R. Remmert with the assistance of Kristina Müller-Bongard (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2011), 127–52; Sabina Pavone, “Spie, mandarini, bramini: I gesuiti e i loro travestimenti,” Il capitale culturale 7 (2013): 227–47,; Bernadette Majorana, “Lingua e stile nella predicazione dei gesuiti missionari in Italia (XVI–XVIII secolo),” Mélanges de la Casa Velázquez 45, no. 1 (2015): 133–51; Waddell, Jesuit Science, 87–117, on Jesuit use of visual displays in optics; Linda-Zampol D’Ortia, “Purple Silk and Black Cotton: Francisco Cabral and the Negotiation of Jesuit Attire in Japan (1570–73),” in Exploring Jesuit Distinctiveness, ed. Maryks, 137–55; Eugenio Menegon, “The Habit that Hides the Monk: Missionary Fashion Strategies at the Imperial Court in Early Modern China,” in Going Native or Remaining Foreign? Catholic Missionaries as Local Agents in Asia: 17th to 18th Centuries (forthcoming), with thanks to the author for making the text available to me.

133 Estenssoro Fuchs, Del paganismo, 237–38.

134 With thanks to Krista De Jonge for this information.

135 Thomas Worcester, S.J., “A Restored Society or a New Society of Jesus?,” in Jesuit Survival and Restoration: A Global History, 1773–1900, ed. Robert A. Maryks and Jonathan Wright (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 15–23.

136 Pierre Moisy, Les églises des jésuites de l’ancienne assistance de France, 2 vols. (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 1958).

137 César Guillen-Nuñez, “Rising from the Ashes: The Gothic Architecture of the ‘New’ Society of Jesus in China and Macao,” in Jesuit Survival and Restoration, ed. Maryks and Wright (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 278–98, presents an array of churches, which raises intriguing questions that remain to be answered.

138 Raymond Anthony Jonas, France and the Cult of the Sacred Heart: An Epic Tale for Modern Times (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000) 141–45, accessed June 8, 2017, eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost).

139 Levy, “Early Modern Jesuit Arts,” 75.

140 John W. O’Malley, “A Historiographical Frame for the Paintings: Recent Interpretations of Early Modern Catholicism,” in Saints & Sinners: Caravaggio & the Baroque Image, ed. Franco Mormando (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 24.

141 Sarah Joan Moran, “‘Resurrecting the ‘Spiritual Daughter’: The Houtappel Chapel and Women’s Patronage in the Early Modern Low Countries,” in Women and Gender in the Early Modern Low Countries, ed. Amanda Pipkin and Sarah Joan Moran (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming).

142 Sabina Pavone, The Wily Jesuits and the Monita secreta, trans. John P. Murphy, S.J. (St. Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2005), 230, Directive 15 of the Monita secreta translated by Pavone as Private Directives of the Society of Jesus.

143 D. A. Brading, Mexican Phoenix: Our Lady of Guadalupe; Image and Tradition across Five Centuries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 3454rr44r, cited by Lucas, “Virtual Vessels,” 31–32n38.

144 Laura Laurencich Minelli, ed., Exsul immeritus Blas Valera populo suo e historia et rudimenta linguae Peruanorum: Indios, gesuiti e spagnoli in due documenti segreti sul Perú del XVII secolo (Bologna: Cooperativa Libraria Universitaria Editrice Bologna, 2005); Sabine Hyland, The Jesuit and the Incas: The Extraordinary Life of Padre Blas Valera, S.J. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003).

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