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Decorative or Devotional: Joseph Willem's Chelsea Pieta and porcelain sculptures employing Counter-reformation imagery in eighteenth-century England

Martin, Matthew (2012) Decorative or Devotional: Joseph Willem's Chelsea Pieta and porcelain sculptures employing Counter-reformation imagery in eighteenth-century England. Master of Arts (major thesis) thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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      Abstract

      A small number of porcelain sculptures on religious subjects are known from eighteenth-century England. These have long puzzled commentators. Why were sculptures employing Counter-reformation imagery being produced in Protestant England? This thesis attempts to answer this question through a detailed examination of the contexts of production and consumption of the Pietà figure group modelled by the Fleming Joseph Willems and manufactured by the Chelsea porcelain factory. Long assumed to have been a Huguenot enterprise, it is shown that the Chelsea factory included artists and craftsmen of various confessional allegiances amongst its personnel. Although the Reformation had seen occasional bursts of iconoclasm in England, by the eighteenth-century English Protestant elites had developed strategies to allow them to engage with Counter-reformation art in the interests of the accrual of cultural prestige. Some images, however, continued to present difficulties, especially when they assumed sculptural form, and as a subject, the Pietà must be numbered amongst this latter group. A close iconographic analysis of Willems‟ Pietà reveals the compositional and symbolic complexity of this work and suggests that this porcelain sculpture was intended to serve as a Catholic devotional image. Despite caricatures of their descent into provincial isolation, many of England‟s Catholic gentry families were fully engaged in the cultural life of eighteenth-century England and many were active as collectors and patrons of art and luxury commodities. It is argued that patronage for these porcelain devotional sculptures is to be sought amongst members of England‟s recusant elite.

      Item Type: Theses (Master of Arts (major thesis))
      Repository Version: Author's Final Manuscript
      Keywords (separated by commas): Chelsea porcelain, Joseph Willems, Recusants, Counter-reformation art, Eighteenth-century England
      Fields of Research: 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220405 Religion and Society
      Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950404 Religion and Society
      Type of Activity: Pure Basic Research
      Subject Area(s): C - Church History
      Association with University of Divinity: YTU: Yarra Theological Union
      Depositing User: Cate Headey
      Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2012 11:30
      Last Modified: 13 Jun 2017 11:44
      URI: http://repository.divinity.edu.au/id/eprint/1090

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