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Rituals of consecration as performed by holy periods

A Preliminary History of the Field

As a discrete field of study, art and religion has no singular historic event or scholar to recognize as its formal beginning or founder. From the beginnings of scholarly discourse, critical and academic discussions of art or religion impinged each upon the territory of the other, as reflected in the initial pages of this entry. As an identifiable formal topic, however, the study of art and religion was initiated with the virtual plethora of mid-nineteenth-century publications on Christian art that emerged from the pens of a diverse group of predominantly self-trained writers beginning with Alexis-François Rio (1797–1874), De la poésie Chrétienne (1837); Adolphe Napoléon Didron (1806–1867), Iconographie Chrétienne(1843); Lord Lindsay Alexander (1812–1880), Sketches of the History of Christian Art (1847); and Anna Brownell [Murphy] Jameson (1794–1860), Sacred and Legendary Art (1848). These publications, especially Jameson’s books and serialized texts, which built upon her renown as an author of museum guidebooks, inaugurated a genre dedicated to the appreciation of Christian art as an exemplar of moral values and good taste. Nonetheless, these texts situated the paintings and sculptures discussed within their historical contexts, carefully described any stylistic or technical innovations, and explained the “lost language” of Christian signs and symbols. Apparently, there was a charisma for Christian art at this time throughout Western Europe and America, as witnessed by the establishment of a variety of art movements—the Academy of St. Luke in Rome, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in London, and the Nazarenes in Vienna—dedicated to the reunification of art and religion as epitomized in the medieval synthesis.