Reconstructing the Lost Frescoes of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome From the meditationes of Cardinal Juan De Torquemada: A Case Study in the History of Art

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This study reconstructs both the physical appearance and the spiritual experience of Torquemada’s Meditationes, through a careful analysis of primary documents, architectural fragments, and historical analysis. though no artist can be named with certainty, the lost fresco cycle of the Minerva provides a unique opportunity to examine the conception and reception of a monumental devotional cycle commissioned by one of the most erudite theologians of the fifteenth-century for one of the most popular churches in Rome. This book contains twelve color photographs and twenty-one black and white photographs.


“. . . makes a significant contribution to the literature on fifteenth-century art and spirituality. It considerably augments our knowledge of Torquemada, one of the most important theologians of his day, while situating his patronage of the Minerva within the urban landscape and spiritual environment of Rome. It reconstructs the cloister—by itself an important discovery—as a physical space and devotional theater, and it recreates the cycle that adorned its walls. It explores the relationship between the paintings and the Meditationes, and concludes by considering the varieties of spiritual experience that the paintings inspired in its beholders. Where earlier scholars have dismissed the lost cycle as a speculative exercise in attribution, Bourgeois perceived an opportunity, one to which she has responded most adeptly.” – Prof. Diane Cole Ahl, Lafayette College

“. . . offers a substantial contribution to art historical studies in several areas in addition to that of Roman art in the fifteenth century: mural painting, patronage, the (devotional) function of images, and the conjunction of text and image. It also serves as a valuable model for the reconstruction and analysis of destroyed monuments, whose loss and subsequent neglect too often distort our understanding of the history of art.” – Prof. James Clifton, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

“. . . sheds light on a monumental project and significant time period in the art of Renaissance Rome that has largely been overlooked by scholars. . . . Bourgeois not only resurrects a work of art unknown by most people, but traces its reconstruction, discusses its appearance, and places it in its art historical context.” – Prof Jill E. Blondin, University of Texas at Tyler

Table of Contents

Preface by Diane Cole Ahl
List of Illustrations
1. The Patron
2. The Site
3. The Reconstruction
4. The Experience
5. The Audiences

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