How can art aid in the reconciliation of new and old beliefs?
Through trade, travel, conquest, and missionary zeal, Christianity has spread around the globe. Along the way, it has been adapted and interpreted according to the values, beliefs, and needs of various populations at different points in history. The art produced when Christianity has been adopted by or introduced to traditionally non-Christian cultures has both reflected the incorporation of foreign ideas and, at the same time, produced original ways of understanding those ideas. Images like Our Lady of Cocharcas or icon diptychs from Ethiopia show the fusion of old and new that has occurred when people have attempted to reconcile not only their indigenous religious beliefs with Christianity, but also their traditional art forms with those of European origin.
Questions to Consider
- Both of these images depict the Virgin Mary. In what ways does each image adhere to traditional Christian-European models? How has each adapted those models to address the visual and cultural values of its audience?
- If you had to guess, would you attribute these works to foreign artists or artists native to Peru and Ethiopia respectively? Can you make a case for the reverse?
- Religious art, including the pieces shown here, has a spiritual function for devotees. In the context of cultural convergence and religious conversion, what other functions might images like these serve?
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