I n 1605, the imprisonment of two Venetian priests on some petty eharges triggereda major diplomatie war between the Republie of Veniee and the Holy See. PopePaul V, relying upon a prineiple that had been recently argued by some prominent theologians, felt entitled to intervene in the politieal affairs of the Republie of Venice, and asked for the release of the two priests. A heated debate followed; the juridieal and political independenee of the Republie of Veniee as well as, on a more general level , the relationship between State and Chureh, were at stake. The Venetian point of view was powerfully argued in aseries of writings by the Republic's official theologian, Paolo Sarpi, the Servite friar who later beeame famous all over Europe as the pseudonymous author of the History of theCouncilof Trent. In 1607, Sarpi was exeommunicated; some months later he was assaulted near his eonvent by five men with daggers. Sarpi, badly wounded, whispered to the physieian who was treating his wounds that, as everybody knew, they had been made "stylo Romanae curiae"-meaning "by the knife of the Roman Curia" as well as "by the legal proeedure [literally, the pen] of the Roman Curia."z
Sarpi's splendid, untranslatable pun is an appropriate introduetion to a discussion of the politieal implieations of style . As we will see, "style" often has been used as a eutting deviee, as a weapon, and as a self-defining eategory. Ir has also played an important (and insufficiently reeognized) role in the aeeeptanee of eultural diversity-as well as in establishing eultural hegemonies. I will explore the unfolding of
these ambiguities in the domain of the visual arts. Eventually the relevance of this topic to the history of science will also emerge.