chapter  2
84 Pages


Any history of “art and religion” does well to acknowledge the deeply modern and Western character of the subject. Although all cultures have fashioned artifacts for use in ritualistic practice, it remains problematic to call the artifacts “art” and the rituals “religion” without critical reflection on the modern character of the categories. “Art” only began to emerge as a rubric in the modern sense during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with the rise of collecting, art criticism and theory, and the hagiography of the artistic genius, most importantly in Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of Eminent Artists.2 In the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries religion came increasingly to be considered a voluntary concern, suffered as a matter of individual conscience. While it was widely seen as a necessary social utility, persecution as a policy dramatically subsided. One’s religion became increasingly a private matter. But if the privatization of religion appeared to secularize political culture and social institutions, religion entered the marketplace to find its way back to public life, especially in the United States. It also persisted in the civil religion of republicanism.