Religious Experiences with Pagan Gods: The Mythological Paintings of Velazquez Open Access

Harper, Kelsey Judith (2010)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/0k225b601?locale=en
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Abstract

This paper explains Velazquez's mythological paintings within the context of Catholic Spain. The perceived role of art in salvation is defined through the examination of contemporaneous texts, including the edicts of the Council of Trent and Francisco Pacheco's Arte de La Pintura. The role of Velazquez's mythological paintings in mediating the experience of salvation is explored through a phenomenological approach in which the painting demands that the viewer actively experience the work of art. A comparison between Velazquez's paintings of Mars (1640) and The Crucifixion (1632)
illuminates similarities and relations between the two on these grounds. I argue that Velazquez' Mars can function in a similar way to his Crucifixion, offering the viewer a path to salvation if he/she identifies with Mars' humiliation and feels compassion. The access that Mars offers to possible salvation does not have to do with admonishing viewers as a purely allegorical reading in the Christian sense suggests. Rather, it has to do with the viewer forging an emotional connection with Mars. The responsibility for the interaction is given to the viewer, who is presented with the handle of Mars' discarded sword. Insofar as the viewer accepts the responsibility represented in Velazquez's gesture, the encounter with Mars can function as a "good work" in the Tridentine sense of the word, providing the viewer, as well as the painter, an opportunity to demonstrate their will to do good and their desire to be Christ-like. While the gripping vulnerability of Velazquez's Mars serves to attract and intrigue, enticing the viewer to search for meaning, and potentially inspiring pity or scorn, the proffered sword indicates the viewer's power to choose whether or not to pick up the weapon and whether to wound or have mercy.

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1. Thesis.................................................................................1

2. Figures.............................................................................. 44

3. Works Cited .........................................................................56

4. List of Figures......................................................................58

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