This in-focus selection of nine prints and drawings highlights images of saints from the late 16th through 18th centuries and celebrates the museum’s recent acquisition of Guido Reni’s beautiful chalk drawing Head of a Young Woman Looking Upward. Jusepe de Ribera and Sir Peter Paul Rubens are among the other artists represented.
Saints, found in almost all religions, are holy people bestowed with ritual devotion because of their exceptionally virtuous lives. Martyrs, known for giving up their lives for their faith, were the first saints officially recognized by the Catholic Church. By the 4th century, people who had confessed their faith not by dying—but by their honorable behavior and pious deeds in life—also began to be publicly venerated. In the 16th century, the Counter-Reformation was the Catholic Church’s response to the rise of Protestantism in Europe. Its campaign also challenged artists to make sacred subjects more accessible.
Saintly representations, such as those in Visions of Saints, proliferated. From scenes of penitence and devotion to representations of mystical visions, portrayals of the stories of the saints provided moral archetypes on which followers could model their own behavior.
This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.