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Is There an Art and Theology of Torture?

I just gave this homework to my History of Western Art students. And then I wondered how the Spectrum community would respond to the final question.

Giovanni Bellini, Saint Francis in the Desert or Saint Francis in Ecstasy, c. 1480

Andrea Mantegna, Saint Sebastian, ca. 1456-59

Andrea Mantegna, Dead Christ, c. 1490

All three of these work have themes and depictions of death and piercing of the body. And we’ve seen plenty this quarter, although there are plenty exceptions as well. (If you’d like to hear these discussed by two art historians, click here.)

About a year ago, a major poll found that Christians support torture more than non-believers. (And those who attended church regularly tended to support torture even more.) What do you think of this tradition of the depiction of the destruction of the body and death in Christian theology? How might, or how might there not be, a connection between theology, art, and politics regarding violence to the body?

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