My book The Art of Religion came out with Ashgate this August. It is the synthesis of my work on art theory in seventeenth-century Rome. The basis for the book is my dissertation of 2001, published in Dutch in the next year, but it incorporates many of the material and ideas that I have worked on since then and presented in talks and essays, amongst others in the volume Bernini’s Biographies. Critical Essays, that I edited with Evonne Levy and Steven Ostrow. The central question of the book is what authors like Sforza Pallavicino – a Jesuit, Cardinal, confidante of popes and friend of Gianlorenzo Bernini – believe that art can do for the expression and propagation of religious ‘truths’ in the context of papal Rome.
One topic that turned out to be of central importance and also pertains to our current research project, is how authors such as Andrea Borboni, who published a treatise Delle statue in 1661, related the origin of religion to that of the arts, especially sculpture, in order to define the appropriate use and display of statues. By establishing this nexus these authors adopted an innovative approach to the history of art, which became firmly embedded into a historiography of religious customs and practices. As such, they are precursors in the quest of origins that would characterize much of the discourse on art, but also religion, society and the sciences of the eighteenth and nineteenth century.