ART, PATRONAGE AND CIVIC LIFE IN A REFORMED CITY: 16TH CENTURY ZUERICH (SWITZERLAND)
WINKLER, MARY GRACE
Doctor of Philosophy
In 1524 under the leadership of the Reformer Huldreich Zwingli the citizens of Zurich undertook to cleanse their churches of idolatrous objects. This was carried out after scholarly debate and with the approval of the authorities. In conjunction with the decision to remove the images, Zwingli prepared arguments to explain and justify the community's action. These arguments became influential among other Evangelical Reformed Protestants and thus Zurich's solution to the problem of religious art is essential for an understanding of the development of the visual arts in Protestant areas in the sixteenth century. Two questions are significant to this development. What sources of patronage would the new art have, and what would be appropriate subject matter? In Zurich three groups would replace the Church as patron: the state, private industry, and the individual citizen. Because Zwingli's theology demanded a reorientation in subject matter, requiring material that is narrative or historical (geschichteswyss) new subjects and genres had to be found. Thus for a time the portrait threatened to replace the altar retable and illustration of religious and scientific works became central to Zurich's artistic life. Small decorative stained glass panels, Kabinettscheiben, became vehicles for both propaganda and display of position and material wealth. The art of sixteenth century Zurich departed from medieval artistic usage while seeking to avoid aspects of Renaissance Humanism repugnant to Reformed theology. It pointed new directions in the translation of empirically observed reality as an aspect of the Reformer's conviction that the study of nature reveals the operation of Divine Providence in creation. Thus while Evangelical Reformed teaching denied much of ancient and medieval art, it allowed and nurtured the objective portrayal of the visible world.