In this provocative revisionist work, Evonne Levy brings fresh theoretical perspectives to the study of the "propagandistic" art and architecture of the Jesuit order as exemplified by its late Baroque Roman church interiors. The first extensive analysis of the aims, mechanisms, and effects of Jesuit art and architecture, this original and sophisticated study also evaluates how the term "propaganda" functions in art history, distinguishes it from rhetoric, and proposes a precise use of the term for the visual arts for the first time.
Levy begins by looking at Nazi architecture as a gateway to the emotional and ethical issues raised by the term "propaganda." Jesuit art once stirred similar passions, as she shows in a discussion of the controversial nineteenth-century rubric the "Jesuit Style." She then considers three central aspects of Jesuit art as essential components of propaganda: authorship, message, and diffusion. Levy tests her theoretical formulations against a broad range of documents and works of art, including the Chapel of St. Ignatius and other major works in Rome by Andrea Pozzo as well as chapels in Central Europe and Poland. Innovative in bringing a broad range of social and critical theory to bear on Baroque art and architecture in Europe and beyond, Levy’s work highlights the subject-forming capacity of early modern Catholic art and architecture while establishing "propaganda" as a productive term for art history.
“The author cites Panofsky's example of a man taking his hat off to another, as an example of the other's ' interpellation '. Jesuits, she writes, who wore Chinese or Japanese garments did not despise the people they moved among. The example may find its own application to Evonne Levy's compelling achievement, recalling Mendelsohn’s response on first hearing Schubert : ‘ Hats off, gentlemen, a genius ’.”—Journal Of Ecclesiastical History
“Provocative and insightful. . . . [Provokes] a discussion well beyond the normal reaches of Early Modern scholarship on the history of art.”—John Beldon Scott CAA Reviews
“Learned and imaginative. . . . The author brings critical theory, sociological insight, cultural history, a discerning eye, and the nuances that only wide and deep knowledge of actual works of art can provide.”—John Padberg, S.J. Catholic Historical Review
“For Levy, the key question is not whether the Jesuits had ‘corporate’ motives - of course they did - but whether we can learn to see the art they created as both propaganda and ‘art’. For in trying to make ourselves immune to the wiles of propagandists, be they Seventeenth-century Jesuits or twentieth-century Soviets, our culture has built up an aversion to any work that cannot prove itself to be disinterested. Art for art's sake has given us an ideal of independence and honesty, but it has also given us a narrow and one-dimensional definition of art. It is this, she argues, that we must attempt to change.”—Ian G. Mason Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
"This is a subtle, intelligent, and deeply learned recasting of a whole range of issues central to art history: the place of the Baroque in the construction of modern art histories; the peculiar aesthetics of propaganda as a distinctively institutional mobilizing of images and forms; the role of the Jesuits in constructing (and then deconstructing) the relation of architectural style and ideology. Evonne Levy's careful readings of key monuments in the Catholic Baroque shed light not only on those works, but on the whole evolution of art historical understanding—and misunderstanding—that has made the Baroque so central and problematic for the discipline of art history."—W. J. T. Mitchell, editor of Critical Inquiry
and author of Iconology and Picture Theory
"One of the most original and provocative books in the field of Baroque studies to emerge in the last twenty years, Propaganda and the Jesuit Baroque
at once presents a wealth of new materials and radically rethinks what has long been known about the Jesuit Order as a patron of the arts. Through the lens of propaganda, Evonne Levy illuminates her subject in an unprecedented way."—Steven F. Ostrow, author of Art and Spirituality in Counter-Reformation Rome