Cultural Production, Religious Devotion, and Subjectivity in Early Modern Italy

Cultural Production, Religious Devotion, and Subjectivity in Early Modern Italy
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  Annali d’Italianistica Inc.  Cultural Production, Religious Devotion, and Subjectivity in Early Modern Italy: The CaseStudy of Maria Maddalena de' PazziAuthor(s): Karen-edis BarzmanSource: Annali d'Italianistica  , Vol. 13, Women Mystic Writers (1995), pp. 283-305Published by: Annali d’Italianistica, Inc.Stable URL: 17-11-2016 10:53 UTC   JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusteddigital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information aboutJSTOR, please contact Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at Annali d’Italianistica, Inc.  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Annali d'Italianistica  This content downloaded from on Thu, 17 Nov 2016 10:53:51 UTCAll use subject to   Karen-edis Barzman  Cultural Production, Religious Devotion,  and Subjectivity in Early Modern Italy:  The Case Study of Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi*  In 1583, at the age of seventeen, Caterina de' Pazzi (1576-1607, canonized  1669) entered a Carmelite convent in Florence, making her profession and assuming the name Maria Maddalena ( Mary Magdalen ). Three weeks later the sisters found her running from room to room, clutching a small crucifix and  speaking vehemently about the sacrifice of Jesus. She detached the carved body from the wooden cross and gazed at the wounds in the figure's hands, side, and  feet, admonishing the sisters for their laxity and preaching about the observance  of religious vows. Refusing water after hours of speech, she put her mouth to  the right hand of the carved figure, swallowing as though she were drinking from  his wound (Pazzi 1: 50-61). In 1587, the sisters found her in rapture with a clay doll of the Virgin Mary in her arms. And with this doll, they wrote, she  performed many beautiful gestures and actions, speaking about the efficacy of  the veneration of Mary (Pazzi 4: 267). Five years later she climbed up to the  cornice of the sisters' choir, removing a life-sized figure of Jesus from a cross  mounted on the wall. She lowered the figure to the floor and removed the crown  of thorns from its head, intoning a hymn in which the sisters spontaneously joined. They fell in line behind her, following her throughout the building and  garden as she cradled the sculpture in her arms — like Mary, they claimed, in a  Pietà. She spoke for hours on this occasion about salvation and the sacrifice of Jesus, according to the sisters, as if in colloquy with God (Pazzi 5: 203-07).  Female religious provide a convenient point of entry into the subject-matter at hand: women, piety, and cultural production in early modern Italy. This essay  An abbreviated version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the College Art  Association in San Antonio in January 1995.1 would like to thank the following individuals for their  comments and advice prior to publication: Lorraine Berry, Roger Crum, Steven Levine, Marilena  Mosco, Charles Reeve, Patricia Rucidlo, Lynn Schweber, Nina Serebrennikov, Melinda Schlitt,  and Malcolm Stimson. 1 owe special thanks to a generous scholar, John Paoletti, whose paper on  devotional objects and sacral experience, presented at the College Art Association meeting in  1990 and subsequently published (see note 1), provided the inspiration for this work.  Annali d'Italianistica: Women Mystic Writers 13 (1995). Ed. Dino S. Cervigni. This content downloaded from on Thu, 17 Nov 2016 10:53:51 UTCAll use subject to   284 Karen-edis Barzman  does not treat female artists per se, that drawings, embroidery and the like, alth  manufacture of images and objects that  particularly female mystics, made work  providing pictorial texts as a basis for the i  visions and their faith. Others engaged in Ricci (1523-1590, canonized 1746) painted a Charles Borromeo, the Catholic Reformati his bed; the painting apparently does not Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi painted and emb covered or in complete darkness — to whi miracles during the process of her beatifi paintings of her blindfolded and deftly w  secure her identification as a divinely imagination of seventeenth-century Fl  historians are not able to identify paintin  works by other women in the period under  interested in women and artistic production i  The narrative accounts at the beginning transcriptions of Maria Maddalena de' P  utterance — that is, from the texts most embodied experience. At the direction of simultaneously recorded as much of the conditions of reception would allow and i  volumes over the years with her exeges  religious reform. Granting their mediation all texts), these transcriptions suggest t  women and reception (as opposed to wome  period. Indeed, the degree of this woman's objects (much higher than historians of art re-evaluate the status of sacred art and r  lives of women in early modern Italy.1 This notwithstanding, I have decided here material. This essay constitutes an attemp  ' For recent works that take up the function of and Belting; Freedberg; and Os. On Italy in particular, se  by other Italianists on the subject, including that o  carved effigies in the context of religious plays). above, I am interested primarily in non-liturgical images were taken up by the faithful, although I f  the social historian Klapisch-Zuber, including H  Quattrocento. This content downloaded from on Thu, 17 Nov 2016 10:53:51 UTCAll use subject to   Subjectivity in Early Modern Italy: Maria Maddalena de ' Pazzi 285  and cultural production. It takes as its focus not the material culture that  typically falls within the purview of art history, but rather the signifying  practices through which performative subjects themselves enter visual and  textual culture. In this context, the essay also attempts to recuperate agency, or  theories of the self, in discussions of representation, while refusing notions of essential or authentic subjectivity. This kind of critical return to agency raises  questions about the epistemological status of representation (what is its relation  to reality or truth ?) as well as the possibilities of subjecthood and the  politics of identity. For example, does a coherent, rational, self-present subject  exist outside of (and express itself with) language and other forms of  representation? Or, is the subject actually constituted in and through language, gesture, and other forms of cultural signification that include practices such as painting, embroidery, mystical devotion, and penitence — cultural practices that  themselves comprise elaborate, performed representations within which the  subject takes on recognizable form? After raising these questions, the essay  concludes with an invitation to rethink production and reception outside the  terms of art history. The discipline typically casts these activities as discrete and  mutually exclusive categories of human practice. Yet in discussing the  performance of the self (the latter, a process within which individuals continually  effect their own cultural inscription), the distinctions between production and reception collapse. What is often taken as subjective expression, I will argue, actually constitutes a re-presentation of received (and necessarily recognizable)  categories of identity, as when the female religious fashions her self as mystic, and the mystic likewise performs as the Magdalen or the Virgin Mary. The Carmelite and mystic Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi provides a useful case  study in this line of inquiry. Her ecstasies formed part of a pattern of activity  by means of which she became the focal point of spectacle, commanding an  audience of listeners, viewers, and those moved to participate for over twenty  years. The effect of elaborate forms of representation based on received models, despite the appearance of spontaneity, the ecstasies serve as examples of myriad  acts that comprise the semiotic self — a spectacular, citational self who  performs social representations already constituted to a certain degree prior to  each and every rehearsal. Within the walls of an institution that sanctioned  silence, Caterina de' Pazzi spoke in the name of Mary Magdalen; she gestured  like the Virgin Mary. Performing a self in a place that oscillates between ritual  and theatre, she moved within an onomastic grid and a social frame of  reference that the culture offered her (Certeau 261-64). Indeed theatre is literally what I mean here, for carved effigies were frequently used in religious plays and  feastday celebrations, while figures of Jesus were often detached from the cross and used as centerpieces in re-enactments of the Deposition and the Lamentation  on Good Friday.2 Thus even Maria Maddalena's use of sculpture in the episodes  2 See Paoletti for an overview of this subject and bibliographic references. This content downloaded from on Thu, 17 Nov 2016 10:53:51 UTCAll use subject to   286 Karen-edis Barzman  described above had its analogue in what wa of public performance (liturgical drama) wi  It was within a given network of symboli  de Certeau, that she and her contemporari subjectivity and that of others (Certeau 2  the inherent instability of signification in t  reference turns into a potential site for su  normative roles.  The Florentine mystic Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi died at the age of forty in 1607, having passed her adult life in a cloistered convent. The year 1669 marked her canonization and the beginning of a campaign to deploy her image in official  forms of representation. Painters and sculptors depicted her mystical encounters  with Jesus and Mary as well as miracles approved at the time of her  canonization. Elsewhere I have discussed this authorized imagery, which was  produced posthumously to celebrate the mystic's sainthood (Barzman). It  conforms to normative hagiographical models, omitting the discourse of reform  given so clearly in the transcriptions of Maria Maddalena's speech. Here I want  to focus on this unauthorized discourse, on this woman's acts of  self-representation involving speech and pantomime with sacred objects, several  examples of which I discussed at the outset. This complex form of  self-representation began after she assumed the name "Mary Magdalen." How did  this name signify?  Like all signs, "Mary Magdalen" had the potential for multiple meanings within the mystic's social world. The most common associations, "sinner" and "penitent," had their srcins in the canonical Gospels — in Luke 7:37-50, where  a female sinner at the house of Simon the Pharisee washes Jesus's feet with her  tears, dries them with her hair, and anoints them with oil. By the time of  Gregory the Great at the turn of the seventh century, the Church Fathers had already associated the sins of the woman in this passage with prostitution (based  in part on an ambiguous phrase in Luke 7:47, ". . . for she loved much");  moreover, they had linked her with "Mary Magdalen," a name that appears  fourteen times in other narrative contexts in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (Malvern 16-29, 55). Thus the Magdalen acquired the valence of "whore," although the early sources do not name her as such. Her association  with penitence also srcinates in scripture, although, again, not in passages that  identify her by name. The sins for which she repented multiply over the  centuries to include luxury, avarice, and lust — the last confused by writers (from theologians to poets) with prostitution, which, rather than homologous  with lust, is a business arrangement comprising the exchange of sex for money  or payment in kind. In the late medieval and early modern periods sermons, passion plays, and other forms of cultural production in addition to painting,  sculpture, and the print media reinforced the identification of the Magdalen as "whore" and "penitent" at the level of popular Christian thought. This content downloaded from on Thu, 17 Nov 2016 10:53:51 UTCAll use subject to
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