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Defaced religious art on display in Amsterdam


Illustration: fragments of the Gregorsmesse painting.

Photos of defaced Catholic icons are on display at the Stedelijk Museum (Municipal Museum) in Amsterdam until November 11. They cover the time of the Protestant Reformation in Europe during the 16th century, when part of taking back the church by the people consisted of doing away with what the people considered false doctrines and malpractices, as Wikipedia calls it.

The exhibit by Gert Jan Kocken explores the choices people made in their haste of getting rid of false icons. For instance, in a painting called Gregorsmesse, which shows local dignitaries together with Jesus Christ, the faces of everyone except that of Jesus have been defaced, suggesting that either the new protestants were still a bit afraid to damage the portrait of their most important hero, or that the reformation was as much a protest against church hierarchy as it was against church malpractices.

The iconoclastic purges of the Reformation (the Beeldenstorm, attack on images) were an important step towards the revolution and ultimately independence of the Netherlands, because the Catholic Spanish ruler tried to stamp out such practices.

(Via Sudsandsoda (Dutch).)

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