Destruction of Art

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Destruction of Art

From Jeffery LeMieux

Published before 2005


Brian Yoder wrote:
Of course there are many factors involved in such a widespread and prolonged era of destruction, but I have been in Rome personally and the signs of Christian efforts to erase the pagan artistic past are everywhere. It was many centuries later before they started making significant artistic contributions to the city.

Interesting discussion. I agree that there are many factors that account for the destruction of paintings (and other art objects,) over the centuries. Of course Christianity is responsible for the destruction of many paintings because painting was a western European technology, and most western Europeans were Christian of one sort or another. The thing that I would protest is the implication that therefore Christianity is bad. One could similarly and wrongly conclude that Islam is bad because the Taliban blew up those Hindu statues a while back for similar reasons. We all know better.

History is full of the political destruction of art objects, and this process is pervasive throughout all cultures. Surely you don't think the noses just fell off of all those granite Egyptian statues, do you? And tell me, if you are in an area with a whole lot of bronze sculptures and you need to make some swords to defend your grain, will you a.) preserve the sculptures and go mine, smelt, purify, re-purify and finally work metal into swords, or will you melt the statues down? This is pragmatism, not religion.

I would agree that there was a very specific anti-pagan effort in early Christianity, a very real desire to identify themselves as NON-pagan with the resulting destruction of pagan artifacts. Just as much as in later Christianity (and throughout Islam from the 700's on) was a very effective iconoclastic impulse drawn from the Judeo-Christian first commandment. Maybe we should just get rid of those too, eh?

I'm told Botticelli burned much of his "Pagan" neoclassical paintings on the advice of a Christian heretic, the priest Savonarola in an effort to repent of his evil ways. Was he a victim or a perpetrator?

Jeffery