In Renaissance Florence, certain paintings and sculptures of the Virgin Mary and Christ were believed to have extraordinary efficacy in activating potent sacred intercession. Cults sprung up around these “miraculous images” in the city and surrounding countryside beginning in the late 13th century. In The Miraculous Image in Renaissance Florence, Megan Holmes questions what distinguished these paintings and sculptures from other similar sacred images, looking closely at their material and formal properties, the process of enshrinement, and the foundation legends and miracles associated with specific images. Whereas some of the images presented in this fascinating book are well known, such as Bernardo Daddi’s Madonna of Orsanmichele, many others have been little studied until now. Holmes’s efforts center on the recovery and contextualization of these revered images, reintegrating them and their related cults into an art-historical account of the period. By challenging prevailing views and offering a reassessment of the Renaissance, this generously illustrated and comprehensive survey makes a significant contribution to the field.
Megan Holmes is professor of Italian Renaissance art history at the University of Michigan. Her scholarly interests include the social history of art, popular religion, visual and material culture, monasticism and the arts, and print culture. Her most recent articles focus on ex-votos, illustrated printed miracle books, and the representation of black Africans in Renaissance Florence.