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12 / Conflict and Resistance

Calvinist Iconoclasm
Calvinist Iconoclasm
Artist / Origin Franz Hogenberg (German, ca. 1540– ca. 1590)
Region: Europe
Date ca. 1566
Material Etching
Dimensions H: 16 ½ in. (41.9 cm.), W: 22 in. (55.88 cm.)
Location Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany
Credit Courtesy of Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz/Art Resource, NY/Photo by Christoph Irrgang

expert perspective

Freyda SpiraAssistant Curator of Drawings and Prints, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Calvinist Iconoclasm

» Franz Hogenberg (German, ca. 1540– ca. 1590)

expert perspective

Freyda Spira Freyda Spira Assistant Curator of Drawings and Prints, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Iconoclasm is the destruction of images, which usually have a political or religious leader, and the image is usually endowed with some kind of mediating power. The fear is that people will begin to worship the image. Images needed to be cleansed from the churches and from religious worship. Most of the iconoclasm during the Reformation was happening in Southwest Germany and in Switzerland. In some cases literally crowds or masses came into churches with axes and pitch forks and destroyed the images with their hands. Most of them were white-washed and the images that were really incredibly important to certain societies or villages were kept and they were just covered over so that the power of those images were negated from the ritual of the church. 

Iconoclasm is something that happens all over the world in all cultures for various reasons. We see it everywhere. With iconoclasm the images are at the center of the conflict and they become the main vehicle for expressing power or resistance.

Hogenberg’s print about iconoclasm is a reflection of what is going on in society. He did it as a way to chronicle the activities of Iconoclasm and what you can see in the print is really the two sides of it: the chaos and confusion and also the orderliness with which it took place. It was condoned in many societies as the right thing to do and as a way to move forward and progress away from the Catholic Church, but it was also frowned upon as an activity of the masses.” 

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