The Art of Religion: Aestheticizing Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Religious Artifacts Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Hogan, Cynthia
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Religious Studies
  • This dissertation examines the ways in which new meanings and new categories of knowledge about religious artifacts are produced and disseminated by public fine arts museums and academic art history. Through three case studies of artifacts originally produced for religious use, (1) a thirteenth-century medieval Spanish Crucifix in the Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester, New York, (2) an early twentieth-century Iraqi Tik at the North Carolina Museum of Art, and (3) a fourteenth-century Iranian Mihrab at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I trace the ways through which religious artifacts are reframed as objects of fine art that are collected and exhibited in fine arts museums. As religious artifacts are incorporated into the museum industry, they are encoded with new secularized meanings through the disciplinary lens of academic art history, altering their original religious value and replacing it with aesthetic value. Further, the narratives that fine arts museums tell about their own histories, which immortalize founders, donors, buildings, and collections, eclipse the religious significance of the particular religious artifacts contained within fine arts museums. As the fine arts museum itself comes to be memorialized and valued in religious ways, religious artifacts, in turn, are secularized through the twin processes of aestheticization and musealization.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Ochoa, Todd
  • Styers, Randall
  • Morgan, David
  • Coffey, John
  • Boyarin, Jonathan
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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