Interest in the history of violence has increased dramatically over the last ten years and recent studies have demonstrated the productive potential for further inquiry in this field. The early modern period is particularly ripe for further investigation because of the pervasiveness of violence. Certain countries may have witnessed a drop in the number of recorded homicides during this period, yet homicide is not the only marker of a violent society. This volume presents a range of contributions that look at various aspects of violence from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries, from student violence and misbehaviour in fifteenth-century Oxford and Paris to the depiction of war wounds in the English civil wars. The book is divided into three sections, each clustering chapters around the topics of interpersonal and ritual violence, war, and justice and the law. Informed by the disciplines of anthropology, criminology, the history of art, literary studies, and sociology, as well as history, the contributors examine all forms of violence including manslaughter, assault, rape, riots, war and justice. Previous studies have tended to emphasise long-term trends in violent behaviour but one must always be attentive to the specificity of violence and these essays reveal what it meant in particular places and at particular times.
The exhibition entitled “Papi in Posa,” i.e., “Papal Portraiture,” with the highly refined and historically significant Braschi Palace – home of the Museum of Rome – in 2004, and now in Washington, The John Paul II Center, is not offered only as an excellent exposition of masterpieces from major international museums – such as the Vatican Museums – and prestigious private collections, but stands out in particular because it is one of the most important expositions of portrait painting ever because of both the outstanding quality and the considerable number of paintings and sculptures offered – executed by Europe's leading artists from the last five centuries – and the great spiritual and social significance of the personages portrayed: the greatest Pontiffs who from the 16th century to the present have sat in the Chair of Saint Peter. It is suggestive to observe, as we scan the unique artistic itinerary offered by the curators of the exhibition, how through the succession of historical periods and particularly by virtue of the esthetic verve and inner sensitivity of the artists, the description of the human person was oriented, with extreme plastic ductility and acuity in their perception of their subjects' physiognomy, to represent not only the body lines of the subject being depicted but, in particular, the most intimate traits of the heart, the lively mobility of their thought, the innermost lines of the subject's character, in an intense dialogue of chiaroscuro observations from which the characterizing notes of complex personages are evinced – persons who appear completely clear and evident only to those who are capable of sublimating their outward appearance into an acute observation. From this prestigious gallery of portraits it emerges unmistakably how the anthropocentric path of human thought has manifestly reverberated within the bounds of the figurative arts through a progressive contextualization, which sees the subject represented unbound through a metatemporal aura of rarefied abstraction and placed, naturalistically, in a precise and well defined spatiotemporal sphere. At the same time, we witness a gradual definition of the personage portrayed as the bearer of a clear personal connotation – the self and the identity, which seem to be invisible and thus impossible to represent – no longer, hortatively, as an idealized and metaphoric emblem of absolute values in deference to a markedly ethical and pedagogical conception. The exhibited works, which rightfully range themselves among the most outstanding expressions of portraiture, reveal a deep spiritual harmony evocative of beauty and unleash a lively dialogue with the onlooker based on a real and inherent economy of the act of viewing, albeit freed from the exercise of a psychologism oriented toward uncontrollable wanderings. The reception of the meaning of the formal systems – thoughtful poses and attitudes – involves, to be sure, the active presence of the spectator in a sort of visual dialogue with the portrait that is not considered exclusively as a fixed commemorative system but rather as an interactive structure.