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Title: The visual culture of death in Malta : 1675-1814 art and the rituals of death in an age in which plague was a feared reality
Authors: Attard, Christian (2016)
Keywords: Plague -- Malta -- History -- 17th century
Plague -- Malta -- History -- 19th century
Death in art
Funeral rites and ceremonies -- Malta
Death -- Social aspects -- Malta
Issue Date: 2016
Citation: Attard, C. (2016). The visual culture of death in Malta: 1675-1814 art and the rituals of death in an age in which plague was a feared reality (Doctoral dissertation).
Abstract: The visual culture and the accompanying rituals of death have, through time immemorial, helped to dilute the sorrowful finality of loss; they were a means through which death, grievance and mourning were sanitised, aestheticised and at times, turned into sheer spectacle. This study examines and contextualizes the intricate, sometimes colourful, visual culture that evolved around the subject of death in the Catholic world, focusing especially on Malta during a period bookended by two devastating plague bouts, namely, the plague of 1675-6 and that of 1813-14. This artistic legacy was the direct result of a host of religious beliefs, doctrines, rituals and mores, and, more often than not, it developed independently of plague spells or other calamitous events. One cannot, however, rule out the possibility that large-scale catastrophes could have impacted upon this visual legacy. An intricate iconography— upon which this study elaborates—was developed around the plague. It is consequently an ongoing discourse of the present study—a leitmotif—to determine the extent of influence wielded by calamities (with a particular reference to the two plague-bouts in question) on the development of the visual culture of death in Malta. A secondary theme herewith tackled is the charting of possible changes in people’s ways of thinking about death. Such changes, if present at all, might have been very subtle, almost imperceptible, and possibly stratified; this means that new ideas would have perfectly co-existed with older ones. These possible changes are inferred through, amongst others: careful analyses of plague or death related imagery; a sample study of last wills and testaments; research in contemporary literature and diaries. For the most part this study explores and meditates upon the ways art offered hope and possible redemption in the face of death and disease. It delves into those ways art transformed a severance or a terrible disease into a codified and a wholesome, if not a desirable, event; the ways in which art offered tangible, believable answers to the unfathomable mysteries of humanity’s existence: suffering, death and afterlife.
Description: PH.D.HISTORY OF ART
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArt - 2016
Dissertations - FacArtHa - 2016

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