Defining the sacred in fine art and devotional imagery
Beginning with a definition of the sacred as a two-fold process of making things special, which consists of accentuation and affiliation, this essay proceeds to argue that things are made sacred in devotional piety and in fine art in parallel ways that configure images within webs of agents. The two kinds of imagery perform in practices of sacralization that move toward different ends. The production of aura is at work in each case, but operates with distinct aims. The essay then presents a historical account of fine art as a modern development tied to the rise of the nation-state, in which secularization extended to making art independent of religious institutions and patrons, allowing it to develop in a way that should be distinguished from devotional imagery. This does not mean that religion withers in the modern era, but that art developed its own mode of sacralization.
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