Morgan Currie, Instructor II, Art History, SSAC, Carleton University
“Through the Eyes of a Saint: Performativity, Reception, and The Vision of the Crucifixion”
At some point in the later sixteenth century, the Discalced Carmelite reformer, mystic, poet, and theologian St John of the Cross made a small sketch of a vision he had while praying in his cell. The drawing has received little attention outside of Discalced Carmelite circles; a relative neglect that is understandable given the scale and context, but unfortunate. Despite the modest appearance, The Vision of the Crucifixion provides a vision into the image culture of the early modern Discalced Carmelites, a sophisticated system of visual communication and reception able to convey the most esoteric aspects of their mystical theology. John’s drawing effectively transforms his private devotion into a form of visual reenactment that allows viewers to identify with him on a visceral level by sharing in his experience. This is very different from conventional histories of early modern reception, which suggests visual expression in general was broader and subtler than often assume!