Proliferation of the Subject of Christ Cleansing the Temple in 16th Century Painting: The Urban-Sociological Context

Džana Mehmedović


This paper aims to provide the urban-sociological context for the significant proliferation of the topic of Christ Cleansing the Temple in 16th-century painting. Widely accepted interpretations of this phenomenon consider it exclusively in the context of the Counter-Reformation, i.e. the Catholic Revival, considering the topic to be a symbol of the rejection of Protestant dogma or, otherwise, the Church's struggle against the demoralization of its clerics. The Counter-Reformation context is indisputably significant. However, certain socioeconomic processes that mark the 16th century, such as the development of protocapitalism in Italy, i.e. the establishment of year-round trade in the city and the emergence of a new, politically and economically dominant class of merchants and bankers, also emerge as an aspect worth examining. French sociologist Henri Lefebvre considered the 16th century to be a turning point in the development of urban forms and pointed out the connection between this biblical story and the disdain for the restructuring of the city which was due to those changes. Owing to his theses on the production of space, we will observe a dual involvement of the Church in the motions of inhibition and initiation of processes which, by producing a new type of space, disrupt the balance that ensured its material and symbolic power.


16th century; painting; the Renaissance; Christ Cleansing the Temple; urban sociology

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