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Darío Villalba, “Fiercely human. Portraits of Baroque Sanctity”

Sanctity and its portrayal in art were two aspects that characterised Baroque culture in Spain. Following the Council of Trent (1545–63), the cult of saints as mediators and the definition of Catholicism as a decidedly visual religion were cornerstones of the Catholic reaction to the Protestant Reformation. The late sixteenth century saw an increase in painted and sculpted images of sanctity in Spain. They were intended to move the faithful to devout imitation of the models of virtues shown in them and their realism was intensified in order to achieve this effectively. The aim was to reach viewers’ hearts through extremely lifelike works steeped in drama, and accordingly create images with a strong emotional impact.