Agents of Faith Votive Objects in Time and Place Ittai Weinryb

Publication date:
02 Sep 2018
Bard Graduate Center
372 pages: 305 x 216mm
250 color + 60 b-w illus.
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Votive objects or ex-votos are a broad category of material artifacts produced with the intention of being offered as acts of faith. Common across historical periods, religions, and cultures, they are presented as tokens of gratitude for prayers answered, as well as the physical manifestation of hopes and anxieties. Agents of Faith explores votive offerings in the context of material culture, art history, and religious studies to better understand their history and present-day importance. By looking at what humans have chosen to offer in their votive transactions, this volume uncovers their most intimate moments in life and questions the nature, role, and function of one of the most fundamental aspects of the relationship between people and things—the imbuing of objects with sentiment. Encompassing exquisite works of art as well as votives of humble origin and material, with objects dating from 2000 B.C. to the twenty‐first century, the beautiful illustrations and wide-ranging text expose the global reach of votive practices and the profoundly personal nature behind their creation.

Ittai Weinryb is associate professor at the Bard Graduate Center, New York.

“One of the great gifts of global consciousness has been to remind Western secular culture that some art has power beyond the aesthetic. And that power is what this book, the catalog for a show at Bard Graduate Center Gallery in Manhattan (through Jan. 6), is about. It brings together objects of spiritual significance from Africa, Asia, Latin America, medieval Europe and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. Each item was designed to seal a vow, ask for help or give thanks for an answered prayer. Together they demonstrate that art is alive and interactive.”—Holland Cotter, New York Times 

“Lavishly illustrated with colour plates, it is an absolute joy to turn pages that open up a complex expression of faith—namely, the desire onthe part of the devotee to present something to a deity either in petition or gratitude”—Christopher Colven, Art Newspaper