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Journal > Volumes > 52 (2021) / 2 (Summer)
The Cross and the Lotus Flower: Reinventing Christian Art in Early Modern India
Erin Benay
Case Western Reserve University

It has long been acknowledged that the success of the Jesuit mission in Goa, India, was due in part to its strategic use of art and architecture to promote the ideals of the order and to garner local support. This article instead focuses on art produced in the modern-day state of Kerala, where the advent of a material culture of Christianity was complicated by a preexisting community of Christians who trace their lineage to the arrival of Saint Thomas the Apostle in the first century. This essay argues that it was through the incorporation of Hindu motifs and ideology in these objects that Thomas Christians forged and preserved their own religious identities despite the encroachment of the Jesuits. In so doing, the practice of “global” Renaissance art history is expanded to account for the pluralistic and performative function of art in the contact zone between cultures.

Pages: 277 - 311