10 Baroque emblemata from the Saint-Charles Borromée Church in Antwerp have regained their brilliance

12th of May 2014

The Jesuits commissioned these works for the Saint-Charles Borromée Church in 1640 to celebrate the Order’s centenary. The works were recently found in the doors of the oratory, where they had been placed two by two, back to back.

The emblemata show idyllic, rural scenes with putti, framed by cartouches in grisaille with a Latin motto on each one. The mottos are in fact the foundations of the Order of Jesuits: six of them feature the religious vows, rules and missions of the society; another has the Jubilee from which this commission originated and the last three relate to the ordeals and adversaries of the order. They are a rare testimony to the iconography of Jesuit propaganda of the period.

Emblemata began to appear during the Renaissance with an educational objective and went on to become very popular during the 17th and 18th centuries. An emblema is characterized by the combination of an image and a quotation that enables the work to communicate an allegorical or moralizing message.