Over the winter break Professor Jack Freiberg delivered a paper in a conference sponsored by the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa: “Mondi e Tempi Nuovi, profetismo e imperi globali nella prima età moderna” (New Worlds and New Times: Prophecy and Global Empires in the Early Modern Period). Historians, philologists, and art historians from Italy, Spain, and the US gathered to share their research concerning the role of prophecy in framing the exploration of the New World sponsored by the kings of Spain and Portugal.
Professor Freiberg’s contribution focused on how visual images, and not just literary texts, need to be understood as prophetic statements. His topic was the famous Byzantine icon of Christ preserved in the Roman basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, known as the Image of Pity (Imago Pietatis). The icon and the theme of the Man of Sorrows to which it pertains has long been recognized as holding special importance for the history of Christian devotion. Professor Freiberg introduced the ideological and prophetic dimension of its meaning in the fourteenth century when the icon was imported to Italy from the East, and around 1500 when it was employed to promote the vision of Catholic hegemony espoused by the King and Queen of Spain, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castile.