Specula: Journal of Humanities and Spirituality




The large panel painting of the Passion in Palma de Mallorca is an impressive but little-studied work. This essay introduces a long-term, collaborative project that will examine the panel’s religious, historical, and art historical significance. While earlier scholarship has largely focused on questions of dating and stylistic attribution, we also explore possible explanations for the panel’s anomalous style as well as its meanings to the Clarissan nuns of Palma de Mallorca, who, we believe, were the panel’s primary viewers. We argue for the importance of this female community in commissioning the altarpiece and determining its key subjects and themes. These Clares shared with their powerful allies, the Franciscan Order, the papacy, and the royal house of Mallorca, a desire to serve and strengthen Christianity throughout their known world. The nuns could not participate in missionary activity abroad, but close to home were the non-Christian residents of Mallorca. For the nuns of Santa Clara, the presence of Jewish neighbors was especially disturbing. The Mallorca panel of the Passion was primarily devotional; it does not overtly preach through its pictures a Christian supremacy over “infidels”. Nevertheless, the far-reaching goals of the Church and the Franciscans affect the panel in concrete ways, from its Byzantine-inflected style to its unusual attention to the Jews of the Passion story. 


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