Decorating the 'Godly' Household

Religious Art in Post-Reformation Britain

Tara Hamling

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The Reformation is generally regarded as a calamitous episode in the history of British art, with the rich artistic heritage of the medieval period eradicated and replaced by an austere Protestant culture of the word. This compelling new study presents a wealth of visual evidence to argue that religious subject matter was common in the arts of Protestant Britain. Tara Hamling examines decorative features from historic houses throughout England and Scotland and identifies a significant but overlooked trend in the history of British art. Far from being hostile towards images, a great many Protestant patrons continued to desire and commission traditional religious art to decorate their houses.

Tara Hamling is a RCUK/Roberts Research Fellow in the Department of History, University of Birmingham, and a Fellow of the Shakespeare Institute, where she is currently based.

"This beautiful and elegant book….makes us re-appraise our heritage."—Stav Sherez, Catholic Herald

“A boldly imaginative and copiously illustrated work.”—Keith Thomas, Times Literary Supplement

“…this book is full of important and original ideas. But what I most enjoyed about it was Hamling’s enthusiasm for the wonderful objects she describes.”—Alec Ryrie, Times Higher Education Supplement

“This beautifully produced book is now a key volume in our understanding of how the religious image inspired and prompted devotion even on the Protestant side of the great Reformation divide.”—Maurice Howard, The Art Newspaper

“…this is a most impressive début by a talented and imaginative young scholar; and anyone who reads it will undoubtedly be both enlightened and challenged by it.”—Ian Green, English Historical Review

"These rooms come instantly to life, the pictorial vividness of their—supposedly illicit—biblical Protestant decor animated by Hamling’s lively presentation. She buttresses these in situ interpretations with clearly presented information about the private daily life of the devout English family within the larger iconoclastic bounds of official doctrine."—Erika Boeckeler, Huntington Library Quarterly

"Decorating the 'Godly' Household offers a subtle and thoughtful analysis of the religious image under pressure from unfriendly theologies. It makes us think about the problems of understanding how that pressure was played out in the daily lives of modern Christians [and] makes visible an abundance of works that should be seen."—Charles Ford, Oxford Art Journal
ISBN: 9780300162820
Publication Date: March 8, 2011
Co-publisher: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
256 pages, 7 1/2 x 10
80 b/w + 40 color illus.
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