Monica Jansen (Utrecht University)


Monica Jansen is Assistant Professor in Italian at Utrecht University. Her research interests are: Italian contemporary literature and culture, modernism and postmodernism studies, cultural memory studies and precarity studies. Publications include: Il dibattito sul postmoderno in Italia: In bilico tra dialettica e ambiguità (Franco Cesati, 2002); a number of co-edited volumes, of which The History of Futurism: The Precursors, Protagonists, and Legacies (Lexington books, 2012), Le culture del precariato. Pensiero, azione, narrazione (ombre corte, 2015), Televisionismo. Narrazioni televisive della storia italiana negli anni della seconda Repubblica (edizioni Ca’ Foscari, 2015), and “Futurism and the Sacred”, International Yearbook of Futurism Studies 11 (De Gruyter, 2022); special journal issues, articles and book chapters. She is co-editor-in-chief of Annali d’Italianistica and is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Italian Cinema & Media Studies. She is a director of the book series “Moving Texts” (Peter Lang).

“Celso Costantini’s Uses of Modernism in Missionary Sacred Art: An Act of Decolonization?”

Celso Costantini (1876-1958), founder of the magazine Arte Cristiana in 1913 and appointed head of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide in 1935, became the main promoter and executor of Pope XI’s ideas on modern sacred art, and of the missionary policies of “inculturation” of the Popes Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII. He theorized the modernization of sacred art and architecture in opposition to novecentismo, and adopted his ideas on modernity and modernism also to missionary sacred art and indigenous art forms. In 1938 Costantini published on Arte Cristiana “Arte cristiana negra”, in which he asked how primitive black art could be “corrected” by Catholic missionary sacred art. In 1939 he questioned in “L’arte cristiana in Etiopia” how the universal missionary goal of evangelization could be reconciled with the Fascist regime’s aim to “italianize” Italian East Africa. This paper firstly aims to analyse Costantini’s writings on novecentismo, black art and missionary sacred art as documents which offer a canonical repertory of modern uses and modernist abuses of African primitive art within the restrictions of Christian liturgy and iconography. Special attention will be given to the transnational and interdisciplinary dimension of the sources which form his bibliography and to the photographs of artistic objects of which many originate from missionary collections. Secondly this study also starts from the assumption that Costantini has been a key-promoter in the process of the Church “decolonizing its Asian, African, and Latin American dioceses” during the last decades of European imperialism (Bridger, 2015: 108). To question the tension between the “de-westernization” of missionary art and the Christianization of indigenous art (Marinaccio 2021: 279), this paper proposes to read Costantini’s uses of modernism also from the present perspective of decolonial art practices, starting from two recent exhibitions in Brussels, IncarNations (Bozar, 2019) and Europa, Oxalá (Afrika Museum, 2022-23).