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‘One of those Lutherans we used to burn in Campo de’ Fiori.’ Engraving sublimated suffering in Counter-Reformation Rome

This essay explores aspects of the biographies and oeuvres of Mattheus Greuter and Philippe Thomassin to undertake an inflected case study of Catholic Counter-Reformation cross-cultural sublimation of the violent physical suffering of actual martyrdom (also called red martyrdom, bloody martyrdom, or martyrdom unto blood) into nonviolent spiritual martyrdom (or white martyrdom, lifelong martyrdom, martyrdom by desire, or martyrdom in intention) by means of somato-sensorial practices of image-making and viewing. Nonviolent spiritual martyrdom was neither new nor exclusive to the Catholic Counter Reformation. Rather, white martyrdom was rooted in the Gospels, expounded in patristic writings, and boasted a robust late medieval heritage. In plotting the paradox of early modern martyrdom against the contemporaneous culture of the convert(ing) imprint, I attend to how the incised line of northern-trained engravers, prized in Italy by 1600 for technical virtuosity and curvilinear aesthetic qualities, acquired new symbolic meanings in discourse surrounding conversion and sensual suffering internal to Catholicism following the Council of Trent (1545–63).