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The War and Art Project

Highlighting the Cultural Effects of Iconoclasm



Anonymous, Protestants ‘Making a Clean Sweep of a Catholic Church’, 1566, Engraving, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Case Study 1 portrays “’the iconoclasts’ and thus the Calvinists’ aversion to the gold and silver liturgical vessels…”[1] This engraving, titled, Protestants ‘Making a Clean Sweep’ of a Catholic Church, Anonymous, 1566, (Figure 1) is an allegorical representation of the Beeldenstorm.


This work is representative imagery of the Protestant sentiment toward Catholic icons and the Pope. The evocative engraving shows “a group of iconoclasts pulling down a statue above a church portal, and hammering on others which are already on the ground.”[2]  The caption at the bottom of the engraving reveals euphoric sentiments of the destruction that occurred soon after the Beeldenstorm. The broken Catholic vessels on the ground are being allegorically “swept up” as material culture of the Devil, as the Devil flies off with “ornaments he was able to save.”[3]


Images such as this reflect the Protestant conviction that “the Devil [was] responsible for the miracles which had been so vital for Catholic culture and devotional life during the preceding decades.”[4] By crushing the objects, they believe they are crushing the belief.


[1] Koenraad Jonckheere, Antwerp Art After Iconoclasm: Experiments in Decorum:1566-1585 (Brussels, Belgium: Mercatorfonds, New Haven: Distributed by Yale University Press, 2012),  247.

[2] Ruben Suykerbuyk, “Chapter 7 1566: The Beeldenstorm and Its Aftermath,” in The Matter of Piety. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2020, 269.

[3] Suykerbuyk, “Chapter 7 1566: The Beeldenstorm…”, 270.

[4] Suykerbuyk, “Chapter 7 1566: The Beeldenstorm…”, 270


War and Art Project

University of South Alabama

Mobile, Alabama

© Tiffany Beasley 2022

Contact: ArtShire Substack