This research aims to understand the aspects of theatricality and idolatry in Bernard Picart's Cérémonis et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde (1723-1743).
In both The Book that Changed Europe (2010) and The First Global Vision of Religion (2010), Lynn Hunt, Margaret Jacob, and Wijnand Mijnhardt explore the intriguing Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde (1723-1743) by Bernard Picart and Jean-Frederic Bernard. As Hunt, Jacob and Mijnhardt show, these seven illustrated books on all the world’s religions tried to contribute to religious tolerance in the midst of an early modern world characterised by seemingly endless religious conflicts. Moreover, Hunt, Jacob and Mijnhardt indicate that Picart and Bernard set the tone for a comparative approach to religion that will be of great importance for early anthropological ideas about religion in the Enlightenment. In this study, however, I would like to highlight another aspect in their work that has never been explored before. By focussing on the concrete ceremonies and rituals that Picart and Bernard study within the different religions, I seek to (1) examine how the actual religious rituals function within a broader performative context; (2) highlight how such rites and ceremonies within the diverse range of religions are represented discursively and visually in the books; (3) shift the focus of this research from the religious and cultural comparative perspective to the ongoing, political discussion around a changing discourse on idolatry and fetishism, which can be traced back to the inauguration of the statue of Louis XIV on the Place des Victoires in Paris in 1686; and (4) examine to what extent this political dimension in the discourse on idolatry and fetishism in relation to the inauguration of statues or inaugurations of important figures in the further course of the eighteenth century - including Louis XV, the Pope and the stadholder of the Republic - continues after the death of Louis XIV in 1715.