This essay recovers the dialectics of authenticity informed by the reinvigorated emergence of the Mandylion of Edessa as an authorized early Christian relic in Counter-Reformation Italy. The original was a miraculously generated icon of Christ's face which later became a major devotional artifact in Constantinople during the Byzantine period. However, by the seventeenth century two celebrated images of Christ's face, at San Bartolomeo degli Armeni in Genoa and San Silvestro in Capite in Rome, made simultaneous claims to be the original Mandylion. By exploring the reception of these mandylions in Genoa and Rome, and in particular the arguments advanced to vouch for the authenticity of each, this essay delineates historicized ways of perceiving holy images as faithful testaments to the origins of Christian history. This analysis therefore challenges the presumed supremacy of modern paradigms of authenticity.

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