Netherlandish art in the 17th century depicted the human body in an unprecedented variety of ways, from Hendrick Goltzius's muscle-bound Great Hercules to Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholas Tulp, and from the anonymous drinkers in Adriaen Brouwer's genre scenes to Rubens's loving depictions of individual members of his family.
Portraits, produced in their thousands, ranged from depictions of ultra-respectable, upright citizens to bawdy self-portraits. Allegorical prints of the five senses rubbed shoulders (as it were) with Hendrick de Keyser's great monument to William of Orange in marble and bronze.
This course explores this diverse and fascinating material from the perspective of debates about the relationship between the body, the mind and the soul during this period.
Remembering that René Descartes spent the prime of his life in the Netherlands, from 1628–1649, it will explore and challenge a dualist position, according to which our thinking faculty functions quite separately from our mechanical, physical body.
Ultimately, the course will envisage different configurations of matter and spirit, enabling beholders to develop and entertain shifting connections between their own 'exterior' face and 'inner' virtue.
Language and other requirements
Standard entry requirements. Knowledge of Dutch or a Germanic language, whilst not essential, would be an advantage.
Resources for Study: Picturing the Netherlandish Canon
The idea for Picturing the Netherlandish Canon arose during Professor Joanna Woodall's research and teaching on the subject of Netherlandish portraiture at The Courtauld Institute of Art. The project's original aim was to make the entire series of prints in Hendrik Hondius’s 1610 edition of the Pictorum aliquot celebrium praecipuae Germaniae inferioris effigies available online with high-quality images, together with the first English translation of all the Latin texts. The format of the Effigies, a series of artists' portraits accompanied by Latin poems, is a distinctively Netherlandish form of ‘art literature’, forming an alternative to the biographies and academic art theory that were emerging in Italy in the second half of the sixteenth century. In collaboration with Dr. Stephanie Porras, the ambitions of the project expanded to encompass an online exhibition, as well as accompanying essays on the Effigies, in order to facilitate a closer and more precise analysis of both individual prints and the series as a whole.
The Picturing the Netherlandish Canon website aims to act not only as a scholarly resource, but as a forum for discussion and continued debate. The project therefore solicits additional bibliographic references and critical commentary, pertaining either to the 1610 Effigies or to individual portrait prints, for inclusion on the site. If you would like to contribute material to be incorporated online, please email email@example.com with your name, academic affiliation and proposed addenda.