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Online Kress Talks with Felicity Good and Alec Aldrich

  • Alec Aldrich (UC Santa Barbara)
  • Felicity Good (UC Santa Barbara)
Wednesday 11 October 2023
Museum Talks at the Leiden Department of Art History

Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscape, Technology, and Projects: The Atlas Blaeu-van der Hem as Common Ground

Alec Aldrich (UC Santa Barbara)

Engineering technologies such as, sluices, watermills, and polders populate seventeenth-century Dutch landscape images by artists. They were likewise the subject of printed maps, schematics, patent applications and engineering tracts. Can these different contexts and visual situations come together to inform our understanding of Dutch landscape imagery? Hand-colored prints, in addition to topographical and landscape drawings compiled in the customized Atlas Blaeu-van der Hem are just one seventeenth-century context in which these interests converge. Together they evince an interest in the “project”, or an enterprise deploying useful knowledge to exploit the material world, a seventeenth-century concept that unites a wide range of landscape image types with a common set of rhetorical and pictorial concerns.

Jan Matthysz., after Pieter Post, compiled by Laurens van der Hem. Plan and Bird’s-eye View of the Sluices and the Headquarters of the Rijnland Water Board at Halfweg, 1654. Engraving with hand-coloring and heightened with gold. 37.5 x 44.5 cm. Atlas Blaeu-Van der Hem, Vol. 15, fol. 95 - 96. Vienna, Austrian National Library.

It’s All Fun and Games: Play and the Social Education of Children in Early Modern Antwerp

Felicity Good (UC Santa Barbara)

Tucked away in the far lower-left corner of Bruegel’s Children’s Games are two adolescent girls playing with dolls. Facing each other, the girls sit on the ground underneath a miniature altar that is seemingly dedicated to the Virgin Mary—a tiny idol of the Virgin of the Apocalypse wreathed in flames appears on the uppermost shelf alongside crosses, devotional woodcuts, and other religious trinkets. Depicted in Children’s Games are boys and girls of all ages. Their activities vary greatly—some amuse themselves with toys and dolls, others roughhouse, while others enact marriage, baptism, and childrearing in the guise of play. Bruegel’s painting raises questions surrounding how play was understood as a critical component of a child’s social, behavioral, and intellectual development during the early modern period. Recreation was encouraged as part of a well-rounded humanist education and provided much needed respite from mentally taxing academic pursuits. Play—in and out of the context of school—served a dual function of teaching children, through enacted experience, about expectations of adulthood. This paper examines how, through the creation of an encyclopedic image on the topic of childhood games, Bruegel creates and image that encourages active construction of meaning predicated upon questions concerning the expectations of adulthood and its institutions like marriage, parenthood, and religion. More broadly, representations of games and play enabled early modern adult audiences to investigate the ritualized nature of adulthood through the lens of childhood.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Children’s Games, 1560. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. 118 cm × 161 cm (46 in × 63 in).
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