The question of how to understand Bruegel’s art has cast the artist in various guises: as a moralizing satirist, comedic humanist, celebrator of vernacular traditions, and proto-ethnographer. Stephanie Porras reorients these apparently contradictory accounts, arguing that the debate about how to read Bruegel has obscured his pictures’ complex relation to time and history.
Rather than viewing Bruegel’s art as simply illustrating the social realities of his day, Porras asserts that Bruegel was an artist deeply concerned with the past. In playing with the boundaries of the familiar and the foreign, history and the present, Bruegel’s images engaged with the fraught question of Netherlandish history in the years just prior to the Dutch Revolt, when imperial, religious, and national identities were increasingly drawn into tension. His pictorial style and his manipulation of traditional iconographies reveal the complex relations, unique to this moment, among classical antiquity, local history, and art history.
An important reassessment of Renaissance attitudes toward history and of Renaissance humanism in the Low Countries, this volume traces the emergence of archaeological and anthropological practices in historical thinking, their intersections with artistic production, and the developing concept of local art history.