CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

International Symposium accompanying the Exhibition “Tronies – Marlene Dumas and the Old Masters “

Symposium: 4 February 2011

Information from the organizers

The technical term “tronie” in the field of art history is derived from Netherlandish parlance in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and means “head,” “face,” or “countenance.” It designates paintings of individual heads, bust length or half-figures, usually against a neutral background by painters such as Rubens, Rembrandt and Frans Hals. The works were painted from living models or exhibit a strongly individualized physiognomy, and they are characterized by a particularly free and striking use of artistic techniques. The research of recent years has concentrated intensively on the definition of the pictorial form, on its distinction from related categories such as the portrait and the single-figure genre representation, as well as on issues
concerning the origin and functions of tronies.

The dialogical exhibition featuring works by the South African-Dutch painter Marlene Dumas as well as by Old Masters demonstrates the potential for treating this theme in a manner transcending eras and disciplines. The accompanying symposium is intended to elaborate and to deepen this integrative approach through an interdisciplinary conversation among art historians, historians and literary scholars.

In order to explore the cultural-anthropological dimension of the phenomenon and to attain findings going beyond the research conducted up to now, the presentations concentrate upon the historical discourse concerning the human face and its perception. This gives rise to a new view with regard to the long-term development and transformation of the pictorial form, its reception, and the approaches of individual artists.

Chris Dercon

Opening lecture
Thomas Kirchner (Kunstgeschichtliches Institut der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main)

Ausdruckstheorien von der Antike bis ins 18. Jahrhundert

Development and reception in early modern times I
Franziska Gottwald (Department of Art, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada)

Die Genese des Tronies aus den Studienköpfen des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts

Coffee break

Development and reception in early modern times II
Dagmar Hirschfelder (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg)

Rezeption und Nachleben der niederländischen Tronie im 18. Jahrhundert

Perspectives in cultural history and comparative literature I
Arianne Baggerman (Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen) and Rudolf Dekker (Center for the Study of Egodocuments and History, Amsterdam)

Looking at Oneself and at Others: Written Portraits in the Dutch Republic

Lunch break

Perspectives in cultural history and comparative literature II
Lia van Gemert (Universiteit van Amsterdam, Neerlandistiek, Directeur Amsterdams Centrum voor de Studie van de Gouden Eeuw)

Early Modern Dutch Poets and Scholars on the Meaning of Facial Expressions

Case studies I
Peter Black (Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery, University of Glasgow)

The Glasgow Head Study and Other Tronies by Rubens

Case studies II
Jan Muylle (Department of Art, Music and Theatre Sciences, Ghent University)

Rembrandt and Lagneau. About Tronies of Classic Scholars

Coffee break

Case studies III
Jan Nicolaisen (Museum der bildenden K√ľnste, Leipzig)

Zwischen tronie und Kopie: Bemerkungen zu einigen Bildern der Rembrandt-Werkstatt in der Leipziger Sammlung

Case studies IV
León Krempel (Haus der Kunst, Munich)

Allegorische Kopf-Paare bei Johannes Vermeer

Closing discussion

Concept and moderation
Dagmar Hirschfelder, León Krempel

Lecture durations: 20 to 30 minutes each with subsequent discussion

Symposium languages German and English

The contributions to the symposium will be published at a later date. Early orders can be sent to

Entrance: free. Registration is necessary, by email at or by telephone
at +49 (0)89 21127-113.

Artist’s lecture by Marlene Dumas
Entrance: 5 euros / 12 euros including the exhibition
Online reservation:
Information / registration until February 2 at or by telephone at +49 (0)89 21127-113.

Exhibition and symposium is sponsored by
Roland Berger Strategy Consultants

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News about this symposium