CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Two sides of the same coin? Nature and History at the time of Pieter Bruegel and Michiel Coxcie (c. 1540-1585)

Symposium: 13 December - 14 December 2013

Information from the organizers, 17 September 2013

A symposium in M – Museum Leuven & the Royal Museums of Fine Art in Brussels. In collaboration with the Universities of Leuven and Ghent

Pieter Bruegel (d. 1569) and Michiel Coxcie (1499-1592) were highly successful painters. Both were active among urban and courtly elites in Antwerp and Brussels. Both were trained in the local painting and tapestry milieu. Both went to Italy. Nevertheless, their respective interpretations of early Netherlandish art, Italian Renaissance art and theory, antiquity and nature were utterly different. Although their respective styles and iconographies seem conflicting, they also correspond: each in their own way formulated new imagery based on nature as well as on history. Their diverging attempts to craft new artistic idioms by reworking various sources ultimately concur in the humanist ‘ad fontes’ idea. As such, the work of Bruegel and Coxcie is illustrative of the paradoxical nature of sixteenth century northern art and its art historical assessment.

The ambition of this conference is to reassess the astonishing stylistic diversity among Netherlandish painters at the time of Bruegel and Coxcie. Particularly its seemingly contradictory nature will be examined. How did Netherlandish artists, upon their return from Italy, merge the artistic traditions of North and South, the Antique and the vernacular, nature and history? How could common paradigms lead to such divergent outcomes?

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