Bruegel and the Lost Art of Cloth Painting
Bonebakker, Odilia M.
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CitationBonebakker, Odilia M. 2019. Bruegel and the Lost Art of Cloth Painting. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe art world’s most sensational event of 2010 was the rediscovery of Bruegel’s Wine of St. Martin’s Day, his largest extant painting and one of four painted in distemper on linen canvas. While the rest of his surviving paintings are oil-on-panel paintings, the more durable and therefore better-known type of painting of the Netherlandish school, documents indicate that he executed more works (now lost) in distemper-on-cloth.
This is the first comprehensive study of Bruegel and the theory and practice of Netherlandish cloth painting in his century, a missing chapter in the history of art. Presenting a rich social history of the lost medium, the dissertation shows how Bruegel’s terrain-shifting work emerged from a matrix of local practices in a moment when the modern easel painting became the new, dominant form. Part One describes the lost art of cloth painting in the sixteenth-century Netherlands, exploring practitioners, technique, terminology, scale, display, and contentions in the media domains. Part Two discusses Bruegel’s training and practice as a cloth painter and analyzes the consequences for his mature aesthetic. The last chapter provides a close analysis of his famous last masterpiece on cloth, The Blind Leading the Blind (1568) and considers the rhetorical function of color and medium.
The dissertation challenges prior understandings by arguing for the strategic roots of Bruegel’s work in the court crafts, including cloth painting. It also challenges assumptions about the late medieval and early modern paint media by arguing that cloth painting was a major and prestigious art form rather than a second-rate substitute for oil painting or tapestry. Drawing on extensive primary research, the dissertation proffers revisionist accounts of Bruegel’s pivotal role and of the origins of the modern easel painting of everyday life.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41121343
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