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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Narratives of Origin in Netherlandish Art: Maarten de Vos & Late Sixteenth-Century Print Design as Visual Exegesis
by Herrin, Amanda K., Ph.D., New York University, 2016, 593; 10139599
Abstract (Summary)

Maarten de Vos (1532–1603) was an artist for whom the history of Adam and Eve held a particularly sustained pictorial interest, one that spanned the last three decades of the sixteenth century. As the leading figure of the Antwerp school, and the most sought-after draughtsman of his day, de Vos produced an extraordinary number of designs for religious prints, many of which represent God’s creation of Adam, Eve, and all living creatures in Paradise, as well as the Fall of Man, and other episodes from the Book of Genesis. De Vos’s origin imagery evidences the biblical story’s profound importance to the visual culture of early modern Europe. Although the narrative accounts of the Creation and the Fall of Man together take up only a handful of passages in the Bible, they played a central role in shaping Protestant and Catholic understandings of human nature and the natural world during the Reformation era. With the power to convey specific doctrinal concerns over humanity’s existential state, de Vos’s pictures of God’s creation of the universe, Paradise and its earliest inhabitants, and the downfall of Adam and Eve raise salient questions about the relationship between verbal and visual interpretations of Scripture—that is, between verbal and visual hermeneutics. Do Maarten de Vos’s visual narratives of origin tell a different story from the Bible’s verbal narrative? Do they reflect, engage in, or mediate the theological imperatives of the Reformation? Speaking both to the visual narrativity of the image, as well as to its status as visual exegesis, de Vos’s use of figurative and analogical symbols and types, as well as exegetical metaphors and allegories, to represent the origins of humankind, points to the artist’s transformation of the biblical image from narrative illustration into exegetical instrument. De Vos reimagined humanity’s history in prints exploring the relevance of the past to contemporary sixteenth-century epistemological concerns, revealing him to be an artist-exegete who deftly navigated the contentious religious and political landscape of Antwerp during the Dutch Revolt (1566–1648). Shedding new light on the work of this prolific draughtsman and painter, Narratives of Origin in Netherlandish Art represents the first in-depth examination of the exegetical nature of Maarten de Vos’s little-studied print design work, and it opens a unique window onto the production, circulation, and reception of his prints within the sensitive theological context of the Reformation and Counter Reformation in the Low Countries and abroad during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Westermann, Mariet
Commitee: Honig, Elizabeth A., Mochizuki, Mia M., Nagel, Alexander
School: New York University
Department: Institute of Fine Arts
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 78/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, Art history, European Studies
Keywords: Antwerp, Paradise, Prints, Sadeler, Jan, Visual exegesis, de Vos, Marten
Publication Number: 10139599
ISBN: 978-1-339-95084-6
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