In: Pieter Bruegel the Elder
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This book takes as its subject an international community whose every member contributed his or her knowledge, wealth, unique talents, and hospitality to the collective prosperity. It was exactly this type of a community from which I benefited while pursuing my research project, and without which its completion would never have been possible.

I owe my primary thanks to Mark Meadow, under whose supervision I completed my doctoral studies, which eventually led to this book. Mark’s intellectual guidance, wise mentorship, and confidence in my abilities shaped me as a scholar, while making this process gratifying and enjoyable. I have also greatly benefited from the exceptional erudition, challenging questions, and enthusiasm of other faculty members at the University of California Santa Barbara, especially Robert (Bob) Williams, Jeanette Peterson, Ann Adams, and Carole Paul. I am deeply saddened that Bob, whose expertise was crucial for sharpening my understanding of Renaissance art theory, did not have the chance to see this final product of my research.

However, the research presented in this book originated long before I left for Santa Barbara. I am forever indebted to Professor Jerzy Axer, the most charismatic, knowledgeable, and bold humanist and academic I have ever met, who generously encouraged me to continue my studies in the United States. I am only beginning to discover all the wisdom Professor Axer shared with me, and he remains the living proof that convivial conversations have a truly transformative power. I would also like to thank Antoni Ziemba, my mentor in the Institute of Art History at the University of Warsaw, for nurturing my intellectual curiosity and patiently advising me on my often too-long seminar papers. Immediately before joining the Department of History of Art and Architecture at UC Santa Barbara, generous funding from the Marie Curie European Doctorate in the Social History of Europe and the Mediterranean allowed me to benefit from Professor Bart Ramakers’s unrivaled expertise in early modern Dutch literature. The outcome of my research at the University of Groningen largely informs the interpretations presented in this book.

At UC Santa Barbara, the Graduate Division and the Department of History of Art and Architecture supported me financially. Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel provided further funding and access to much of the primary material discussed in this book. In Antwerp, Guido Marnef helped with analyzing nuances of the city’s history, while efforts by librarians and archivists in the Ruusbroec Institute, Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library, Museum Plantin Moretus, Rubenianum, and Felix Archive secured the efficiency and thoroughness of my primary research. I would like to extend my gratitude to the staff in the Special Collections at the Leiden University and Royal Library in The Hague.

At Sam Houston State University, I benefited immensely from my colleagues’ support and interest in this project. I would like to thank the Department of Art for financial help in securing permissions for images published in this book. Finally, I am deeply indebted to all the SHSU faculty with whom I had a pleasure to work in the Faculty Writing Circles for their kindness, collective perseverance, and sharing about the successes and difficulties of academic life.

This book would not have been possible without Laura Gelfand, and I am hoping that one day I will have the chance to pay forward her wisdom and inspiration. The comments of the anonymous reviewer of my manuscript were essential in shaping its final version, and helped me to address many difficult questions about the organization and presentation of the material. I would also like to thank my editor at Brill, Marcella Mulder, for patiently and kindly guiding me through the publishing process. My gratitude also goes to all the individuals who assisted me in securing image reproductions used in this publication.

At all stages of my research, I was fortunate to enjoy kindness and understanding from family and friends. My parents, Elzbieta and Piotr, have continued to support me in every possible way throughout the challenges that inevitably come with moving across the Atlantic in pursuit of an academic career. My brother’s family, relatives, and friends in Warsaw made my trips back home worth every minute; I’m particularly grateful to my niece Zuzia for reminding me, in deeds if not in words, that play is older than culture. Thanks also to the friends whom I met at UC Santa Barbara and at the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel. I now think of the graduate school with nostalgia, and I’m grateful for all the times when travels bring us together to again share convivial conversations and laughter. Finally, I would like to thank my husband for his support, without which I would not have been able to bring this project to completion.

I have benefited from decades of research on the Northern Renaissance, to which I strove to do justice in my annotations. But there’s one book that inspired me personally and professionally more than any other—and it’s not mentioned in the bibliography. It was the first Polish edition of Heinrich Wölfflin’s Die klassische Kunst from 1931. The copy owned by my family bears a dedication to my grandmother, Alicja Kaminska, written by her nephew Almar on Christmas Eve of 1941. According to my grandmother, Almar was a talented young violinist. But his career was cut short when in the spring of 1943 he was killed in the streets of occupied Warsaw. This book is dedicated to him and to my beloved grandmother, who not only unknowingly encouraged me to pursue a career I first envisioned as a teenager, but embedded it with a sense of gratitude and purpose.