Picturing Miracles: Biblical Healings in the Paintings by Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Beuckelaer

In: Explorations in Renaissance Culture

In this essay, I analyze three sixteenth-century Netherlandish paintings of New Testament miraculous healings in the context of the contemporary understanding of miracles and approaches to disability. I argue that, in contrast to the negative perception of the infirm in the early modern literature, the images promote care for the sick as a Christian duty. Given the complicated theological status of miracles ca. 1600, scriptural healings begin to function primarily as exempla of mercy rather than as promises of supernatural intervention. In the discussed compositions, biblical stories become a model for sixteenth-century viewers through the rhetorical use of architectural backdrops, which replicate a strategy employed in the vernacular theatre and urban festivals. Finally, I show that this connection between miraculous healings and mercy is also established in the iconography of visiting the sick, in which broadly defined medical care is introduced as a manifestation of charity.

  • Adriani Henricus . Niewe Legende oft d’Leven Wercken Doot ende Miraculen Ons Liefs Heere[n] Jesu Christi. Antwerp: Hieronymus Verdussen1593. Print.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Anonymous. Historie van de wonderlijcke mirakelen die in menichte ghebeurt zijn ende noch dagelijcx ghebeuren binnen de vermaerde coop-stadt Aemstelredam: in een plaats ghenaempt het Tucht-huys gheleghen op de Heyligheweg. Amsterdam 1612. Print.

  • Bass Marisa. “Justus Lipsius and His Silver Pen.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 70 (2007): 157–194. Print.

  • Boudewyns Michaël . Dienstich ende gheneuchelijck tyt-verdryf voor siecken. Antwerp: Francoys Fickaert1654. Print.

  • Burke Peter. “How to Be a Counter-Reformation Saint.” Religion and Society in Early Modern Europe 1500–1800. Ed. Kaspar van Greyerz. London: George Allen & Unwin 1984: 45–55. Print.

  • Bussels Stijn . Spectacle Rhetoric and Power. The Triumphal Entry of Prince Philip of Spain into Antwerp. Amsterdam: Rodopi2012. Print.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Calvin John . “Commentary on John.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library. https://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom34.html

  • Couppé Daniel . Traicte der miracles. Monstrant qu’ils ne peuvent ester vrayes marques de l’Eglise. Rotterdam: A. Leers1645. Print.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cramer Samuel and Pijper Fredrik. Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica vol. 1. The Hague: M. Nijhoff 1903 273–366. Print.

  • Decker John . “Civic Charity, Civic Virtue: The Master of Alkmaar’s Seven Works of Mercy .” The Sixteenth Century Journal 41.1 (2010): 3–28. Print.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Duerloo Luc and Wingens marc. Scherpenheuvel. Het Jeruzalem van de Lage Landen. Leuven: UItgeverij Davidsfonds 2002. Print.

  • Duverger Erik . Antwerpse Kunstinventarissen uit de Zeventiende Eeuw . 12 vols. Brussels: Koninklijke Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van België1984–2009. Print.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Erasmus Desiderius . Paraphrase on John. Collected Works of Erasmus. Trans. Jane E. Philips ed. Robert D. Sider. Toronto–Buffalo–London: University of Toronto Press1991. Print.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Erasmus Desiderius . “The Well-To-Do Beggars.” Collected Works of Erasmus. Colloquies. Trans. and ed. Craig R. Thompson. Toronto–Buffalo–London: University of Toronto Press 1994 468–498 Print.

  • Erasmus Dediserius . Paraphrase on Acts. Collected Works of Erasmus. Trans. Robert D. Sider ed. John J. Bateman. Toronto–Buffalo–London: University of Toronto Press 1995. Print.

  • Gazola J. De Waereld door Onervarene of Scheine-Doctoren Bedrogen en de Maniere Om zich tegen hunne Kwakzalvery te hoeden . Leiden: Johannes Luzac1735. Print.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gheboden ende wtgeroepen by Cornelis van Mansdale. Onderschouteth Borghemeesteren Schepenen ende Raedt der Stadt van Antwerpen opten xiij. Septemb. M.D. lxxxi. Print.

  • Gheboden ende uyt-geroepen by mijne Heeren den Onder-Schouteth Borgher-Meesteren Schepenen ende Raedt der Stadt van Antwerpen op den 27. Julij 1643. Print.

  • Grapheus Cornelius . De seer wonderlijcke schoone triumphelijcke incompst. Antwerp 1550. Print.

  • Heuer Christopher P. The City Rehearsed: Object Architecture and Print in the Worlds of Hans Vredeman de Vries. New York: Routledge 2013. Print.

  • Hurx Merlijn . Architecture as Profession: The Origins of Architectural Practice in the Low Countries in the Fifteenth Century. Turnhout: Brepols2018. Print.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kahl Werner . New Testament Miracle Stories in their Religious-Historical Setting. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht1994. Print.

  • Kloek Wouter . “Een Aertsen tussen de Surrealisten.” Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum 4.51 (2003): 364–367. Print.

  • Kloek Wouter . Pieter Aertsen en de Wereld op Zijn Kop. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum2010. Print.

  • Kreidl Detlev. “Die religiöse Malerei Pieter Aertens als Grundlage Seiner Künstlerischen Entwicklung.” Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien 68 (1972): 43–108. Print.

  • Lieburg M.J. van. “De Genees- en Heelkunde in de Noordelijke Nederlanden, gezien vanuit de stedelijke en chirurgijnsgilde-ordonnanties van de 16e eeuw.” Tijdschrift voor de Geschiedenis der Geneeskunde Natuurwetenschappen Wiskunde en Techniek 4.6 (1983): 169–184. Print.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lipsius Justus . Wonderen der heylighe stadt Halle. Bruges: Laurens Doppes 1682. Print.

  • Luttervelt R. van. “Joost Cornelisz. Droochsloot en Zijn Werken voor Het Sint Barbara- en Laurentiusgasthuis te Utrecht.” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 1 (1947): 113–136. Print.

  • Mander Karel van. The Lives of the Illustrious Netherlandish and German Painters. Trans. and ed. Hessel Miedema. Doornspijk: Davaco 1994. Print.

  • Martens Pieter and Snaet Joris. “De Mariale bedevaartskerk van Scherpenheuvel. Een onderzoek naar dynastieke relaties en de verspreiding van ontwerpen en denkbeelden over architectuur.” knob Bulletin: 214–225. Print.

  • Masterman E.W.G. The Pool of Bethesda.” The Biblical World 2.25 (February 1905): 88–102. Print.

  • Meadow Mark. A. “Aertsen’s ‘Christ in the House of Martha and Mary’ Serlio’s Architecture and the Meaning of Location.” Rhetoric–Rhétoriqueurs–Rederijkers. Ed. Jelle Koopman. Amsterdam: Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen 1995 175–196. Print.

  • Meadow Mark A. ““Met geschickter ordenen”: The Rhetoric of Place in Philip ii’s 1549 Antwerp Blijde Incompst.” The Journal of the Walters Art Gallery 57 (1999): 1–11. Print.

  • Minne Eva Pais. “Het Kunstpatrimonium.” Het St.-Elisabethziekenhuis te Antwerpen. 750 jaar Gasthuis op ‘t Elzenveld 1238–1988. Ed. Jacques De Haes. Antwerp: Gemeentekrediet: 349–380. Print.

  • Moxey Keith. “Reflections on Some Unusual Subjects in the Work of Pieter Aertsen.” Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen 18 (1976): 57–83. Print.

  • Muller Sheila . Charity in the Dutch Republic. Pictures of Rich and Poor for Charitable Institutions . Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press1985. Print.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nemeth Istvan. “Between Christian and Profane Iconography: Depictions of the Pool of Bethesda in Netherlandish Art from circa 1400 to 1700.” Acta Historiae Artium. An Art-Historical Journal of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. 44 (2003): 225–235. Print.

  • Pestilli Livio . Picturing the Lame in Italian Art from Antiquity to the Modern Era. New York: Routledge 2017. Print.

  • Porterfield Amanda . Healing in the History of Christianity. Oxford: Oxford University Press2005. Print.

  • Ramakers Bart. “Sight and Insight: Paul as a Model of Conversion in Rhetoricians’ Drama.” The Turn of the Soul. Representations of Religious Conversion in Early Modern Art and Literature.” Eds. Lieke Stelling Harald Hendrix and Todd M. Richardson. Leiden and Boston: Brill 2012 337–372. Print.

  • Schama Simon . The Embarrassment of Riches. An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1987. Print.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schevensteen D. “Over Kwakzalvers-Strooibriefjes in de xvie eeuw.” De Gulden Passer 2 (1924): 17–30. Print.

  • Serlio Sebastiano . Den Tweeden Boeck van Architecturen. Antwerp: Mayken Verhulst 1553. Print.

  • Silver Larry and Luttikhuizen Henry. “The Quality of Mercy: Representations of Charity in Early Modern Netherlandish Art.” Studies in Iconography 29 (2008): 216–248. Print.

  • Silver Larry . Peasant Scenes and Landscapes. The Rise of Pictorial Genres in the Antwerp Art Market. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press2006. Print.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sluhovsky Moshe . “Calvinist Miracles and the Concept of the Miraculous in Sixteenth-Century Huguenot Thought.” Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 2.19 (Spring 1995): 5–25. Print.

  • Spierenburg Pieter . The Prison Experience: Disciplinary Institutions and Their Inmates in Early Modern Europe. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press 1991. Print.

  • Teeuwen Daniëlle. Financing Poor Relief through Charitable Collections in Dutch Towns c. 1600–1800. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2015. Print.

  • The Montias Database of 17th Century Dutch Art Inventories. (http://research.frick.org/montias/home.php).

  • Travill A.A. “Juan Luis Vives: The De Subventione Pauperum.” Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 4.2 (1987): 165–181. Print.

  • T’Werck der Apostelen Cap. 3 4 en 5. HS. Koninklijke Bibliotheek Brussel No. ii 129. Manuscript.

  • Verhelst Dirk . Arm in Antwerpen. Geschiedenis van de Armenzorg en de Sociale Politiek in Antwerpen Antwerp: OCMW1993. Print.

  • Vives Juan Luis. On Assistance to the Poor. Trans. Alice Tobriner. Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1971. Print.

  • Vries Hans Vredeman de. Caryatidum Centuria. Antwerp 1565. Print.

  • Walker Daniel . “The Cessation of Miracles.” Hermeticism and the Renaissance: Intellectual History and the Occult in Early Modern Europe. Eds. Ingrid Merkel and Allen G. Debus. Washington: Associated University Presses 1988110124. Print.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Walsham Alexandra . “Miracles in Post-Reformation England.” Studies in Church History 41 (2005): 273306. Print.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 60 60 60
Full Text Views 8 8 8
PDF Downloads 5 5 5