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Author: Thomas Balfe

The shared embodiment of humans and animals, and the notion of the ‘creaturely’ human influentially discussed by Anat Pick, have recently emerged as vital concerns within Animal Studies. Aligning its critical stance with these perspectives, this article analyses the small painting in the Rijksmuseum, traditionally attributed to Jan de Baen, which depicts the 1672 murder of the Dutch politicians Johan and Cornelis de Witt. Pamphlets, broadsheets and other contemporary responses to the murder frequently compare the bodies of the De Witts – which were eviscerated, hung upside-down, shorn of body parts and allegedly partially eaten – to animal carcasses. Drawing on these contextual sources, the essay explores how the painting works with and against period constructions of the killing in terms of inter-species violence. It uncovers tentative admissions of human creatureliness in the painting’s representation of the murdered body as a temporal, material and fragile entity.

In: Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art / Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek Online

In 1634 the chief judicial officer of Leiden’s strict Counter-Remonstrant government, Willem de Bont, held an extravagant funeral for his pet dog Tyter. News of the event produced a flurry of satirical songs (by the persecuted Remonstrants) and poems (by Vondel and others), castigating the childless Bont for giving his dog a funeral normally reserved for a child of the elite. These satires illuminate aspects of the human-dog relationship amidst the theological-political turmoil of early seventeenth-century Leiden. The popular assumption that the Remonstrants hanged Tyter leads to a study of contemporary criminal prosecution of animals and humans alike, and a look at contradictions in the treatment of Leiden’s dogs. Visually, the serenity of Jan Miense Molenaer’s pendant paintings of the event belie the satires. Ironically, Bont thought of his dog as a fellow human but treated the Leiden Remonstrants like dogs, while many regarded Bont himself as a beast.

In: Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art / Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek Online
Author: Maurice Saß

This article focuses on the intersection of the hunt and art as it is reflected in three early modern depictions of artists as successful hunters: Gabriel Metsu’s Hunter getting dressed after bathing, Ary de Vois’s Self-portrait as a hunter, and Rembrandt’s A dead bittern held high by a hunter. These three self-referential paintings show different ways in which the hunt and dead animals were used to characterise artistic practice, and to what extent they were underpinned by the semantics of other forms of ‘the chase’: the pursuit of love, knowledge, and power.

In: Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art / Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek Online
Author: Joan E. Greer

This article is concerned with representations of insects and insect habitats in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Dutch art and print culture. It adopts an eco-critical approach, with an eye toward multispecies studies. The article considers the ecologically conceived image of bees, butterflies, and other insects gathering pollen from a wide range of flowering plant life in Theo van Hoytema’s lithograph announcing the Biological Exhibition: the Life of Plants and Animals held in 1910 at the Royal Zoological Botanical Gardens in The Hague. This closely observed water’s-edge environment is considered in the context of the wider body of works on paper done by Van Huitema especially during the seminal period of the 1890s, and within the growing print culture surrounding the Dutch naturalist and environmental movements in the early years of the twentieth century.

In: Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art / Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek Online

This article addresses Rubens’s perspective on the human-animal by focusing on the satyr as one of his favourite mythological characters. This profoundly liminal being appears in a variety of roles throughout his oeuvre, including several paintings that remained in his private collection. In some of them, the satyr is primarily a figure for unbridled lustfulness and sensuality. In many others, however, this hybrid creature appears to hold the key to some of the mysteries of nature itself. Another facet of this analysis concerns the long-standing connection between this mythological character and literary satire. Rubens’s satyr-themed images bear a number of salient qualities of this literary genre as one that destabilizes boundaries: between the beautiful and the repulsive, the tragic and the comical, the sublime and the grotesque.

In: Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art / Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek Online
Author: V.E. Mandrij

This article brings the 17th-century Dutch painter Otto Marseus van Schrieck and the contemporary German artist Maximilian Prüfer into dialogue. It investigates in particular Marseus’ and Prüfer’s use of butterfly scales as materials and motifs in their works of art. Both artists developed a similar technique of butterfly imprints (lepidochromy), which consists of transferring the scales of real butterflies onto another surface. The imprints thus combine medium with representation and the object being represented. The artists used a variety of animal substances to make their artworks, some still visible, some not, and gathered living animals to depict after life or to work with in other ways. Knowledge of and interest in natural history inform the work of both artists but their reflections on human relationships with other animals and with ‘nature’ differ.

In: Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art / Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek Online
Author: Albert Godetzky

Created in the 1580s and owned by the Amsterdam merchant Jacob Rauwaert, the three paintings by Cornelis van Haarlem considered in this article add an important dimension to the artist’s focus on the human figure by underscoring how the animal played an equally important part in Cornelis’s practice. Seen together, the paintings exhibit the attention to both human and animal bodies that Karel Van Mander encouraged artists to pursue. Yet, the hierarchy of human over animal indicated by Van Mander’s writings is, I argue, subverted by the particularly violent iconographies of Cornelis’s paintings. Suggesting human fallibility and a potential breakdown in the natural order, the paintings can be seen as reflecting the social conditions permeating life in the Netherlands during the Dutch Revolt. This article concludes by speculating how a dialectic of violence, one that encouraged beholders to recognise a relativity of viewpoints, may have served the paintings’ first owner.

In: Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art / Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek Online

Although our systems of thought have long accustomed us to differentiate sharply between the human world of ‘culture’ and the animal world of ‘nature’, both sides of this very influential dichotomy are entangled in complex and indissoluble ways. The civet cat and its very special perfume—civet—provide a perfect example of this ‘merging’. The idea of taming the untamable, expressed in paintings of civet cats and textual sources, has been especially fruitful and became a promising preoccupation especially for artists like Joris Hoefnagel to enrich their work with an intellectual hybridity. The article shows how—in painting, perfume, and writing—nature and culture complemented one another, rather than standing in opposition. Owing to the animal’s odour, its mysterious nature, and debates about its (un)tamability, the image of the civet cat served as a focal point through which early modern Europeans wrestled with and redefined the realms of human and animal, of art and science, and of culture and nature.