“Saenredam, Huygens and the Utrecht bull” was Gary Schwartz’s first publication as an art historian. He looks back on how it came into being and what it meant in his life. Schwartz would like to think of the Dutch- and Flemish-speaking low countries as one culture, but circumstances keep intruding on this ideal image. Circumstances such as the lives and posterities of Peter Paul Rubens and Rembrandt van Rijn.
Schwartz looks back on his beginnings as an art historian. Grad student blues and release through new loves.
Talk of iconic! What could be more so than the Temple in Jerusalem? Countless are the chapels, churches, synagogues, mosques and palaces modelled on an idea of what the Temple of Solomon looked like, measured or meant. The Reformed Christians of the Dutch Republic were just as susceptible to the sacred mystery of the Temple as Catholics, Muslims and Jews in their own worlds. This study shows how reconstructions of the Temple on paper (by Spanish Jesuits in 1595) and in a famous model (by a Dutch Jew in the 1640s) affected the form of church, synagogue and palace architecture and decoration in the mid-seventeenth-century Netherlands.
Gary Schwartz, “The Temple Mount in the Lowlands,” from: The Dutch intersection: the Jews and the Netherlands in modern history, edited by Yosef Kaplan, Leiden and Boston (Brill) 2008, pp. 111-21. The proceedings of the Tenth International Symposium on the History of the Jews in the Netherlands, held in Jerusalem in 2004
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That strong emotions have irresistible power over us is undeniable. What can be denied, or ignored, is the all-pervasive influence of even low-grade emotion on society and its members. The Australian Research Council (ARC) is funding a project to investigate the effects of emotion on European life in the second millennium. Schwartz brings back a progress report on emotion in art. Continue reading “351 The emotional turn”
Lead essay in the catalogue of an exhibition at the Bucerius Forum, Hamburg, 4 June-11 September 2016: Verkehrte Welt: das Jahrhundert von Hieronymus Bosch, edited by Michael Philipp
The essay argues that the Garden of Delights by Jheronimus Bosch is based on the first account of creation in the Bible. Genesis 1 speaks of the creation of man and woman simultaneously, both in the image of God. No prohibition is expressed against eating forbidden fruit; the first humans are not disobedient; there is no serpent to tempt them; they are not embarrassed by their nakedness; they are not expelled from Eden and cursed with a life of hard work and painful childbearing. This picture corresponds to the left panel of the Garden of Delights. The spectacular center panel shows what the world would have looked like had the Fall of Man not taken place, had mankind been free merely to “be fruitful and multiply.”
The hell panel is compared by the author to the 12th-century Vision of Tundale, a Dutch translation of which was published in Den Bosch in 1484. The point of both works is to frighten the reader or viewer into repenting from sin before it is too late. The message is not one of inevitable damnation, but of how to achieve salvation, as did Tundale.
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The opposition between the parched land in Bosch’s Haywain and the unquenchable thirst of its inhabitants for dry hay is contrasted to the mouthwatering abundance of the aqueous Garden of Delights. Schwartz suggests that this supports his interpretation of the Garden as a fulfillment of God’s command to the first man and woman. Continue reading “346 Bosch’s dry Haywain and his sopping wet Garden of Delights”
Jheronimus Bosch painted a man having a flower removed from his head, with an inscription speaking of a stone being cut out. Schwartz cannot explain why, but he nonetheless proposes a new theory of what is going on in the painting. He sees more empathy in it than scorn. Continue reading “343 A medical opinion from Jheronimus Bosch”
Key features of the art of Jheronimus Bosch are illuminated by a book published in the Netherlands in the artist’s early years. Raymond Sebond’s Natural theology, or Book of the creatures, can help us understand what God was doing with a book at the creation and why the Garden of earthly delights looks so unnatural. Continue reading “340 Jheronimus Bosch and the Book of Nature”
Rembrandt’s last dated drawing and the painting that was on his easel when he died both depict the same subject – Simeon with the Christ child in the Temple – in much the same way. In honor of the memorable exhibition Late Rembrandt Schwartz publishes some thoughts on these exceptional works.
Between the 1610s and 1650 an enchanting form of painting was produced in Antwerp and Antwerp alone: the kunstkamer painting, an evocation of an art collection in which actions of various kinds take place. Love of art is not the only kind of love expressed in these paintings. In one of the very earliest examples of the genre, Schwartz discovers conjugal and filial love as well as love for God. Continue reading “311 Love in the huiskamer”