Food for Thought: Dr Jamie Edwards

The College’s art historians were provided with real food for thought in a talk on Wednesday when Dr Jamie Edwards of the University of Birmingham presented a lecture on Flemish Still Life of the Sixteenth Century.

Dr Edwards’s main subject was the so-called ‘mannerist inversion’ paintings of Pieter Aertsen, the Amsterdam painter long active in Antwerp. Aertsen’s innovation was to paint highly detailed and convincing scenes of contemporary market stalls or kitchens which included Biblical narratives as apparently insignificant background elements. In this way, Aertsen tutored his viewers to scrutinise his panels with great intensity, a pictorial parallel to Protestant injunctions to believers to ‘search the Scriptures.’ Dr Edwards traced the development of such works through the career of Aertsen’s nephew, Joachim Beuckelaer, and on to the famous masterpieces of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Among the revelations of the evening was the degree to which these highly particular paintings echo some of the forms and ideas found in the writing of Erasmus, and Dr Edwards built a most convincing case that literary texts of the earlier sixteenth century can throw important sidelights upon the artistic production of the Antwerp School.

In all, his talk was a brilliant articulation of complex ideas impeccably presented and laid out with remarkable clarity.

Dr Simon McKeown
Head of History of Art

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