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Representing Adultery in the Early Modern Netherlands [DEADLINE EXTENDED JUNE 2]

Posted By Barbara A. Kaminska, Saturday, May 27, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, May 31, 2017

This session is sponsored by Historians of Netherlandish Art.

In the Institution of Christian Matrimony (1526), Erasmus lamented: “Why is it necessary to have certain stories depicted in church at all? Why a youth and a girl lying in the same bed? Why David watching Bathsheba from his window and summoning her to be defiled, or embracing the Shunammite who was sent to him?” Despite being deemed inappropriate, stories of adulterous encounters and their aftermath were common in early modern Netherlandish art – but they were rarely understood as negative examples of sexual transgressions only. Rather, as scholars in recent years have shown, these images connoted a variety of meanings within religious and art theoretical discourses. In the sixteenth century, adultery began to be associated with idolatry and viewers’ susceptibility to the “seduction of sight,” and artists’ experiments with different pictorial idioms and traditions were described – as we learn from Karel van Mander – in terms of “committing adultery.” In theological and devotional texts, the focus of themes such as Christ and the adulterous woman shifted from the sins of the flesh to much graver sins of the heart. Following these new approaches, this panel seeks to investigate the understanding of adultery in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century art and culture. Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

·       Depictions of biblical and mythological stories of adultery

·       Collecting and display of images of adultery

·       Adultery in vernacular plays of the rhetoricians

·       Discussion of adultery in catechisms, sermons, and devotional literature

·       Adultery as a metaphor in the art theoretical discourse

Please send your proposal including your contact information, the paper’s title (max. 15 words), an abstract (max. 150 words), keywords, and a brief CV (max. 300 words) to Dr. Barbara Kaminska ( by Friday, June 2, 2017

Tags:  adultery  art practice and theory  early modern  HNA  idolatry  image and text  Netherlandish 

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