September 30, 2009, 7pm, Lebus 113

Stephanie Porras (CMC 2003), Leibniz-Gemeinschaft Postdoctoral Fellow, Courtauld Institute of Art will present a talk entitled “History Embodied: The Peasants of Pieter Bruegel” on Wednesday, September 30, 7 pm, in Lebus Court 113. Sixteenth-century Antwerp was one of Renaissance Europe’s premier mercantile, publishing and artistic centers. Yet, with few physical monuments and textual accounts to rival those of Rome, early Dutch historians had to find alternative foundations upon which to build their descriptions of the ancient Netherlandish people, in etymological research and the reconstruction of vernacular cultural traditions. While Bruegel’s images of peasant life have been mined for allegorical, moralising and comedic readings, little consideration has been given to the links between Bruegel’s pictorial representation of peasants and the representation of peasant custom in the contemporary historical imagination. In this paper, I will argue that the peasant, in both Bruegel’s images and in sixteenth-century histories and ethnographies, was represented as an embodiment of local history, a kind of living archaeological record, as well as a metaphoric vehicle for the transmission of a distinctly local culture, at a time when many within the Spanish-occupied Low Countries began to articulate a distinctly “Netherlandish” character.