About us

detail of engraving two angels on top of two columns

The idea for Picturing the Netherlandish Canon arose during Professor Joanna Woodall‘s research and teaching on the subject of Netherlandish portraiture at The Courtauld Institute of Art. The project’s original aim was to make the entire series of prints in Hendrik Hondius’s 1610 edition of the Pictorum aliquot celebrium praecipuae Germaniae inferioris effigies available online with high-quality images, together with the first English translation of all the Latin texts. The format of the Effigies, a series of artists’ portraits accompanied by Latin poems, is a distinctively Netherlandish form of ‘art literature’, forming an alternative to the biographies and academic art theory that were emerging in Italy in the second half of the sixteenth century. In collaboration with Dr. Stephanie Porras, the ambitions of the project expanded to encompass an online exhibition, as well as accompanying essays on the Effigies, in order to facilitate a closer and more precise analysis of both individual prints and the series as a whole.

With this aim, Joanna Woodall and Stephanie Porras consulted the three copies of the Effigies in the British Library, selecting a representative manuscript (C.74.d.6.(2.)) for photography. Translation of the Neo-Latin texts into English was undertaken by Daniel Hadas, from the History department at King’s College London. Eva Bensasson, website manager at The Courtauld, built the virtual architecture for the online exhibition, which allows viewers to ‘page through’ the British Library volume, as well as consult individual images alongside key technical and bibliographic data, Latin transcription and English translation of each text. Visitors to the website may also follow links to related sites and view various groupings within the series (sculptors, artists referred to as ‘learned’, references to Rome, etc.).

In addition, two related essays offer critical commentary on Hondius’s Effigies. Stephanie Porras’s contribution focuses on the material history of the publication (of diverse authorship and variable quality), the core of which is based on Hieronymus Cock’s smaller and better-known series of artist portraits published in Antwerp in 1572. She situates the 1610 Effigies within the widespread practice of reprinting older Flemish prints and the emergence of a market for ‘Netherlandish’ subjects. Joanna Woodall’s essay looks beyond ‘likeness to the life’ to study the distinctive yet related ways in which these two series of prints produce subjectivity within the category of the Netherlandish artist. She argues that death is in fact fundamental to both series. The 1572 Effigies mourn the loss of ultimate contact with a living model and at the same time begin to imagine life and authority in the figure of the artist in print in different ways. One of these was the ‘artistic’ print, which privileged the maker’s hand in the work. The less ‘elevated’ images of the 1610 publication follow a different trajectory, imbuing the subjects of the portraits with life by invoking various kinds of movement.

Joanna Woodall received a Non-discretionary Research Grant from The Courtauld for the translation of the Latin texts. Funding for the construction of the website, photography and research was provided by a British Academy Small Research grant to Stephanie Porras.

The Picturing the Netherlandish Canon website aims to act not only as a scholarly resource, but as a forum for discussion and continued debate. The project therefore solicits additional bibliographic references and critical commentary, pertaining either to the 1610 Effigies or to individual portrait prints, for inclusion on the site. If you would like to contribute material to be incorporated online, please email joanna.woodall@courtauld.ac.uk with your name, academic affiliation and proposed addenda.