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Colloquium: The Image of Knowledge. Art and Science at the time of Bruegel

29 November 2019
08:00 - 16:00

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29 November 2019
08:00 - 16:00



Centre National d’Histoire des Sciences




In the wake of the 2019 Bruegel celebrations, the Belgian National Centre for History of Science organizes a special symposium to discuss Bruegel’s relation to the world of learning.

In which ways did Bruegel incorporate the new knowledge into his work? How does his work reflect or comment on the more scholarly activities of humanists or philosophers? More broadly, the symposium will address the relationship between the visual arts and the culture of curiosity that marked the beginning of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century.



During the sixteenth century, knowledge of the natural world spread rapidly among a growing audience of collectors, artists, printers, and philosophers. At the crossroads of material culture, commercial interests and intellectual pursuits, new forms of knowledge mixed with more traditional ways of understanding. Knowledge materialized in the form of botanical gardens, cabinets of curiosity, and an array of illustrated natural history books. It also permeated the world of art and inspired artists and artisans to articulate an often emblematic world view.

The visual arts played a crucial role in the description and interpretation of the new cultural landscape. Recent scholarship has shown how paintings and engravings reflected the preoccupations of collectors and philosophers in bringing order to the amassed wealth of material objects – and in doing so, to the natural world itself. As epistemological standards had to be adapted in order to make sense of the profusion of real and invented natural objects, also aesthetical standards were under pressure to make up new pictorial conventions and to reconsider the relationship between nature and art. Artists were by no means passive interpreters of this early ‘scientific renaissance’, but active participants in a world of wonder and awe.



9:00-9:20 Welcome and coffee

9:20-9:30 Denis Diagre-Vanderpelen (CNHS), Opening welcome

9:30-9:45 Geert Vanpaemel (KU Leuven), Introduction

9:45-10:15 Thea Vignau-Wilberg (Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, München), Science in Art – Art in Science : Natural history in transition

10:15-10:45 Coffee

10:45-11:15 Maarten Bassens (KBR/KU Leuven), The Language of Knowledge. Reinterpreting Bruegel’s Prints Through Latin Phrases and Typographical Additions

11:15-11:45 Marlise Rijks (Universiteit Leiden) Depicting distillation : from Pieter Bruegel’s Alchemist to Jan Brueghel’s Allegories

11:45-12:15 Wouter Bracke (ULB/KBR), Bruegel and cartography

12:15-14:00 Lunch – Visit of the exhibition

14:00-14:30 Koenraad van Cleempoel (Universeit Hasselt), The Virtue of Temperance ; Bruegel’s doubts on modern science and technology

14:30-15:00 Coffee

15:00-15:30 Baudouin van den Abeele (UCLouvain), “Insidiosus auceps”, l’oiseleur sous un mauvais jour : une perspective historique sur les techniques de chasse chez Pierre Bruegel

15:30-16:00 Christiaan Sterken (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Bruegel’s winter landscapes : some reflections on climate change



Free entrance, but please register: