In early modern Antwerp, civic joyous entries were more than just a purely political event with splendid festive decorations adorning the streets and façades. They were huge projects where many people involved had to join forces to realize the civic commission to produce these decorations. In art historical research, such decorations have been studied mainly from the perspective of connoisseurship to identify the different hands and the iconology of the art works in the context of the prevailing political situation. In recent years, however, joyous entries as a whole form more and more the subject of interdisciplinary investigations addressing questions from, amongst others, politics, rituals, theatre, music, performance and very recently also gender and colonial issues. In this PhD project which takes the joyous entry of the Cardinal-Infant Ferdinand of Spain into Antwerp in 1635 as its core object of investigation, speaking in modern terms, the project management will be analysed in depth for the first time.
On 17th April 1635, the streets of Antwerp were magnificently decorated for the joyous entry by the Cardinal-Infant Ferdinand of Spain (1609-1641). The Spanish King Philip IV (1605-1665) had sent his younger brother to the Southern Netherlands to assume his position as the new governor. Especially in the Southern Netherlands of the 16th and 17th century, the political act of a joyous entry was one of the important occasions where the city authorities spent a huge amount of money to commission a prestigious decoration programme. In the case of 1635, the decoration programme was conceptualized jointly by Nicolaas Rockox (1560-1640), Jan Gaspar Gevaerts, or Gevartius, (1593-1666), and Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). It included, amongst others, large triumphal arches and stages, built from wood with various decorative elements made from diverse media and by different techniques such as paintings, sculptures, tapestries, banners, festoons, and candles, as well as cut-outs from painted wood imitating other decorative elements. The designs were made by Peter Paul Rubens. A large number of craftsmen and artists, among them Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) and Theodoor van Thulden (1609-1669), produced the decorations during the winter of 1634/1635 in only a few weeks and under demanding work conditions.
Focusing on the project management, this PhD project investigates the more practical aspects of the production of the decorations with special regard to the collaboration. The production necessitated a profound collaboration from the Antwerp arts and crafts scene. However, it was not only a collaboration from them: several actors from the civic elite played a key role in realizing this project. Therefore, the core of this research is the reconstruction and analysis of the organization of the production process and the preparations which had to be done before the production could start. Hereby, the actors involved and their tasks will be examined and presented in detail. The question of why a specific approach has been followed and why particular decisions were made, will be studied too. By comparing with other relevant joyous entries and their organization, it will be possible to identify how unique this modus operandi was in early modern Antwerp and examined if we can speak of ‘an early modern project management’.