Copying the master or mastering the copy? Reconsidering copying practices as a pictorial strategy for artistic renewal and art theory in the Low Countries (c. 1500- c. 1566)

Start - End 
2015 - 2019 (ongoing)
Department of Art, music and theatre sciences
Research Period 
Research Region 
Research Language 
Additional tags 
Northern Renaissance art
Art theory
Technical research



While the importance of ‘economic’ (i.e. en masse) copying by early 16th-century Netherlandish masters is widely accepted by art historians, the contribution of ‘creative’ copying to the art practice and theory before iconoclasm is neglected. However, creative copying characterizes the intellectual attempts of Netherlandish masters such as Joos van Cleve and Michiel Coxcie to (a) re-examine the function and status of their métier in society, (b) engage in theoretical debates on the nature of art, and (c) establish a new visual tradition by reassessing classical antiquity, Italian Renaissance and Northern tradition. This PhD project seeks to validate the hypothesized importance of creative copying in early 16th century Northern Renaissance art as an integral part of Netherlandish art practice and theory. The aim of the PhD project is dual. First, it defines a corpus of creative copies by early 16th-century Netherlandish masters. Second, it offers an in-depth study of formal and technical modifications introduced in these creative copies within a framework of 16th-century Netherlandish art theory. This project thus expands our current knowledge of early 16th-century art by offering interdisciplinary evidence on the importance of copying, not just as an economic activity, but as the basis of a theoretical model depicting altering notions of Netherlandish art before iconoclasm.



Phd Student(s)