Printing images in the early modern Low Countries. Patents, copyrights, and the separation of art and technology, 1555-1795

Begin - Einde 
2021 - 2024 (lopend)
Vakgroep Kunst-, Muziek- en Theaterwetenschappen



Like Instagram today, new print technology caused a revolutionary increase in the number of images in the early modern period. In that same era, art and technology became separated. Today, art and technology are considered different types of human making, practised at different institutes and studied by different disciplines. Yet the separation of art and technology is not obvious; it was developed in Western Europe in the early modern period. Only by 1800 did the modern concept of the ‘fine arts’ as opposed to other types of making fall into place. In today’s digital economy, art-technology collaborations (e.g. digital image-making) have a great impact. To comprehend contemporary and future art-technology collaborations, it is vital to understand how art and technology became separated in the early modern period. Printmaking is the perfect case study to do so, as it lies at the heart of this separation. This project will thus result in a new history of printmaking and in a reassessment of the concepts of art and technology.


It will investigate printmaking in the Low Countries, because printmaking is a hybrid between art and technology and the Low Countries were a centre of printmaking. Uniquely, it looks at printmaking from the angle of the consumers, who were fascinated by printmaking as a new art and technology – and shaped these concepts. This project will thus investigate printmaking in two novel ways: 1) from the angle of ‘process appreciation’ and 2) through the development of intellectual property. It investigates 1) how consumers appreciated printmaking as both art and technology and 2) how the new legal protection of printmaking by the authorities regulated consumption and implied a particular appreciation. This consumers’ perspective helps us understand early modern printmaking and provides a new way to bridge the art-technology boundaries of today’s institutions.