Larry Silver

Larry Silver

Larry Silver, a historian of Northern Renaissance art, received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and is currently Farquhar Professor of Art History at the University of Pennsylvania. His other books include the general survey Art in History and the recent Landscapes and Peasant Scenes: The Rise of Pictorial Genres in the Antwerp Art Market.

Pieter Bruegel

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This fascinating full-length study examines all works by the great Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel within the wider setting of art during his lifetime.

The recent rediscovery in Spain of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s lost painting, The Wine of Saint Martin’s Day, has created even more interest in this much-loved artist, who was one of the Netherlands’ two great masters of satire and fantasy, along with Hieronymus Bosch. Although these two artists never met each other—Bruegel was born around 1525, a decade after Bosch’s death—numerous features link them; indeed, Bruegel painted several demon-infested hellscapes directly inspired by the older master, and he was known in Antwerp as a “second Bosch.” But Bruegel is most famous for his peasant scenes, often humorous and packed with anecdote, and for his landscapes, which poignantly evoke Nature’s changing seasons. His legacy to Netherlandish art was the enduring popularity of both these genres, as well as the artistic dynasty he founded, beginning with his painter sons Pieter the Younger and Jan Brueghel.

Critics have often remarked how Bruegel’s art, so keenly observed and richly detailed, seems to preserve a world in miniature. In this new monograph, Larry Silver, an eminent historian of Northern Renaissance art, serves as our guide to that world. He leads us expertly through Bruegel’s complex and fascinating iconography, allowing us to see his paintings and drawings from the same perspective as his sixteenth-century countrymen. Silver situates Bruegel within the visual culture of his time—exploring, for example, his relationship with the print publisher Hieronymus Cock—and within the broader context of Netherlandish history. All of Bruegel’s surviving paintings are reproduced here, with many full-page details, as well as all of his prints and representative works by his contemporaries and followers.

This volume on Bruegel complements Silver’s widely praised monograph on Hieronymus Bosch, which was published by Abbeville Press in 2006. These two books are the most authoritative and best-illustrated studies of their respective subjects, and together they present us with a panorama of Netherlandish art’s emergence into the distinctive form of the Northern Renaissance.

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Hieronymus Bosch

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A stunningly illustrated, groundbreaking exploration of the work of the Low Countries' great visionary painter.

Four hundred little people frolic au naturel with overgrown songbirds and raspberries; a pudgy blue demon serenades a fashionable young couple with a tune piped through his own elongated nose; a knife-wielding set of disembodied ears stalks the damned through hell. The phantasmagoric imagery of Hieronymus Bosch (d. 1516) has been the source of widespread interest ever since the painter’s lifetime, and is still so enigmatic that scholars have theorized that it contains hidden astrological, alchemical, or even heretical meanings. Yet none of these theories has ever seemed to provide an adequate understanding of Bosch’s work. Moreover, the considerable professional success that the artist enjoyed in his native Hertogenbosch, not to mention his membership in a traditional religious organization, suggests that he pursued not a sinister secret agenda but simply his personal artistic vision.

This intriguing new monograph by noted art historian Larry Silver interprets that artistic vision with admirable lucidity: it explains how Bosch’s understanding of human sin, morality, and punishment, which was conceived in an era of powerful apocalyptic expectation, shaped his dramatic visualizations of hell and of the temptations of even the most steadfast saints. Silver’s account of Bosch’s artistic development is one of the first to benefit from recent technical investigations of the paintings, as well as from the reexamination of the artist’s drawings in relation to his paintings. Hieronymus Bosch is also unique in how securely it places its subject’s work in the broader history of painting in the Low Countries: Silver identifies sources of Bosch’s iconography in a wide range of fifteenth-century panel paintings, manuscript illuminations, and prints, and describes how, despite their own religiousness, Bosch’s pictures helped inspire the secular landscape and genre scenes of later Netherlandish painters. Augmented by 310 illustrations, most in color, including many dramatic close-ups of Bosch’s intricately imagined nightmare scenes, this is the definitive book on a perennially fascinating artist.

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