Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
History of Art
This dissertation examines the widespread copying of devotional paintings in the Burgundian Netherlands as the result of both the utility of such paintings for prayer and, related to it, the need of workshops rapidly to produce for the open market.
Part I treats the cultural and economic contexts of copying painting. The first chapter addresses the devotional culture of the Late Middle Ages which led to the widespread understanding of images as useful in personal and private devotion. Paintings which enhanced feelings of empathy in the viewer were especially espoused by the followers of the Modern Devotion, and pilgrimage culture contributed to the belief that copies could convey the venerated original's miraculous powers. The second chapter considers the shift of painting workshops at the end of the fifteenth century from producing on commission to producing for the open market. The art-buying middle class sought to purchase paintings of recognizable devotional types. Many workshops focused on producing copies of the most popular types, and used methods like pouncing to speed production.
Part 2 examines the two dominant types of copies, replication copies andadaptation copies. The third chapter considers replication copies of Saint John the Baptist’s Head on a Charger, and the Mourning Virgin and Christ Crowned with Thorns types, based on prototypes by Dirk Bouts extensively reproduced by his son Albrecht's workshop. Their small size and relatively simple composition made these paintings easy to reproduce for a workshop, while their subjects are associated with significant devotional themes like Christ’s Passion and the Eucharist, and miraculous powers. The fourth chapter examines adaptation copies based on Rogier van der Weyden’s Saint Luke Drawing the Virgin, whose devotional significance derives from the legend that Saint Luke painted a portrait of the Virgin from life. The adaptation copies, most of which copy the motif of the Virgin and Child in a smaller and simpler composition, retain the association with their true appearance. Many such copies were personalized for their Buyer.
Wille, Angélique R. "Valued Copies: Devotional Practice and Painting Workshop Production in the Burgundian Netherlands." PhD diss., Bryn Mawr College, 2014.