GREATNESS IN FALL. KAREL VAN MANDER’S APPROACH TO CREATIVE FAILURE

  • Santos, R. D. Mambro
Abstract:
The paper examines Karel van Mander’s consistent descriptions of artistic incompetence, technical mediocrity, and creative failure in Het Schilder-Boeck – or The Book of Painting, first published in Alkmaar 1604 – in the attempt to understand the functionality of his remarks – from an aesthetic, ethical, and pedagogical standpoint – as cautionary tales for apprentices and young patrons. It will be argued that, by establishing a sharp distinction between “excellent masters” and “mediocre painters,” Van Mander’s narrative validates the instructional legitimacy of mentioning, along with the careers of noble, successful, and ingenious artists, the disheartening experiences of those painters who, for reasons that Van Mander does not neglect to point out, have missed their original calls and betrayed what the author refers to as their “predestined inclination,” consequently leading a life of despair, misery and deprivation. The essay will explore, in particular, the vocabulary used by Van Mander to describe these cases of creative as well as ethical misconduct in relation to a metaphor recurrently adopted in those pages: the climbing of a mountain and the unforeseeable – and yet essential – explorations within the “labyrinth of painting” (Picturams Labyrinthus). Arts and sciences appear as two intertwined domains in Karel van Mander’s Schilder-Boeck, or Book of Painting, for they are both based on the same quest of continual investigation in order to provide a better understanding, or a more visually-compelling representation of, Nature.1 It should come as no surprise, therefore, if Van Mander praises the paintings created by the forerunner of the Northern tradition, that is, Jan van Eyck, as “noble inventions” (edel inventie) and compares them, metaphorically, to the astounding, deafening invention of explosive powders by the alchemist called Bartholdus Schwartz.2 According to this analogy, both creators should be described as “quick-thinking spirits” (werckende wacker gheesten).3 Stimulated by their inquisitive spirits, they have created something really good.
SGEM Research areas:
Year:
2021
Type of Publication:
In Proceedings
Keywords:
Renaissance and Mannerism; Sixteenth-century Europe; Karel van Mander
Volume:
8
SGEM Book title:
8th SWS International Scientific Conference on Arts And Humanities - ISCAH 2021
Book number:
1
SGEM Series:
SWS International Scientific Conferences on ART and HUMANITIES - ISCAH
Pages:
113-122
Publisher address:
Vienna, Austria
SGEM supporters:
SWS Scholarly Society; Acad Sci Czech Republ; Latvian Acad Sci; Polish Acad Sci; Russian Acad Sci; Serbian Acad Sci & Arts; Natl Acad Sci Ukraine; Natl Acad Sci Armenia; Sci Council Japan; European Acad Sci, Arts & Letters; Acad Fine Arts Zagreb Croatia; C
Period:
25 - 26 October, Florence, Italy
ISBN:
978-3-903438-02-6
ISSN:
2682-9940
Conference:
8th SWS International Scientific Conference on Arts And Humanities - ISCAH 2021, 25 - 26 October, 2021
DOI:
10.35603/sws.iscah.f2021/s06.12
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