Painting and the Market in Early Modern Antwerp

Elizabeth Alice Honig

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This important book explores the ways in which Flemish painting between 1550 and 1650 both represented and reflected the burgeoning capitalism of Antwerp, the major port of Europe at that time. Elizabeth Honig focuses not only on market-scene paintings but also on the interaction between painters and markets as it was influenced by the changing roles played by merchants, church and city governments, and consumers.

Honig discusses the paintings of Pieter Aertsen and his nephew Joachim Beuckelaer within the context of a developing aesthetic of exchange, as art became increasingly defined as an alluring commodity that aroused in its beholder a desire for possession and called upon the tempering forces of individual reason and self-judgment. She then examines the relation between painting and the market that emerged in Antwerp after the Spanish reconquest, a period of social, economic, and religious retrenchment. Analyzing works by Frans Snyders, Jan Bruegel, and others, she shows how the dynamism of market commerce was pictorially masked to provide an illusion of stasis: still-life painting became the inheritor of—and subverter of—the market scene. Finally she considers the implications of an aesthetic of display within a newly dominant manner of artistic production (collaboration) and consumption (connoisseurship), as painters tried to produce works that would appeal to the tastes of consumers. She argues that the roots of certain modern ways of collecting and valuing paintings lay within this change in aesthetic priorities.

Elizabeth Alice Honig is assistant professor of art history at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Honig’s study of painting and the market is a challenging read because her book can only be understood adequately by reading it in its entirety. However, the issues she raises continue to resonate after its completion and the reader who disagrees with some of her conclusions is still drawn back to the material by its freshness.”—Carol Janson, Sixteenth Century Journal


"For readers in an age when art can be purchased as well as admired online, Honig makes a strong case that Flemish painting from the mid-16th to the early 17th centuries already showed how entwined were social and aesthetic values with market practice. . . . For serious students of Netherlandish painting, this is a topical and provocative study not to be missed."—Choice

"This book about the Flemish art market as a subject and concept for painting breaks new ground while refashioning received opinions. It is a sensitive and learned analysis."—Larry Silver, University of Pennsylvania

“A remarkable book, boldly recasting and illuminating long-familiar material and then taking new measure of its significance. . . . Honig’s book is a signal achievement, both as pure scholarship and in relation to the rapidly evolving field of Netherlandish art and the market.”—Dan Ewing, HNA Newsletter


“Honig’s book provides many new insights in the Antwerp’s art market and patterns of collecting. . . . With Honig’s book a first step is done towards a joint enterprise of mapping the European art market.”—Michael North, The Medieval Review


ISBN: 9780300072396
Publication Date: February 8, 1999
336 pages, 8 x 10
100 b/w + 24 color illus.
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