Permissible Delectation of the Spirit: Early Netherlandish Pictures and the Art of Seeing Well


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project is a study of visual skill in the fifteenth-century Low Countries, a time and place almost as famous for their lack of explicit writing about art as for the sophistication of the art they produced. Working from vernacular devotional texts as well as a broad array of images, it treats observation as an activity not only spiritual but also intellectual and social in nature. Of particular importance are visual strategies for cultivation perspicacity, the use of devotional terminology as a critical apparatus, and objects designed for the mediocre viewer. By approaching visual culture as in effect, the residue of visual wit, this study frames interpretive capability as a hierarchy to the enacted in the company of others.