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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Multo in parvo : Joris Hoefnagel's illuminations and the gathered practices of Central European court culture Boychuk, Joan


This dissertation examines the works of illumination produced by the itinerant Flemish miniator, Joris Hoefnagel (1542-1600), during his tenure as court artist to the Wittelsbachs and Habsburgs in the last two decades of the sixteenth century. Comprising illuminated manuscripts as well as independent miniatures, the works at the center of this study provide novel insight into Hoefnagel’s practice as an illuminator and also into the status and function of illumination at the Central European courts of Munich, Ambras, and Prague. Not simply extending a traditional interest in the medium at these sites, Hoefnagel’s works on parchment transformed illumination into a new form bringing together a range of practices and discourses associated with the courts, with humanism, and with emerging disciplines dedicated to the production of new knowledge. Artistically inventive and conceptually productive, Hoefnagel’s compositions helped shaped an identity for the artist as a hieroglyphicus—an initiate into and maker of a privileged language of representation. Unlike other medieval and early modern art, the illuminated page could bring together, on one surface, different media (text and image), genres (heraldry, portraiture, nature studies, biblical narrative, and ornament, among others), and modes of representation (realism, illusionism, symbolism, and abstraction). This study shows that the persistence of illumination into the late 1500s—particularly in the form of Hoefnagel’s projects—stemmed from this aggregative character. The medium enabled the artist to present his viewers with diverse and innovative compositions of pictorial and textual content. Set against the contemporary interest in assemblage which shaped the early modern Kunstkammer and led to the production of atlases, natural history albums, and other compendia, Hoefnagel’s artworks come into focus as dialogic responses to these surrounding processes of aggregation.

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