Weststeijn’s study explores the role of antiquity in Franciscus Junius’s The Painting of the Ancients (Latin edition 1637; English edition 1638; Dutch edition 1641) and the effect this text had on Dutch and English art theory and practice. The author focuses on Junius’s treatise because it is ‘a monument of seventeenth-century antiquarianism’ (2) and in his opinion ‘the most important text bearing on the intersection of the realms of painting and classical scholarship’ (2). The advantage of The Painting of the Ancients, according to Weststeijn, is that it provides insight into ‘the interplay between philology and the art of painting in the seventeenth century’ (7), which in his view inextricably links the day-to-day world of studio practice with the high-flown world of humanism. In addition, Weststeijn argues that Junius’s treatise was also bound up with issues of Lokalpatriotismus and sought to establish a pre-Roman – specifically Batavian – tradition for the visual arts in the north that accorded well with the nascent national identity of the newly formed Dutch state (chapters 3 and 4). As part of this effort, Junius developed various Dutch neologisms to build a specialized artistic vocabulary and, in doing so, sought to position his native tongue as an art-critical language equal, or even superior, to Italian (chapters 2, 4 and 5). A list of these terms is included in the appendices (table 4, 369-379). Weststeijn argues that Junius’s efforts were largely successful and demonstrates the far-reaching effect that The Painting of the Ancients had on the works of other humanists (e.g. Vossius and Grotius) and also on well-educated artist/theorists (e.g. Goeree and Van Hoogstraten).
Art and Antiquity in the Netherlands and Britain is the latest addition to the scholarship on art theory in the Netherlands. This study constructs a complex and nuanced picture of the interrelationships between humanists, artists, art collectors, and enthusiasts and views them through the lens of Junius’s scholarship. Weststeijn’s approach to the art theoretical material is based, in part, on the work of his mentor Sluijter (The English Venture) and on scholars like Miedema (Kunst, kunstenaar en kunstwerk bij Karel van Mander), Alpers (The Art of Describing), and Melion (Shaping the Netherlandish Cannon), to name but a few. It also builds on discussions of the reception of antiquity among artists and art lovers found in studies regarding the sixteenth century (e.g. Sullivan’s ‘Bosch, Breugel, Everyman and the Northern Renaissance’) and on conclusions found in scholarship regarding the sixteenth-century movement toward creating a pre-Roman past for Dutch culture (e.g. Carroll’s ‘Peasant Festivity and Political Identity in the Sixteenth Century’).
Weststeijn’s book contextualizes not only Junius’s treatise but also the complexities of Northern European art theory and practice. To do this, he weaves together an impressive array of data: from the role of the Arundell court in seventeenth-century discussions of antiquity, to the free flow of communication between participants in the Republic of Letters, to the interactions between these scholars and practicing artists, and to the networks of collectors and enthusiasts influenced both by the theories propounded by humanists and by the works artists created. The resultant tapestry situates Junius at the center of a series of interconnections that span the study of antiquity, the search for a viable contemporary artistic vocabulary, and the creation of a Northern European (specifically Dutch) political and cultural identity. Art and Antiquity in the Netherlands and Britain lays out in clear detail that Junius’s treatise is a particularly fitting point of departure for understanding the reception of classical antiquity in Northern Europe. Not only was Junius an internationally known author and researcher, his work also informed the treatises of other scholars. Weststeijn demonstrates this amply by tracing the appearance of portions of The Painting of the Ancients in writings dating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries (appendix, table 2, 329-357).
The greatest strength of the book is Weststeijn’s masterful grasp of the Neo-Latin tradition in which Junius operated (especially chapter 4). His familiarity with all three editions of The Painting of the Ancients, as well as Junius’s rhetorical style, layered uses of paraphrase, and subtle intertextual glossing, makes it possible for the author to trace the complex skeins of classical reference at play in the treatise. The familiarity with Junius’s classical sources, however, appears to have created something of a blind spot. Chapter 5, titled ‘The Painter’s Right Hand: Teghenwoordigheydt and the Presence of Painting’, explores the concept of ‘presence’ through the lenses of mimesis, affect, and synesthesia. Weststeijn examines Junius’s ideas regarding the role of the viewer, which centered ‘on the notion of empathy and conjoin(ed, J.R.D.) the artist, artwork, and beholder in a single experience’ (256). The concept of presence was key in making it possible for viewers to experience the depicted event mentally as if they were there in person. The viewer’s engagement should ideally involve not just sight but the other senses as well. Such interaction enlivened the scene and made it more likely that the audience would understand the image’s ethical message. Presence, according to Junius, also created the possibility for a viewer to understand the mental images (and hence intent) that informed the artist’s working method (277). Weststeijn turns to Cicero, Quintillian and, more specifically, to Philostratus’s Second Sophistic to find the sources for this concept (256). His assessment of the classical authors is careful and his reading of the roles of mimesis, ekphrasis, and imagination is insightful. What he largely overlooks, though, is the long-standing religious traditions (dating to the fourteenth century and before) that had similar effects on viewer reception and also informed the working method of artists engaged in painting narratives.
Devotional authors like the Pseudo-Bonaventure (Meditations on the Life of Christ), for example, made ample use of language encouraging votaries to imagine themselves present at particular events and to activate their emotions to help them experience narratives as if they were there. Such emotional engagement was critical in understanding the moral/soteriological message of the story. Artists responsible for providing viewers with visual narratives employed mimetic techniques (e.g. chiaroscuro and trompe l’oeil) and worked to activate not only sight but also the other senses like taste and smell (Falkenburg, The Fruit of Devotion). These approaches certainly changed with the advent of Protestantism, but they did not disappear. The techniques used in earlier works were still visible in the originals or in the growing number of reproductions available in print. Given the role that Weststeijn assigns to collections and prints in the development of art theory (chapter 2), this avenue of inquiry might have deepened his already complex model. While he briefly notes a sixteenth-century Catholic defense of images (259), he generally avoids the subject. As the author’s stated object of study is the reception of the antique tradition in Junius’s text, however, it is likely that the role of non-classical influences was beyond his desired scope. In any event, this absence does not diminish his main arguments. Weststeijn’s book is a major contribution to the scholarship on seventeenth-century art theory and practice and is an exemplar for future studies on the subject.