This publication honors a promise: most immediately, it keeps the promise made to the research institutions that have supported the project over many years (VNC – Vlaams Nederlands Comité, NWO – Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, und FWO – Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Vlaanderen); more broadly and deeply, it fulfills the expectations of the scientific community. Since some decades now the research paradigms of Netherlandish art history have changed, a change in which the editors of the present volume and some of its authors have participated as protagonists. Architectural history finally has liberated itself from the belief that the development of art history and architectural history expresses the nature of national, hypostatizing identities. As so often, it is more difficult than anticipated to transform ideas into action, as became already apparent in the attempt to exercise jointly North-Netherlandish and South-Netherlandish art history (cf. Hans Vlieghe, “Flemish art, does it really exist?“, Simiolus, 26 1998, 187-2000, and the collegial dialogue between Krista De Jonge, Rudi Ekkart, Tom Verschaffel and Karolien De Clippel, “La fracture entre les Pays-Bas du Nord et les Pays-Bas du Sud,” Perspective [En ligne], 2 | 2011, mis en ligne le 30 juin 2013, consulté le 08 août 2013. URL: http://perspective.revues.org/697). To overcome such resistance in a collective European effort requires not only scholarly excellence but also patience and first-rate abilities in communication and organization, such as manifested by the editors of this volume.
Since the 1970s a clarion call for a post-national era has rung through the European humanities, which deepened in the 1990s after the unification at the end of the Cold War. In the process, architectural history had to confront specific problems: for one, there are comparatively few professorships, students, publications, etc., leading to a relatively long persistence on research perspectives; for another, architectural research is often locallyoriented because of the monuments and their conservation as a profession. Thus, as regards the history of research, it seems emblematic that the first conclusion with the perspective of Central Europe was drawn from a transatlantic point of view by Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann (Court, Cloister and City. The Art and Culture of Central Europe 1450-1800, London 1995; see also idem, Art and Architecture in Central Europe 1550-1620. An Annotated Bibliography 1550-1620, Marburg 2003, and Towards a Geography of Art, Chicago 2004).
Despite the large number of contributions of a length between 10 to 35 pages each, the volume is clearly arranged in five parts, whereby some argumentatively important lacunae are closed by the editors themselves. After the presentation of the status quaestionis of 200 years of Netherlandish architectural history by the two editors (1.1: 15-30), Dirk Van de Vijver and Krista De Jonge deal with the historiography of the influence of Netherlandish architecture in Europe (1.2: 31-49). Beyond their appeal to experts, both articles are suitable for newcomers and for interdisciplinary dialogue. The second part of the book is dedicated to personal relationships and networks of patronage and commerce. Koen Ottenheym’s “Travelling Architects from the Low Countries and their Patrons“ (2.1: 54-88) is followed by Ethan Matt Kavaler’s contribution on the diaspora of Netherlandish sculptors in the second half of the sixteenth century (2.2: 89-101) and Ottenheym’s in-depth juxtaposition of Cornelis Floris and Hendrik de Keyser (2.3: 102-127). Hugo Johannsen and Jacek Tylicki respectively discuss two important Netherlandish families of sculptors and architects working in foreign countries: the Steenwinkels in Denmark (2.4: 128-141) and the Van den Blocke family in Danzig (Gdansk) and Central Europe (2.5: 142-157), the latter contribution amplified by Franciszek Skibinski’s treatment of the expansion of Gdansk and the rise of taste for Netherlandish sculpture in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (2.6: 158-176). From the Baltic states the discussion catapults to Habsburg Spain with Bernardo J. García García who examines the cross-cultural influences in architectural patronage between Spain and the Low Countries at hand of the letters written by the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia between 1598 and 1621 (2.7: 177-191). In conclusion, Gabri van Tussenbroeck deals with the role played by the port city Amsterdam in the international trade in stone, brick and wood (2.8: 195-208).
However, it was not only the export of architects and sculptors and the commerce in building materials that constituted the transfer of Netherlandish architectural ideas but also the acquisition of knowledge and models by interested patrons from all over Northern Europe who sent their employees to the Netherlands or informed themselves through graphic models or books. Again it is Ottenheym who presents a survey of foreign architects in the Low Countries and the use of prints and books (3.1: 212-235). De Jonge documents the role of the Habsburg dynasty in the exchange of Netherlandish models from Spain, Germany and Denmark (3.2: 236-262). Case studies of an especially early Netherlands reception in Denmark (Birgitte Boggild Johannsen, 3.3: 262-276), of the building passions of Duke Eric II (1528-1584) in the Weser region, fed by his lofty intentions of acquiring the position of Netherlandish stadtholder (Heiner Borggrefe, 3.4: 277-299), or of the origins of Renaissance sacred architecture in Livonia (Ojars Sparitis, 3.5: 287-299) testify to the multitude of contexts and motivations that inspired the recourse to Netherlandish innovations. Anthony Wells-Cole offers a survey of paper architecture erected in England based on Netherlandish engravings, focusing on the mechanisms for the migration of architecture (3.6: 300-310). After many sixteenth-century examples, two contributions respectively by Van Tussenbroeck on Classicism in Berlin and Brandenburg after the Thirty Years’ War (1648-1688) (3.7: 311-331) and Ottenheym on the reception of classicistic architecture in Northern Europe (3.8: 332-355), trace the multitude of influences in the late seventeenth century.
Conventional architectural historians would have been satisfied with this rich survey. However, the editors take seriously the structural dismantling of conventions when in Part 4 they deal with an especially significant sphere of influence of Netherlandish architectural ideas during the period under discussion: the important role of engineering, fortifications and city planning. Pieter Mertens discusses fortifications and water works (4.1: 360-378), Piet Lombaerde the export of urban models from the Low Countries to Denmark, Schleswig-Holstein, and North-Eastern Germany (4.2: 379-391) [without Wolfenbüttel?] and Nils Ahlberg city planning in Sweden in the period 1521-1721 with reference to the Low Countries ( 4.3: 392-406). The care with which the editors conceived the volume is also evident in Part 5 where the limits of the project are assessed. Dirk Van de Vijver offers an epilogue on the paradigm change in the early eighteenth century (408-430) and the two editors draw their “Conclusions“ (431-439). This is followed by a bibliography (plus a good bibliographical introduction) of over sixty pages, testifying to the broad research range, and a useful index of historical personages.
The result of the methodical reflections in Part 1 is the disappearance of the sham problem of national explanatory patterns. Regarding Habsburg court artists, De Jonge writes: “not even Vredeman des Vries, who explicitly set Sebastiano Serlio’s ’antique Italian manner and use’ off against the architecture of ’ingenious masters and experienced architects of these low Countries’ such as Du Broeucq, used the label ‘Netherlandish’ when alluding to the local manner of building in his 1577 treatise ’Architectura’.“ As in physics the concept of force became redundant after Einstein, so in post-national art-historical writings the notion of national (or regional) identity may be transformed into a mental state. Undeniably, inhabitants of a region or city, even in the early modern period, formed strong attachments to their daily surroundings, as seen for example in the debilitating homesickness of the Swiss in Italy while singing their native songs (see the dissertation by the Basel medical professor Johann Jakob Harder, de nostalgia oder Heimwehe, 1688). Similarly, people abroad with common roots formed networks or were otherwise regionally differentiated (see for example the differentiated view of the Bentveughels in Rome vis-à-vis their High German colleagues around 1600: Hessel Miedema, “Karel van Manders Blick auf deutsche Maler,“ in: Grenzüberschreitung. Deutsch-niederländischer Kunst- und Künstleraustausch im 17. Jahrhundert, ed. by Nils Büttner and Esther Meier, Marburg 2011, pp. 13-22).
These findings however are of a different nature than the assertion of the art-geographical concept of “landscape“ (terrain plus climate) as decisive formative factors of artistic production, introduced into the field by the precursor paradigm (in architecture complemented by transportation routes and geological availability of building materials). At least the national precursor paradigm, widely discussed in the 1930s, possessed a methodological inevitability as quasi-geographical condition (or even worse, in its biological specification as “Stammeslandschaft,“ see DaCosta Kaufmann, 2004, pp. 68-88). It is not very long ago that the respected art historian and longtime editor of the Zeitchrift für Kunstgeschichte, Harald Keller, represented this concept (Fusenig in Grenzüberschreitung, 2011, p. 30).
The tensions connected to the national and political agenda behind the concept “Netherlandish influence“ may be illustrated in two examples not mentioned by Van de Vijver and De Jonge. In 1912 the concept of an independent “Weserrenaissance“ was formed with the aim of minimizing Netherlandish cultural influence in Northern Germany at the end of the sixteenth century (see Fusenig in Grenzüberschreitung, pp. 23-44). On the other hand, in Poland the question of Netherlandish influences in the art of Danzig in the early modern period constituted a helpful argument immediately before World War II against the city’s belonging to the German Reich (Jacek Friedrich, “Netherlandism of Early Modern Gdansk Art in the Eye of Polish Researches before 1945,“ in: Netherlandish Artists in Gdansk at the Time of Hans Vredeman de Vries. Proceedings from the conference organized by the Museum of the History of the City of Gdansk and the Weserrenaissance-Museum Schloß Brake, Lemgo. Muzeum Historyczne Miasta Gdanska, 20 -21 November 2003, Gdansk 2006, pp. 23-29).
Although much fundamental data may be adopted from older research, new questions rise to the foreground (everything having to do with transportation and travel). One “disadvantage” of the paradigm shift is that old certainties in the interpretation of historical processes are disappearing. The paradigm of crossroads rather reminds us, like the famous flap of a butterfly’s wings, that much was historically contingent. It is this reviewer’s wish that the book becomes required reading in the foundation course: “European Architecture of the Early Modern Period” for all students of art history (for this a handy paperback edition for a student friendly price would be welcome). Even at the risk of practicing a form of political appropriation of the project, it should be stated that “Crossroads” is an architectural history of the Early Modern Period for an open society.
(Translated by Kristin Belkin)