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The Small Landscape Prints in Early Modern Netherlands

In 1559 and 1561, the Antwerp print publisher Hieronymus Cock issued an unprecedented series of landscape prints known today simply as the Small Landscapes. The forty-four prints included in the series offer views of the local countryside surrounding Antwerp in simple, unembellished compositions. At a time when vast panoramic and allegorical landscapes dominated the art market, the Small Landscapes represent a striking innovation. This book offers the first comprehensive analysis of the significance of the Small Landscapes in early modern print culture. It charts a diachronic history of the series over the century it was in active circulation, from 1559 to the middle of the seventeenth century. Adopting the lifespan of the prints as the framework of the study, Alexandra Onuf analyzes the successive states of the plates and the changes to the series as a whole in order to reveal the shifting artistic and contextual valences of the images at their different moments and places of publication. This unique case study allows for a new perspective on the trajectory of print publishing over the course of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries across multiple publishing houses, highlighting the seminal importance of print publishers in the creation and dissemination of visual imagery and cultural ideas. Looking at other visual materials and contemporary sources – including texts as diverse as humanist poetry and plays, agricultural manuals, polemical broadsheets, and peasant songs – Onuf situates the Small Landscapes within the larger cultural discourse on rural land and the meaning of the local in the turbulent early modern Netherlands. The study focuses new attention on the active and reciprocal intersections between printed pictures and broader cultural, economic and political phenomena.
Relevant research areas: Western Europe, Renaissance, Baroque, Engraving, Etching