RKD Netherland Institute for art History
For several centuries Italy and the Low Countries were the centres of two major traditions in European painting. Italian artists were thought to be more successful in representing the human body, while the Dutch and Flemish were seen as unrivalled masters in naturalistic landscape painting. From the 15th century onwards an increasing number of painters from the Low Countries spent part of their careers in Italy, where they avidly studied Italian and classical sources to enrich their artistic know-how. In turn, they contributed to the diversification of pictorial genres in Italy by introducing new subjects and themes. In the 17th century, the city of Rome alone attracted over five-hundred artists from the Low Countries.
The activities of the Dutch 'Italo-centrics' are at the core of the Gerson Italy project that is currently carried out by the RKD ̶ Netherlands Institute for Art History in The Hague and the Dutch Institute for Art History (NIKI) in Florence. Large quantities of data, about both Dutch and Flemish artists in Italy, are carefully reassessed and made available through the databases of the RKD in order to 'map' the artistic exchange between Italy and the Netherlands to its full extent.
The present symposium coincides with the launch of the richly annotated and illustrated digital English version of Horst Gerson's chapter on Italy from his Ausbreitung und Nachwirkung der holländischen Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts (1942). Since the publication of Gerson's book, research on the subject has progressed in various directions, including studies on patronage and collecting, the social environment of artists working in Italy, and issues of iconography and interpretation.
The symposium offers the opportunity to address a variety of questions related to the activities of artists from the Low Countries in Italy. In scholarship, there is strong focus on the city of Rome, but what happened in other artistic centres such as Milan, Venice, Bologna, Florence and Naples? What do we know about the economic lives of Netherlandish artists in Italy, their social networks and their roles within the local artistic circles? What was the impact of their work on the production of art in Italy?