Mitchell Merback’s public lecture: From Estrangement to Speculation: Pieter Bruegel and the Case of Hans Sedlmayr

26 Feb 2020 - 00:00 / 17 Mar 2020 - 00:00


Mitchell Merback
Johns Hopkins University
From Estrangement to Speculation: Pieter Bruegel and the Case of Hans Sedlmayr

Friday, March  13, 2020 at 4pm
Northrop Frye Hall, Room 119
73 Queen’s Park Crescent East, M5S 2C3

This lecture revisits art historian Hans Sedlmayr’s notorious 1934 essay, “Bruegel’s Macchia,” and his claim that a certain “spiritual detachment” went hand in hand with the unique pictorial design of Pieter Bruegel’s paintings. While this notion now appears deeply compromised by the author’s attachments to National Socialism in the 1930s, this lecture seeks to explore a different conceptual affinity. Namely that between Sedlmayr’s estrangement and a mode of seeing that the Christian natural philosophers of Bruegel’s era—and possibly his own humanist circle in Antwerp—would have recognized as their own: speculation.

Mitchell Merback is the Arnell and Everett Professor in the History of Art, and Director of the Program in Medicine, Science, and Humanities at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of The Thief, the Cross and the Wheel: Pain and the Spectacle of Punishment in Medieval and Renaissance Europe (Reaktion Books, 1999); Pilgrimage and Pogrom: Violence, Memory, and Visual Culture at the Host-Miracle Shrines of Germany and Austria (University of Chicago Press, 2013); and Perfection’s Therapy: An Essay on Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I (Zone Books, 2017). Recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, he is currently investigating the role of tragic recognition as a motif and metatheme in Christian art before 1600.

Organized by Prof. John Paul Ricco, Associate Director, Centre for Comparative Literature, with generous support from the Centre, the Department of Art History, and the Department of Visual Studies.