Art in Revolt: Material and Meaning in the 80 Years' War

Rachel Anne Wise, University of Pennsylvania


The Dutch Revolt against Habsburg Spain, also known as the 80 Years’ War (1568–1648), was instigated by an attack on images: in 1566 Calvinists stormed Catholic churches across the Low Countries, stripping their walls of “idols.” With shattered glass and beheaded statues, the beeldenstorm, or the Iconoclastic Riots, brought a new consciousness to the materiality of art. This dissertation is a materially-oriented, multimedia analysis of art made in the afterglow of the Riots, specifically works that take the war as their raison d’être. With each chapter shaped around a single medium—textiles, medals, and prints—this dissertation foregrounds materials and their technical processes as essential to the meaning of war objects. Tracing the development of subject matter during the conflict reveals artists analogically utilizing biblical typology, classical narrative, and complex allegory to render the war. The great Northern art theorist Karel van Mander lamented the war’s toll on the production and preservation of art, but his writings also evince the conflict’s ironically generative properties. Using Van Mander’s method of analysis as a point of departure, this dissertation tracks the conflict’s generative trait beyond paintings, in media such as tapestries, damask linens, medals, and prints. Lastly, this dissertation offers an analysis of art from both the Northern and Southern Netherlands, as a corrective to the privileging of the Northern rebels’ political works. From the debris of smashed and shattered art, new materials and subject matter were created and inflected with a consciousness of war and the fragility of their matter.

Subject Area

Art history|History|European Studies

Recommended Citation

Wise, Rachel Anne, "Art in Revolt: Material and Meaning in the 80 Years' War" (2020). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI28086604.