Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

History of Art

First Advisor

Larry Silver


During the second half of the sixteenth century, engraved series of allegorical subjects featuring personified figures flourished for several decades in the Low Countries before falling into disfavor. Designed by the Netherlandsâ?? leading artists and cut by professional engravers, such series were collected primarily by the urban intelligentsia, who appreciated the use of personification for the representation of immaterial concepts and for the transmission of knowledge, both in prints and in public spectacles. The pairing of embodied forms and serial format was particularly well suited to the portrayal of abstract themes with multiple components, such as the Four Elements, Four Seasons, Seven Planets, Five Senses, or Seven Virtues and Seven Vices. While many of the themes had existed prior to their adoption in Netherlandish graphics, their pictorial rendering had rarely been so pervasive or systematic.

Focusing on the period from 1548, when Hieronymus Cock opened his influential print publishing house in Antwerp, to 1600, when such series declined in popularity, I focus on the function of engraved allegorical series with personified figures in contemporary Netherlandish culture, particularly in Antwerp but also in Haarlem. Divided according to presentational format, the chapters explore the mental habits and cultural practices that informed contemporary readings of the imagery by an erudite audience of collectors. By considering the relation of form and content and by situating such imagery within the larger social and historical context of the Low Countries, this study elucidates how these images operated within contemporary culture and provides crucial insight into the nature of visual knowledge in the Netherlands during the late sixteenth century. As a form of visual rhetoric linked to other cultural practices, engraved allegorical series played a pivotal role in mediating and schematizing immaterial ideas for an educated elite in the Low Countries.

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