Images and Influence

  • 5pm - 6pm

  • Online

Session Chair: James Loxley

Eelco Nagelsmit (University of Groningen)

Material Theology: Exchanging Thoughts Through Things in the Wake of the Thirty Years War

Early modern princes interacted with theologians in multifarious ways: through patronage, attending sermons, taking advice and spiritual counsel, etc. At a time when politics and religion were inextricably interrelated, these princely interlocutors stood at the intersection of the conflicting exigencies of the reason of state and the ruler’s personal fear of God. My project departs from the premise that theologians communicated their most important religious and political ideas to princes not only through language or writing (speech, letters, books), but also by means of images and material objects.

This will be demonstrated by way of the correspondence of duke August the Younger of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1579-1660) with the theologian Johann Valentin Andreae (1584-1654) during and after the Thirty Years War. Acting as the prince’s most important advisor, agent, and friend, Andreae counselled the duke’s praxis pietatis, which had a direct bearing on his political decisions. Yet Andreae’s counsel was often transmitted indirectly, through emblematic images and (designs for) objects such as coins, and was finally materialized in a commemorative chalice. I argue that these material things should not be considered merely documentary, or as instruments of adulation and/or political propaganda, but as active agents in developing and disseminating ideas about (religious) peace, irenicism, and Christian patience. It will be shown how Andreae used images, objects, and artistic activities such as music and poetry, to steer the prince toward otherworldly concerns, in order to ultimately change the future.

Thom Pritchard (University of Edinburgh) 

Glorious 88, Ignominious 25’: The Manipulation of Elizabethan Memory at the onset of Charles I’s entry into the thirty years war

In the last year of King James I's reign, Jacobean foreign policy meandered towards a war with Spain and dramatic entry into the European turmoil of the Thirty Years War. Numerous historians have commented upon the explosion of anti-Spanish polemic during these pivotal years, but fewer still have commented upon the profound role of cultural memory in the visual and textual landscape. Memory haunts these productions, from the ghostly echo of dead Prince Henry behind the image of the new King Charles I, to the resplendent image of Queen Elizabeth I and the 'glorious' events of 1588 and 1596. This talk will explore how anti-Spanish printers and artists sought to manipulate social and cultural memories to not only encourage, but also to not-so-subvertly criticise the directions of foreign policy. From the royally sanctioned images of Stuart dynastic harmony of Willem de Passe which promulgated the virtues of peace, to other images by Crispijn van de Passe, Friedrich von Hulsen, John Bara and Thomas Cecill, which harnessed the ghosts of the past to advocate war, this talk will draw upon (not literally thankfully) a corpus of images which have been too frequently detached from the tumultuous events of their conception. These images, both officially sanctioned and produced in exile offer a unique window into the dramatic transition from peace to war. And vitally, as will be the main line of enquiry, these images also exemplifies how early modern memory was not static, but rather malleable and fundamentally, almost ironically unstable.