Silent Eloquence: The Rhetorical Pictures of Biblical History by Hendrick Goltzius and Pieter Lastman Open Access

Lea, Graham (Spring 2022)

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This dissertation focuses on four biblical history paintings, two by the Haarlem painter Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) and two by the Amsterdam painter Pieter Lastman (1583-1633). Their performances deviate strongly from the visual tradition. Both artists appear to have a preference for depicting scenes in which characters from the Bible talk to each other. The paintings depict rhetorical situations and are thus examples of silent eloquence – hence the title of the thesis: Silent Eloquence. Their effect on the viewer is that they are stimulated to remember or read the text that the characters speak according to the Bible. In the imagination, the viewer puts the text in their mouths, as it were, and thus makes the paintings speak. The inspiration for this representation, it is believed, was derived from the literature, especially the stage, of the rhetoricians. They regarded their poems, but especially their plays, as contemporary manifestations of classical eloquence. To illustrate the parallel with the rhetorical culture of the time, each of the paintings is compared to a rhetoricians’ play dramatizing the same biblical theme. The analysis shows that painters and rhetoricians applied the same rhetorical concepts and strategies. That is not surprising, because Goltzius and Lastman maintained contacts and collaborated with rhetoricians and chambers of rhetoric, the organizations within which they were organized. Rhetorician culture was widespread. Not only artists were familiar with it, but also the patrons and viewers of their paintings. It is therefore quite plausible that these paintings were looked at through the eyes of a spectator, as if they were plays.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: A Different Kind of History Painting                                                             1

1.1 Introduction

1.2 Dialogue, Disputation, and Prosopopoeia

1.3 The Rhetoricization of Culture and the Development of Rhetorical Habitus

1.4 Humanism, Virtue Ethics, and the Power of Rhetoric

1.5 The Convivium Tradition

1.6 Classical Rhetoric in a Contemporary and Vernacular Guise

1.7 The Continuity between Zinnespelen and Biblical History Plays

1.8 A Contribution to the Literature

1.9 Goltzius, Lastman, and the Rhetoricians

1.10 Conclusion

Chapter Two: The Story of Susanna and the Elders                                                             58

           2.1 Introduction

           2.2 The Narrative

           2.3 The Pictorial Tradition

                       2.3.1 View of the Voyeur

                       2.3.2 A Physical Altercation

                       2.3.3 A Presentation of Argument

           2.4 The Rhetoricians’ Play Tspeel van Susanna

                       2.4.1 Standards for Marriage: Foreshadowing the Moral Argument

                       2.4.2 Introduction of the Sinnekens and their Conspiracy to Undermine Susanna

                       2.4.3 The Approach of the Elders

                       2.4.4 The Confrontation: The Elders’ Proposal and Susanna’s Response

                       2.4.5 False Accusations and Pleas of Innocence

                       2.4.6 Susanna’s Trial of Adultery

                       2.4.7 Susanna Responds to her Fate

                       2.4.8 The Intervention of Daniel and the Summary of the Moral Arguments

           2.5 Goltzius’ Painting of 1607

                       2.5.1 Susanna’s Apostrophe amidst Encroaching Elders

                       2.5.2 Goltzius’ Characterization of the Elders

                       2.5.3 Goltzius’ Characterization of Susanna

                       2.5.4 Assimilating Mary Magdalene as a Saintly Figure of Grace

           2.6 Goltzius’ Painting of 1615

                       2.6.1 The Distillation of Narrative and the Demand for Close Looking

                       2.6.2 The Sequential Unfolding of Narrative

           2.7 Lastman’s Painting of 1614

                       2.7.1 The Correspondence with Tspeel van Susanna

           2.8 Conclusion

Chapter Three: The Story of Lot and his Daughters                                                             131

           3.1 Introduction

           3.2 The Narrative

           3.3 The Pictorial Tradition

           3.4 The Rhetoricians’ Play Abraham en Loth

                       3.4.1 Exposition: Transition, Introduction, and the Signaling Rondel

                       3.4.2 The Intrigue

                       3.4.3 The Characterization of Lot

                       3.4.4 The Concluding Rondels

           3.5 Goltzius’ Painting of 1616

                       3.5.1 A Distinct Departure from the Pictorial Tradition

                       3.5.2 Joint and Several Conversations

                       3.5.3 States of Mind

                       3.5.4 The Inebriation of Lot

                       3.5.5 A Unique Story of Incest

                       3.5.6 Moral Ambiguity

                       3.5.7 To Stimulate the Senses, To Sober the Mind

           3.6 Conclusion

Chapter Four: The Story of Tobit and Tobias                                                                      190

           4.1 Introduction

           4.2 Elocutio

                       4.2.1 Evidentia, Perspicuitas, and Ornatus

                       4.2.2 Energeia and Enargeia

                       4.2.3 Prolongation

           4.3 The Narrative

           4.4 The Pictorial Tradition

           4.5 The Rhetoricians’ Play De Oude Tobijas

                       4.5.1 The Fish Attacks

                       4.5.2 The Wedding Night of Tobias and Sarah

                       4.5.3 The Revelation of Raphael

           4.6 Pieter Lastman’s Paintings of the Book of Tobit

                       4.6.1 Tobias Catches the Fish, 1613

                       4.6.2 The Wedding Night of Tobias and Sarah, 1611

                       4.6.3 The Angel Raphael Taking Leave of Tobit and his Son, 1618

           4.7 Conclusion

Chapter Five: The Story of Paul and Barnabas’ Ministry in Lystra                                      266

           5.1 Introduction

           5.2 Peripeteia

           5.3 The Narrative

           5.4 The Pictorial Tradition

           5.5 The Rhetoricians’ Play Paulus ende Barnabas

                       5.5.1 Calm and Confident Apostles

                       5.5.2 An Angry and Vicious Opposition

                       5.5.3 The Healing of the Lame Man

5.5.4 The Moment of Peripety

5.5.5 Intervention: Rebuke, Exhortation, and Proclamation

5.5.6 The Pagans’ Failure to Discern

5.5.7 Paul’s Final Attempt at Intervention

5.5.8 The Persecution of Paul

           5.6 Pieter Lastman’s Paintings of 1614 and 1617

                       5.6.1 The Similarities between Lastman’s Paintings

                       5.6.2 The Painting of 1614

                       5.6.3 The Painting of 1617

                          An Imminent Sacrifice

                          Rushing the Crowd

           5.7 Conclusion

Conclusion                                                                                                                             324

Illustrations                                                                                                                            329

Bibliography                                                                                                                          420

Samenvatting                                                                                                                         433

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