Gwendoline de Mûelenaere

GEMCA research fellow

Institut des civilisations, arts et lettres (INCAL)
Research Fellow FNRS, Art History

PhD supervision
Ralph Dekoninck, Université catholique de Louvain

Title of the thesis
Thesis Prints in the Southern Netherlands in the 17th and 18th centuries. Iconological analysis of the relationships between art, science and power

Research fields
Engraving of the 17th and 18th centuries, iconography, history of universities

Abstract of the thesis

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the public defence of academic theses gave rise to the publication of a written presentation of the conclusions. They were printed in the form of broadsheets or booklets and distributed to the audience. Initially decorated with coats of arms and dedications to scholarly, ecclesiastical or political personalities, thesis prints progressively evolved into copiously illustrated frontispieces, intended to glorify the applicants’ protectors.

This project suggests studying the thesis engravings produced in the Southern Netherlands, which have not been the object of thorough research yet. Attention will be drawn to the interaction between texts and images, to the numerous personifications populating the compositions and to the mises en abyme of the broadsides, showing their own donation to the sponsor. An iconological study will aim at replacing these documents in their sociocultural environment, in particular the public defences which are to be situated into the context of the Jesuit culture of spectacle. This set of engraved images will enable me to examine the connections between science and art. The purpose is to consider these visual and textual productions as complex means of representation combining different figurative styles – descriptive, historical, symbolical, allegorical, emblematical – and as witnesses of the scientific imagination characterizing the baroque period, which proceeded to a real stage setting of knowledge. In conclusion this project aims at contributing to an epistemology of the relationships between art, science and power.

Most representative publications

« La chute des idoles lors de la Fuite en Égypte. Analyse iconologique d'un récit apocryphe », Koregos (Académie royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique), 49, mis en ligne le 8 mars 2013. Read on-line

« Les scènes de chasse d'après Frans Snyders conservées au château de Freyr », dans J. Toussaint (dir.), Freyr-sur-Meuse. Un patrimoine exceptionnel en province de Namur, catalogue d'exposition, 3 mai-22 septembre 2013, Château de Freyr et Musée provincial des Arts anciens du Namurois, Namur, 2013, p. 309-333.

« Disputatio and Dedication. Seventeenth-Century Thesis Prints in the Southern Low Countries », De Zeventiende Eeuw. Cultuur in de Nederlanden in interdisciplinair perspectief, 31, 2, 2015, p. 284-306. DOI:
« Double Meaning of Personification in Early Modern Thesis Prints of the Southern Low Countries: Between Noetic and Encomiastic Representation », dans W. Melion et B. Ramakers (éd.), Personification. Embodying Meaning and Emotion, Leiden/Boston, Brill (Intersections, 41), 2016, p. 433-460.

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