Sei sulla pagina 1di 23


Viola Animae: The Art of Jan Brueghel the Elder

and the Tradition of Devout Naturalism

A pictorial novelty

The year was 1604. Albert of Austria and Isabella of Spain, sovereign rulers of the Spanish

Netherlands, had reasons to celebrate. The horrific siege of Ostend, a fortified harbor on the

Belgian coast, had come to an end. The Spanish had prevailed. 1 The moment was pregnant

with thanksgiving, good outcome, and the prospect of peace.

In Antwerp Jan Brueghel the

Elder (15681625), the talented son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, realized this was a notto

bemissed occasion for seeking patronage and gaining the attention of a court finding itself at

the turning point between the horrors of war and the benefits of peace. 2 For that purpose he

conceived of a novelty, a cosmological fantasy, which in the form of a cabinet painting

displays the attractions of Eden under the benign sway of Liberalitas. (Fig.1). 3 Draped in

shimmering scarlet cloth and clasping a cornucopia, the personification of Bounty presides

over Creation in the company of her good friends, the competing elements: land and water

comport themselves in the foreground, fire and air commingle in the sky. The picture pioneers

a new pictorial type, the encyclopedic allegory, which became a profitable staple on the

Antwerp market for most of the seventeenth century. 4 Borrowing the concept from his

father‟s prints, such as the well–known series of the Virtues, Brueghel created his allegories

by placing a personification, a figure that represents an abstract idea or concept, in an

appropriate setting, be it a landscape, a garden or some form of built environment, which he

furnished with a welter of attributes that can be associated with the illustrandum that is put


into play. The famous Allegories of the Senses, which he produced in collaboration with Peter

Paul Rubens, are prime examples of this method for creating erudite allegories that literally

spill over with objects associated with Sight, Hearing, Taste, Touch and Smell (Fig.2). 5 With

the 1604 Eden Brueghel set in motion the production of a flood of derivative pictures that

treat not only the traditional foursomes of the cosmological imagination such as the Four

Elements, the Four Seasons, the Four Winds and the Four Tempers, but also such sequences

as, the Senses, the Months, and sundry other abstract principles that help in ordering one‟s

vision of the universe. 6 In the present example the personifications of the Elements, painted

by Brueghel‟s friend and colleague Hendrick van Balen (1575–1632), inhabit Eden, the

biblical garden, which traditionally compels one to imagine the state of the freshly created

world before the Fall. 7 The perfection of Eden is made manifest through the depiction of the

creatures associated with each of the elements. 8 Terra‟s (Earth) flowers vie with the marine

marvels of Aqua (Water), whereas the birds are a tribute to Aria (Air), and a single volcano in

the distance stands for the powers of Ignis (Fire). The glossy perfection of the female nudes is

offset by their brilliant draperies: pink for Terra offering a bunch of grapes, sapphire for

Water pouring water from a shell, and a mixture of saffron and orange for the duality of Fire

and Air. Liberality‟s carmine cloth underscores the theme of love, the fertile force that

enables Nature to engender out of the four elementary building blocks an infinity of new

forms while also advertising that Antwerp is the place where the trade in high quality

pigments ensures the production of colorful pictures in the tradition of Jan van Eyck and his

followers. 9


In this paper I will argue that Brueghel‟s garden of perfect creatures inaugurated a new line of

imagery that reflects the interest at the court of Isabella and her consort Albert in “devout

naturalism.” The term is useful in discerning among early modern intellectuals and the social

elites the practice of transforming natural imagery into sacred cryptograms and “natural

icons” that sustain one‟s belief in a divinely instituted universe. 10 Rooted in the medieval

surge of the appreciation of nature that occurred in the course of the thirteenth century, devout

naturalism relied on habits of seeing spiritually when confronted with the marvels of nature. 11

Initially popular in court society these naturalist forms of piety gradually became associated

with the “worldly piety” that spread among the “polished” elites in seventeenth– century

society. Brueghel‟s art reveals an unusual grasp of devout naturalism as a cultural concept in

early modern society and his work warrants an investigation into devout naturalism as a

possible cause and framework for his encyclopedic allegories. 12

Devout Naturalism

Devout naturalism is essentially a cultural trait or what anthropologists might call a “cultural


It is closely associated with a “doctrine of ease” –long popular in court society

which welcomed a method for Bildung or spiritual formation through speculation on the

“living heritage” of the natural world. 13 Choosing as its breviary the Book of Nature this kind

of worldly piety set itself up as an alternative to the bookish culture of learned society. 14 The

metaphor of the visible world as a second book fostered a Christian doctrine of nature that

was popular in fifteenth century court society and resurged in the late sixteenth century in the

period that followed the Wars of Religion. In the spirit of St. Paul‟s argument that the


Creation is intelligible (Rom. 1:20) the proponents of the Book of Nature saw it as a source

for universal truths and infallible arguments which, unlike the scriptural tradition, unite

Christendom rather than divide it. 15 In the wake of the Wars of Religion new social types










womenfound in devout naturalism an agreeable and noncontroversial way for overcoming

the distance between society and the spiritual life, or, on a more downtoearth level, to

reweave the frayed fabric of civil society. 16 The facile doctrine of the devout naturalists was

not a new thing. It had since long gained currency as the “theologie des dames,” which saw

no problem in making the narrow road of the spiritual life gay with flowers. 17 It was this

legacy of a civilizing piety which directed the inventive powers of Jan Brueghel and regulated

the reception of his art. He understood the new forms of worldly piety as a traditional mixture

of pious naturalism and devout Humanism which, in the spirit of Camporeale‟s view of

Humanism as a powerful and empowering option in Christian life, is useful to all men and

women desirous to become better Christians. 18

In the course of the Early Modern Period natural imagery became increasingly detached from

devotional imagery of the Christological or hagiographical kind.

The themes of landscapes

and still life, or even the depiction of animals, began to emancipate themselves from scenes of

sacred history or devotional images and developed into autonomous genres that were made

for a competitive market. 19 The example of Pieter Bruegel‟s cycle of seasonal imagery, the

famous Months in Vienna, Prague and New York, is often cited as a prime example of secular

cabinet painting that made its appearance in the middle of the sixteenth century. 20 This

phenomenon is generally interpreted as a signal for the growing demand for images that were


no longer devout. But it would be an oversimplification to assume that these new pictorial

themes no longer adhered to the practice of productive vision that for so long had regulated

the production and use of images of lay devotion; rather one is inclined to see the devout and

the secular as interlocking resultoriented strategies: supplementary sets that create criss

crossing patterns in the assemblies (collector‟s cabinets) of which they form part. 21 Devout

naturalism allows us to view pictures of natural subjects as alternatives to Christological,

Marian or hagiographical imagery. From the perspective of the devout naturalist, a well

chosen example of natural imagery is a shortcut to the wealth of material that is contained in

the natural world. By fashioning such an “extract” into a picture, converting it, if you will,

into a “natural icon,” it becomes doubly intelligible: as the work of the Creator and as an

artful contrivance that replicates the original intelligence that designed it in a meaningful

way. 22 Attention to devout naturalism as a cultural practice will reorient us to a purpose for

these genres, which tended to get lost in the great narratives of the advancement of science

and the daring perspectives of the scientific revolution. 23

As a form of a selfreliant spirituality, devout naturalism is often indistinguishable from

devout Humanism, natural piety or worldly piety. We already saw that the sacred orators of

Catholic Reform considered the book of nature a useful adjunct to a book of prayers. 24 Paul‟s

famous proclamation that “the divine nature of God is known by the things that are made”

(Rom. 1:20) was the proof text for what came to be known as Natural Theology, which, as St.

Augustine explained in chapter VIII of the City of God, is the quest for a divine nature that is

concerned about human affairs. Natural in this context is a theology that is not revealed but

available as a science or a system of knowledge. 25 Among the ancients Augustine had praise


for Plato and Varro as philosophers who graduated from natural philosophy to natural

theology and failed only where they did not recognize the Christian principle of the soul‟s

return into the goodness of the Creator. 26 For this reason St. Augustine essentially dismissed

Natural Theology as one of the misguided theologies of the ancients. It would take the

intervention of an obscure doctor from Toulouse for Natural Theology to reintegrate itself

into the cultural heritage of the Christian laity. Born a Spaniard and teaching in Southern

France, Raymond Sabundus (d. 1436) was the author of the Liber Creaturarum, which in its

printed editions became known as the Theologia naturalis. 27 It advertised the system of the

two books as a double manifestation of the Logos, each containing enough “doctrina” to

illuminate the creature and bring it back to the Creator. 28 Sabundus‟s prototype generated a

genealogy of works concerned with a Christian doctrine of nature which remained popular

until the major premises of the genre were undermined by the publication of Darwin‟s On the

Origin of Species (1859). 29

Before turning our attention to the remarkable fortunes of Sabundus‟s text and its importance

for devout naturalism and a concomitant visual culture, I should mention two more terms that

convey the essence of devout naturalism: doctrina physica and doctrina serena. The first term

suggests a Stoic connotation. 30 It is often associated with the teachings of Philip Melanchton












education. His promotion of natural science as a divine doctrine safeguarded the Stoicizing

teaching of the Fathers of the Church for Protestant society and established common ground

with Catholic forms of natural piety. 31 If the doctrina physica teaches the idea of Providence

as the principle that rules the universe, the doctrina serena proposes the Epicurean ideal of


voluptas as a restful counterpoint to a world in constant motion. 32 Serene in this context refers

to a course of Christian instruction that was not subject to the tempests of controversy but

agreeable to all Christians. 33 Devout naturalism, whether in the spirit of Catholic Reform or

Protestant Bildung, was above all a safe doctrine (iter tuta) that guided the customs and

etiquette among the members of the Republic of Letters who, as noted earlier, favored

networks of scholarly exchange over the fissures of dissent. 34

Brueghel‟s 1604 Allegory of the Elements, with which we began, is the visual corollary to

these devout doctrines. Rather than presenting a narrative topic from Scripture or a political

allegory, he offers a sampler from the natural world. It would be understood by his audience

as an antidote, a serene vision that mitigates the militancy of reconquest. Now is the time,

the painter suggests, for his weary sovereigns and their subjects, to lay down arms and pursue

the divine arcana that lie hidden in the wonders of Eden. His paradise ushers in the courtly

fiction of a Golden Age that sweeps away the incivility of an iron regime. Devout naturalism

proves to be a powerful concept that helps to understand the art of Jan Brueghel as prodigious

feats of pictorial artifice that compete with nature‟s proficiency in supplying Christian

doctrine. I offer it in memory of Salvatore Camporeale‟s unforgettable Johns Hopkins winter

seminars during which he taught his students how to discover in the writings of the great

humanists the infinite subtleties of a philosophical culture that delivered tool upon tool for

pursuing the goals of Christian Humanism. In the present case a gifted painter tapped into the

courtly tradition of a Christian natural philosophy, which provided rulers and their households

with the rhetorical instruments to be good navigators in the sea of the world and good

naturalists in courtly retreat.


Raymond of Sabundus’s Natural Theology

What was the importance of Sabundus‟s work for the development of devout naturalism as an

important form of lay piety? How do we relate it to Brueghel‟s encyclopedic allegories? Let

us review what the doctor‟s book is about. Initially known as the Liber creaturarum seu de

homine (or sometimes liber naturae sive creaturarum) it was given the title Theologia

Naturalis sive liber creaturarum, specialiter de homine by Richard Paffroed in the 1498

edition printed in the city of Deventer in Holland. 35 The book has been treated as a “debased”

example of Christian apologetics in the tradition of the Christianized Aristotelianism of St.

Thomas of Aquinas, the great Christian philosopher who had transformed the apologetics of

the Fathers into a philosophical platform from which his followers launched their attacks on

the enemies of Christ. 36 Among these, it was Raymond Sabundus who carried the rationalist

approach to an unsurpassed extreme, claiming in the prologue of the Liber creaturarum that

he offers a “science” or doctrine that is easily learned within a couple of weeks and without

any need for memorization or written books. 37 This is the “doctrine of ease” mentioned

earlier, the promise of Christian perfection “sine labore” or “sine difficultate.” 38 This is the

science, Sabundus promises, that does not require the mastery of grammar or logic or the

pursuit of the seven liberal arts. 39 Essentially what it teaches is to arrive at an understanding

of oneself through the study of the creatures. “For this science is nothing other than to

recognize and see wisdom (sapientia) inscribed in the creatures, and to extract that same

wisdom from them, to place as a treasure in one‟s soul, and to comprehend the significance of

the creatures.40 Through the comparisons of the creatures with each other, the human being

will come to recognize that he is the only creature possessed of all the five senses and


therefore uniquely in a position to learn from the lesser creatures and the only one of the

creatures to aspire to knowledge of his Creator (conditor). The text of the book is divided into

six parts comprising a total of 330 short chapters (tituli). Of particular interest are, first, the

scandalous prologue with its preposterous claim that nature is a better teacher than Holy

Scripture (which inevitably presents the dangers of impious interpretations) and, second, the

opening sections, dedicated to the consideration of the creatures, which establish a framework

for the practice of devout naturalism. 41 The book was owned by a host of prominent figures

including Nicolas of Cusa, Charles de Bovelles, Marguerite of Navarre, the sister of King

Francis I and Marguerite of Valois, Queen of France, Michel de Montaigne, St. Francis of

Sales, Peter Paul Rubens and Francis Bacon. 42 Certainly, Sabundus‟s Book of Creatures and

its sequels register the natural turn that occurred in the visual culture of the later Middle Ages

and the Renaissance. 43 It is also invaluable for deepening our understanding of so ordinary a

trope as the Book of Nature and offers insight into speculative processes that turned natural

themes into devotional imagery. But the greatest importance of this relatively mediocre work

is its extraordinary literary fortune. The reception of this work interweaves devout naturalism,

a “theologie des dames,” and Montaigne‟s skeptical interpretation of the book of nature into a

tightly woven web of great cultural importance.

In 1499 Sabundus‟s ponderous book had the fortune of being rewritten by Petrus Dorlandus, a











abbreviated dialogues that were much more charming than the original text. 44 In his prologue,

Dorlandus repeated verbatim the claims advanced by the original author. He defends the

concept of the Book of the Universal Order of Things which was given to us prior to the Book


of the Bible. This Book of Nature is composed of a great multitude of creatures (which are so

many “letters”); among them is found Man. He is the main, the capital letter. Furthermore, it

is, following the teachings of St. Anselm, a book “that cannot be corrupted, nor effaced, nor

falsely interpreted.” 45 How much preferable over bookish asceticism is the pleasure of

drawing from Nature‟s book, “doctrinam et documentum,” that is to say

moral lessons and

spiritual truth! By way of the scala naturae man ascends from the least animate forms of life

on the lowest rung to the consideration of himself on the fourth rung as the only creature in

full possession of the senses and faculties that allow him (or her) to exercise his own free will

in the matter of his salvation. 46 In the dialogues that follow Dorlandus stages the encounter,

just outside the city of Toulouse, of one Raymond, the Doctor, who instructs his interlocutor,

one Dominique, on the rungs of the ladder of creatures. For instance, on the first rung one

finds the elements: water has greater dignity than the earth, fire supersedes water, and air is

by far the most excellent.

Such battles rage not only among the naturalia; artificialia also

compete for greater nobility. Does not the art of the goldsmith trump the skills of gem cutters

and potters? On the second rung we consider the works of plants, the trees, the herbs, and as

we examine them our eyes move up and down, front and back, to the right and to the left. We

observe the process of growth, and the production of flores, frondes, fructus, seminas. 47 On

this step one finds the heap of botanical species with their characteristic fruits, flavors, scents,

and colors. The third step is occupied by the animals. To do justice to these, all the senses

must be rallied, “visus requitur, & auditus, gustus, odoratus, et tactus.” 48 To this grade are

referred all the creatures that move on land or in the seas or which fly in the liquid air. It is

worth considering the distance between quadrupeds, fish and winged creatures and to figure

out how one species is distinguished from another species. And again to order them


hierarchically within the grade based on the degree to which they possess one or several of

the five senses. By this method, the conchilia and ants rank much lower than the superior

breeds, such as dog, cow, lion and goat. He puts into practice here the principle of the chain

of being, in which each creature takes its position between lower and higher breeds. 49 He

creates an ethics in which all creatures incline benevolently towards those on the lower rungs

of the ladder and look up with reverence to those who rank higher. The chain of being seems












obligations between creatures. 50 In addition to ordering one‟s view of the Creation it provided

an ethics that was particularly appropriate for a courtly society which lives by the rounds of

favors received and favors bestowed. Reading the book of nature implies a speculation on the

ways in which creatures share commonalities and to what degree they are different from each

other. Marine animals are different from the winged creatures of the sky yet they share

common features that establish bonds across the family of creatures. Having scaled the ladder

from the rank of things to that of plants and animals the scrutinizer of the ordo rerum finds

himself on the fourth grade which he occupies as the supreme creature in the visible world.

He is superior because he is in possession of all the senses and thus capable of the kind of

judgment that underlies the Christian principle of the free will (intelligere, discernere, velle &

nolle). 51 Of all the creatures the human being is the only one capable of making good use of

the experience, art, science, and doctrine that he gleans from nature‟s ladder. By these gifts he

is made to understand that God conceived of and controls the order of things. Here the key

term is ordo, ordinator to indicate the combination of design and intricacy that went into

crafting the ordo rerum that is the universe. Nor does the author fail to call attention to the

great ontological argument of the coincidentia oppositorum, the binding force that keeps the


battling elements in a precarious balance that is the infallible argument for God‟s existence.

He introduces the topos of the mental operation by which the good observer subordinates

innumerable things to the visio unica, the panoramic view of the Creator. Cogitations of this

kind follow one after another; for example, one should imagine counting the grains of sands

or the drops of rain. In each instance, the consideration is enriched by applying “tres

operationes.” (1) to understand words and the sense of words. (2) to rationalize whether a

thing is true or false, just or unjust (3) to approve what is true and to reject what is false. In

the tradition of fruitful otium, the author takes leave from his readers with the injunction that

they should relinquish their worries and seek beata tranquillitas. 52 As adept practitioners of

the doctrina serena readers of his book should ascend the ladder of things to arrive at the

consolatory reassurance


the multitude of



the illimitable creative

imagination of the Creator while intricate hierarchies speak of the loving compact that holds

them together.

The Viola Animae and its audience

Dorland‟s abridgment circulated under the title Viola Animae and was especially popular

among the women of the Habsburg and Valois courts. 53 The title comes from the wish

expressed on the title page that the reader would impress the doctrina derived from the book

as a violet upon the heartviola animae inscribitur. 54 This could be interpreted as a species of

ecriture feminine, a kind of fleuretez, and may reveal that Dorland and his publishers were

interested in promoting a femaleoriented natural piety. 55 Thanks to the intervention of one of

these female readers, Eleanor of Austria, the Viola Animae became available in a French

translation by Jean Martin, the renowned publisher in Paris, who retitled the work La


Theologie Naturelle (Paris 1551). 56 Martin‟s Theologie Naturelle of 1551 is not to be

confused with Montaigne‟s translation of the original work by Sebond (the French spelling of

Sabundus‟s name), La Theologie Naturelle de Raymond Sebond, which saw the light in 1569

with revised editions in 1581, 1603 and 1605 and later. 57 Montaigne‟s essay Apology of

Raymond Sebond complicates and increases the cultural importance of Sebond‟s Natural

Theology. 58 The great vernacular philosopher apparently wrote the longest of his essays at the

behest of an unknown female patroness (perhaps Marguerite de Valois, queen of Navarre) and

likely through this personage reached out to a “public feminine,” identified by him as readers

of Sebond or even a “cohort of militant sebondistas.” 59 He valued Natural Theology as a

system that deflates male arrogance and empowers female readers. But his sympathy for the

“theologie des dames,” does not necessarily exclude a somewhat derogatory reception of

Sebond‟s system as “merely” a theology for women. Ultimately what drew him to Sebond

were a respect for the idea of creatures as a useful library and an appreciation for the self

knowledge that is gained from the study of creatures and which clears the path to knowledge

about the Creator. 60 Of course, he also he felt an irrepressible urge to challenge Sebond‟s

anthropocentric assumption and rather was inclined to show to what degree human intellect

was puny at best. 61

In whatever guise it presented itself, the Liber creaturarum promoted the Book of Nature as a

preferred breviary for courtiers and their ladies who should put to spiritual use the idle hours

they spend in their gardens, fields, and forests where the variety of creatures is put on display.

The Sebondian concept of a Book of Creatures illuminates the ambition of the great courts of

Europe to create their own life versions of the liber creaturarum through gardens, zoos, ponds


and aviaries. 62 It explains their desire to complete the floralia of their gardens and the

viridaria of their hunting preserves with exotic specimens from native and foreign habitats to

increase the universal value of their collections. It was the genius of Jan Brueghel to conceive

of his pictures as visual renderings of the great libri creaturarum that were actualized in the

living collections of his archducal patrons at their court in Brussels. Appointed as the peintre

domestique to the Archdukes, he drew upon the “living heritage” in Brussels to create a new

commodity. 63 In imitation of nature herself, Brueghel scattered the bounty of Eden without

following a program knowing that his viewers were trained in drawing profit from whatever

nature puts on display. 64 Like nature herself he allowed for patterns to be detected. For

instance, using a very expensive red pigment he strung along red poppies and cherries as if

creating a necklace of fruits that share the property of being little embodiments of pure

color. 65 Fruits and vegetables are easily compared with the “fruits de mer” as the competing

harvests from land and sea. Ears of golden corn appear incongruously at the edge of the forest

as a token of Eucharistic dispensation. His Edenic fantasy was meant to appeal to the

ideology of Habsburg dynastic piety and the ambition of Christian rulers to transform their

courts into a resemblance of the original Creation, where the lion lies with the lamb and all

the contending forces of nature are tamed into perfect agreement. The Eden paradigm, which

conjoins the mystique of rule with the arcana of nature, provided a Christian motive for the

mania of collecting that is such an important feature of court society and reveals it as a

commitment to assemble in one place all the marvels of the original creation. The radiance of

such a court would, within the framework of Belgian court Humanism, illuminate the dark

territories of the North. 66


Brueghel‟s poetics in creating his tribute to his sovereigns seems to me not unlike the

“supreme fiction” of Edmund Spenser, the English poet who drew upon the entire universe to

recreate Elizabeth‟s realm as a “second nature.” 67 The poet envisioned a world that comes to

fruition under the sway of a Fairie Queene, just as Brueghel‟s picture expresses the wish that

Brabant will enjoy the fruits of peace under the benign rule of a triumphant Isabella, worthy

successor of the great Habsburg women, whose worldly piety aimed at distilling from the

rambling riches of nature the precious icons that would be as a humble violets impressed upon

their heart.









Photo©Erich Lessing/ Art Resource, NY.





Allegory of Sight, oil on panel, 1617, Madrid: Museo Nacional del Prado.

Works cited


1 1604 was dubbed an annus mirabilis, a turning of the tide in the battle for Catholic Reform, see J. I. Israel, Conflicts of Empires, Spain, the Low Countries and the Struggle for World Supremacy 1585-1713. London: The Hambledon Press, 1997. It was a year in which peace dominated the discourse and people were filled with hope that the religiouspolitical wars of the sixteenth century would come to an end.

2 The reference is to the topos of ex bello pax which controlled the debate on War and Peace. For a discussion of this paradox in relation to Rubens‟s allegory The Consequences of War, see Ulrich Heinen, “Rubens‟s Pictorial Diplomacy at War (1637/1638),” in Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 55 (2004) 197225.

3 For a discussion of this painting, see Pieter Breughel der JüngereJan Brueghel der Ältere: Flämische Malerei um 1600. Tradition und Fortschritt. (Essen and Lingen: Luca, 1997) : 263266, n. 77 and Bettina Werche, Hendrick van Balen (15751632): Ein Antwerpener Kabinettbildmaler der Rubenszeit (Turnhout:

Brepols, 2004) : vol. I, 187 and vol. II, 409. For the tradition of the Paradise Landscape in Flemish art in the period between 1560 and c.1615 see Elizabeth Honig,“Paradise Regained: Rubens, Jan Brueghel, and the Sociability of Visual Thought,“ Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 55 (2004) 271-305.

4 The term was coined by R. Scheller in his analysis of Rembrandt‟s Kunstkammer, “Rembrandt en zijn encyclopedische kunstkamer,” Oud Holland 84 (1969): 81147. For the relevance of the encyclopedic still life in the art of Jan Brueghel, see M. Paulussen, Jan Brueghel der Ältere: Weltlandschaft und Enzyklopädisches Stillleben (Aachen:Technische Hochschule, 1997) 9194. For Pieter Bruegel‟s Allegories of the Virtues, see Nadine Orenstein, ed. Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Drawings and Prints (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001)


5 Anne T. Woollett and Ariane van Suchtelen, Rubens and Brueghel: A Working Friendship (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty and Zwolle: Waanders, 2006) 9099, cat. n. 8.

6 Klaus Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ä (15681625). Die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog (Cologne: Dumont, 1979) 236249, 328371.

7 For classical studies on Eden as a cultural construct, see A. Bartlett Giamatti, The Earthly Paradise and the Renaissance Epic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966) and J. Prest, The Garden of Eden. The Botanic Garden and the Recreation of Paradise (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981). Traditionally Eden invites a literary ekphrasis, which expands on the terse account in the Book of Genesis. The tradition of this form of literature, rooted in the hexaemeron of St. Basil and others, represents a virtually unbroken tradition in the literary practice of the Christian West. The final great compendium of hexaemeral poetry was Du Bartas‟s La Sepmaine, best known through its 1581 Geneva edition, reissued 1981, Paris: Nizet; also see Y. Bellenger, Du Bartas (Paris: Memini, 1998) and J. Miernowski, Dialectique et connaissance dans “La Sepmaine” de Du Bartas : discours sur discours infiniment divers (Geneva: Droz, 1992). Disseminated in the vernaculars of Europe, Du Bartas‟s epic vision of the Creation is the culmination of the tradition of scientific poetry in the Renaissance. Encyclopedic allegories compete in visual form with the didactic genres as a form of delightful


instruction in lay society; see A. M. Schmidt, La Poésie scientifique en France au XVIe siècle (Paris: Rencontre 1970). Karel van Mander‟s poem of instruction for young painters entitled Grondt (written in 1604, the same year as Brueghel‟s Allegory) is a good example of this kind of poetry, see his „Den Grondt der Edel vry Schilder-const: Waer in haer ghestalt, aerdt ende wesen, de leer-lustighe Jeught in verscheyden Deelen in Rijm- dicht wort voor ghedraghen‟ in Schilderboeck (Haarlem: Paschier Wesbusch 1604); also The classical prototypes for the didactic genre are Virgil‟s Georgics and Lucretius‟s De Rerum Natura. See M. R. Gale, “Didactic Epic,“ in A Companion to Latin Literature (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005) 101115. For the reception of Lucretius in 16 th century France, see John Ford, Lucretius in early modern France,in Cambridge Companion to Lucretius (Cambridge: 2006) 227241.

8 The doctrine of the tetrads or the foursomes is universal in ancient and Christian cosmology. It is indebted in particular to Pythagoras and Philo of Alexandria, ancient philosophers, whose views were absorbed into the writings of the Fathers of the Church, especially St. Basil of Caesarea and St. Ambrose of Milan. The classical study on the Pythagorean system is S. K. Heninger, Jr. Touches of Sweet Harmony. Pythagorean Cosmology and Renaissance Poetics (San Marino: Huntington Library, 1974). Jan Brueghel‟s life–long patron, cardinal Federico Borromeo, archbishop of Milan, was drawn to the natural theology of the Fathers and wrote a treatise that collects the commonplaces of Patristic cosmology including a chapter on the four elements. It is therefore not surprising to discover that Brueghel pioneered small cosmological allegories while in the household of his lifelong patron. For Borromeo‟s treatise, see A. Martini, I tre libri delle Laudi Divine di Federico Borromeo (Padua: Antenore, 1975). For the little Allegory of the Elements now in Palazzo Doria Pamphilij n Rome, see Woollett, Rubens and Brueghel, 138, fig. 75. For another smallscaled Allegory of the Elements in the Ambrosiana in Milan, see M.Rossi and A. Rovetta, La Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, (Milan: Electa, 1998) 130.

9 For the parallel between the four elements and the four primary colors, see John Gage, Color and Culture:

Practice and Meaning from Antiquity to Abstraction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993) 2833. For an analysis of Jan van Eyck‟s chromaticism, see Anita Albus, The Art of Arts: Rediscovering Painting (New York: Knopf, 2000).

10 The devout naturalist is a social type who transforms a passion for natural inquiry into praise for the Creator. The objective is to fashion natural imagery into “sacred cryptograms” or “natural icons” that convey the divine origins of natural artifice. See Henri Brémond, “L‟Humanisme devôt,” Histoire Litteraire du sentiment religieux en France (Paris: A. Colin, 1967-8) vol. I.: 18-67. For the practice of “devout naturalism” in Court Society, see Arnout Balis, “Natuurstudie en natuurafbeelding aan het hof van Rudolf II,” in De Albums van Anselmus de Boodt (15501632): Geschilderde natuurobservaties aan het hof van Rudolf II (Tielt, 1989) 72-75. Balis describes a court culture dedicated to the unraveling of the Heimblichkeit der Natur or the arcana of nature.

11 A striking example of seeing spiritually while in the midst of nature is the ecstasy of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, which he experienced inter arbores in the heart of the forest, see E. Gilson, The Mystical Theology of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (London: Sheed 1940).

12 For the promotion of devout naturalism in lay circles in France, see St. Francois de Sales‟ Introduction á la vie devôte (Paris, 1609). As Elizabeth Stopp and Cecilian Streebing have shown, the bishop of Annecy crafted a new universe for worldly Christians. See her, A Man to Heal All Differences. Essays and Talks on St. Francis of Sales (Philadelphia, St. Joseph‟s University Press, 1997) and Cecilian Streebing, Devout Humanism as a styleSaint Francois de Sales: Introduction á la vie devôte (Washington: Catholic University of America University Press, 1970). An additional rich vein of devout naturalism, legitimate in both Catholic and Protestant cultural spheres, is the concept of the emblem as a vehicle for wisdom. The defining work in the development of the natural emblem is Joachim Camerarius‟s Symbolorum et emblematum centuria quator (Nuremberg, Vogeli,1604; facs. ed. 1988); see Jan Papy, “Joachim Camerarius's Symbolorum et emblematum centuriae quatuor: from natural sciences to moral contemplation” in Karl E. Enenkel and Arnout Visser, eds. Mundus Emblematicus: Studies in NeoLatin Emblem Books (Turnhout: Brepols, 2003) 201234. But most influential of


all, in terms of introducing vernacular readers to the intricacies of the created universe, was Du Bartas‟s La Sepmaine already mentioned in n. 7. Bruegel‟s vision of Eden appeals to these diverse currents of devout naturalism in post-Reformation society.

13 For the concept of “worldly piety,” see R. Strier, “Sanctifying the Aristocracy” Devout Humanism” in François de Sales, John Donne, and George Herbert,” Journal of Religion 69:1 (1989) 3658 and by the same author, “Impossible Worldliness: “Devout Humanism.” Resistant Structures (Berkeley: California University Press 1995) 83117.

14 For the book of nature as a commonplace, see E. R. Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953) 319–326, who viewed it as an adjunct to the “pulpit eloquence” of Catholic Reform. It is a concept that became possible only with the rise of a bookbased religion. For a history of its reception, see Arjo Vanderjagt and Klaas van Berkel, eds. The Book of Nature in Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Louvain: Peeters, 2005) and its sequel, The Book of Nature in Early Modern and Modern History (Louvain:

Peeters, 2006). For a philosophical analysis of its metaphorics see H. Blumenberg, Die Lesbarkeit der Welt (Frankfurt: Surhkamp, 1981). For the concept of nature as a teacher, see Wolfgang Harms, “Natura Loquax:

Naturkunde und allegorische Naturdeutung vom Mittelalter bis zur frühen Neuzeit” in W. Harms and Heimo Reinitzer, Mikrokosmos: Beiträge zur Literaturwissenschaft und Bedeutungsforschung (Frankfurt: Lang, 1975). Natura loquax is a common locution. It occurred in Erasmus‟s Convivium Religiosum, see L. E. Halkin, ed. Colloquia. Convivium religiosum, Opera Omnia, I, 3 (Amsterdam: North Holland, 1969–) 232, “Quamquam mea sententia non est muta rerum natura, sed undiquaque loquax est multaque docet contemplantem. Si nacta fuerit hominem attentum ac docilem.”

15 Curtius, European Literature, 320

16 The phrase “genteel saints and well–bred devotees,” occurred in one of Pascal‟s Letters, see Strier, Sanctifying the Aristocracy, 38. The civilization project was to discredit rude (unpolished) forms of asceticism. The debate on what constitutes devotion after the wars of religion culminated in the quarrel over quietism and eventually ceded to the ethics of virtue that came to dominate the philosophies of the Enlightenment, see JeanRobert Armogathe,” L'Otium est-il un pêche?” in Le Loisir Lettré à l’ȃge classique: essais réunis par Marc Fumaroli (Geneva: Droz, 1996) 5361.

17 The phrase is a reference to Saint François de Sales who saw nothing wrong with the idea that the arduous road of Matthew could be gay with flowers even on the most rugged paths, see Streebing, Devout Humanism as a Style, 25.

18 Salvatore Camporeale, “Renaissance Humanism and the Origins of Humanist Theologyin Humanity and Divinity in Renaissance and Reformation: Essays in Honor of Charles Trinkaus (Leiden: Brill 1993) 101124. For a summation of Camporeale‟s contribution to humanism as Christian philosophy and a way of life, see C. Vasoli “Ricordo del P. Salvatore Camporeale: lo studioso di Lorenzo Valla,” Modern Language Notes 119 (2004) : 1649.

19 This has been the traditional view in landscape and still life studies. For landscapes see A. Wied, “Zur Geschichte der Europäischen Landschaftsmalerei,” in K. Ertz, Die Flämische Landschaft 15201700 (Lingen; Luca, 2003) 1221. For still lifes see Sinn und Sinnlichkeit: Das flämische Stilleben 15501680 (Essen: Villa Hügel, 2002)

20 Of the original group of six landscapes, five have survived: three are in Vienna, one is in Prague and one in New York. See C. Voehringer, Pieter Bruegels d.Ä. Landschaft mit pflugendem Bauern und Ikarussturz. Mythenkritik und Kalendarmotivik im 16. Jahrhundert (Munich: Fink 2002)


21 For the concept of assemblies of pictures as intertextual machines, see V. I. Stoichita, The SelfAware Image:

An Insight into Early Modern MetaPainting (Cambridge UP, 1997) 103147.

22 As Lovejoy pointed out the very concept of the Book of Nature presupposes that the Creation is intelligible. See The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1936). The Divine Creator as artisan (painter, potter, landmeter, etc) is a chief topos in the imagination of the devout naturalist.

23 For a recent study of the shift from Scholasticism to the scientific revolution, see Stephen Gaukroger, The Emergence of a Scientific Culture: Science and the Shaping of Modernity 12101685 (Oxford: Clarendon, 2006) 87149.

24 To the sacred orators mentioned in note 9 should be added Luis de Granada (15041588), the Dominican preacher from Spain, who revived the concept of the book of nature as the legacy of the Fathers, see Curtius, European Literature, 320. He was the author of a hexaemeral work entitled Simbolo de la fe which, like Du Bartas‟s La Sepmaine was an important resource for turning nature into a breviary. For a modern critical edition, see J. M. Balcells, Introdución del símbolo de la fe/ Fray Luis de Granada (Madrid: Catédra 1989).

25 Augustine of Hippo, The City of God. Volume III, Books 811 (Cambridge Ma: Loeb Classical Library, 1963) 23. He considers it the third of the three theologies of the ancients.

26 Augustine, City of God, 55

27 Raimundus Sabundus, Theologia Naturalis seu Liber Creaturarum, modern edition after an edition published in 1852. F. Stegmüller. Stuttgart-Bad Cannstattt, 1964.

28 Charles D. Lohr, in Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy (Cambridge, UP, 1988) 5435; also briefly in Brian P. Copenhaver and Charles B. Schmitt, Renaissance Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992) 250252.

29 In the period leading up to Darwin, most naturalists promoted the investigation of nature as a religious mission, see Fernando Vidal and Bernhard Kleeberg, “Introduction: Knowledge, Belief, and the Impulse to Natural Theology,” Science in Context. 20:3 (2007) 381-400.

30 Maryanne Cline Horowitz, Seeds of Virtue and Knowledge (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1998) 155180.

31 Based on Romans. 1:20, the doctrina physica christianized the principle that nature is a hermeneutics and that the Book of Nature competes with Scripture in delivering knowledge of the divine. A key text in the transmission and consolidation of the doctrine was Melanchton‟s Initia doctrina physica which reveals the reformer‟s faith in the rhetorical (and therefore reformative) force of natural theology; see Dino Bellucci, Science de la Nature et Réformation: La physique au service de la Réforme dans e’enseignment de Philippe Mélanchton (Rome : Vivere, 1998) 145169. Also Sachiko Kusukawa, The Transformation of Natural Philosophy: The Case of Philip Melanchton (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995).

32 Philo of Alexandria in his synthesis of Greek and Biblical philosophy is generally considered the mastermind of the doctrina serena, see D. Runia, On the Creation of the Cosmos According to Moses (Leiden: Brill, 2001). For the doctrina serena as a safe philosophical practice (iter tuta) in Christian Neostoicism, see L. Prosperetti, Landscape and Philosophy in the Art of Jan Brueghel the Elder (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2009) 4345.


33 For the radical statement made by Sabundus that the Book of Nature is preferable to the Holy Scripture which has a tendency to fall into “impia interpretation, see Curtius, European Literature, 320.

34 In the practice of devout naturalism one‟s confession rarely mattered. For the exchanges between Protestant and Catholic humanists, see N. Miller, Peiresc's Europe: Learning and Virtue in the Seventeenth Century (New Haven: Yale UP, 2000). For the Republic of Letters and its free flow of intellectual exchange, see Hans Bots and Françoise Waquet, La Republique des Lettres (Paris:Belin,1997).

35 The text survives in seventeen manuscripts and fourteen printed editions. Stegmuller Theologia Naturalis, 117) For an introduction to the literary fortune of the work, see Claude Blum, ed. Montaigne: Apologie de Raimond Sebond: De la Theologia à la Theologie (Paris: Honoré Champion, 1990) 301–303 and Screech‟s introduction to his translation of the Apology of Sebond (London: Penguin, 1987) ixxxxiii. The importance of the Sebondian system for the worldly piety of the Renaissance is discussed briefly in E. M. W. Tillyard, The Elizabethan World Picture (New York: Vintage, n.d., c. 1950) 27–28 and Carlo Ossola, “Ce désir nous est laisse: Otium et Bonheur Publique” in Le Loisir Lettré 307.

36 Avery Dulles, History of Apologetics (London, Hutchinson; New York, Corpus, 1971).

37 Sabundus, Theologia Naturalis, 32 “Et potest haberi infra medium mensem et sine labore. Nec oportet aliquid impectorare, nec habere aliquem librum in scriptis.”

38 Explaining the usefulness of the book (utilitas libri) he wrote: “Et non solum illuminabit ad cognoscendum; immo per ista scientiam voluntas movebitur et excitabitur cum laetitia et sponte ad volendum & faciendum et operandum ex amore. Et non solum hoc, sed ista scientia docet omnem hominem conoscere realiter, infallibiter, sine difficultate et labore omnem veritatem necessariam, homini cognoscere tam de homine, quam de Deo, et omnia quae sunt necessaria homini ad salute et ad suam perfectionem,et ut perveniat ad vitam aeternam.” (Sabundus, Theologia Naturalis, 27). Sabundus teaches a sort of Christian Socratism, in which knowledge of creatures leads to knowledge of self, which is the prerequisite to knowledge of the Creator. Hence the title Book of Creatures or Ladder of Nature. For Socrates as a beacon for selfknowledge in Christian humanism, see P. Hadot, Exercises spirituels et philosophie antique (Paris: Études Augustiniennes, 1993)

39 Sabundus, Theologia Naturalis, 31. “Ulterius: Ista scientia nulla alia indiget scientia nec aliqua arte. Non enim praesupponit grammaticam nec logicam nec aliquam de septem liberalibus artibus, nec physicam, nec metaphysicam, quia ista est prima, et est homini necessaria.” Sabundus‟s rejection of the liberal arts would disqualify the work in the eyes of any humanist worthy of the name.

40 Sabundus, Theologia Naturalis. 39 “Ista autem scientia non est aliquid, nisi cognoscere et videre sapientiam scriptam in creaturis, et extrahere ipsam ab illis, et ponere in anima, et videre significationem creaturarum. Et hoc fit comparando unam creaturam cum altera et coniungendo sicut dictionem dictioni. Et ex tali coniunctione resultat sententia et significatio vera, dum tamen sciat homo intelligere et cognoscere.” Sabundus‟s method corresponds to the idea that Natural Theology “infers God‟s existence and attributes from creatures by analogical and other rational arguments, “see Copenhaver andSchmitt, 250.

41 Sabundus, Theologia Naturalis, 35. “Unde duo sunt libri, nobis dati a Deo, scilicet liber universitatis craturarum sive liber naturae; et alius est liber Scripturea sacrae.” Here in print an important locus classicus for the concept of the two books of divine instruction discussed by Curtius.


42 The Benedictine father, Joachim Sighart mentioned several other readers in his preface to the 1852 edition, including the Dutch jurist, Hugo Grotius and the educator Comnenius without omitting the everimportant Montaigne, see Sabundus, Theologia Naturalis, iv.

43 In part this occurred through the increasing aristocratization of urban life in Early Modern Society. Court society dictated the fashions of the urban elites. This was particularly evident in the development of gardens, country retreats and the attendant interest in floriand aviculture. See U. Härting, Gärten und Höfe der Rubenszeit im Spiegel der Malerfamilie Brueghel und der Künstler um Peter Paul Rubens (Munich: Hirmer, 2000)

44 P. Dorlandus and Raimundo De Sabunde, Viola Animae, Seu Dialogi Duo De Hominis Nature et De Mysteris

Passionis (1500). Now available as a modern reprint, Breinigsville, PA: Kessinger, 2010. For a later edition

available as a text on the internet, see Viola Animae

pagina quid spiret haec viola odorator.” The book is advertized as follows: Libellus hic qui viola animae inscribitur septem dialogos continet, quorum sex primos Petrus Dorlandus concinnavit ex theologia naturali M.

Raimundi Sebundii Hispani from the 1500 edition.


Jan Withagen, 1578). On the title-page, “Versa

45 Dorlandus, Viola animae, Prologus, fol. 2 “scripturas sacras facile quis impia interpretatione subruere (vertere) potest. Sed nemo est tam execrandi dogmatis hereticus qui nature librum falsificare possit in quo manifestis obtutibis omnia palantur.”

46 Dorlandus, Viola animae, Dialogus I, “hic incipit scala nature per quam homo scandit ad semetipsum.” Sebond‟s Ladder of Creatures is a leading ordering concept in systems of human thought, see Lovejoy, Chain of Being, vii.

47 Dorlandus, Viola Animae, iiiv

48 Dorlandus, Viola animae, iiiv

49 Sabundus‟s methods of viewing follow the interpretive models expounded by Aristotle in his Peri Hermeneias and known to medieval academics through the Latin translation by Boethius. His De Interpretatione is the authoritative source for such concepts as finding similitudines in unrelated material and to use the concept of the coincidentia oppositorum to create fruitful paradoxes and especially to create accouplements out of the apparent unregulated disorder of the natural world. There exists no bilingual edition of Boethius‟s De Interpretatione. For an unreliable edition of the Latin, see Carolus Meister, Boethius Commentari in Librum Aristotelis Peri Hermeneias (Leipzig: Teubner, 1880, facs. ed. New York: Garland, 1987). For an introduction to Boethius and his reception in the Middle Ages, see J. Marenbon, Boethius (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003).

50 Brueghel, in his 1604 allegory, envisioned the union between fire and air as such an “admirable accouplement.” For the art of Jan Brueghel as a visual corollary to the docte semance of sixteenthcentury poesie scientifique, see my “Conchas Legere: Shells as Trophies of Repose in Northern European Humanism,” Art History 29:3 (2006) 398.

51 Dorlandus, Viola Animae, iiii. Here lies the crux of the usefulness of Sabundus for the apologetics of a worldly piety.

52 Blessed tranquility is Christian nomenclature for Ataraxia, the philosophical concept of the ancients which translates into the “peace of mind” or “contentment.”


53 Blum, Apologie, 307.

54 Dorlandus, Viola animae, ii “Presens liber qui Viola anime intitulatur in septem distinguitur dyalogos.” Viola denotes both a flower, the violet or gilli-flower and the color that is a mélange of red and blue.

55 Fleuretez encapsulates the view of Saint Francis of Sales that flowers should be strewn along the arduous path of devotion. The role of flowers in the practice of devout naturalism was a treasure that the female monastic culture bestowed upon the worldly piety of the cultured elites. In visual culture this heritage reached an apogee in the Garland Madonnas produced collaboratively by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens, see Woollett, Rubens and Brueghel, 156165, cat nos . 20 and 21. Brueghel‟s reputation as Bloemen–Brueghel the member of the dynasty who excelled in flower paintings reflects the fact that he turned the floralia of the archducal gardens into profitable commodities for a clientele avid to have exquisite fleuretez in the privacy of one‟s home.

56 Jean Martin La theologie naturelle de Dom Raymon Sebon docteur excellent entres les modernes (Paris:

Vascovan, 1565). See Sabundus, Theologia Naturalis, 19. J. Balsamo, “Theologie Naturelle de Raymond Sebond,” in Jean Martin: Un Traducteur au temps de Francois Ier et de Henri I, Paris: Presses de l'École normale supérieure, 1999, 177195. Martin refers to Leonore‟s request as the wish to translate into French “un petit sommaire latin extrait d‟un bien gros liure.”

57 For these editions, see Blum, Apologie, 305. I used the edition of Daniel Guillemot of 1611.

58 For an exploration of how Sebond nourished a new Augustinianism in Montaigne‟s thought, see A. Comparot, Amour et Verité: Sebon, Vives et Michel de Montaigne (Paris: Klinksieck 1983).

59 François Rigolot, “D‟Une Theologie “Pour les Dames” á une Apologie „per le Donne‟?” in Blum, Apologie,


60 Always the sceptic Montaigne turned the Socratic pursuit of selfknowledge into his essayistic autobiography. In one of his essays he wittily stated that he wrote about himself because it was what he knew best, see M. A. Screech, Introduction, in Michel de Montaigne: The Complete Essays (London:Penguin 1991) xiv.

61 Copenhaver and Schmitt, 252

62 For court humanism at the court of Albert and Isabella, see Barbara Welzel Der Hof als Kosmos sinnlicher Erfahrung. Der Funfsinne-Zyklus von Jan Brueghel der Ältere und Peter Paul Rubens als Bild der erzherzögliche Sammlungen Isabella und Albrechts (Marburg, Diss. 1997). For the role of the “wondrous” and the “marvelous” in shaping a prince‟s world, see Lorraine Daston and Katherine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 11501750 (New York: Zone Books, 1998).

63 M. L. Hairs and G. Seelig, Jan Brueghel, in Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon. Band 14 (Munich: Saur, 1996) 483.

64 Devout naturalists were practiced in the infinite discourse (discours infini) of what Du Bartas called “la docte nature.”

65 Brueghel followed the tradition in natural philosophy that the coloration of creatures (esp. in feathers, flowers and shells) is an apology for the application of the colores rhetorices in spiritual eloquence.


66 For the discourse of the aula sacra, see Nicolas Caussin, La cour sainte (Paris: S. Chappelet, 1624).

67 Jon A. Quitslund interprets Spenser‟s poetry as a “supreme fiction” which imitates Nature‟s ability to unfold patterns from the infinite possibilities of the interlocking tetrads, see his Spenser’s Supreme Fiction: Platonic Natural Philosophy and The Fairy Queene (Toronto: UP 2001) 162–176. His view of Spenser‟s supreme fiction agrees with Du Bartas‟s conceptualization of his poetry as a "discours sur discours infiniment divers," for which see Miernowski, La Sepmaine.