Universiteit Leiden

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Stijn Bussels appointed professor of Art History pre-1800

On 1 November, Stijn Bussels assumed his role as professor of Art History, especially before 1800 at Leiden University. The chair is located at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS).

Stijn Bussels

Early modern images

At LUCAS, Bussels researches the social and cultural impact of images from the early modern period. He not only focuses on Dutch art history, but consciously looks across borders to see how regions and countries have mutually inspired each other in the arts.

Art is more than money

Bussels is critical of the increasing tendency of the media to trot out art historians mostly when a painting is sold for a record amount, as recently was the case when Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi changed hands for 450 million. The role of art historians is much greater than that, says Bussels. Important lessons about both the past and the present are hidden in art history.

Role in society

‘Art history is significant in that it clarifies what role art had in society and what impact it had,’ says Bussels. ‘In order to investigate this, in Leiden, we look at a wide variety of images, from the smallest sketches to the largest frescos, from dolls to statues and from façade decorations to tableaux vivants. We examine how these images were used to enact change or how they legitimised an existing situation, how they led to pride or shame and how they managed to evoke joy and provoke anger.’

Medusa's snake head

Scenes of horror on the Dam

Bussels is currently leading the ERC project ‘Elevated Minds. The Sublime in the Public Arts in Seventeenth-Century Paris and Amsterdam’ and is investigating the terrifying sculptures from the Vierschaar of what was then Amsterdam City Hall (the current Royal Palace of Amsterdam) such as the Medusa snake head and the reliefs depicting cruel executions. Bussels is examining how dozens of writers were fascinated by these gruesome scenes, which they believed would ultimately lead to a more peaceful society. 

Enthusiastic students

Bussels is looking forward to the coming years as a professor at Leiden University. Bussels: ‘It always impresses me how enthusiastic the students here in Leiden are about acquiring new insights and getting to know art and artists. In addition, I am looking forward to bringing more international experts to Leiden to spur students further.’

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