Isabel of Castile, flemish aesthetics, and identity construction in the works of Juan de Flandes

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2014-05

Authors

Weiss, Jessica Sue

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Abstract

This dissertation explores how Isabel of Castile employed Flemish visual forms in the cultivation of both royal and personal identity through an analysis of the paintings created by the Flemish artist Juan de Flandes (active 1496-1519) during his career in Spain. Isabel’s importation of a Northern European court artist to work within a Castilian milieu popularized a hybridized Hispano-Flemish visual style that concurrently facilitated the combined impressions of international sophistication and localized Iberian identity.

During his career at the Castilian court, Juan de Flandes created paintings that oscillated between the visual styles, compositional devices, and iconographies of his Flemish training and those of his adopted artistic environment. One is unable to organize his oeuvre into a teleological narrative, where early works conform to Netherlandish standards which then organically incorporate an increasing number of local Spanish idioms resulting in “late” pieces that more fully display Iberian aesthetics. This problematizes the interpretation of formal qualities in sixteenth-century painting as passive indicators of regional schools, individual artistic hands, and broad cultural phenomena.

By interpreting the paintings of Juan de Flandes within the context of Isabel’s self-fashioning as queen of Castile, I argue that aesthetics can also be understood as a facet of production that can be negotiated during the commission process and can communicate socio-political ideologies. Therefore, Isabel’s aesthetics as expressed in the works of Juan de Flandes what might be termed a proto-nationalistic awareness of a specifically “Castilian” visual identity, the manipulation of which coincides with her broader aims as ruler.

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