Representing the Limits of Human Agency: The Paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Pieter Bruegel the Elder lived during a period in which the concept of space was very different from the one we subscribe to in the twenty-first century. Instead of imagining a continuous space that we pass through, a sixteenth-century cosmographer or theologian would think of their environment as a collection of places. But what of the everyday citizen—how would such a concept of space affect the poems one penned, or the landscapes one rendered? In this talk Prof. Serebrennikov will look at the panels by Bruegel as a collection of places, each of which is peopled with humans in action. In the seemingly endless variety of actions he depicts, Bruegel explores the boundaries of human agency.

About the Speaker: Prof. Nina Serebrennikov is Professor of Art History and the Chair of the Art Department at Davidson College. She received her M.S. in Library Science, M.A. and Ph.D. in Art History (with emphasis in Renaissance and Baroque Art), all at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her areas of interest and expertise include medieval, renaissance, and baroque art, and especially 16th century Flemish painting, including Peter Bruegel the Elder. Most of her research takes place in the major collections of Renaissance and Baroque drawings that are in the British Museum, the Louvre, and the Uffizi in Florence. At Davidson College, she has taught art history courses from the Early Christian period up to the 18th century, a gender course titled "Painted Women/Women Painting," a seminar for the senior art history majors on new perspectives in art history, and she has also directed the Davidson in Rome program.