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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for Historical Studies (CHS)

PhD Ceremony G.R. LEA (CHS), Silent Eloquence

When:Th 24-03-2022 14:30 - 15:30
Where:Academy building

G.R. (Graham) Lea will defend his doctoral thesis on Thursday 24 March 2022.

Silent Eloquence
The rhetorical pictures of bibliocal history by Hendrick Goltzius and Pieter Lastman


  • Prof. Dr B.A.M. Ramakers
  • Prof. Dr W. Melion

This dissertation focuses on four Biblical history paintings, two by the Haarlem painter Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) and two by the Amsterdam painter Pieter Lastman (1583-1633). Their performances deviate strongly from the visual tradition. Both artists appear to have a preference for depicting scenes in which characters from the Bible talk to each other. The paintings depict rhetorical situations and are thus examples of silent eloquence – hence the title of the thesis: Silent Eloquence. Their effect on the viewer is that they are stimulated to remember or read the text that the characters speak according to the Bible. In the imagination, the viewer puts the text in their mouths, as it were, and thus makes the paintings speak. The inspiration for this representation, it is believed, was derived from the literature, especially the stage, of the rhetoricians. They regarded their poems, but especially their plays, as contemporary manifestations of classical eloquence. To illustrate the parallel with the rhetorical culture of the time, each of the paintings is compared to a rhetoricians’ play dramatizing the same Biblical theme. The analysis shows that painters and rhetoricians applied the same rhetorical concepts and strategies. That is not surprising, because Goltzius and Lastman maintained contacts and collaborated with rhetoricians and chambers of rhetoric, the organizations within which they were organised. Rhetorician culture was widespread. Not only artists were familiar with it, but also the patrons and viewers of their paintings. It is therefore quite plausible that these paintings were looked at through the eyes of a spectator, as if they were plays.

The University Library publishes the thesis digitally after the defence ceremony.