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Life And Death In The Northern European Game Piece

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Chapter Summary

Death, a central theme in early Netherlandish figural painting, found a new venue in the late sixteenth century: the animal. This chapter considers how the animal is assessed on an artistic level by comparing the paintings with the ideas expressed in a group of early modern philosophical texts that argue in favor of the existence of animal soul. It argues that the philosophical question of animal soul, although not taken up at length by Netherlandish scientists, was profoundly addressed in the paintings of animals, whose visual language matches and at times exceeds the French texts in subtlety and eloquence. Montaigne's radical rejection of anthropocentricism was intended as a critique of the arrogance he perceived within his own society, but within his irony he asks his reader to consider a fact about the animal that in the seventeenth century would become central to arguments in favor of animal soul.

Keywords: animal soul; Montaigne; Netherlandish figural painting



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