The Impact of the Reformation on the Visual Arts of Europe - from Dürer to Vermeer III: Pieter Bruegel and the Idea of Serious Joke
Aneta Georgievska-Shine, professor of art history, University of Maryland
Rather than a clear path towards a new mode of religious observance, the Reformation ushered in a period of great religious uncertainty in Europe. While many intellectuals –including Erasmus – maintained their allegiance to the Catholic church despite the general turn towards Protestantism in their countries, others shifted their religious affiliation in opportunistic fashion. This sense of instability was beautifully captured by artists like Pieter Bruegel the Elder in images full of “serious jokes” about human folly and our inability to make proper judgments about the world – or even ourselves.