Never to Coincide: the Identities of Dutch Protestants and Dutch Catholics in Religious Emblematics

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This essay presents observations on the distinctiveness of Protestant and Catholic literary practices and identities in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. Inspired by Catholic emblematists from the Southern Netherlands, Dutch Catholics as well as Protestants employed the religious emblem as a means of bolstering their faith and shaping their identity – but never at the same time, and never in the same manner. The religious emblem was at first claimed by Protestants such as Jacob Cats. After 1635, it was appropriated by Catholic authors such as Jan Harmensz. Krul and Everard Meyster. As the genre was reappropriated by Protestants such as Jan Luyken in the 1680s, Dutch Catholics moved away from the emblem to express their identity in new and exclusively Catholic genres such as soberly illustrated prayer books. Production of Dutch emblem books occurred in the same social and cultural isolation as clandestine Catholic church art, indicating that no sharing of visual practices and media took place among denominations in the Republic.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Historians of Netherlandish Art
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Specialized histories (international relations, law)
  • Literary theory, analysis and criticism
  • Culturele activiteiten
  • Overig maatschappelijk onderzoek


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