Artful Armies, Beautiful Battles: Art and Warfare in Early Modern Europe

Artful Armies, Beautiful Battles: Art and Warfare in Early Modern Europe

Artful Armies, Beautiful Battles: Art and Warfare in Early Modern Europe

Artful Armies, Beautiful Battles: Art and Warfare in Early Modern Europe


Warfare, and the circumstances surrounding it, have often provided important impulses for cultural production. This book explores the relationship between warfare and image-making in the early modern period. Rather than dealing with images simply as reproductions of actual events, the volume demonstrates complex processes by which political, national and social identities are negotiated and fashioned in warfare imagery.The book analyses three main issues: the impact of war on art, the ways in which warfare imagery supports dominant ideologies, and the manner in which such imagery also constructs alternative identities. The essays offer a broad range of methodologies while dealing with a wide array ofchronological, geographical and artistic materials. Historians and art historians will find this volume particularly useful in its nuanced examination of the relationship between art and history.


Pia F. Cuneo

Beginning with ancient chroniclers and historians, and continuing with modern-day scholars, interested parties have recorded, enumerated, and analyzed the political, economic, societal, and technological impact of warfare. Historians have also devoted significant attention to the methods, implements, techniques, and strategies of waging war. They have focused less, however, on the relationship between warfare and cultural production. Whatever accounts for this oversight—be it an understandable hesitancy to accord war any kind of civilizing influence or an unwillingness to count cultural production as belonging to the hard facts of history—it seriously inhibits our understanding of the early modern period, an age that simultaneously promulgated vigorous pacifism and genteel belligerence, and that used art, architecture, music, and literature to do so.

In 1990, J. R. Hale ventured an initial sortie into this no-man’sland of art and warfare. Hale provided a wide-ranging survey of Renaissance images dealing with war and, in so doing, collected and published images many of which had been previously ignored by scholars. Hale’s goal was “to suggest how the pictorial imagination of the Renaissance responded, spontaneously or to order, to the outstanding visual and emotional aspects of warfare.” Although Hale sought to avoid using these products of the “pictorial imagination” as mere glosses or illustrations to the history of warfare—a pitfall

I am thinking here of those canonical early modern examples written by
Erasmus of Rotterdam and Baldesar Castiglione. See Erasmus, “The Complaint of
Peace,” in Desiderius Erasmus: the Praise of Folly and Other Writings, ed. Robert Adams
(New York, 1989), 88–116 and B. Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier, trans. by
George Bull (New York, 1967).

J. R. Hale, Artists and Warfare in the Renaissance (New Haven, 1990), viii. Hale
was preceded in 1988 by a volume of collected essays dealing with war and cul
tural production (and to which Hale also contributed; War, Literature and the Arts in
Sixteenth Century Europe
, ed. by R. Mulryne and M. Shewring [London, 1988]), but
the author’s 1990 book focuses exclusively on visual imagery. Ideas in Hale’s ear
lier essay “The Soldier in Germanic Graphic Art of the Renaissance” (in Art and
, ed. R. T. Rotberg and T. K. Rabb [Cambridge, 1988], 85–114) are taken
up and developed further in his 1990 book.

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