Italy and the Low Countries – Artistic Relations: The Sixteenth Century

International conference Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht, Friday 31 March 2023

Organised by Gert Jan van der Sman (NIKI, Florence)

At the beginning of the sixteenth century the visual arts in the Low Countries entered a period of transition due to the progressive assimilation of Italian styles. Furthermore, an increasing number of artists undertook a voyage to Italy to enrich their cultural baggage and improve their skills.

This conference seeks to address often overlooked aspects of the artistic exchange between Italy and the Netherlands during the Renaissance period. It will be shown that the crossovers between architecture, sculpture, painting and the applied arts were of great significance for the development of a new visual language and the emergence of a classicizing taste. Several painters used the knowledge of geometry and all’antica ornamentation to raise their status and to make themselves known as practitioners of a noble art. Picture framing also underwent significant changes following Italian models.

Special attention will furthermore be drawn to the city of Milan. Already in an early stage, the Sforza court highly valued the originality and technical perfection of Northern European art. In the 1570s Netherlandish artists produced some of the most spectacular stained-glass paintings in the Duomo in Milan, while at the end of the sixteenth century Jan Bruegel the Elder found in cardinal Federico Borromeo his most important patron. Jan’s stay in Italy was preceded by that of his father Pieter, who during his travels produced some of his finest drawings, such as the famous view of the Ripa Grande in Rome.  


Due to the limited number of seats available registration is required. Registration fee for attendees: 15 euro (lunch included); free for members of the Stichting Vrienden van het Kunsthistorisch Instituut in Florence.

Registration is required and possible until 10 March 2023 by writing to Britt Kramer at


10.00 Registration-Coffee/tea

10.30 Anton Pijpers (President of the Executive Board of Utrecht University)


10.45 Gert Jan van der Sman (NIKI, Florence)


11.00 Max Wiringa (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)

Jan Gossart. ‘Painter and architect’

11.25 Oliver Kik (KIK-IRPA, Brussels)

Parallel patterns? The transfer of geometrical design knowledge in Italy and the Low Countries

11.50 Daantje Meuwissen (Free University, Amsterdam)

Pocket-size ‘Italian’ knowledge: The personal sketchbook of Cornelis Anthonisz. (c. 1505-1553)

12.25 Hubert Baija (Art Gallery of Ontario)

Italian influences on early modern picture framing in the Netherlands

12.50 Discussion

13.00 Lunch

14.30 Edward Wouk (The University of Manchester)

Bruegel’s Ruins 

14.55 Nelleke de Vries (Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede)

Looking up. The desire for Netherlandish art at the Sforza court in Milan

15.20 Niels Weijenberg (The University of Manchester)

The success of Netherlandish artists in Cinquecento Milan: Valerius van Diependale and the glass painters of the Fabbrica del Duomo

15.45 Tania De Nile (Sovrintendenza capitolina ai beni culturali / University of Rome Tor Vergata)

The hellish scenes by Federico Zuccari and Jan Brueghel the Elder (with a note on Giovanni Mauro Della Rovere, called Fiammenghino)

16.10 Discussion