Invention and reinvention in the landscape symbolism of Joachim Patinir

Presented by: Mike Levy

Date: Friday 8 April 2022
Time: 12–1pm
Location: Online via Zoom 


The Flemish artist Joachim Patinir (c. 1485-1524) painted vast panoramic landscapes in which tiny figures are dwarfed by their surroundings. Prior to Patinir, in the tradition of western art there were few (if any) precedents of artists who gave such emphasis to landscape in and of itself.

Patinir’s landscapes are rich in symbolism, and were used to express and convey complex metaphors and doctrinal issues. A particularly good example is Patinir’s Landscape with Charon Crossing the River Styx (hereafter Charon) where the metaphor of the two paths through life is presented. Falkenburg explains that towards the close of the Middle Ages this idea emerged through a complex program of distinct but interrelated metaphors of the choice between the easy and the difficult paths through life. The broad, easy road leads to the seductive figure of vice, or hell; the narrow road to redemption is harder, up a steeper, rocky path, but leads to virtue, or paradise. To make the right choice, one needs to know the difference between what is seen outwardly and what is known inwardly (sight and insight).

Remarkably, half a millennium later, Charon was one of four masterpieces selected from the Prado Museum collection to be reinvented for a campaign on behalf of the World Wide Fund for Nature. The campaign, entitled “+1.5 degrees C Lo Cambia Todo” (1.5 degrees changes everything) formed part of the climate change summit held in Madrid in 2019. In the new version of Charon, landscape symbolism is used to convey a different message, again hinging on the metaphor of the choice between two paths. Seeing this distinction, or lack of it, in the landscape symbolism of the version of Charon for the climate summit is as significant now as it was originally 500 years ago, with the caveat that the meanings be applied to a world that is secular rather than sacred


Mike Levy is a candidate in the MPhil (Art History) program, focussing upon the world landscapes of Joachim Patinir. His supervisors are Dr Andrea Bubenik and Dr Paolo Magagnoli.


About Research Seminar and Workshop Series


School of Communication and Arts Research Seminar Series

The research seminar and workshop series occur each semester, each with a different topic and guest speaker from UQ or otherwise.

Friday, 11 March

Online via Zoom

Research Seminar - Tuning In with the Stethoscope in the Nineteenth CenturyDr Melissa Dickson (University of Birmingham)

Friday, 25 March


Early Adventures in Australian Actor Training

Dr Chris Hay

Friday, 8 April

Online via Zoom

Invention and reinvention in the landscape symbolism of Joachim PatinirMichael Levy

Friday, 29 April

Online via Zoom

Negotiating balance of cultures among Chinese Australians to facilitate ageing well

A/Prof Shuang Liu

Friday, 13 May


Redefining crisis in museums: insider’s perspectives on digital engagement

Dr Caroline Wilson-Barnao, Craig Middleton (National Museum of Australia), and Lisa Enright

Friday, 3 June

Hybrid: Online via Zoom and in person at the
SCA Writer's Studio
(Level 6, Michie)

A journey through the Australian environmental movement ecosystem

Dr Robyn Gulliver

Friday, 10 June

Online via Zoom

TBADr Alex Bevan