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Auteur: Pierre Vinken
Icons and Enigmas is a collection of art history essays and one book that Pierre Vinken published over the course of fifty years. This collection reflects Vinken's abiding fascination with icons and symbols that, once understood, unlock hidden meanings in seemingly straightforward and often misunderstood art works. For instance, is the broken vessel in Jean-Baptiste Greuze's Girl with the broken pitcher just that, or did the artist intend to tell a more complex story? Is the man with the odd looking face in Frans Hals' The Regents and Regentesses a reflection of Hals' pique at his patrons' parsimony or a portrayal of a neurological disorder? Vinken solves these and other mysteries, often by using his medical training, in the pieces collected in Icons and Enigmas. Pierre Vinken (1927-2011) graduated from the University of Utrecht and was a practicing neurosurgeon for many years. Vinken then changed careers and became a publishing executive. Ultimately he became chief executive of Reed Elsevier, which under his leadership grew to become the largest scientific publishing company in the world. Throughout his life, Vinken had a keen interest in art history and was particularly preoccupied by iconology, especially in early Netherlandish art. He began publishing art history articles while still a student in the 1950's and continued to do so in the following years despite maintaining a full professional schedule and raising five children. In 2001, Vinken published The Shape of the Heart (reprinted here), a critically acclaimed investigation into the iconography of the familiar valentine's heart that was the product of years of research.
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