Europe as Ideal Landscape: A View on Landscape with the Fall of Icarus of Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Europe as Ideal Landscape: A View on Landscape with the Fall of Icarus of Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Dirk Michael Hennrich (Lisbon University, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3636-0.ch013


This chapter displays an ideal landscape of Europe by interpreting the painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus from Pieter Brueghel the Elder, giving hint to a constellation of concepts that circumscribe the European identity through the poetic metaphor of the Western World as the archipelago of the sunset referring at the same time to a constellation of Ancient Greek myth, which represents the basic tales of Europe conceived as a geopolitical, linguistic, and cultural problem. However, it acquires a deeper connotation and meaning if it is looked from a metaphorical point of view, considering Europe as an ideal landscape with a peculiar mood or disposition. Europe as a cultural identity consolidated since Renaissance, along the maritime explorations and the emergence of the concept of landscape, which developed from the fields of painting and literature into the scientific description of different world regions up to a new philosophical discipline called the philosophy of landscape.
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“The ideas live in the cavities between what things claim to be and what they are. Utopia would be above identity and above contradiction; it would be a togetherness of diversity.” (ADORNO 1973: 150)

Talking about cultural identity we probably recur first on languages or dialects, religious and moral convictions, traditional techniques, myth and historical occurrences, political directions or to a specific land as a geographical territory. In this meaning, the land could be understood as a nation with more or less permeable borders, as a region or district of this nation and also as a city or a village in the region on the countryside surrounded by forests, fields, lakes, mountains or whatever appears, as a so called ‘natural phenomenon’, near beside the cultural manifestation of man. When we ask now about the cultural identity, not of a whole nation but before of each human being, we have to go the opposite way, initiating the fundament of cultural identity in a village or city where each of us raised up, in the root, or in an phenomenological term, in the ground [Boden] where we all experienced the first time the indistinguishable and inseparable difference between nature and culture, where we experienced as a embodied being a specific space with a specific structure of time, with specific light, tastes, forms and colours, normally called homeland and which I want to call currently landscape. We all come from landscapes, including cities and villages as parts of them, and even if we are nomads, who we all are for sure, we depend physically or psychologically more to one specific landscape then to another.

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