Conférence : Lucas Vanhevel, « Mushrooms in the Autumn of the Middle Ages. On the mushroom details in the Berlin Middelburg Altarpiece and associated Early Netherlandish Nativity pieces, 1448–1530 », Berlin, Kulturforum Berlin, 11 juillet 2022, 16h

Rogier Van Der Weyden’s Middelburg Altarpiece, now at the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, features a tiny detail that escaped centuries of observation and research: fifteen small mushrooms on the roof of the nativity manger, clustered in two groups mirrored equidistantly over the central axis of the central panel. In his presentation, Lucas Vanhevel documents the repeated occurrence of this tiny visual motif in Early Netherlandish Nativity paintings between 1448 and 1530, and investigates the possible reasons for its inclusion—thereby exploring the questions of meaning, use, and indeterminacy that it raises.

Fungi tend to be overlooked by homo sapiens. Operating outside or at best at the very fringes of the human sensorial apparatus and attention span—not unlike the viruses and climatic changes that currently threaten life as we know it—fungi were destined for a history of human misunderstanding and neglect. This despite their marvelous ubiquity and vital importance to nearly all ecosystems; their massive preeminence in the global species count (at least by threefold factor, both plants and vertebrate animals combined); and their vast, though underestimated, involvement in historical human affairs. Even within the current movement of Ecocritical Humanities, which calls into discussion the traditional Western relational ontology of man and nature, fungi risk languishing in the shadow of two other, more familiar “F’s”—the Fauna and the Flora—scrutinized, respectively, by the Zooctritcism of the late nineties and the emergent field of Critical Plant Studies.

Lucas Vanhevel is a Ph.D. candidate at the Leiden University Center for the Arts in Society and a Doctoral Fellow in the interdisciplinary Research and Fellowship program 4A Laboratory: Art Histories, Archaeologies, Anthropologies, Aesthetics. The current working title of his dissertation is Theatrum Fungorum: Picturing Fungi in the Early Modern Low Countries 1450-1700. Lucas received his M.A. in Art History from the University of Ghent, Belgium, with a thesis on mycological illustration in the early modern Low Countries.

Hybrid seminar: KGM Vortragssaal, Kulturforum Berlin & Online

To obtain the link to the talk, please register at


Florence Larcher

Florence Larcher est doctorante à l'Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Ses recherches sur les images de saint Roch en Italie de 1350 à 1680 l'amènent à étudier la peinture murale, la sérialité et l'itinérance des peintres.

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