Symposium Iconoclasm: Beeldenstorm and Beyond

This year marks the 450th anniversary of the Beeldenstorm, the wave of iconoclasm that swept over the Low Countries in 1566. This defining moment in Netherlandish history will be commemorated with a two-day symposium, 9 and 10 December 2016, which will consider the Beeldenstorm in relation to iconoclasm as a global phenomenon.

foto Gert Jan Kocken (photographer), Anna Retable, Utrecht, Defacement 07.03.1580This year marks the 450th anniversary of the Beeldenstorm, the wave of iconoclasm that swept over the Low Countries in 1566. The traumatic repercussions of the Beeldenstorm reached far beyond the religious controversies and theological debates on the use of images that lay at its core, and they swept with terrific force over a society struggling to adapt to a changing world. The Beeldenstorm of 1566 was a catalyst for conflict that escalated the Troubles until they turned to open revolt and, ultimately, to war.

Four and half centuries later, we still witness countless excesses perpetrated against world art and heritage, but while these acts of violence and vandalism warrant our condemnation, they also cause us to pause and reflect, for the motives, drives and narratives of these contemporary image-breakers seem all too familiar. Iconoclasm is not specific to a particular age or culture; it has been propagated by a great variety of religions, beliefs and ideologies. If we want to understand its workings, we must study iconoclasm in all its historical and contemporary manifestations.

About the symposium

Iconoclasm: Beeldenstorm and Beyond will seek to deepen our understanding of the ideological and systematic destruction of art under different historical and cultural configurations. The symposium will bring together an international group of scholars who will offer the latest insights on the hostility toward images in the Habsburg Netherlands, as well as the Byzantine world, Islam, Colonial America, China, (Early) Modern Europe and, presently, in the Middle East, and on iconoclasm in contemporary art.

Iconoclasm: Beeldenstorm and Beyond is organized under the aegis of Arts of the Netherlands (University of Amsterdam / Rijksmuseum) and in collaboration with the Dutch Postgraduate School for Art History.


Download the programme


For registration, please send an email to the Onderzoekschool Kunstgeschiedenis / Dutch Postgraduate School for Art History, at Details concerning payment will be included in the confirmation.

For questions about the symposium, please contact:
Prof. dr. Hugo van der Velden, Rijksmuseum Professor of Medieval Art, University of Amsterdam:



  • 9 December 2016, 9 am – 5.30 pm
  • 10 December 2016, 9 am – 5.30 pm


  • 9 December 2016, Auditorium, Rijksmuseum
  • 10 December 2016, Aula (Oude Lutherse Kerk), University of Amsterdam


  • Regular: € 20
  • Students: € 10