The advantage of a profile portrait such as Piero della Francesca’s Portrait of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta is that it identifies the subject like a facial signature. The proportions of the face, the respective angles of the forehead, nose and brow, the position and shape of the eye and the set of the jaw remain recognisable through life.
Moreover, once a profile likeness has been taken, it can be used to cast a medal or sculpt an image in relief. Pollaiuolo has conformed to the formula, emphasising this young woman’s profile with a fine line which also defines the delicate shape of her nostrils and the corners of her mouth.
But he has added a three-dimensional quality by the subtle use of chiaroscuro and the treatment of the rich Florentine brocade of her sleeve. Alesso Baldovinetti, on the other hand, has used the profile of this strong-featured girl to create a striking pattern of a highlighted contour against the darker background.
The background is a lively shape adding to the compositional structure of the painting. The little black fillet on her forehead responds to the dynamic pattern of the embroidered sleeve. Botticelli’s portrait, although turned to three-quarter view with strong tonal modelling, has much to do with Baldovinetti’s painting in its striking arrangement of shapes in the red garment, the hat and the dark hair and the pattern that they form against the background.
Antonello da Messina’s portrait, some years earlier than Botticelli’s, bears it a passing similarity. But this painting does not rely heavily on the skilful arrangement of clearly contoured shapes. Antonello has used the advantages of oil paint, as against Botticelli’s tempera, to achieve a subtle and detailed likeness in which the bushy eyebrows, the imperfections of the skin and the shadow of the beard have been rendered with photographic precision.
Ghirlandaio’s tempera portrait of an old man with his grandson combines the meticulous depiction of the old man’s enlarged nose and parchment-like skin with a tenderness usually reserved for portrayals of The Madonna and Child.
Ghirlandaio takes this analogy further by setting the scene against a window and landscape. Pintoricchio’s portrait of a boy sets him high in the picture frame, reducing his scale in proportion to the area in contrast to the usual way of showing adults.
The painting is set against a landscape such as used by Leonardo and Bellini. Pinturicchio’s main fame lay in his skillfully characterised portraits like this. In the Mona Lisa Leonardo employed the technique of sfumato, delicately graded chiaroscuro that models the surface contours, while allowing details to disappear in the shadows.
The technique gives an air of mystery to this painting which has brought it lasting fame. The beautiful hands become almost a decorative element. Giovanni Bellini’s portrait of the elected Duke of Venice has an official air and could hardly be more formal.
Yet the face is characterised with what one might hope for in the Doge, wisdom, humour and decisiveness. Although a more elaborate painting, it has much in common with Baldovinetti’s sense of design. The subject of Titian’s portrait is unknown, and its considerable fame rests solely on its beauty and unusual composition in which the face is supported and balanced by the large blue sleeve of quilted satin.
The sleeve is almost the same colour as the background; its rich tonality gives it form. The white linen of the shirt enlivens the composition, while the man’s eyes pick up the colour of the sleeve with penetrating luminosity.
Superficially, Andrea del Sarto’s portrait has many of the same elements as Titian’s. But it is handled very differently, being much broader in treatment, and less compelling in subject. The painting has achieved an imediacy, as if the sitter has paused for a moment and is about to return to what he is doing.
Raphael, in this much-copied portrait of Pope Julius II, set a standard for the painting of future popes. Unlike the contemporary portraits here by Bellini, Titian and del Sarto, Raphael has abandoned the placement of the figure behind a shelf or barrier and has shown the Pope as if seated in his own apartment.
Against the green cloth decorated with the keys of St. Peter, the red velvet papal garments make a rich contrast, the white beard being offset by the pleated white linen. On the uprights of the chair, the acorn finials are the symbol of the Pope’s family, the della Rovere.
Gerrit Berckheyde specialized in lightly populated views of main city streets, squares, and major public buildings; Jan van der Heyden preferred more intimate scenes of quieter Amsterdam streets, often with trees and canals. These were real views, but he did not hesitate to adjust them for compositional effect.
Giotto painted the large, free-standing Scrovegni Chapel in Padua with the Life of the Virgin and the Life of Christ. Breaking from medieval tradition, it set a standard of naturalism. The two large frescoes of Allegories of Good and Bad Government painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti for the Commune of Siena are completely secular and show detailed views of a townscape with citizens, emphasising the importance of civic order.
By contrast, Andrea di Bonaiuto, painting for the Dominicans at the new church of Santa Maria Novella, completed a huge fresco of the Triumph of the Church, which shows the role of the church in the work of Salvation, and in particular, the role of the Dominicans, who also appear symbolically as the Hounds of Heaven, shepherding the people of God.
The painting includes a view of Florence Cathedral. Masaccio and Masolino collaborated on the Brancacci Chapel fresco cycle which is most famous for Masaccio’s lifelike innovations, Masolino’s more elegant style is seen in this townscape which skillfully combines two episodes of the Life of St.
Peter. Piero della Francesca’s fresco cycle in the church of San Francesco, Arezzo, closely follows the Legend of the True Cross as written by Jacopo da Varagine in the Golden Legend. The pictures reveal his studies of light and perspective, and the figures have an almost monolithic solidity.
Benozzo Gozzoli’s fresco cycle for the private chapel of the Medici Palace is a late work in the International Gothic style, a fanciful and richly ornamental depiction of the Medici with their entourage as the Three Wise Men.
The elaborate cycle for the House of Este’s Palazzo Schifanoia at Ferrara, executed in part by Francesco del Cossa, was also fanciful in its depictions of Classical deities and Zodial signs which are combined with scenes of the life of the family.
Mantegna’s paintings for the Gonzaga also show family life but have a preponderance of highly realistic elements and skillfully utilise the real architecture of the room they decorate, the mantelpiece forming a plinth for the figures and the real ceiling pendentives being apparently supported on painted pilasters.
While in the Brancacci Chapel, historians seek to identify the faces of Masaccio, Masolino and perhaps Donatello among the apostles, Domenico Ghirlandaio at the Sassetti Chapel makes no attempt to disguise his models.
Each fresco in this religious cycle has two sets of figures: those who tell the story and those who are witness to it. In this scene of the Birth of the Virgin Mary, a number of the noble women of Florence have come in, as if to congratulate the new mother.
The Punishment of the Sons of Korah by Botticelli is one of episodes the Life of Moses series, which, together with The Life of Christ, was commissioned in the 1480s as decoration to the Sistine Chapel.
The artists Perugino, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli all worked on the carefully designed and harmonious scheme. Michelangelo’s painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which he executed alone over a period of five years, with narratives from Genesis, prophetic figures and the Ancestors of Christ, was destined to become one of the most famous artworks in the world.
Simultaneously, Raphael and a number of his assistants painted the papal chambers known as Raphael Rooms. In The School of Athens Raphael depicts famous people of his day, including Leonardo, Michelangelo, Bramante and himself, as philosophers of ancient Athens.
The Steen above is very clearly an exemplum, and though each of the individual components of it is realistically depicted, the overall scene is not a plausible depiction of a real moment; typically of genre painting, it is a situation that is depicted, and satirized.
Landscape painting was a major genre in the 17th century. Flemish landscapes (particularly from Antwerp) of the 16th century first served as an example. These had been not particularly realistic, having been painted mostly in the studio, partly from imagination, and often still using the semi-aerial view from above typical of earlier Netherlandish landscape painting in the “world landscape” tradition of Joachim Patinir, Herri met de Bles and the early Pieter Bruegel the Elder. A more realistic Dutch landscape style developed, seen from ground level, often based on drawings made outdoors, with lower horizons which made it possible to emphasize the often impressive cloud formations that were (and are) so typical in the climate of the region, and which cast a particular light. Favourite subjects were the dunes along the western sea coast, rivers with their broad adjoining meadows where cattle grazed, often with the silhouette of a city in the distance. Winter landscapes with frozen canals and creeks also abounded. The sea was a favourite topic as well since the Low Countries depended on it for trade, battled with it for new land, and battled on it with competing nations.
The Haarlem Painter’s Guild in 1675, by Jan de Bray, whose self-portrait is the second from the left
1 Themes 2 Elements of Renaissance painting 2.1 Linear perspective 2.2 Landscape 2.3 Light 2.4 Anatomy 2.5 Realism 2.6 Figure composition 3 Major works 3.1 Altarpieces 3.2 Fresco cycles 4 Subjects 4.1 Devotional paintings 4.
1.1 The Madonna 4.2 Secular paintings 4.2.1 Portraits 4.2.2 The nude 4.2.3 Classical mythology 5 See also 6 Sources 6.1 General 6.2 Painters 7 References
The other great portraitist of the period is Frans Hals, whose famously lively brushwork and ability to show sitters looking relaxed and cheerful adds excitement to even the most unpromising subjects. The extremely “nonchalant pose” of his portrait of Willem Heythuijsen is exceptional: “no other portrait from this period is so informal”. The sitter was a wealthy textile merchant who had already commissioned Hals’ only individual life-sized full-length portrait ten years before. In this much smaller work for a private chamber he wears riding clothes. Jan de Bray encouraged his sitters to pose costumed as figures from classical history, but many of his works are of his own family. Thomas de Keyser, Bartholomeus van der Helst, Ferdinand Bol and others, including many mentioned below as history or genre painters, did their best to enliven more conventional works. Portraiture, less affected by fashion than other types of painting, remained the safe fallback for Dutch artists.
Piero della Francesca, portrait of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, c.1450.
The enormous success of 17th-century Dutch painting overpowered the work of subsequent generations, and no Dutch painter of the 18th century—nor, arguably, a 19th-century one before Van Gogh—is well known outside the Netherlands. Already by the end of the period artists were complaining that buyers were more interested in dead than living artists.
Architecture also fascinated the Dutch, churches in particular. At the start of the period the main tradition was of fanciful palaces and city views of invented Northern Mannerist architecture, which Flemish painting continued to develop, and in Holland was represented by Dirck van Delen. A greater realism began to appear and the exteriors and interiors of actual buildings were reproduced, though not always faithfully. During the century understanding of the proper rendering of perspective grew and were enthusiastically applied. Several artists specialized in church interiors.
A typical Jan Steen picture (c. 1663); while the housewife sleeps, the household play.
The two Enthroned Madonnas by Cimabue and Duccio di Buoninsegna demonstrate the variations on a theme that was formalised and constrained by tradition. Although the positions of the Madonna and Child are very similar, the artists have treated most of the features differently.
Cimabue’s throne is front-on and uses perspective to suggest its solidity. The angels, their faces, wings and haloes, are arranged to form a rich pattern. The gold leaf detailing of the Madonna’s garment picks out the folds in a delicate network.
The Child sits regally, with his feet set at the same angle as his mother’s. In Duccio’s Rucellai Madonna, the largest of its kind at 4.5 metres high, the throne is set diagonally and the Child, much more of a baby despite his gesture, sits diagonally opposed to his mother.
While the positioning of the kneeling angels is quite simplistic, they have a naturalism in their repeated postures and are varied by the beautiful colour combinations of their robes. On the Madonna’s robe the gold border makes a meandering line, defining the form and contours, and enlivening the whole composition with a single decorative detail.
Giotto’s Ognissanti Madonna is now housed in the same room of the Uffizi as Cimabue’s and Duccio’s, where the advances that he made in both drawing from the observation of nature, and in his use of perspective can be easily compared with the earlier masters.
While the painting conforms to the model of an altarpiece, the figures within it do not follow the traditional formula. The Madonna and Child are solidly three-dimensional. This quality is enhanced by the canopied throne which contributes the main decorative element, while gold borders are minimised.
The angels, which mirror each other, each have quite individual drapery. A hundred years later, Masaccio, still within the constraints of the formal altarpiece, confidently creates a three-dimensional figure draped in heavy robes, her chubby Christ Child sucking on his fingers.
The lutes played by the little angels are both steeply foreshortened. In Fra Angelico’s painting the figures lack the emphasis on mass of Masaccio’s. Angelico was renowned for his delicacy in depicting the Madonna.
The appeal of such paintings is demonstrated in the way the adoring angels are clustered around. As in Masaccio’s painting, the Madonna’s halo is decorated with pseudo-kufic script, probably to suggest her Middle Eastern origin.
In the hands of Piero della Francesca the formal gold frame is transformed into a classical niche, drawn in perfect linear perspective and defined by daylight. The assorted saints cluster round in a natural way, while the Madonna sits on a realistic throne on a small podium covered by an oriental carpet, while the donor Federico da Montefeltro kneels at her feet.
A concession to tradition is that the Madonna is of a larger scale than the other figures. In Bellini’s painting, while on one hand, the figures and the setting give the effect of great realism, Bellini’s interest in Byzantine icons is displayed in the hierarchical enthronement and demeanour of the Madonna.
The Milanese painter Bergognone has drawn on aspects of the work of Mantegna and Bellini to create this painting in which the red robe and golden hair of Catherine of Alexandria are effectively balanced by the contrasting black and white of Catherine of Siena, and framed by a rustic arch of broken bricks.
In Andrea Mantegna’s Madonna della Vittoria, the Madonna may occupy the central position, framed in her garlanded gazebo, but the focus of attention is Francesco II Gonzaga whose achievements are acknowledged not only by the Madonna and Christ Child but by the heroic saints, Michael and George.
Leonardo da Vinci abandoned any sort of formal canopy and surrounded the Madonna and Child with the grandeur of nature into which he set the figures in a carefully balanced yet seemingly informal trapezoid composition.
The Sistine Madonna by Raphael uses the formula not of an altarpiece but the formal portrait, with a frame of green curtains through which a vision can be seen, witnessed by Pope Sixtus II for whom the work is named.
The clouds around the Virgin are composed of cherubic faces, while the two iconic cherubs so beloved with the late 20th century fashion for angels, prop themselves on the sill. This work became the model for Murillo and many other painters.
Andrea del Sarto, while using figures to a very natural and lifelike effect, abandons in the Madonna of the Harpies practical reality by setting the Madonna on a Classical plinth as if she were a statue.
Every figure is in a state of instability, marked by the forward thrust of the Madonna’s knee against which she balances a book. This painting is showing the trends that were to be developed in Mannerist painting.
These small intimate pictures, which are now nearly all in museums, were most often done for private ownership, but might occasionally grace a small altar in a chapel.
“Ekkart”: Rudi Ekkart and Quentin Buvelot (eds), Dutch Portraits, The Age of Rembrandt and Frans Hals, Mauritshuis/National Gallery/Waanders Publishers, Zwolle, 2007, ISBN 978-1-85709-362-9 Franits, Wayne, Dutch Seventeenth-Century Genre Painting, Yale UP, 2004, ISBN 0-300-10237-2 Fuchs, RH, Dutch painting, Thames and Hudson, London, 1978, ISBN 0-500-20167-6 Ingamells, John, The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Pictures, Vol IV, Dutch and Flemish, Wallace Collection, 1992, ISBN 0-900785-37-3 Lloyd, Christopher, Enchanting the Eye, Dutch Paintings of the Golden Age, Royal Collection Publications, 2004, ISBN 1-902163-90-7 MacLaren, Neil, The Dutch School, 1600–1800, Volume I, 1991, National Gallery Catalogues, National Gallery, London, ISBN 0-947645-99-3 Prak, Maarten, (2003) “Guilds and the Development of the Art Market during the Dutch Golden Age.
” In: Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, vol. 30, no. 3/4. (2003), pp. 236–251. Expanded version is Prak (2008) Prak, Maarten, (2008), Painters, Guilds and the Art Market during the Dutch Golden Age, in Epstein, Stephen R.
and Prak, Maarten (eds), Guilds, innovation, and the European economy, 1400–1800, Cambridge University Press, 2008, ISBN 0-521-88717-8, ISBN 978-0-521-88717-5 Reitlinger, Gerald; The Economics of Taste, Vol I: The Rise and Fall of Picture Prices 1760–1960, Barrie and Rockliffe, London, 1961 Schama, Simon, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age, 1987 Shawe-Taylor, Desmond and Scott, Jennifer, Bruegel to Rubens, Masters of Flemish Painting, Royal Collection Publications, London, 2008, ISBN 978-1-905686-00-1 Slive, Seymour, Dutch Painting, 1600–1800, Yale UP, 1995, ISBN 0-300-07451-4 Further reading Alpers, Svetlana.
The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983, (review by Ernst Gombrich) Dutch and Flemish paintings from the Hermitage. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
1988. ISBN 978-0-87099-509-5. Liedtke, Walter A. (2001). Vermeer and the Delft School. Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 978-0-87099-973-4. Alois Riegl, The Group Portraiture of Holland, reprint 2000, Getty Publications, ISBN 089236548X, 9780892365487, first published in German in 1902, fully available online External links Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dutch Golden Age paintings.
Painting in the Dutch Golden Age – National Gallery of Art A Brief Overview of the Dutch Art Market in the 17th century
The mute Hendrick Avercamp painted almost exclusively winter scenes of crowds seen from some distance.
A number of other artists do not fit in any of these groups, above all Rembrandt, whose relatively few painted landscapes show various influences, including some from Hercules Seghers (c. 1589–c. 1638); his very rare large mountain valley landscapes were a very personal development of 16th-century styles. Aert van der Neer (d. 1677) painted very small scenes of rivers at night or under ice and snow.
The Madonna adoring the Christ Child with two Angels has always been particularly popular on account of the expressive little boy angel supporting the Christ Child. Paintings of Filippo Lippi’s such as this were to particularly influence Botticelli.
Verrocchio separates the Madonna and Christ Child from the viewer by a stone sill, also used in many portraits. The rose and the cherries represent spiritual love and sacrificial love. Antonello da Messina’s Madonna and Child is superficially very like that of Verrocchio, but it is much less formal and both the mother and the child appear to be moving rather than posing for the painter.
The foreshortened elbow of the Child as he reaches for his mother’s breast occurs in Raphael’s work and can be seen in a different form in Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo. The figures placed at opposing diagonals seen in this early Madonna and Child by Leonardo da Vinci was a compositional theme that was to recur in many of his works and be imitated by his pupils and by Raphael.
Giovanni Bellini was influenced by Greek Orthodox icons. The gold cloth in this painting takes the place of the gold leaf background. The arrangement is formal, yet the gestures, and in particular the mother’s adoring gaze, give a human warmth to this picture.
Vittore Carpaccio’s Madonna and Child is very unusual in showing the Christ Child as a toddler fully dressed in contemporary clothing. The meticulous detail and domesticity are suggestive of Early Netherlandish painting.
Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo is the largest of these works, but was a private commission. The highly unusual composition, the contorted form of the Madonna, the three heads all near the top of the painting and the radical foreshortening were all very challenging features, and Agnolo Doni was not sure that he wished to pay for it.
Raphael has skillfully set opposing forces into play, and united the Madonna and Child with a loving gaze.
Many Dutch (and Flemish) painters worked abroad or exported their work; printmaking was also an important export market, by which Rembrandt became known across Europe. The Dutch Gift to Charles II of England was a diplomatic gift which included four contemporary Dutch paintings. English painting was heavily reliant on Dutch painters, with Sir Peter Lely followed by Sir Godfrey Kneller, developing the English portrait style established by the Flemish Anthony van Dyck before the English Civil War. The marine painters van der Velde, father and son, were among several artists who left Holland at the French invasion of 1672, which brought a collapse in the art market. They also moved to London, and the beginnings of English landscape painting were established by several less distinguished Dutch painters, such as Hendrick Danckerts.
For more details and many more painters see Dutch Golden Age, List Of People – Painters and List of Dutch painters. MacLaren is the main source for biographical details.
Rembrandt began as a history painter before finding financial success as a portraitist, and he never relinquished his ambitions in this area. A great number of his etchings are of narrative religious scenes, and the story of his last history commission, The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis (1661) illustrates both his commitment to the form and the difficulties he had in finding an audience. Several artists, many his pupils, attempted with some success to continue his very personal style; Govaert Flinck was the most successful. Gerard de Lairesse (1640–1711) was another of these, before falling under heavy influence from French classicism, and becoming its leading Dutch proponent as both artist and theoretician.
Dirck Hals, genre scene of Gentlemen Smoking and Playing Backgammon in an Interior. Note the paintings on the wall of what appears to be a tavern; also here.
Willem Claeszoon Heda, Breakfast Table with Blackberry Pie (1631); Heda was famous for his depiction of reflective surfaces.
Vermeer was rescued from near-total obscurity in the 19th century, by which time several of his works had been re-attributed to others. However the fact that so many of his works were already in major collections, often attributed to other artists, demonstrates that the quality of individual paintings was recognised even if his collective oeuvre was unknown. Other artists have continued to be rescued from the mass of little known painters: the late and very simple still lifes of Adriaen Coorte in the 1950s, and the landscapists Jacobus Mancaden and Frans Post earlier in the century.
The religious theme is tied to the present. The ruler is a portrait of the visiting Emperor of Byzantium. Flagellation is also called “scourging”. The term “scourge” was applied to the plague. Outside stand three men representing those who buried the body of Christ. The two older, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, are believed to be portraits of men who recently lost their sons, one of them to plague. The third man is the young disciple John, and is perhaps a portrait of one of the sons, or else represents both of them in a single idealised figure, coinciding with the manner in which Piero painted angels.
Scientists often posed with instruments and objects of their study around them. Physicians sometimes posed together around a cadaver, a so-called ‘Anatomical Lesson’, the most famous one being Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632, Mauritshuis, The Hague). Boards of trustees in their regentenstuk portraits preferred an image of austerity and humility, posing in dark clothing (which by its refinement testified to their prominent standing in society), often seated around a table, with solemn expressions on their faces.
Although Dutch painting of the Golden Age is included in the general European period of Baroque painting, and often shows many of its characteristics, most lacks the idealization and love of splendour typical of much Baroque work, including that of neighbouring Flanders. Most work, including that for which the period is best known, reflects the traditions of detailed realism inherited from Early Netherlandish painting.
Hidden categories: Webarchive template wayback linksCommons category link is locally defined
The themes that preoccupied painters of the Italian Renaissance were those of both subject matter and execution- what was painted and the style in which it was painted. The artist had far more freedom of both subject and style than did a Medieval painter. Certain characteristic elements of Renaissance painting evolved a great deal during the period. These include perspective, both in terms of how it was achieved and the effect to which it was applied, and realism, particularly in the depiction of humanity, either as symbolic, portrait or narrative element.
Gabriel Metsu, The Hunter’s Gift, c. 1660, a study in marital relations, with a visual pun.
Aelbert Cuyp, River landscape with Riders (c. 1655); Cuyp specialized in golden evening light in Dutch settings.
Leonardo da Vinci, The Madonna of the Rocks, London 1483-1508.
Categories: Paintings by subjectItalian RenaissanceIconography
Van de Velde was also important as a landscapist, whose scenes included unglamorous figures very different from those in his genre paintings, which were typically set at garden parties in country houses. Hals was principally a portraitist, but also painted genre figures of a portrait size early in his career.
Still lifes were a great opportunity to display skill in painting textures and surfaces in great detail and with realistic light effects. Food of all kinds laid out on a table, silver cutlery, intricate patterns and subtle folds in table cloths and flowers all challenged painters.
Domenico Ghirlandaio, the Sassetti Chapel, Florence, 1483-86.
Philips Wouwerman, Travelers Awaiting a Ferry (1649); a landscape with Wouwerman’s trademark highlight of a white horse.
Foreigners remarked on the enormous quantities of art produced and the large fairs where many paintings were sold – it has been roughly estimated that over 1.3 million Dutch pictures were painted in the 20 years after 1640 alone. The volume of production meant that prices were fairly low, except for the best known artists; as in most subsequent periods, there was a steep price gradient for more fashionable artists. Those without a strong contemporary reputation, or who had fallen out of fashion, including many now considered among the greatest of the period, such as Vermeer, Frans Hals and Rembrandt in his last years, had considerable problems earning a living, and died poor; many artists had other jobs, or abandoned art entirely. In particular the French invasion of 1672 (the Rampjaar, or “year of disaster”), brought a severe depression to the art market, which never quite returned to earlier heights.
Categories: Dutch Golden Age paintersDutch Golden Age paintingsArt of the Dutch Golden Age17th-century Dutch paintersBaroque paintingNetherlandish Baroque artDutch paintingGolden ages (metaphor)Netherlandish artWestern art17th-century Dutch artists17th century in the Dutch Republic
Masaccio and Filippino Lippi, The Resurrection of the Son of Theophilus from the Brancacci Chapel.
While remaining largely dependent upon topographic observation, the knowledge of anatomy was advanced by Leonardo da Vinci’s meticulous dissection of 30 corpses. Leonardo, among others, impressed upon students the necessity of the close observation of life and made the drawing of live models an essential part of a student’s formal study of the art of painting.
The Renaissance tradition of recondite emblem books had, in the hands of the 17th-century Dutch – almost universally literate in the vernacular, but mostly without education in the classics – turned into the popularist and highly moralistic works of Jacob Cats, Roemer Visscher, and others, often based in popular proverbs. The illustrations to these are often quoted directly in paintings, and since the start of the 20th century art historians have attached proverbs, sayings and mottoes to a great number of genre works. Another popular source of meaning is visual puns using the great number of Dutch slang terms in the sexual area: the vagina could be represented by a lute (luit) or stocking (kous), and sex by a bird (vogelen), among many other options, and purely visual symbols such as shoes, spouts, and jugs and flagons on their side.
Genre paintings show scenes that prominently feature figures to whom no specific identity can be attached – they are not portraits or intended as historical figures. Together with landscape painting, the development and enormous popularity of genre painting is the most distinctive feature of Dutch painting in this period, although in this case they were also very popular in Flemish painting. Many are single figures, like the Vermeer’s The Milkmaid; others may show large groups at some social occasion, or crowds. There were a large number of sub-types within the genre: single figures, peasant families, tavern scenes, “merry company” parties, women at work about the house, scenes of village or town festivities (though these were still more common in Flemish painting), market scenes, barracks scenes, scenes with horses or farm animals, in snow, by moonlight, and many more. In fact most of these had specific terms in Dutch, but there was no overall Dutch term equivalent to “genre painting” – until the late 18th century the English often called them “drolleries”. Some artists worked mostly within one of these sub-types, especially after about 1625. Over the course of the century, genre paintings tended to reduce in size.
Piero della Francesca, The Death of Adam, from The legend of the True Cross.
Utrecht Caravaggism: Dirck van Baburen, Christ crowned with thorns, 1623, for a convent in Utrecht, not a market available in most of Holland.
Light and shade exist in a painting in two forms. Tone is simply the lightness and darkness of areas of a picture, graded from white to black. Tonal arrangement is a very significant feature of some paintings. Chiaroscuro is the modelling of apparent surfaces within a picture by the suggestion of light and shadow. While tone was an important feature of paintings of the Medieval period, chiaroscuro was not. It became increasingly important to painters of the 15th century, transforming the depiction of three-dimensional space.
In the early part of the century many Northern Mannerist artists with styles formed in the previous century continued to work, until the 1630s in the cases of Abraham Bloemaert and Joachim Wtewael. Many history paintings were small in scale, with the German painter (based in Rome) Adam Elsheimer as much an influence as Caravaggio (both died in 1610) on Dutch painters like Pieter Lastman, Rembrandt’s master, and Jan and Jacob Pynas. Compared to Baroque history painting from other countries, they shared the Dutch emphasis on realism, and narrative directness, and are sometimes known as the “Pre-Rembrandtists”, as Rembrandt’s early paintings were in this style.
If only because of the enormous quantities produced, Dutch Golden Age painting has always formed a significant part of collections of Old Master paintings, itself a term invented in the 18th century to describe Dutch Golden Age artists. Taking only Wouwerman paintings in old royal collections, there are more than 60 in Dresden and over 50 in the Hermitage. But the reputation of the period has shown many changes and shifts of emphasis. One nearly constant factor has been admiration for Rembrandt, especially since the Romantic period. Other artists have shown drastic shifts in critical fortune and market price; at the end of the period some of the active Leiden fijnschilders had enormous reputations, but since the mid-19th century realist works in various genres have been far more appreciated.
Gerard ter Borch, Paternal Admonition, or Brothel Scene (c. 1654; Amsterdam version).
The distribution of pictures was very wide: “yea many tymes, blacksmithes, cobblers etts., will have some picture or other by their Forge and in their stalle. Such is the generall Notion, enclination and delight that these Countrie Native have to Painting” reported an English traveller in 1640. There were for virtually the first time many professional art dealers, several also significant artists, like Vermeer and his father, Jan van Goyen and Willem Kalf. Rembrandt’s dealer Hendrick van Uylenburgh and his son Gerrit were among the most important. Landscapes were the easiest uncommissioned works to sell, and their painters were the “common footmen in the Army of Art” according to Samuel van Hoogstraten.
Ambrogio Bergognone The Madonna of St. Catherine, from Pavia, London 1490-1505?.
Several types of subject were recognised: banketje were “banquet pieces”, ontbijtjes simpler “breakfast pieces”. Virtually all still lifes had a moralistic message, usually concerning the brevity of life – this is known as the vanitas theme – implicit even in the absence of an obvious symbol like a skull, or less obvious one such as a half-peeled lemon (like life, sweet in appearance but bitter to taste). Flowers wilt and food decays, and silver is of no use to the soul. Nevertheless, the force of this message seems less powerful in the more elaborate pieces of the second half of the century.
Taddeo Gaddi’s Annunciation to the Shepherds is the first known large painting of a night scene. The internal light source of the picture is the angel. In Fra Angelico’s painting, daylight, which appears to come from the actual window of the friary cell which this fresco adorns, gently illuminates the figures and defines the architecture.
In his Emperor’s Dream, Piero della Francesca takes up the theme of the night scene illuminated by an angel and applies his scientific knowledge of the diffusion of light. The tonal pattern thus created is a significant element in the composition of the painting.
In his Agony in the Garden, Giovanni Bellini uses the fading sunset on a cloudy evening to create an atmosphere of tension and impending tragedy. In Domenico Veneziano’s formal portrait, the use of chiaroscuro to model the form is slight.
However, the painting relies strongly on the tonal contrasts of the pale face, mid-tone background and dark garment with patterned bodice for effect. Botticelli uses chiaroscuro to model the face of the sitter and define the details of his simple garment.
The light and shadow on the edge of the window define the angle of the light. The suggested authorship of this early-16th-century portrait[clarification needed] includes Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio, Mariotto Albertinelli and Giuliano Bugiardini.
The painting combines many of the lighting effects of the other works in this gallery. The form is modelled by the light and shade, as if by a setting sun, which gives an element of drama, enhanced by the landscape.
The tonal pattern created by the dark garment, the white linen and position of the hand is a compositional feature of the painting. In Leonardo da Vinci’s John the Baptist, elements of the painting, including the corners of the model’s eyes and mouth, are disguised by shadow, creating an air of ambiguity and mystery.
The Bamboccianti were a colony of Dutch artists who introduced the genre scene to Italy. Jan Weenix and Melchior d’Hondecoeter specialized in game and birds, dead or alive, and were in demand for country house and shooting-lodge overdoors across Northern Europe.
In this Resurrection, Giotto shows the sleeping soldiers with faces hidden by helmets or foreshortened to emphasise the relaxed posture. In contrast, Andrea Castagno has painted a life-sized image of the condotierre, Pippo Spano, alert and with his feet over the edge of the painted niche which frames him.
Filippo Lippi in this early work shows a very naturalistic group of children crowding around the Virgin Mary, but looking with innocent curiosity at the viewer. One of the children has Down syndrome. Masaccio depicts the grief resulting from loss of innocence as Adam and Eve are expelled from the presence of God.
Antonello da Messina painted several versions of Ecce Homo, the tormented Christ as he was presented to the people by the Roman Governor. Such paintings usually show Christ in a tragic but heroic role, minimising the depiction of suffering.
Antonello’s depictions are starkly realistic. In his Lamentation over the Dead christ, Mantegna has here depicted the dead body of Jesus with daring foreshortening, as if the viewer were standing at the end of the slab.
In this detail from a larger painting, Mantegna shows a little child, wearing a tummy-binder and holey slippers, turning away and chewing its fingers while the infant Christ is circumcised. Giorgione paints a natural and unglamorised portrait of an old woman, unusual in its depiction of her illkempt hair and open mouth with crooked teeth.
Masaccio, Crucifixion of Santa Maria del Carmine (Pisa), c. 1420
The largest, most time-consuming paid work that an artist could do was a scheme of frescoes for a church, private palace or commune building. Of these, the largest unified scheme in Italy which remains more-or-less intact is that created by a number of different artists at the end of the Medieval period at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. It was followed by Giotto’s Proto-Renaissance scheme at Padua and many others ranging from Benozzo Gozzoli’s Magi Chapel for the Medici to Michelangelo’s supreme accomplishment for Pope Julius II at the Sistine Chapel.
Renaissance painting differed from the painting of the Late Medieval period in its emphasis upon the close observation of nature, particularly with regards to human anatomy, and the application of scientific principles to the use of perspective and light.
In landscape painting, the Italianate artists were the most influential and highly regarded in the 18th century, but John Constable was among those Romantics who denounced them for artificiality, preferring the tonal and classical artists. In fact both groups remained influential and popular in the 19th century.
A distinctive feature of the period, compared to earlier European painting, was the limited number of religious paintings. Dutch Calvinism forbade religious paintings in churches, and though biblical subjects were acceptable in private homes, relatively few were produced. The other traditional classes of history and portrait painting were present, but the period is more notable for a huge variety of other genres, sub-divided into numerous specialized categories, such as scenes of peasant life, landscapes, townscapes, landscapes with animals, maritime paintings, flower paintings and still lifes of various types. The development of many of these types of painting was decisively influenced by 17th-century Dutch artists.
Frans Hals, Willem Heythuijsen (1634), 47 cm × 37 cm (19 in × 15 in).
Paulus Potter, The Bull (1647); 3.4 metres wide. An unusually monumental animal painting that challenges the hierarchy of genres.
Family portraits tended, as in Flanders, to be set outdoors in gardens, but without an extensive view as later in England, and to be relatively informal in dress and mood. Group portraits, largely a Dutch invention, were popular among the large numbers of civic associations that were a notable part of Dutch life, such as the officers of a city’s schutterij or militia guards, boards of trustees and regents of guilds and charitable foundations and the like. Especially in the first half of the century, portraits were very formal and stiff in composition. Groups were often seated around a table, each person looking at the viewer. Much attention was paid to fine details in clothing, and where applicable, to furniture and other signs of a person’s position in society. Later in the century groups became livelier and colours brighter. Rembrandt’s Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild is a subtle treatment of a group round a table.
In all these painters, colours are often very muted, with browns dominating, especially in the middle of the century. This is less true of the works of Jan Davidsz de Heem (1606–1684), an important figure who spent much of his career based over the border in Antwerp. Here his displays began to sprawl sideways to form wide oblong pictures, unusual in the north, although Heda sometimes painted taller vertical compositions. Still life painters were especially prone to form dynasties, it seems: there were many de Heems and Bosschaerts, Heda’s son continued in his father’s style, and Claesz was the father of Nicholaes Berchem.
Genre paintings were long popular, but little-regarded. In 1780 Horace Walpole disapproved that they “invite laughter to divert itself with the nastiest indelicacy of boors”. Sir Joshua Reynolds, the English leader of 18th-century academic art, made several revealing comments on Dutch art. He was impressed by the quality of Vermeer’s Milkmaid (illustrated at the start of this article), and the liveliness of Hals’ portraits, regretting he lacked the “patience” to finish them properly, and lamented that Steen had not been born in Italy and formed by the High Renaissance, so that his talent could have been put to better use. By Reynold’s time the moralist aspect of genre painting was no longer understood, even in the Netherlands; the famous example is the so-called Paternal Admonition, as it was then known, by Gerard ter Borch. This was praised by Goethe and others for the delicacy of its depiction of a father reprimanding his daughter. In fact to most (but not all) modern scholars it is a proposition scene in a brothel – there are two versions (Berlin & Amsterdam) and it is unclear whether a “tell-tale coin” in the man’s hand has been removed or overpainted in either.
Pollaiuolo’s Hercules and the Hydra typifies many paintings of mythological subjects which lent themselves to interpretation that was both Humanist and Christian. In this work good overcomes evil, and courage is glorified.
The figure of Hercules has resonances with the Biblical character of Samson who also was renowned for his strength and slew a lion. In Botticelli’s Pallas and the Centaur, Wisdom, personified by Athena, leads the cowering Centaur by the forelock, so learning and refinement are able to overcome brute instinct, which is the characteristic symbolised by the centaur.
Raphael’s Galatea, though Classical in origin, has a specifically Christian resonance that would have been recognised by those who were familiar with the story. It is about the nature of love. While all around her aspire to earthly love and succumb to the arrows shot by the trio of cupids, Galatea has chosen spiritual love and turns her eyes to Heaven.
Three large works remain that were painted for a single room for the Este by Bellini and his successor Titian. Of these, Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne represents a moment in a narrative. The other two paintings are jolly drinking scenes with a number of narrative elements introduced in a minor way, in order that characters might be identifiable.
This painting does not appear to have any higher allegorical sentiment attached to it. It appears to be simply a very naturalistic portrayal of a number of the ancient gods and their associates, eating, drinking and enjoying the party.
During the Renaissance an increasing number of patrons had their likeness committed to posterity in paint. For this reason there exists a great number of Renaissance portraits for whom the name of the sitter is unknown. Wealthy private patrons commissioned artworks as decoration for their homes, of increasingly secular subject matter.
The German artist Joachim von Sandrart (1606–1688) had worked for periods in Holland, and his Deutsche Akademie in the same format covers many Dutch artists he knew. Houbraken’s master, and Rembrandt’s pupil, was Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627–1678), whose Zichtbare wereld and Inleyding tot de Hooge Schoole der Schilderkonst (1678) contain more critical than biographical information, and are among the most important treatises on painting of the period. Like other Dutch works on the theory of art, they expound many commonplaces of Renaissance theory and do not entirely reflect contemporary Dutch art, still often concentrating on history painting.
1 Types of painting 2 The art world 3 History painting 4 Portraits 5 Scenes of everyday life 6 Landscapes and cityscapes 7 Maritime painting 8 Still lifes 9 Foreign lands 10 Subsequent reputation 11 See also 12 Notes 13 References 14 Further reading 15 External links
Raphael, the School of Athens in the Stanze, Vatican, 1509-10.
More than in other types of painting, Dutch history painters continued to be influenced by Italian painting. Prints and copies of Italian masterpieces circulated and suggested certain compositional schemes. The growing Dutch skill in the depiction of light was brought to bear on styles derived from Italy, notably that of Caravaggio. Some Dutch painters also travelled to Italy, though this was less common than with their Flemish contemporaries, as can be seen from the membership of the Bentvueghels club in Rome.
See also Art of the Low Countries Delft School (painting) Dutch School (painting) Notes References History of Dutch and Flemish painting Early Netherlandish (1400–1523) Renaissance painting (1520–1580) Northern Mannerism (1580–1615) Dutch “Golden Age” painting (1615–1702) Flemish Baroque painting (1608–1700) List of Dutch painters List of Flemish painters
Dutch artists were strikingly less concerned about artistic theory than those of many nations, and less given to discussing their art; it appears that there was also much less interest in artistic theory in general intellectual circles and among the wider public than was by then common in Italy. As nearly all commissions and sales were private, and between bourgeois individuals whose accounts have not been preserved, these are also less well documented than elsewhere. But Dutch art was a source of national pride, and the major biographers are crucial sources of information. These are Karel van Mander (Het Schilderboeck, 1604), who essentially covers the previous century, and Arnold Houbraken (De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen – “The Great Theatre of Dutch Painters”, 1718–21). Both followed, and indeed exceeded, Vasari in including a great number of short lives of artists – over 500 in Houbraken’s case – and both are considered generally accurate on factual matters.
The Dutch Republic relied on trade by sea for its exceptional wealth, had naval wars with Britain and other nations during the period, and was criss-crossed by rivers and canals. It is therefore no surprise that the genre of maritime painting was enormously popular, and taken to new heights in the period by Dutch artists; as with landscapes, the move from the artificial elevated view typical of earlier marine painting was a crucial step. Pictures of sea battles told the stories of a Dutch navy at the peak of its glory, though today it is usually the more tranquil scenes that are highly estimated. Ships are normally at sea, and dock scenes surprisingly absent.
Fra Angelico, The Madonna of San Domenico, Fiesole, 1428-30.
In Giotto’s fresco, the building is like a stage set with one side open to the viewer. In Paolo Uccello’s fresco, the townscape gives an impression of depth. Masaccio’s Holy Trinity was painted with carefully calculated mathematical proportions, in which he was probably assisted by the architect Brunelleschi.
Fra Angelico uses the simple motif of a small loggia accurately drafted to create an intimate space. Gentile Bellini has painted a vast space, the Piazza San Marco in Venice, in which the receding figures add to the sense of perspective.
Leonardo da Vinci did detailed and measured drawings of the background Classical ruins preparatory to commencing the unfinished Adoration of the Magi. Domenico Ghirlandaio created an exceptionally complex and expansive setting on three levels, including a steeply descending ramp and a jutting wall.
Elements of the landscape, such as the church on the right, are viewed partly through other structures. Raphael’s design for Fire in the Borgo shows buildings around a small square in which the background events are highlighted by the perspective.
A distinctive type of painting, combining elements of the portrait, history, and genre painting was the tronie. This was usually a half-length of a single figure which concentrated on capturing an unusual mood or expression. The actual identity of the model was not supposed to be important, but they might represent a historical figure and be in exotic or historic costume. Jan Lievens and Rembrandt, many of whose self-portraits are also tronies (especially his etched ones), were among those who developed the genre.
Hidden categories: Wikipedia articles needing clarification from October 2018
In the second half of the 18th century, the down to earth realism of Dutch painting was a “Whig taste” in England, and in France associated with Enlightenment rationalism and aspirations for political reform. In the 19th century, with a near-universal respect for realism, and the final decline of the hierarchy of genres, contemporary painters began to borrow from genre painters both their realism and their use of objects for narrative purposes, and paint similar subjects themselves, with all the genres the Dutch had pioneered appearing on far larger canvases (still lifes excepted).
The observation of nature meant that set forms and symbolic gestures which in Medieval art, and particularly the Byzantine style prevalent in much of Italy, were used to convey meaning, were replaced by the representation of human emotion as displayed by a range of individuals.
For Dutch artists, Karel van Mander’s Schilderboeck was meant not only as a list of biographies, but also a source of advice for young artists. It quickly became a classic standard work for generations of young Dutch and Flemish artists in the 17th century. The book advised artists to travel and see the sights of Florence and Rome, and after 1604 many did so. However, it is noticeable that the most important Dutch artists in all fields, figures such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, Steen, Jacob van Ruisdael, and others, did not make the voyage.
There were many dynasties of artists, and many married the daughters of their masters or other artists. Many artists came from well-off families, who paid fees for their apprenticeships, and they often married into property. Rembrandt and Jan Steen were both enrolled at the University of Leiden for a while. Several cities had distinct styles and specialities by subject, but Amsterdam was the largest artistic centre, because of its great wealth. Cities such as Haarlem and Utrecht were more important in the first half of the century, with Leiden and other cities emerging after 1648, and above all Amsterdam, which increasingly drew to it artists from the rest of the Netherlands, as well as Flanders and Germany.
The new Dutch Republic was the most prosperous nation in Europe and led European trade, science, and art. The northern Netherlandish provinces that made up the new state had traditionally been less important artistic centres than cities in Flanders in the south. The upheavals and large-scale transfers of population of the war, and the sharp break with the old monarchist and Catholic cultural traditions, meant that Dutch art had to reinvent itself. The painting of religious subjects declined sharply, but a large new market for all kinds of secular subjects grew up.
Most militia group portraits were commissioned in Haarlem and Amsterdam, and were much more flamboyant and relaxed or even boisterous than other types of portraits, as well as much larger. Early examples showed them dining, but later groups showed most figures standing for a more dynamic composition. Rembrandt’s famous The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq better known as the Night Watch (1642), was an ambitious and not entirely successful attempt to show a group in action, setting out for a patrol or parade, also innovative in avoiding the typical very wide format of such works.
Important early figures in the move to realism were Esaias van de Velde (1587–1630) and Hendrick Avercamp (1585–1634), both also mentioned above as genre painters – in Avercamp’s case the same paintings deserve mention in each category. From the late 1620s the “tonal phase” of landscape painting started, as artists softened or blurred their outlines, and concentrated on an atmospheric effect, with great prominence given to the sky, and human figures usually either absent or small and distant. Compositions based on a diagonal across the picture space became popular, and water often featured. The leading artists were Jan van Goyen (1596–1656), Salomon van Ruysdael (1602–1670), Pieter de Molyn (1595–1661), and in marine painting Simon de Vlieger (1601–1653), with a host of minor figures – a recent study lists over 75 artists who worked in van Goyen’s manner for at least a period, including Cuyp.
Bartholomeus van der Helst, Banquet of the Amsterdam Civic Guard in Celebration of the Peace of Münster, 1648; 5.47 metres wide
Andrea di Bonaiuto, The Spanish Chapel at Santa Maria Novella, 1350.
Paintings of classical mythology were invariably done for the important salons in the houses of private patrons. Botticelli’s most famous works are for the Medici, Raphael painted Galatea for Agostino Chigi and Bellini’s Feast of the Gods was, with several works by Titian, in the home of Alfonso I d’Este
Salomon van Ruisdael, typical View of Deventer Seen from the North-West (1657); an example of the “tonal phase”.
Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history roughly spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) for Dutch independence.
Devotional images of the Madonna and Child were produced in very large numbers, often for private clients. Scenes of the Life of Christ, the Life of the Virgin, or Lives of the Saints were also made in large numbers for churches, particularly scenes associated with the Nativity and the Passion of Christ. The Last Supper was commonly depicted in religious refectories.
The Dutch concentrated heavily on the “lower” categories, but by no means rejected the concept of the hierarchy. Most paintings were relatively small – the only common type of really large paintings were group portraits. Painting directly onto walls hardly existed; when a wall-space in a public building needed decorating, fitted framed canvas was normally used. For the extra precision possible on a hard surface, many painters continued to use wooden panels, some time after the rest of Western Europe had abandoned them; some used copper plates, usually recycling plates from printmaking. In turn, the number of surviving Golden Age paintings was reduced by them being overpainted with new works by artists throughout the 18th and 19th century – poor ones were usually cheaper than a new canvas, stretcher and frame.
Judith Leyster, A Boy and a Girl with a Cat and an Eel; various references to proverbs or emblems have been suggested.
The depiction of landscape was encouraged by the development of linear perspective and the inclusion of detailed landscapes in the background of many Early Netherlandish paintings of the 15th century. Also through this influence came an awareness of atmospheric perspective and the observation of the way distant things are affected by light.
Through the Renaissance period, the large altarpiece had a unique status as a commission. An altarpiece was destined to become a focal point, not only visually in the religious building it occupied, but also in the devotions of the worshippers. Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Rocks, now in the National Gallery, London but previously in a chapel in Milan, is one of many images that was used in the petitioning of the Blessed Virgin Mary against plague. The significance of these images to those who commissioned them, who worshipped in their location, and who created them is lost when they are viewed in an art gallery.
Portrait painting thrived in the Netherlands in the 17th century, as there was a large mercantile class who were far more ready to commission portraits than their equivalents in other countries; a summary of various estimates of total production arrives at between 750,000 and 1,100,000 portraits. Rembrandt enjoyed his greatest period of financial success as a young Amsterdam portraitist, but like other artists, grew rather bored with painting commissioned portraits of burghers: “artists travel along this road without delight”, according to van Mander.
Nicolaes Maes, The idle servant; housemaid troubles were the subject of several of Maes’ works.
The tradition developed from the realism and detailed background activity of Early Netherlandish painting, which Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder were among the first to turn into their principal subjects, also making use of proverbs. The Haarlem painters Willem Pieterszoon Buytewech, Frans Hals and Esaias van de Velde were important painters early in the period. Buytewech painted “merry companies” of finely dressed young people, with moralistic significance lurking in the detail.
There was very little Dutch sculpture during the period; it is mostly found in tomb monuments and attached to public buildings, and small sculptures for houses are a noticeable gap, their place taken by silverware and ceramics. Painted delftware tiles were very cheap and common, if rarely of really high quality, but silver, especially in the auricular style, led Europe. With this exception, the best artistic efforts were concentrated on painting and printmaking.
Vittore Carpaccio, The Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist, c.1500.
His pupil was Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709), best known for his atypical Avenue at Middelharnis (1689, London), a departure from his usual scenes of watermills and roads through woods. Two other artists with more personal styles, whose best work included larger pictures (up to a metre or more across), were Aelbert Cuyp (1620–1691) and Philips Koninck (1619–1688). Cuyp took golden Italian light and used it in evening scenes with a group of figures in the foreground and behind them a river and wide landscape. Koninck’s best works are panoramic views, as from a hill, over wide flat farmlands, with a huge sky.
Jacob van Ruisdael, View of Haarlem; Ruisdael is a central figure, with more varied subjects than many landscapists.
The same painters often painted works in a very different spirit of housewives or other women at rest in the home or at work – they massively outnumber similar treatments of men. In fact working class men going about their jobs are notably absent from Dutch Golden Age art, with landscapes populated by travellers and idlers but rarely tillers of the soil. Despite the Dutch Republic being the most important nation in international trade in Europe, and the abundance of marine paintings, scenes of dock workers and other commercial activities are very rare. This group of subjects was a Dutch invention, reflecting the cultural preoccupations of the age, and was to be adopted by artists from other countries, especially France, in the two centuries following.
Andrea Mantegna, The Court of the Gonzagas, Mantua, 1471-74.
This later generation, whose work now seems over-refined compared to their predecessors, also painted portraits and histories, and were the most highly regarded and rewarded Dutch painters by the end of the period, whose works were sought after all over Europe. Genre paintings reflected the increasing prosperity of Dutch society, and settings grew steadily more comfortable, opulent and carefully depicted as the century progressed. Artists not part of the Leiden group whose common subjects also were more intimate genre groups included Nicolaes Maes, Gerard ter Borch and Pieter de Hooch, whose interest in light in interior scenes was shared with Jan Vermeer, long a very obscure figure, but now the most highly regarded genre painter of all.
Though genre paintings provide many insights into the daily life of 17th-century citizens of all classes, their accuracy cannot always be taken for granted. Many which seemed only to depict everyday scenes actually illustrated Dutch proverbs and sayings or conveyed a moralistic message – the meaning of which may now need to be deciphered by art historians, though some are clear enough. Many artists, and no doubt purchasers, certainly tried to have things both ways, enjoying the depiction of disorderly households or brothel scenes, while providing a moral interpretation – the works of Jan Steen, whose other profession was as an innkeeper, are an example. The balance between these elements is still debated by art historians today.
Cimabue’s Crucifixion, extensively destroyed by flood in 1966, shows the formal arrangement, with curving body and drooping head that was prevalent in late Medieval art. The anatomy is strongly stylised to conform with traditional iconic formula.
Giotto abandoned the traditional formula and painted from observation. Massacio’s figure of Christ is foreshortened as if viewed from below, and shows the upper torso strained as if with the effort of breathing.
In Giovanni Bellini’s Deposition the artist, while not attempting to suggest the brutal realities of the crucifixion, has attempted to give the impression of death. In Piero della Francesca’s Baptism, the robust figure of Jesus is painted with a simplicity and lack of sharply defined muscularity that belies its naturalism.
The figure of Jesus in this painting, which is the combined work of Verrocchio and the young Leonardo, has in all probability been drafted by Verrocchio. The contours retain the somewhat contorted linearity of Gothic art.
Much of the torso, however, is thought to have been painted by Leonardo and reveals a strong knowledge of anatomical form. Leonardo’s picture of St. Jerome shows the results of detailed study of the shoulder girdle, known from a page of drawings.
Michelangelo used human anatomy to great expressive effect. He was renowned for his ability in the creation of expressive poses and was imitated by many other painters and sculptors.
The Flagellation of Christ by Piero della Francesca (above) demonstrates in a single small work many of the themes of Italian Renaissance painting, both in terms of compositional elements and subject matter. Immediately apparent is Piero’s mastery of perspective and light. The architectural elements, including the tiled floor which becomes more complex around the central action, combine to create two spaces. The inner space is lit by an unseen light source to which Jesus looks. Its exact location can be pinpointed mathematically by an analysis of the diffusion and the angle of the shadows on the coffered ceiling. The three figures who are standing outside are lit from a different angle, from both daylight and light reflected from the pavement and buildings.
See also Italian Renaissance painting Pseudo-Kufic Oriental carpets in Renaissance painting Sources General Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists, (1568), 1965 edition, trans George Bull, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-044164-6 Frederick Hartt, A History of Italian Renaissance Art, (1970) Thames and Hudson, ISBN 0-500-23136-2 R.
E. Wolf and R. Millen, Renaissance and Mannerist Art, (1968) Abrams, ISBN unknown Keith Chistiansen, Italian Painting, (1992) Hugh Lauter Levin/Macmillan, ISBN 0883639718 Helen Gardner, Art through the Ages, (1970) Harcourt, Brace and World, ISBN 0-15-503752-8 Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy, (1974) Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-881329-5 Margaret Aston, The Fifteenth Century, the Prospect of Europe, (1979) Thames and Hudson, ISBN 0-500-33009-3 Ilan Rachum, The Renaissance, an Illustrated Encyclopedia, (1979) Octopus, ISBN 0-7064-0857-8 Diana Davies, Harrap’s Illustrated Dictionary of Art and Artists, (1990) Harrap Books, ISBN 0-245-54692-8 Luciano Berti, Florence: the city and its art, (1971) Scala, ISBN unknown Luciano Berti, The Ufizzi, (1971) Scala, Florence.
ISBN unknown Michael Wilson, The National Gallery, London, (1977) Scala, ISBN 0-85097-257-4 Hugh Ross Williamson, Lorenzo the Magnificent, (1974) Michael Joseph, ISBN 0-7181-1204-0 Painters John White, Duccio, (1979) Thames and Hudson, ISBN 0-500-09135-8 Cecilia Jannella, Duccio di Buoninsegna, (1991) Scala/Riverside, ISBN 1-878351-18-4 Sarel Eimerl, The World of Giotto, (1967) Time/Life, ISBN 0-900658-15-0 Mgr.
Giovanni Foffani, Frescoes by Giusto de’ Menabuoi, (1988) G. Deganello, ISBN unknown Ornella Casazza, Masaccio and the Brancacci Chapel, (1990) Scala/Riverside, ISBN 1-878351-11-7 Annarita Paolieri, Paolo Uccello, Domenico Veneziano, Andrea del Castagno, (1991) Scala/Riverside, ISBN 1-878351-20-6 Alessandro Angelini, Piero della Francesca, (1985) Scala/Riverside, ISBN 1-878351-04-4 Peter Murray and Pier Luigi Vecchi, Piero della Francesca, (1967) Penguin, ISBN 0-14-008647-1 Umberto Baldini, Primavera, (1984) Abrams, ISBN 0-8109-2314-9 Ranieri Varese, Il Palazzo di Schifanoia, (1980) Specimen/Scala, ISBN unknown Angela Ottino della Chiesa, Leonardo da Vinci, (1967) Penguin, ISBN 0-14-008649-8 Jack Wasserman, Leonardo da Vinci, (1975) Abrams, ISBN 0-8109-0262-1 Massimo Giacometti, The Sistine Chapel, (1986) Harmony Books, ISBN 0-517-56274-X Ludwig Goldschieder, Michelangelo, (1962) Phaidon, ISBN unknown Gabriel Bartz and Eberhard König, Michelangelo, (1998) Könemann, ISBN 3-8290-0253-X David Thompson, Raphael, the Life and Legacy, (1983) BBC, ISBN 0-563-20149-5 Jean-Pierre Cuzin, Raphael, his Life and Works, (1985) Chartwell, ISBN 0-89009-841-7 Mariolina Olivari, Giovanni Bellini, (1990) Scala.
ISBN unknown Cecil Gould, Titian, (1969) Hamlyn, ISBN unknown References
Pieter de Hooch, Courtyard of a House in Delft, 1658, a study in domestic virtue, texture and spatial complexity. The woman is a servant.
The titles given later to paintings often distinguish between “taverns” or “inns” and “brothels”, but in practice these were very often the same establishments, as many taverns had rooms above or behind set aside for sexual purposes: “Inn in front; brothel behind” was a Dutch proverb.
At the end of the century there was a fashion for showing sitters in a semi-fancy dress, begun in England by van Dyck in the 1630s, known as “picturesque” or “Roman” dress. Aristocratic, and militia, sitters allowed themselves more freedom in bright dress and expansive settings than burghers, and religious affiliations probably affected many depictions. By the end of the century aristocratic, or French, values were spreading among the burghers, and depictions were allowed more freedom and display.
Ambrogio Lorenzetti, The Allegory of Good Government, Siena, 1338.
Botticelli, Portrait of Lorenzo di Ser Piero Lorenzi, 1490-95.
Landscapes with animals in the foreground were a distinct sub-type, and were painted by Cuyp, Paulus Potter (1625–1654), Albert Jansz. Klomp (1625-1688), Adriaen van de Velde (1636–1672) and Karel Dujardin (1626–1678, farm animals), with Philips Wouwerman painting horses and riders in various settings. The cow was a symbol of prosperity to the Dutch, hitherto overlooked in art, and apart from the horse by far the most commonly shown animal; goats were used to indicate Italy. Potter’s The Young Bull is an enormous and famous portrait which Napoleon took to Paris (it later returned) though livestock analysts have noted from the depiction of the various parts of the anatomy that it appears to be a composite of studies of six different animals of widely different ages.
Ascribed to Giuliano Bugiardini and others, Portrait of a Lady, c.1510
The cost of group portraits was usually shared by the subjects, often not equally. The amount paid might determine each person’s place in the picture, either head to toe in full regalia in the foreground or face only in the back of the group. Sometimes all group members paid an equal sum, which was likely to lead to quarrels when some members gained a more prominent place in the picture than others. In Amsterdam most of these paintings would ultimately end up in the possession of the city council, and many are now on display in the Amsterdams Historisch Museum; there are no significant examples outside the Netherlands.
Utrecht Caravaggism describes a group of artists who produced both history painting and generally large genre scenes in an Italian-influenced style, often making heavy use of chiaroscuro. Utrecht, before the revolt the most important city in the new Dutch territory, was an unusual Dutch city, still about 40% Catholic in the mid-century, even more among the elite groups, who included many rural nobility and gentry with town houses there. The leading artists were Hendrick ter Brugghen, Gerard van Honthorst and Dirck van Baburen, and the school was active about 1630, although van Honthorst continued until the 1650s as a successful court painter to the English, Dutch and Danish courts in a more classical style.
Van Ostade was as likely to paint a single figure as a group, as were the Utrecht Caravaggisti in their genre works, and the single figure, or small groups of two or three became increasingly common, especially those including women and children. The most notable woman artist of the period, Judith Leyster (1609–1660), specialized in these, before her husband, Jan Miense Molenaer, prevailed on her to give up painting. The Leiden school of fijnschilder (“fine painters”) were renowned for small and highly finished paintings, many of this type. Leading artists included Gerard Dou, Gabriel Metsu, Frans van Mieris the Elder, and later his son Willem van Mieris, Godfried Schalcken, and Adriaen van der Werff.
Among the preoccupations of artists commissioned to do large works with multiple figures were how to make the subject, usually narrative, easily read by the viewer, natural in appearance and well composed within the picture space.
Jan Weenix, Still Life with a Dead Peacock (1692), set in the gardens of a large country house.
Gerrit van Honthorst (1625), punning visually on the lute in this brothel scene
The Dutch tradition was largely begun by Ambrosius Bosschaert (1573–1621), a Flemish-born flower painter who had settled in the north by the beginning of the period, and founded a dynasty. His brother-in-law Balthasar van der Ast (d. 1657) pioneered still lifes of shells, as well as painting flowers. These early works were relatively brightly lit, with the bouquets of flowers arranged in a relatively simple way. From the mid-century arrangements that can fairly be called Baroque, usually against a dark background, became more popular, exemplified by the works of Willem van Aelst (1627–1683). Painters from Leiden, The Hague, and Amsterdam particularly excelled in the genre.
In Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, the nude figure, although central to the painting, is not of itself the subject. The subject of the painting is a story from Classical mythology. The fact that the Goddess Venus rose naked from the sea provides justification for the nude study that dominates the centre of the work.
Painted thirty years later, the exact meaning of Giovanni Bellini’s picture is unclear. Had the subject been painted by an Impressionist painter, it would be quite unnecessary to ascribe a meaning. But in this Renaissance work, there is the presence of a mirror, an object that is usually symbolic and which suggests an allegory.
The young lady’s nakedness is a sign not so much of seduction, as innocence and vulnerability. However, she decks herself out in an extremely rich headdress, stitched with pearls, and having not one, but two mirrors, sees only herself reflected endlessly.
The mirror, often a symbol of prophecy, here becomes an object of vanity, with the young woman in the role of Narcissus. Giorgione’s painting possibly predates Bellini’s by ten years. It has always been known as The Sleeping Venus but there is nothing in the painting to confirm that it is, indeed, Venus.
The painting is remarkable for its lack of symbolism and the emphasis on the body simply as an object of beauty. It is believed to have been completed by Titian. Titian’s Venus of Urbino, on the other hand, was painted for the pleasure of the Duke of Urbino, and as in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, painted for a member of the Medici family, the model looks directly at the viewer.
The model may very well have been the mistress of the client. Venus of Urbino is not simply a body beautiful in its own right. She is an individual and highly seductive young woman, who is not in the nude state indicative of heavenly perfection, but is simply naked, having taken off her clothes but left on some of her jewellery.
Fra Filippo Lippi, The Madonna and Child with Two Angels, c.1450
The technical quality of Dutch artists was generally high, still mostly following the old medieval system of training by apprenticeship with a master. Typically workshops were smaller than in Flanders or Italy, with only one or two apprentices at a time, the number often being restricted by guild regulations. The turmoil of the early years of the Republic, with displaced artists from the South moving north and the loss of traditional markets in the court and church, led to a resurgence of artists guilds, often still called the Guild of Saint Luke. In many cases these involved the artists extricating themselves from medieval groupings where they shared a guild with several other trades, such as housepainting. Several new guilds were established in the period: Amsterdam in 1579, Haarlem in 1590, and Gouda, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Delft between 1609 and 1611. The Leiden authorities distrusted guilds and did not allow one until 1648.
Jan van Goyen, Dune landscape; an example of the “tonal” style
The Meagre Company, an Amsterdam militia group portrait or schutterstuk by Frans Hals and Pieter Codde (1633-37)
Dead game, and birds painted live but studied from the dead, were another subgenre, as were dead fish, a staple of the Dutch diet – Abraham van Beijeren did many of these. The Dutch were less given to the Flemish style of combining large still life elements with other types of painting – they would have been considered prideful in portraits – and the Flemish habit of specialist painters collaborating on the different elements in the same work. But this sometimes did happen – Philips Wouwerman was occasionally used to add men and horses to turn a landscape into a hunting or skirmish scene, Berchem or Adriaen van de Velde to add people or farm animals.
Pieter Jansz Saenredam, Assendelft Church, 1649, with the gravestone of his father in the foreground.
A different type of landscape, produced throughout the tonal and classical phases, was the romantic Italianate landscape, typically in more mountainous settings than are found in the Netherlands, with golden light, and sometimes picturesque Mediterranean staffage and ruins. Not all the artists who specialized in these had visited Italy. Jan Both (d. 1652), who had been to Rome and worked with Claude Lorrain, was a leading developer of the subgenre, which influenced the work of many painters of landscapes with Dutch settings, such as Aelbert Cuyp. Other artists who consistently worked in the style were Nicolaes Berchem (1620–1683) and Adam Pijnacker. Italianate landscapes were popular as prints, and more paintings by Berchem were reproduced in engravings during the period itself than those of any other artist.
Later in the century it began to become clear to all involved that the old idea of a guild controlling both training and sales no long worked well, and gradually the guilds were replaced with academies, often only concerned with the training of artists. The Hague, with the court, was an early example, where artists split into two groups in 1656 with the founding of the Confrerie Pictura. With the obvious exception of portraits, many more Dutch paintings were done “speculatively” without a specific commission than was then the case in other countries – one of many ways in which the Dutch art market showed the future.
Although the Dutch control of the northeast sugar-producing region of Dutch Brazil turned out to be brief (1630-54), Governor Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen invited Dutch artists to paint scenes which are valuable in showing the seventeenth-century landscape and peoples of the region. The two most well known of these artists were Frans Post, a landscapist, and a still life painter, Albert Eckhout, who produced ethnographic paintings of Brazil’s population. These were originally displayed in the Great Hall of the Vrijburg Palace in Recife. There was a market in Amsterdam for such paintings, and Post continued to produce Brazilian scenes for years after his return to the Netherlands. The Dutch East Indies were covered much less well artistically.
Initially the objects shown were nearly always mundane. However, from the mid-century pronkstillevens (“ostentatious still lifes”), which depicted expensive and exotic objects and had been developed as a subgenre in the 1640s in Antwerp by Flemish artists such as Frans Snyders and Adriaen van Utrecht, became more popular. The early realist, tonal and classical phases of landscape painting had counterparts in still life painting. Willem Claeszoon Heda (1595–c. 1680) and Willem Kalf (1619–1693) led the change to the pronkstilleven, while Pieter Claesz (d. 1660) preferred to paint simpler “ontbijt” (“breakfast pieces”), or explicit vanitas pieces.
Bellini, background repainted by Titian, The Feast of the Gods, 1514.
A stay in Haarlem by the Flemish master of peasant tavern scenes Adriaen Brouwer, from 1625 or 1626, gave Adriaen van Ostade his lifelong subject, though he often took a more sentimental approach. Before Brouwer, peasants had normally been depicted outdoors; he usually shows them in a plain and dim interior, though van Ostade’s sometimes occupy ostentatiously decrepit farmhouses of enormous size.
Piero della Francesca, the Legend of the True Cross, Arezzo, 1450s.
From the 1650s the “classical phase” began, retaining the atmospheric quality, but with more expressive compositions and stronger contrasts of light and colour. Compositions are often anchored by a single “heroic tree”, windmill or tower, or ship in marine works. The leading artist was Jacob van Ruisdael (1628–1682), who produced a great quantity and variety of work, using every typical Dutch subject except the Italianate landscape (below); instead he produced “Nordic” landscapes of dark and dramatic mountain pine forests with rushing torrents and waterfalls.
Nudity was effectively the preserve of the history painter, although many portraitists dressed up their occasional nudes (nearly always female) with a classical title, as Rembrandt did. For all their uninhibited suggestiveness, genre painters rarely revealed more than a generous cleavage or stretch of thigh, usually when painting prostitutes or “Italian” peasants.
Jan Mijtens, family portrait, 1652, with the boys in “picturesque” dress.
These four famous paintings demonstrate the advent and acceptance of the nude as a subject for the artist in its own right.
Giotto uses a few rocks to give the impression of a mountain setting. Paolo Uccello has created a detailed and surreal setting as a stage for many small scenes. In Carpaccio’s Deposition of the Body of Christ, the desolate rocky landscape echoes the tragedy of the scene.
Mantegna’s landscape has a sculptural, three-dimensional quality that is suggestive of a real physical space. The details of the rocks, their strata and fractures, suggest that he studied the geological formations of the red limestone prevalent in areas of Northern Italy.
Antonello da Messina sets the grim scene of the Crucifixion in contrast to the placid countryside which rolls into the far distance, becoming paler and bluer as it recedes. Giovanni Bellini has created a detailed landscape with a pastoral scene between the foreground and background mountains.
There are numerous levels in this landscape, making it the equivalent of Ghirlandaio’s complex cityscape (above). Perugino has set the Adoration of the Magi against the familiar hilly landscape of Umbria.
Leonardo da Vinci, displays a theatrical use of atmospheric perspective in his view of the precipitous mountains around Lago di Garda at the foothills of the Alps in Northern Italy.
Domenico Ghirlandaio, Portrait of an old man and his grandson, 1488.
history painting, including allegories and popular religious subjects. Portrait painting, including the tronie genre painting or scenes of everyday life landscape, including seascapes, battlescenes, cityscapes, and ruins (landscapists were the “common footmen in the Army of Art” according to Samuel van Hoogstraten.
) still life
Willem van Aelst, Still life with a watch (c. 1665), with typical dark background.
A distinctive feature of the period is the proliferation of distinct genres of paintings, with the majority of artists producing the bulk of their work within one of these. The full development of this specialization is seen from the late 1620s, and the period from then until the French invasion of 1672 is the core of Golden Age painting. Artists would spend most of their careers painting only portraits, genre scenes, landscapes, seascapes and ships, or still lifes, and often a particular sub-type within these categories. Many of these types of subject were new in Western painting, and the way the Dutch painted them in this period was decisive for their future development.
This article about the development of themes in Italian Renaissance painting is an extension to the article Italian Renaissance painting, for which it provides additional pictures with commentary. The works encompassed are from Giotto in the early 14th century to Michelangelo’s Last Judgement of the 1530s.
During the latter half of the 15th century, there was a proliferation of portraits. Although the subjects of some of them were later remembered for their achievements or their noble lineage, the identities of many have been lost and that of even the most famous portrait of all time, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, is open to speculation and controversy.
From what little we know of the studio procedures of artists, it seems that, as elsewhere in Europe, the face was probably drawn and perhaps painted at an initial sitting or two. The typical number of further sittings is unclear – between zero (for a Rembrandt full-length) and 50 appear documented. The clothes were left at the studio and might well be painted by assistants, or a brought-in specialist master, although, or because, they were regarded as a very important part of the painting. Married and never-married women can be distinguished by their dress, highlighting how few single women were painted, except in family groups. As elsewhere, the accuracy of the clothes shown is variable – striped and patterned clothes were worn, but artists rarely show them, understandably avoiding the extra work. Lace and ruff collars were unavoidable, and presented a formidable challenge to painters intent on realism. Rembrandt evolved a more effective way of painting patterned lace, laying in broad white stokes, and then painting lightly in black to show the pattern. Another way of doing this was to paint in white over a black layer, and scratch off the white with the end of the brush to show the pattern.
Pieter Jansz Saenredam, whose father Jan Saenredam engraved sensuous nude Mannerist goddesses, painted unpeopled views of now whitewashed Gothic city churches. His emphasis on even light and geometry, with little depiction of surface textures, is brought out by comparing his works with those of Emanuel de Witte, who left in the people, uneven floors, contrasts of light and such clutter of church furniture as remained in Calvinist churches, all usually ignored by Saenredam. Gerard Houckgeest, followed by van Witte and Hendrick van Vliet, had supplemented the traditional view along a main axis of the church with diagonal views that added drama and interest.
Frans Hals’ tronie, with the later title Gypsy Girl. 1628–30. Oil on wood, 58 cm × 52 cm (23 in × 20 in). The tronie includes elements of portraiture, genre painting, and sometimes history painting.
Giotto combines three separate narrative elements into this dramatic scene set against the dehumanising helmets of the guards. Judas betrays Jesus to the soldiers by kissing him. The High Priest signals to a guard to seize him.
Peter slices the ear off the high priest’s servant as he steps forward to lay hands on Jesus. Five figures dominate the foreground, surrounding Jesus so that only his head is visible. Yet by skillful arrangement of color and the gestures of the men, Giotto makes the face of Jesus the focal point of the painting.
In The Death of Adam, Piero della Francesca has set the dying patriarch so that he is cast into relief against the black garment worn by one of his family. His importance to the story is further emphasised by the arch of figures formed around him and the diagonals of the arms which all lead to his head.
p The Resurrection of the Son of Theophilus is a remarkably cohesive whole, considering that it was begun by Masaccio, left unfinished, vandalised, and eventually completed by Filippino Lippi. Masaccio painted the central section.
Pollaiuolo, in this highly systemised painting, has taken the cross-bow used by the archers in the foreground, as the compositional structure. Within this large triangular shape, divided vertically, he has alternated the figures between front and back views.
Botticelli’s long, narrow painting of Mars and Venus is based on a W with the figures mirroring each other. The lovers, who shortly before were united, are now separated by sleep. The three small fawns who process across the painting hold the composition together.
Michelangelos mastery of complex figure composition, as in his The Entombment was to inspire many artists for centuries. In this panel painting the figure of Christ, though vertical, is slumped and a dead weight at the centre of the picture, while those who try to carry the body lean outwards to support it.
At first glance, Signorelli’s Fall of the Damned is an appalling and violent jumble of bodies, but by the skilful placement of the figures so that the lines, rather than intersecting, flow in an undulating course through the picture, the composition is both unified and resolved into a large number of separate actions.
The colours of the devils also serve to divide the picture into the tormentors and the tormented. The Battle of Ostia was executed by Raphael’s assistants, probably to his design. The foreground of the painting is organised into two overlapping arched shapes, the larger showing captives being subdued, while to the left and slightly behind, they are forced to kneel before the Pope.
While the Pope rises above the second group and dominates it, the first group is dominated by a soldier whose colour and splendid headdress acts like a visual stepping stone to the Pope. At the edges of this group two stooping figures mirror each other, creating a tension in which one pushes away from the edge of the painting and the other pulls upward at its centre.
While Dutch portrait painting avoids the swagger and excessive rhetoric of the aristocratic Baroque portraiture current in the rest of 17th-century Europe, the sombre clothing of male and in many cases female sitters, and the Calvinist feeling that the inclusion of props, possessions or views of land in the background would show the sin of pride leads to an undeniable sameness in many Dutch portraits, for all their technical quality. Even a standing pose is usually avoided, as a full-length might also show pride. Poses are undemonstrative, especially for women, though children may be allowed more freedom. The classic moment for having a portrait painted was upon marriage, when the new husband and wife more often than not occupied separate frames in a pair of paintings. Rembrandt’s later portraits compel by force of characterization, and sometimes a narrative element, but even his early portraits can be dispiriting en masse, as in the roomful of ‘starter Rembrandts’ donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
This category comprises not only paintings that depicted historical events of the past, but also paintings that showed biblical, mythological, literary and allegorical scenes. Recent historical events essentially fell out of the category, and were treated in a realist fashion, as the appropriate combination of portraits with marine, townscape or landscape subjects. Large dramatic historical or Biblical scenes were produced less frequently than in other countries, as there was no local market for church art, and few large aristocratic Baroque houses to fill. More than that, the Protestant population of major cities had been exposed to some remarkably hypocritical uses of Mannerist allegory in unsuccessful Habsburg propaganda during the Dutch Revolt, which had produced a strong reaction towards realism and a distrust of grandiose visual rhetoric. History painting was now a “minority art”, although to an extent this was redressed by a relatively keen interest in print versions of history subjects
The pictures in the gallery below show the development of linear perspective in buildings and cityscapes.
Assistants of Raphael, The Battle of Ostia, Raphael’s Stanze
Bartholomeus van der Helst, Sophia Trip (1645), a member of one of the wealthiest families in Holland.
The widely held theory of the “hierarchy of genres” in painting, whereby some types were regarded as more prestigious than others, led many painters to want to produce history painting. However this was the hardest to sell, as even Rembrandt found. Many were forced to produce portraits or genre scenes, which sold much more easily. In descending order of status, the categories in the hierarchy were:
Frans Post, scene in Dutch Brazil; painted in 1662, some years after the colony was lost.
More often than not, even small ships fly the Dutch tricolour, and many vessels can be identified as naval or one of the many other government ships. Many pictures included some land, with a beach or harbour viewpoint, or a view across an estuary. Other artists specialized in river scenes, from the small pictures of Salomon van Ruysdael with little boats and reed-banks to the large Italianate landscapes of Aelbert Cuyp, where the sun is usually setting over a wide river. The genre naturally shares much with landscape painting, and in developing the depiction of the sky the two went together; many landscape artists also painted beach and river scenes. Artists included Jan Porcellis, Simon de Vlieger, Jan van de Cappelle, Hendrick Dubbels and Abraham Storck. Willem van de Velde the Elder and his son are the leading masters of the later decades, tending, as at the beginning of the century, to make the ship the subject, whereas in tonal works of earlier decades the emphasis had been on the sea and the weather. They left for London in 1672, leaving the master of heavy seas, the German-born Ludolf Bakhuizen, as the leading artist.
Flower paintings formed a sub-group with its own specialists, and were occasionally the speciality of the few women artists, such as Maria van Oosterwyck and Rachel Ruysch. The Dutch also led the world in botanical and other scientific drawings, prints and book illustrations. Despite the intense realism of individual flowers, paintings were composed from individual studies or even book illustrations, and blooms from very different seasons were routinely included in the same composition, and the same flowers reappear in different works, just as pieces of tableware do. There was also a fundamental unreality in that bouquets of flowers in vases were not in fact at all common in houses at the time – even the very rich displayed flowers one by one in delftware tulip-holders.
Jan Both, c. 1650, Italian landscape of the type Both began to paint after his return from Rome.