Dutch History, Portraiture, Genre Scenes
The Dutch Republic was politically so unlike the other countries of Europe at this time, which had real consequences for the art world.
The influence of Calvinism on the art world was significant. Almost all religious images were banned from Calvinist churches, and the most rigorous Calvinists would even have frowned on them in private homes. The House of Orange in The Hague had a modest court, and its art patronage was limited in scale. What did this mean? Well the two most traditional areas for patronage were largely unavailable to most 17th-century artists. They adapted to the situation quickly though and developed the largest open market in Europe, with artists specializing in certain subjects and selling them ready-made directly to the public. Art and economic historians argue about how many paintings were made in the Dutch Republic during this century, but they agree that the number ran into millions—it’s just a question of how many millions. These were well crafted paintings at various price points to meet a diverse public.
Since most of these paintings were not commissioned, we have little documentary evidence about these works in general, so my approach in these lectures on Dutch art will be to show more paintings to indicate the variety of works made, but I will discuss each only briefly. At the beginning of the 17th century, history painting still was popular in the Dutch Republic.
Joachim Wtewael 1566-1638, was among a group of Dutch painters who developed a style based on Mannerism but adapted it for the native clientele. Wtewael worked in the town of Utrecht, a former Roman Catholic bishopric. He was a member of the Calvinist town council and a flax merchant as well as a painter; many Dutch artists had more than one career in the 17th century.
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