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Friday, 18 October 2019

A Treasure House

And at last, energy renewed, a day at the Rijksmuseum, that fine looking building in the near distance. It exudes late C19th confidence and the entrance hall itself is quite an experience.

I'm a sad little moth to the flame when it comes to stained glass

But where to start? I thought I wanted to see Rembrandt's, the Night Watch of course, but it was the 'Jewish Wedding' picture that grabbed me. 

Ghosts captured on canvas
I loved that hint of tentative affection and trust glimpsed in her hand touching his, the richness and texture of the fabric, the authenticity of face and expression. The silence.

And then of course there's Frans Hals

The Meagre Company
Gorgeously camp and real people, each face commissioned for posterity.

But I became more and more seduced by the unexpected, easily done when you’re as ignorant as me. Mind, I got off to a poor start. 

Winter Scene by Barend Cornelis Koekkoek
I was caught by this picture, it's bleak tranquility,  until an elderly American lady in tweed and pink trousers walked by. ‘Don’t you just hate chocolate box pictures,’ (more order than question) she said to her companion. Abashed, I wandered off in search of a Pollack but found this instead. A furtive glance told me tweed and pink was nowhere about, so that was all right.
The Merry Fiddler
I'd never heard of Gerard van Honthorst before but I have an irresistible urge to clink glasses with this guy as he bursts out of the picture. Honthurst also painted this:
                                                          The Satyr and the  Nymph

 Look at that smile, the proprietorial grasp of his beard. No  #Meto moment here. The Nymph is very definitely leading the lascivious Satyr on, though admittedly he doesn't seem too reluctant.

The Night School by Gerrit Dou

If you can be bothered counting, there are four different light sources in this paining. The School master is wagging his finger at the boy in the darkness (of ignorance) while the dutiful girl is learning her lessons and bathed in wisdom's light. Twas ever thus. 

I came across the most ornate cabinets, the best made by Charles Andre Boulle (one of which has already been incorporated in a forthcoming book)

I've no great love for Napoleon, but that furred robe begs to be stroked - if you're that way inclined.

I was drawn by unexpected faces oozing with character, men like Pieter Groenendijk long since dead but immortalised on canvas by the artist Maes
The perfect teacher's expression. 

In terms of expressive faces, it's hard to beat the Bickers, father and son. The father, Andries Bicker was a man of substance and power who'd made his wealth as a merchant in Russia and trading in spices. He was elected as Mayor of Amsterdam ten times, elected to the States General (Parliament) and served as ambassador to the Scandinavian nations and Poland. When he sat for this portrait, he was the most powerful man in the city. 

In contrast his son, Gerard, is clearly more of an overweight, over-indulged clothes-horse. I enjoyed the sly deadpan last line in the short, information alongside. 'Gerard was not awarded as many key administration positions in Amsterdam. I suspect he might have fared better in today's 'celebrity culture' but then again . . .

And if there was any doubt that this was undoubtedly a man’s world the Regents of the Spinhuis confirms it in spades, their grave expressions, their seriousness, and quiet self importance and all  for the fallen women of Amsterdam. These are the five regents of the werkhuis interrupted by messenger with a letter. The Spinhuis and Nieuwe Werkhuis housed women imprisoned for begging or theft and they spent all the time spinning while these men considered how important they were. How Amsterdam has changed. 

The Regents of the Spinhuis and Nieuwe werkhuis by Karel du Jardin


Maria Zannini said...

Few can beat the Dutch for their expertise in painting texture and realism. I've always thought of the Dutch school of art as a house of artistic accountants. Their technique is so precise and dutiful, a mere photograph is a poor substitute for rendering the truth of a subject.

Mike Keyton said...

Artistic accountants - I like it. I saw one picture fruit and an a pewter urn that was incredibly life like, and it put me in mind of a van Gogh variant. The latter close up looked less than life like but interesting, but from a distant was incredible. different truths, I suppose