Exercise: Choose some prints for sale

The object of this exercise is compile a catalogue of prints for sale for a variety of tastes – the idea is to imagine that I am a publisher in Amsterdam in the mid-17th century.  This has proved to be a very interesting exercise and one that has really made me think – in theory sounds easy but in practice is more difficult!

  1. velazquez-christChrist Crucified – Diego Velazquez . 1632. 249 x 170 cm. Oil on canvas.  This piece I chose because as a Catholic the Crucifixion is one of the  most iconic images of all and this is one of the most striking I have ever come across.  Velazquez is the most important Spanish painter of the period and this scene is believed to have been commissioned for the San Placido Convent sacristy.   The image includes the 4 nails in Christ’s hands and feet but the latter are on a small plinth which means his arms are not seen as they usually are in the unnatural position of dislocation.  Despite the austerity of the pose and the blood on his body from his wounds to me it comes across as if he is almost preaching to his followers despite his death – he is dead but his body has significant meaning.  What also appeals is the angle of the head – Velazquez painted it in such a way the viewer glimpses Christ’s features despite his long, lank hair. The crown of thorns is portrayed simply but starkly and there is the appearance of a subtle but significant halo behind Christ’s head.    What draws me most of all is the tones and colours of the image – very typical of the iconography of Velazquez’s work and showing the influence of the strong Catholicism at the time (he worked under a member of the Spanish Inquisition in earlier years). The colours are stark, simple and naturalistic with the use of chiaroscuro to highlight Christ’s body and the cross so that the image is without any distractions and clear to all who witness it – this is an image with devotional dignity.
  2. remb_judi_holo_grtJudith Beheading Holofernes – Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. c. 1653.  18 x 15 cm. Pen drawing.  The story of Judith in the bible was and is accepted by Catholism but not by the Protestants of the time – they were considered apocryphal but nevertheless the Dutch were in awe of the Jewish people’s devotion to their faith despite the persecution and oppression.  Most works of Judith beheading Holofernes depict the moment his head is put in the basket but this pen drawing depicts the moment of beheading itself and that is the prime reason I chose it – it is the moment Judith overcomes the opponent of her people.  I note the figure to the right – possibly her maid who is guarding her as she attacks the general.  The linear quality of this drawing with the marks used appeals – there are no colours to detract or brush marks or indeed details on the background other than cursory ones that depict the tent.  The marks of the pen are expressive without the need for anything else – I question whether this may have been a possible precursor to a work but this a long with ‘Holofernes Head being put into a Bag’ and these are the only two known works on Judith by Rembrandt so felt this would appeal to a different clientele to my first choice.
  3. rubensThe Miraculous Draught of Fishes – Peter Paul Rubens. 1618-1619. Black chalk, pen and oil on paper stuck on canvas. Rubens was not just a Flemish artist but a diplomatic involved heavily in 17th century politics including for Charles I of England for whom he did several commissions.  He was a painter  in the Baroque style and this emphasis on colour and movement is seen in my chosen work which tells of the famous biblical story whereby Jesus used the boat of Peter to preach from and as a reward leads them to a vast catch of fish.  Rubens was known as a painter of religious scenes and this for me is one of the more unusual.  Rubens has used a simple complementary pallet of oranges and blues in varying shades with highlights of white and included the use of linear and atmospheric perspective to give a sense of spatial recession as well as mass.  The work has strong linear qualities whilst retaining a painterly style – the figures in particular are emphasized with strong lines and with a sense of scale with gives a further impression of perspective.  Jesus himself to the right of the scene is in simple blue/grey toned robes which contrast well with the fishermen.  The sea and beach are rendered simply in subtle tones whilst retaining a sense of movement.
  4. molenaerTwo Boys and a Girl Making Music – Jan Miense Molenaer. 1629. 68.3 x 84.5 cm. Oil on canvas. Jan Miense Molenaer was influenced by Dirck Hals (younger brother of Frans Hals) to paint joyful scenes of people and this is portrayed accurately in this scene of 3 young musicians.  The room has a variety of items including a bird cage, a beer/wine barrel and travel chest and the children play a violin/viola, a rommelpot (rumbling pot) and also a helmet which is being used as a drum.  The boys are wearing the typical garb of the day whilst the girl is ‘dressing up’ in soldiers gorget – all the children’s clothes provide detail and contrast in their colours with particular note of the red jacket of the boy on the right which contrasts with the green tones of the other boys outfit.  There is a sense of 3 dimensional space created by both the items and also the placement of the children and by the girl’s clothes being slightly darker than the boys at the front a sense of spatial recession.  I chose this particular work as a narrative scene and also simply because of the joyful nature of it.
  5. peasants_brawling_over_cards_300pxPeasants Brawling over Cards – Adriaen Brouwer. 1630. 26.5 x 34.50 cm. Oil on wood. A surprise edition to my collection – Adriaen Brouwer was an artist who specialized in scenes depicting the lower classes and the immoral behaviour which enhances the moral upstanding of the higher classes.   This is a very typical scene of a drunken brawl over what appears to be a pack of cards.  Brouwer has used atmospheric perspective to great effect – the colours in the background are much more muted and greyer/bluer tones and this also further depicts what could possibly be a smokey poorly lit public house.  The peasants are depicted as larger limbed and somewhat dull faces – the depiction is that of low intelligence.  There is a contrast of colours of orange and blue to give balance and perspective to the work along with the use of light and shadow to highlight the 3 figures – the light is shining from the front left and appears to be possibly coming for a source lower down.  The whole scene is not one of a beautiful landscape but the very opposite and will appeal to those who want to enhance their feeling of status and as said morality.
  6. painter in his studioThe Painter in his Studio – Adriaen van Ostade. 1667. 21 x 16.9 cm.  Etching. An interesting and very detailed work of an artist within his studio – this is clearly a wooden structure with two floors and could be classed as both a narrative scene or interior domestic scene.  I note the figures with the artist almost as a comical figure.  The figures in the background are etched to scale and there is a sense of depth due to the careful use of light and shadow – the light is clearly coming from the window to the left of the artist.  Adrien van Ostade has used linear perspective with several vanishing points to create the spatial recession and give the realistic impression of a 3-dimensional image. This particular piece I have included because of the exquisite detail and that it is hard to believe it is an etching such is the skill of the artist.
  7. officer_and_laughing_girl (1)Officer and Laughing Girl – Jan Vermeer. 1655-1660. 50.5  x 46 cm.  Oil on canvas. This I am including as a scene of domestic interior rather than portrait due to the details of the room including the map on the back wall which is indicative of the map making in the Netherlands at the time and also maps were a popular form of decoration.  Vermeer experimented with optical devices including camera obscura which literally means dark chamber and even if he did not use it for this image the influences are clear – the figures are very close to the picture frame and the soldier is almost silhouetted to the viewer whilst the girl is bathed in light from the window – there are distinct contrasts in light and also colour which reminiscent of a wide angled camera lens. The chairs in the room are detailed and gives indication of a possible wealth – they are not plain simple chairs but rather tones with studs and textiles which appear padded and luxurious whilst remaining practical.  The window has decorative detail in the leading shapes – again indicative of wealth or social standing.  There are is also considerable use of linear perspective including that of the angle of the mans chair which is at a different and higher angle to the other orthogonals and vanishing points in the room – this gives a contrast in scale between the soldier and the girl and emphasizes their difference in figurative size.  I take note of the clothing of both – the girl is well dressed and very modestly with a style that would be fitting with the Calvinism religion of the day whilst the soldier’s clothes indicate he has rank within his profession.
  8.  meindert hobbemaCottages in a Woods – Meindert Hobbema. 1660. 52.1 x 68 cm. Oil on Wood. Landscape genre of painting with limited palette of colours to portray a typical country scene.  Meindert Hobbema has made use of linear perspectives in this piece along with some atmospheric too in his use of colour – in particular the road leading to the centrally placed cottage draws the viewer into the scene.  Scale is also demonstrated through the placement of the figures on the bend of the room which also gives further evidence of the perspective along with the obvious trees.  There is a second cottage that can be seen through the trees which gives further added interest and indications of a small rural community.  Use of colour and the contrasts in tone emphasize the atmospheric perspective mentioned above – there is a field in the background that is much lighter and then beyond that the trees are subtly rendered to give a realistic impression of spacial recession.
  9. still_life_with_a_drinking_hornStill Life with Drinking Horn – Willem Kalf. 1653. 86.4 x 102.2 cm. Oil on canvas. Willen Kalf was a specialist painter of still life of the genre described as ‘Pronkstilleven’ – this means ‘ostentatious still-life’ which referred to the lavish objects which were primarily man-made.  This work is thought to have been a commission due to the portrayal of St. Sebastian, who was the patron saint of archers, on the silver mount.  There is considerable detail on the table of the various items and I note particularly the pattern of the cloth and also the silver mounts of the horn.  Willem Kalf was noted for his use of light over the different textures which creates a depth and perspective as well as highlighting the colours used – the red lobster contrasts directly with the green of the horn which creates balance and harmony to the whole piece.  There is a use of linear perspective with the different vanishing points which creates a further sense of spatial recession.  I chose this particular work because it is a depiction of a kitchen scene rather than of a floral still life and this is immediately appealing for a viewer.
  10. rembrandt - anatomyThe Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp – Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. 1632. 169.5 x 216.5 cm. Oil on canvas.  Rembrandt was commission to paint this group portrait by the Amsterdam Surgeons Guild.  The praelector of the Amsterdam Anatomy Guild had to give a public lecture once a year and Dr Nicolaes Tulp who had been elected to this position in 1628 is thereby given precedence in this scene by the fact he is the only one wearing a hat and is also shown dissecting the cadaver’s arm. The colleagues who are also part of the portrait are all facing in different directions with different personal facial expressions and the names of each is seen on the piece of paper held by the surgeon in the centre at the back. The body is that of an executed thief (one Adraien het Kint) and a sense of perspective is given by the fact he lies parallel to the viewing frame but as you move down his body (and out of shot in my image) there is a book thought to be an anatomy book of the mid 16th Century. This portrait does have a scientific error in the composition as in dissections it is usual to start with the chest cavity and abdomen due to the organs within composing quicker than the limbs so this is of interest to those who study the anatomy.  I also note the detail given to the clothes of the physicians – Dr. Tulp appears to be wearing an outfit very similar to the Puritans of England at the same period which is suggestive to me of travel and the close links between England and the Netherlands at the time.    I have chosen this as a more unusual form of group portrait but also because of the advances made in science during the Renaissance and Baroque period.
  11. ROY_260216_ 007Allegory of Painting (La Pittura) – Artemisia Gentileschi. 1638-39. 96.5 x 73.7 cm. Oil on canvas. Artemesia painted this work during the time she was in England at the invitation of Charles I  – her father Orazio had been working in England for 12 years.  Artemesia has painted herself as the “personification of painting” (Royal Collection online) – this is the reason I chose this particular work as at the women rarely had jobs let alone become highly regarded artists.  Artemesia is wearing a brown apron over her dress which is painted to portray the folds and textures and also show clearly the direction of the light – this is also demonstrated by the light that falls fully on the front of her body from a source that cannot be seen.  I particularly like the use of colour in this work – the orange colour family of the background contrasts with the blue/green of her dress and the darker tones of both are then further contrasted with the light tones of her flesh which they highlight.  Artemesia seems to be looking beyond the canvas towards her subject as she works and she appears to be leaning on a stone that was possibly used to grind the pigments for her work which was one of the tools of the trade.
  12. catharina_hooft_with_her_nurse_300pxPortrait of Catharina Hooft and her Nurse – Frans Hals. c. 1620. 92 x 68 cm. Oil on canvas.  This is a portrait of the type rarely seen – that of a nurse and her young charge.  Frans Hals has managed to create a sense of movement and life by portraying the moment the nurse is offering Catharina an apple and it seems as if the artist has disturbed them as they turn to face him or the viewer – this delightful moment in time is the reason behind my choice of this image.  The nurse and Catharina are depicted against a dark background which highlights them both as the light source is clearly coming from the front and this is further shown by the shadows on Catharina’s dress created by the folds of the fabric.  The costumes of both Catharina and her nurse are exquisitely and minutely detailed – the nurse is wearing a much plainer outfit but for me the detail is no less important.  This double portrait is believed to have been a commission to celebrate Catharina’s first birthday although she seems older in the portrayal of her face.    As said I find this a delightful portrait which would appeal to many viewers.

NOTE: This has been one of the most frustrating exercises so far encountered as it seemed much easier than it actually was to choose a variety of works that would appeal to a variety of clientele.  However this has also been one of the most interesting of exercises too and has enabled me to really find works of art that I would otherwise not have looked for – although I have chosen some artists from outside of The Netherlands (as we know it today) the works that have most appealed are those of the Dutch themselves.  I have a new found interest in Dutch art and am developing a real love of it – before I found it very dark and unappealing but now I am looking more closely at each piece with the knowledge of art history that is gradually but steadily building.


Artable (2016). Peasants Brawling over Cards [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  http://www.artble.com/artists/adriaen_brouwer/paintings/peasants_brawling_over_cards

Art and the Bible (2013). Rembrandt’s Biblical Work [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  http://www.artbible.info/art/rembrandt-biblical-work.html

ArtyFactory.com (2016). Willem Kalf – A Dutch Master of Still Life Painting [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from: http://www.artyfactory.com/art_appreciation/still_life/willem_kalf.htm

Diego-velazquez.org (date unknown). Christ on the Cross, 1632 by Diego Velazquez [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  http://www.diego-velazquez.org/christ-on-the-cross.jsp

Ekkart, R and Buvelot, Q (2007). Dutch Portraits The Age of Rembrandt and Frans Hals. The Hague. Waanders Publishers, Zwolle

Encyclopedia of Art Education (date unknown).  Christ Crucified (1632) by Diego Velazquez [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/christ-crucified.htm

Encyclopedia of Art Education (date unknown). Soldier and a Laughing Girl by Jan Vermeer [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/soldier-and-laughing-girl.htm

Janson, J (2001-2016).  Officer and Laughing Girl [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016].  Available from:  http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catalogue/officer_and_laughing_girl.html#.V1foQpErLIU

Janson, J (2001-2016). Critical Assessments: Officer and Laughing Girl [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:   http://www.essentialvermeer.com/cat_about/officer.html#.V1fyYJErLIU

Janson, J (2001-2016). A Brief Overview of the Dutch Art Market in the 17th Century [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  http://www.essentialvermeer.com/dutch-painters/dutch_art/ecnmcs_dtchart.html#.V1fIapErLIU

Khan Academy (date unknown). Rembrandt, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/monarchy-enlightenment/baroque-art1/holland/a/rembrandt-the-anatomy-lesson-of-dr-tulp

Met Museum (2000-2016). The Painter in his Studio [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available fromhttp://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/370478:

Museum Het Rembrandthuis (date unknown). The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp [online] Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from: http://www.rembrandthuis.nl/en/rembrandt-2/rembrandt-the-artist/most-important-works/the-anatomy-lesson-of-dr-nicolaes-tulp/

National Gallery (2016). Cottages in a Wood about 1660 Meindert Hobbema [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/meindert-hobbema-cottages-in-a-wood

National Gallery (2016).  Two Boys and a Girl Making Music 1629, Jan Miense Molenaer [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jan-miense-molenaer-two-boys-and-a-girl-making-music

National Gallery (2016). The Miraculous Draught of Fishes 1618-19, Peter Paul Rubens [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/peter-paul-rubens-the-miraculous-draught-of-fishes

National Gallery (2016). Peter Paul Rubens 1577 – 1640 [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/peter-paul-rubens

The National Gallery (2016). Still Life with Drinking Horn about 1653, Willem Kalf [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/willem-kalf-still-life-with-drinking-horn

Royal Collection Trust (date unknown). Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura) c. 1638-9 [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from: https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/405551/self-portrait-as-the-allegory-of-painting-la-pittura

Steadman, P (2011).  Vermeer and the Camera Obscura [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/vermeer_camera_01.shtml

Westermann, M.  1996. The Art of the Dutch Republic 1585-1718. London. George Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd.

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