For this exercise I am to imagine myself a publisher in Amsterdam in the middle of the seventeenth century, selecting a catalogue of prints to offer my regular clientele.
I’m going to start with a grizzle. The pace of this course takes my breath away. It reminds me of trips some people I knew took between leaving high school and starting university – a coach tour of continental Europe (9 countries in 11 days) and a bit longer in England. The best you can hope for is a broad spatter, a couple of specific memories (hopefully more than just the Lion Pub in Rome) and an idea of where you’d like to explore “next time”. So “this time” I don’t feel able to go into the source of wealth of the merchant class of Amsterdam, or whether there was speculation in prints analogous to the speculation in tulip bulbs, or (having been to the Renaissance to Goya: prints and drawings from Spain exhibition at the NSW Art Gallery a couple of days ago) similarities and differences of the Dutch and Spanish “Golden Ages” of the 17th Century, or (based on the catalogue to the Goya exhibition) the impact of changes in paper-making materials and techniques.
Grizzle aside, I did find a little information about my potential market at www.essentialvermeer.com/dutch-painters/dutch_art/ecnmcs_dtchart.html. Another resource suggested different proportions of popularity of subjects in 1645 to 1650: Biblical scenes 18%; Portraits 18.3%; Land- and seascapes 21%; Still lifes 11.7%; Scenes from daily life (genre)12.9%; Other 18.1% (Goosens, 2001). Based on this I have slightly adjusted proportions of works in my proposed catalogue.
The Story of Hagar
This is the first of my “biblical theme” prints. It shows Abraham dismissing Hagar, from the Book of Genesis. I feel that the general pleasant landscape and overgrown ruins will appeal to a wider audience in addition to religious buyers.
Published by: Hendrik Hondius I. Print made by: Moyses van Wtenbrouck. 1620-1646 (published). 135 x 184 mm.
The prodigal son
The subject of my second biblical choice comes from the New Testament. It may be more familiar to my customers, and has a nice moral overtone. It is also an interior scene including opulent clothing and furnishings, which together with the detail of the dog front right should extend the print’s appeal.
Published by: Alexandre Boudan. Print made by: Theodoor van Thulden. 1621-1669. 131 x 104 mm.
This print is a slightly dangerous choice. It will appeal to some of my religious customers, although the subject’s involvement in a religious schism may cause difficulties. I am hoping that the print’s attractions as an interesting and detailed portrait by Rembrandt will appeal to buyers. The controversy was over some decades ago, so I believe the risk of causing disruption is low.
Rembrandt van Rijn. 1635. 223 x 183 mm.
Views in the surroundings of Haarlem
This scene of the bark mill on the Omval, including a number of sailing vessels is the first of my landscape choices. It has the large sky and combines the water and land loved by many collectors. There is a good level of detail and accuracy in the rigging of the boats, a vital element for my customers.
Print made by: Jan Vincentsz. van der Vinne. 1680-1700. 149 x 185 mm.
This scene of a neat township, including a family walking to the church, is very appealing. It is a more enclosed scene, with a surprising amount of detail to capture the viewers’ interest.
Published by: Clement de Jonghe. Print made by: Roelant Roghman. 1620-1630. 126 x 204 mm.
Landscape with bleaching fields, One of Views in the surroundings of Haarlem
This scene of productive countryside should attract many of my industrious customers. It combines with the town- and water-scapes above to provide a range of scenery options.
Print made by: Claes Jansz. Visscher. 1610-1620. 103 x 157 mm
This semi-indoors scene has a lot of detail to explore and a semi-comical feel. The bucolic / peasant content may appeal to some city-dwellers, either a reminder of their past or perhaps making them feel superior. There is also a sense of relaxation and comradeship, which may resonate with some of my customers.
After: Adriaen van Ostade. Print made by: Johannes Visscher. 1670 (circa). 310 x 256 mm.
The infatuated peasant
This risqué scene will appeal to a portion of my clientele, but I will need to be careful of where it is displayed to avoid scandalising some customers. The bawdy print seen on the back wall increases both the interest and the risk. However I also see a certain earthy wholesomeness in the scene.
After: Adriaen van Ostade. Print made by: Johannes Visscher. 1660 (circa). 335×267 mm.
I have selected only one still-life for my catalogue. My countrymen are very fond of colourful bulbs. The great crash of the tulip trading is now in the past, and this print should not excite any negative reactions (possibly those most affected will not be buying prints!).
After: Nicolas Guillaume Delafleur (engraving). Published by: Frederick de Wit. 1650-1706 (c.) 140 x 112 mm.
For my final few prints I have decided to test the commercial waters with a few items outside the mainstream.
This print shows the close engagement of two large fleets, with an English ship foundering in foreground. I think this will stir the patriotic and sea-faring amongst my customers. It is also larger than the other prints, so suitable to hang in different locations.
Published by: Dancker Danckerts. 1666. 418 x 525 mm.
The Quakers meeting
This is another print that may offend some customers, so will stay under the counter until a likely buyer comes in.
The print shows a satirical view of a Quakers meeting, the strident speaker unaware of various untoward goings-on in the background.
Print made by: Carel Allard (also publisher). After: Egbert van Heemskerck. 1678-1679 (circa). 418 x 517 mm.
A woman bathing
A woman is seen from behind, having just bathed in the pond to her left. I have included this print simply for my own pleasure. I love the lines – the diagonal tree across the centre, creating a private space for the bather; the lines and curves of her body, her smoother curves contrasting with the more convoluted lines of the plants around her. There are very dark shadows contrasting with the very light sky, but an overall balance across the print. In the distance at the right there seems to be another figure, suggesting a more complex story. There’s something slightly knock-kneed or awkward about the woman’s stance, and oddly I rather like that too.
Published by: Johann Day. Print made by: Moyses van Wtenbrouck. 1610-1647. 144 x 139 mm.
Overall I feel this is a reasonable catalogue. I think there is a good variety in subject and sizes. There are a few inconsistencies – a wide range of publication dates, some subjects rather racy and views of Haarlem rather than Amsterdam (they look close on the map, but presumably in the 1600s were quite distinct – and many buyers would prefer their known, local scenes). I will “resolve” this by assuming that my shop is in a docks area on the fringe of Amsterdam and heading towards Haarlem. Many of my customers are labourers or dockmen, earthy and relaxed in their humour. Some may occasionally be in need of extra cash, and I am willing to buy older prints for resale at attractive prices.
Goosens, M (2001) “Schilders en de markt: Haarlem 1605 – 1635,” PhD diss., Leiden University, 2001. In National Gallery of Art (2007) Painting in the Dutch Golden Age: A profile of the seventeenth century: A resource for teachers Washington: Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington [online] Available at http://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/teaching-packets/pdfs/dutch_painting.pdf (Accessed 21-Sept-2013)
National Gallery of Art (2007) Painting in the Dutch Golden Age: A profile of the seventeenth century: A resource for teachers Washington: Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington [online] Available at http://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/teaching-packets/pdfs/dutch_painting.pdf (Accessed 21-Sept-2013)
UA1-WA:P2-p2-Ex Prints for sale
Understanding Art 1 – Western Art.
Part two: From the High Renaissance to Post-Impressionism
Project two: The age of Baroque
Exercise: Prints for sale