Vermeer's contemporaries: Delft

"The Golden Century"

1648: the Thirty Years War with Spain ended with the Treaty of Muenster. The United Provinces' 17 provinces were acknowledged to be free and independent. With blinding speed, the economy developed, and Holland prospered, thanks to its industry. It exploited the huge trade dominated by the East Indies Company, founded in 1602, and the West Indies Company, in 1621.

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This church interior, in Holland's very image, is grandiose and austere. We could even say that is a portrait of the Dutch peoples' God. Saenredam devoted his genius to painting white churches, white on white, for his entire life. The white is so monumentally treated, the church interiors finally explode.

"The Dutch are happy because they believe in God," said William of Orange, be they Catholics or Protestants. God gave them a beautiful country. A whole school of Dutch painting devoted itself to painting this famous flat country which has, perhaps, the world's most beautiful skies.

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The greatest landscapist of all times. A vast, open landscape with secret gardens, an old farm, a windmill, a canal. If Ruysdael is the great painter of vast landscapes, Hobbema's landscapes are more restricted and Edenic.

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The Dutch started to believe in their own identity. As soon as one is free, when one owns the money one earns, one begins to exist. In 1648 - 1650, a genre appears that had previously been ignored, portraiture.

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These two portraits are extremely vocal. Such self-assurance, such ease in daily life, the characters' attitude and expression, the clothes, all show us with what speed Dutch society picked itself up and advanced to the cutting edge of what was happening in Europe.
The reigning society lived in splendid interiors. The houses and mansions in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Delft were superb. Specialized painters, interior painters, bore witness to the economic prosperity and the dynastic serenity of Holland in the 17th century.

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One of the greatest painters of interiors, who multiplied chiaro-scuro scenes in an extremely deft fashion. Had Vermeer not existed, he would have been a very great painter.


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Holland's countryside was so prosperous that even Antiquity's satyrs could not resist it!

Tables bearing the rarest fruits, the most exquisite and delicate fare, the finest porcelain, the heaviest silverware - this genre would pervade Holland and give birth to the still life genre.

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The magnificent Chinese vase (Ming Dynasty, Yong Chen's reign) is one of the innumerable pieces exported by the Indies Company to Holland, the richest and most open receptacle of Oriental arts that one could imagine.

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Chardin wildly admired Wilhelm Kalf. Master of the genre, a brilliant painter, he created a scene of rich glassware, Chinese porcelain and, in the middle of the composition, the most incredible lemon ever painted.

In this theme of the symbolism of happiness, what could be more natural than the choice of flowers? For the first time in Europe, bouquet specialists appeared and made the variety of essences, perfumes and colors sing.

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Using very small bouquets, Jan van Huysum, a lesser-known painter, achieved silken transparencies of a splendor which sets them apart from all others.

Whether he painted landscapes, portraits, interior scenes, still lives or flowers, the painter was sure to find a clientele which was not always very exacting, nor very knowledgeable with respect to taste. This is doubtless what Vermeer, Frans Hals and Rembrandt regretted.