The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has organized a three-month long innovative display of 17th Century Dutch paintings in its Ann and Graham Gund Gallery (Gallery LG31) running from the 11th of October 2015 through to the 18th of January in the new year. The exhibition plans to showcase 75 explicit portraits, genre scenes and panoramic landscapes and seascapes in its attempt at revolutionizing the way paintings from the age of Rembrandt and Vermeer are viewed and interpreted. The pieces have been made available through the generosity of private and public benefactors from both Europe and America and will include masterpieces never before seen in the US. This is the pioneer show that seeks to show how the relationship between paintings and socioeconomic classes of different people in the new Dutch Republic can enable one make clear distinctions between different classes and professions.
The event proved to be very educational and informative as I got the chance to interact and share with some of the best and brightest in the industry. I learnt that one could tell a soldier’s allegiance by looking at the color of their sash with orange illustrating employment by the Orange Prince who was at the time the Commander of the Dutch forces. Noble men and women stand out by their rich clothing and an indulgence in the arts, mostly through song, or leisurely sporting activities like battledore and shuttlecock and golf. I also learnt how to distinguish different scholars by their mode of dressing and grooming, and the items they carried along with them. Merchants are easily identified by their prominent display of their money purses and proximity to the wares of their trade while ordinary women can be seen in ordinary clothing holding unfinished or sometimes finished items of embroidery and lace, which they sold, allowing them to make money while working from home. That age was also full of innovators as evident in the design and creation of the herring buss that enhanced longer fishing expeditions and increased profits through an on board fish preservation system.
There are further illustrations to the ingenuity of that era portrayed in contraptions that have set the pace for some of the machines in operation today. The Dutch were also very enterprising as they can be seen carrying out value addition processes to products like turning milk to cheese and butter and trading them to make a living. Their society was balanced with both husband and wife, and sometimes even children participating in the generation of income to support the family unit like how fishmongers are women and children of fishermen. The paintings backgrounds and settings can also be used to differentiate between different social classes. The rich can be seen before lush gardens and lawns surrounded with beautiful facades and healthy animals including dogs and horses. Commoners could rarely afford horses and had little time to ensure their lawns were well manicured.
The Dutch culture of loving and caring for their environment started long time ago as evidenced by the well-tended lovely lawns and trees in their paintings. They also treated their animals fairly well judging by how healthy they appear in the paintings. Dutch land having numerous waterways and rivers, many of their economic activities and inventions are centered on them. They use the force of flowing rivers to drive their inventions, which can be attributed as the basis for some of today’s marvels in technology and design. They also pioneered developments in large-scale fishing to increase the quantity and quality of fish brought back from extended fishing trips by engineering bigger boats with preservation capabilities.
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