The Dutch Golden Age: a new aurea ætas? The revival of a myth in the seventeenth-century Republic
In 1719, the painter Arnold Houbraken voiced his regret about the end of the prosperity that had reigned in the Dutch Republic around the middle of the seventeenth century. He indicates this period as especially favorable to artists and speaks of a ‘golden age for art’
(Gulde Eeuw voor de Konst). But what exactly was Houbraken talking about? The word eeuw is ambiguous: it could refer to the length of a century as well as to an undetermined period, relatively long and historically undefined. In fact, since the sixteenth century, the expression gulde(n) eeuw or goude(n) eeuw referred to two separate realities as they can be distinguished today: the ‘golden century’, that is to say a period that is part of history; and the ‘golden age’, a mythical epoch under the reign of Saturn, during which men and women lived like gods, were loved by them, and enjoyed peace and happiness and harmony with nature. Continuer la lecture de Appel à communication : The Dutch Golden Age (Geneva, 31 May-2 Jun 18)
Even during the artist’s lifetime, contemporary art lovers considered Rembrandt van Rijn to be an exceptional artist. In this revelatory sequel to the acclaimed Rembrandt : The Painter at Work, renowned Rembrandt authority Ernst van de Wetering investigates precisely why the artist, from a very early age, was praised by prominent connoisseurs. He argues that Rembrandt, from his very first endeavors in painting, embarked on a journey past all the foundations of the art of painting that, according to (up until now misinterpreted) contemporary written sources, were considered essential in the seventeenth century. Rembrandt never stopped searching for solutions to the pictorial problems that confronted him; this led over time to radical changes in course that can’t simply be attributed to stylistic evolution or natural development. In a quest as rigorous and novel as the artist’s, van de Wetering reveals how Rembrandt became the best painter the world had ever seen. Gorgeously illustrated throughout, this groundbreaking exploration reconstructs Rembrandt’s closely guarded theories and methods, shedding new light both on the artist’s exceptional accomplishments and on the practice of painting in the Dutch Golden Age.
Ernst van de Wetering is Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of Amsterdam and Chairman of the Rembrandt Research Project. The author of the widely acclaimed Rembrandt : The Painter at Work, he is considered one of the world’s foremost specialists on Rembrandt and his oeuvre.