Tag Archives: 17th-century Netherlandish paintings

#FineArtFriday: Tavern of the Crescent Moon by Jan Miense Molenaer

The  sign hanging in front of  the Tavern of the Crescent Moon shows it was a wayside inn catering to the traveling public and some locals.  Molenaer’s inn seems to have been a friendly place where the food was most important. A piper is playing, and people are singing. Others are hanging out the windows and watching from a balcony, enjoying the music.

The patrons are a mixed group but look like happy middle-class people, who seem fairly prosperous. What I love about this painting is the fact that the patrons are sitting outdoors. The inside of most taverns and wayside inns were dark, smoky places. Patrons must have moved outdoors as soon as the weather allowed. The day this painting was composed, weather was fine, although one well-dressed man (perhaps a merchant?) has his foot resting on a foot-warmer, which was a luxury item in that time period.

Whole families are there, out for an evening of music and enjoyment. They are breaking and sharing fresh-baked bread. Other than the man whose best friend is the dog, no one has overindulged in drink—over all, the happy group looks as if they came to the tavern solely for the company and the music.

About the Artist: From the National Gallery Website:

Jan Miense Molenaer was born in Haarlem and lived there or in nearby Heemstede. In 1634 he was listed as member of the Guild of St. Luke in Haarlem. In 1636 he married the painter Judith Leyster. Both Molenaer and Leyster may have been pupils of Frans Hals and were certainly influenced by both his style and subject matter. Dirck Hals’ influence was also very important for him, for it inspired Molenaer to paint merry company scenes.

Jan Miense Molenaer was a more prolific artist than his wife, Judith Leyster, who worked on similar subjects. Motherhood and running a household most likely cut into Judith’s time for artistic endeavors.  Molenaer  and Leyster had five children, only two of whom survived to adulthood.


Sources and Attributions:

Quote from biography of Jan Miense Molenaer, The National Gallery Website, https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/jan-miense-molenaer The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN (accessed November 9, 2018)

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Jan Miense Molenaer 003.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Jan_Miense_Molenaer_003.jpg&oldid=302686494(.

Wikipedia contributors, “Judith Leyster,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Judith_Leyster&oldid=820769951 (accessed November 9, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: Village scene with village well, by Josse de Momper, Jan Brueghel II

What I love about today’s image, Village scene with village well, by Joos de Momper (Josse) and credited also to Jan Brueghel II as a collaboration, is the sneaky sense of humor shown by the artists. When one looks closely, the cows are sturdy and lean with sweet eyes, and the birds flying above are fat, incredibly happy birds, as are the geese and ducks in the small pond.

The people, on the other hand, are clearly peasants, homely and sun-brown from a life spent working hard. They’re not nearly as lovely as their cattle. One can tell men from women only by their clothes.

The women do their laundry with determined efficiency, irritated at being interrupted in their work. What has the man asked for? We will never know, but the woman is going to let him have it, along with a piece of her mind.

I have spent much of the last two years immersing myself in 16th and 17th century Flemish and Netherlandish art and the culture of the times. They had an immense capacity for irreverent humor, inspired by the rough and tumble tavern culture the artists often gravitated to. They were known for sneaking their opinions and jokes into their work. I have a great fondness for the Brueghel family in particular and have studied their work at length—but I admit I am an amateur art-looker, not a trained expert.

Still, in my opinion, if Jan Brueghel II was involved in this painting, it was minimal. He was extraordinarily detail oriented and there are few fine details in this painting – but they are there, and I will show you where to look. The faces of the people are lumpy and nearly featureless, as if their faces didn’t matter. Overall, the impression of detail is there from a distance, but when looked at closely, the detail disappears.

The shapes of the cow’s eyes and the swirls that form the geese were done with a light, almost flippant brush – also not JB II’s later style. When I look at the pretty cattle, the lushness of the fat birds, and the hard, weather-browned homeliness of the peasants, I can only think that subtle comedic juxtaposition was intentional.

As I said above, upon closer inspection, this painting is whimsical and not one I would have ascribed to Jan Brueghel II, even though he is listed as one of the artists. This painting is most definitely not his usual heavy, highly detailed baroque style. I can find little in it that I would associate with his deliberate, precise brushwork and rich, saturated colors.

Instead, overall we have a happy, friendly view of a village, impressionistic in a way that Monet might recognize.

I believe the art historians have a reason for their assumption. If JB II did collaborate here, it was very early in his career, before he developed his own style and is based on this evidence: The barrels and the wheelbarrow are different, clear and not impressionistic. Beside them, the well is a blob, an unfinished shape indicating a well. The pans, barrels, and wheelbarrow are defined and perfect in their detail, alien objects dropped into this dreamscape. They were done by a different hand than the rest of the painting.

The trees and the landscape look much like those that appear in his father’s work, and we know de Momper collaborated frequently with Jan Brueghel the Elder in his workshop.

It maybe that the boy, Jan Brueghel the Younger, collaborated with de Momper on this piece in his father’s workshop, painting the small things  in the lower right-hand corner as part of his training. But I suspect this is largely the work of one artist, an elderly artist, no longer in his prime and nearing the end of his working life, Joos (Josse) de Momper.

About the Artist: (Via Wikipedia) Joos (Josse) de Momper, (1564–1635) was one of the foremost Flemish landscape painters between Pieter Brueghel the Elder  and Peter Paul Rubens. Brueghel’s influence is clearly evident in many of de Momper’s paintings

He primarily painted landscapes, the genre for which he was highly regarded during his lifetime. Only a small number of the 500 paintings attributed to de Momper are signed and just one is dated. The large output points to substantial workshop participation. He often collaborated with figure painters such as Frans Francken IIPeter SnayersJan Brueghel the Elder and Jan Brueghel the Younger, usually on large, mountainous landscapes, whereby the other painters painted the staffage (humans and animals) and de Momper the landscape.

He painted both fantasy landscapes, viewed from a high vantage point and employing a conventional Mannerist color transition of brown in the foreground to green and finally blue in the background, and more realistic landscapes with a lower viewpoint and more natural colors. His wide panoramas also feature groups of small figures.


Credits and Attributions:

Village scene with village well, by Josse de Momper, Jan Brueghel II, PD|100, via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:D%C3%B6rfliche_Szene_am_Ziehbrunnen_(Josse_de_Momper,_Jan_Brueghel_II).jpg  (accessed October 26, 2018).

Wikipedia contributors, “Joos de Momper,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Joos_de_Momper&oldid=861006304 (accessed October 26, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: Rembrandt as Shepherd with Staff and Flute, by Govert Flink 1636

About the artist: Born at Kleve, capital of the Duchy of Cleves, which was occupied at the time by the United Provinces, Govert Flinck was apprenticed by his father to a silk merchant, but in 1627 he was sent to Leeuwarden, where he boarded in the house of Lambert Jacobszoon. Jaobszoon was a Mennonite (one of the historic peace churches known for their commitment to pacifism). While Jacobszoon is better known as a preacher, he was a talented painter and an excellent teacher.

While studying there, Flinck met some of Jacobszoon’s neighbors, relatives of Saskia van Uylenburgh, who had married Rembrandt in 1634. That same year he began studying with Rembrandt.

Flinck is acknowledged as one of Rembrandt’s best pupils.

I really enjoy this romantic painting of Rembrandt dressed as a shepherd, holding a flute, and thinking about…what? Rembrandt’s contemplative expression seems peaceful.  The details are wonderful – from the finely worked trim on his garments down to the jewel dangling from his right ear, a gem that softly glows. The grains of the wood in both the flute and staff are subtle and real. The light falls perfectly – Flinck captured the personality of the master as a handsome young man during the happiest time of his life, and it seems as if Rembrandt himself enjoyed posing for it.

For more than a decade, Flinck’s work echoed that of Rembrandt, clearly influenced by the master’s style in the work which he executed between 1636 and 1648. As time passed, he began to desire to be a history painter, a genre in painting that  is defined by its subject matter rather than artistic style, and turned to the work of Peter Paul Rubens. In later years, Flinck had great commercial success, receiving many commissions for official and diplomatic paintings.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Rembrandt als herder met staf en fluit Rijksmuseum SK-A-3451.jpeg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Rembrandt_als_herder_met_staf_en_fluit_Rijksmuseum_SK-A-3451.jpeg&oldid=225225289 (accessed August 16, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: The Merry Family, by Jan Steen

Jan Steen was fond of painting peasants and ordinary people, and this picture is a good example of that.

What I love about this image is the chaos. The clutter of pans and dishes heedlessly fallen to the floor, the boisterous enjoyment of wine and song, and the obvious lack of parental restraint is wonderfully depicted. The numerous children are smoking and drinking to excess, vices that weren’t acceptable diversions for youngsters then any more than they are now. The baby is exceedingly chubby, which was uncommon and represents the vice of gluttony–in one hand it holds bread and in the other it waves a spoon.

I suspect the children grew up with a similar love of wine and song as their parents.

The note on the wall contains the moral of the story. According to the Rijksmuseum website, “The note hanging from the mantelpiece gives away the moral of the story: ‘As the old sing, so shall the young twitter.’ What will become of the children if their parents set the wrong example?”

The Age of the Puritan had swept across Europe and while it was waning in the mid-seventeenth century, puritanism had influenced life in Holland as much as elsewhere. This painting is a wonderful visual exhortation reminding the good people to live a sober life. Steen himself was not a puritan, as he was born into a family of brewers and ran taverns and breweries off and on throughout his life. But he did need to sell his paintings as he was never a successful businessman, and his allegorical paintings were quite popular.

Quote from Wikipedia: Daily life was Jan Steen’s main pictorial theme. Many of the genre scenes he portrayed, as in The Feast of Saint Nicholas, are lively to the point of chaos and lustfulness, even so much that “a Jan Steen household,” meaning a messy scene, became a Dutch proverb (een huishouden van Jan Steen). Subtle hints in his paintings seem to suggest that Steen meant to warn the viewer rather than invite him to copy this behaviour. Many of Steen’s paintings bear references to old Dutch proverbs or literature. He often used members of his family as models, and painted quite a few self-portraits in which he showed no tendency of vanity.


Credits and Attributions:

The Merry Family, Jan Steen, 1668 PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons

Moral (English translation) quoted from Rijksmuseum website,  https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/SK-C-229, accessed 17 May 2018.

Wikipedia contributors. “Jan Steen.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 Jan. 2018. Web. 17 May. 2018.

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#FineArtFriday The Painter in his Studio by Adriaen Van Ostade

In “The Painter in his Studio” by Adriaen Van Ostade (1663), we see a self-portrait of the artist, sitting with his back to us. He is at his easel, and his brush hand rests on a ‘maulstick,’ a stick with a padded head used by painters to support the hand holding the paintbrush.  In the shadowed background, a pupil is at work, possibly preparing a palette, or maybe preparing colors.

The window, the floor with all its debris, the walls, and the ceiling are depicted with great detail. The artist and his pupil are less detailed.

The studio is untidy, with brushes fallen on the littered floor. The room is cluttered with numerous odd objects and tools of the trade, including the head of a broken bust beneath a table. On the ceiling above the artist, a canvas canopy is tacked up, possibly to protect the artist’s work area from leaks, or perhaps falling dust.

A skull of some sort hangs near the window, and antlers also decorate the ceiling. The painter’s mannequin poses near the stairs, and an indistinct trunk stands open in the background.

The room is in desperate need of a good sweeping. The large leaded-glass window, however, is clean and lets in good light. It shows us how the artist saw himself and his work space.

A Netherlandish contemporary of the Flemish painters David Teniers the Younger and Adriaen Brouwer, Van Ostade was inspired by the work of Rembrandt.

As Rembrandt did, Van Ostade painted people who had seen hard times. They were often old, sometimes ill-favored, and not always beautiful. He painted dark interior scenes, where shadows are often the dominant features. He also painted the interiors of taverns and the homes of ordinary people, so through his work we who write can see how people really lived.

Van Ostade lived and painted in Haarlem. His subjects and the mood of his work is darker than that of his Flemish contemporaries, as hard times had fallen on the people of Holland, and  Haarlem in particular.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Adriaen van Ostade – The Painter in His Studio – WGA16748.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Adriaen_van_Ostade_-_The_Painter_in_His_Studio_-_WGA16748.jpg&oldid=270705051 (accessed May 10, 2018).

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