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Een goddelijk schilderij: Vondel over landschap en schilderkunst in zijn Bespiegelingen van 1662

Author(s): Bakker, Boudewijn

ISSN 1567-6633

Volume: 2005;
Date: 2005;
Original page

Dutch 17th-century texts on the practice and theory of painting are notoriously rare. This unfortunate situation transforms every text from about 1600-1670 which in any way - directly or indirectly - is dealing with painting or drawing into an interesting art-historical source. Vondel's apologetic poem Bespiegelingen van God en Godsdienst (1662), in which the author defends the traditional Christian cosmology against modern epicurists like Spinoza, proves to be highly instructive in this respect and therefore surely deserves more attention than it has got up to now. This applies particularly to Book III, in which Vondel gives a description of the cosmos according to Genesis I, following the literary tradition of the hexaemeron or 'six-days-work'. His main example seems to have been Guillaume du Bartas' famous Sepmaine, which was highly popular in the Netherlands and which Vondel himself had partly translated into Dutch. Just like Du Bartas and even more than he did, Vondel uses painting and painter as favorite metaphors for his picture of the visual world. By doing so, Vondel gives so much information on painting technique en painting criteria that it seems he was a kind of expert in this field. Especially his remarks on convincing naturalness of representation and on the need for variation in style and subject are interesting in this respect. Vondel's close personal and institutional ties with the Amsterdam painters' community of his day make this information extra valuable. At the same time the subtle and detailed ways in which Vondel uses the different aspects of painting - especially landscape painting - as metaphors for the great world around us help to explain his view of the cosmos as a whole and the position of the artist in this rich and well-ordered but complicated fabric. Essential in this view was the 'analogical chain' formed by God the Almighty Creator, the visual world in which God not only shows his omnipotence and goodness but also an image of himself, the human artist, and his work in which he follows God as an artist and at the same time imitates nature as Gods creation. Vondel uses the painting metaphor at least eleven times, each of which has been analyzed by the present author and each of which appears to clarify a different aspect of the art of painting and at the same time Vondel's view of the world. On essential points, Vondel's opinions on the art of painting seem to be in agreement with Karel van Mander in his Schilderboek (1604), but to collide with classicist authors like Jan de Bisschop and Andries Pels, who from about 1670 were agitating against most of the Dutch painters practicing until then.

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Tangokurs Rapperswil-Jona

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