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Winterbilder im niederländischen Kunstmarkt des 17. Jahrhunderts: Käufer, Besitzer, Verbreitung

Steinsiepe, Klaus F.

English Title: Winter landscapes in the Dutch art market of the 17th century: buyers, owners, and distribution

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Translation of abstract (English)

The setting for this article is the Dutch culture of the Golden Age in the 17th century. For various, not least economic reasons the demand for pictures of all kind (including copies and prints) in this period lead to an unprecedented production of paintings and to an expanding Dutch art market. Landscapes, including winters, were an important part of this artistic activity, and winter landscapes are considered to have been very popular. Allegedly, almost every Dutch household had numerous paintings and/or pictures on its walls.

My paper poses different questions. First, which social classes of the Dutch society at that time were in fact able to afford paintings in general? Second, how was the distribution of landscape paintings from a social point of view? Third, how large was the share of these winter paintings in relation to all Dutch landscape paintings? And finally, which occupations and which socio-economic position can be attributed to buyers and owners of winter landscapes in particular, and how did they display these paintings in their homes?

To answer these questions, part one of my contribution describes the background. Here the historical, political and social fundamentals of the Dutch society are summed up and the links between painting, economy and society in the Golden Age are explained, including remarks on the value of Gulden and the prices of landscape paintings. Also, part one gives an in-depth account of the Dutch art market by describing its different protagonists and its distribution channels in great detail, in particular the typical lotteries and auctions. A historical and artistic overview of winter landscapes, their rise and decline is also given.

Part two presents material and method of my analysis. The Montias database (1'280 inventories, nearly 36'000 paintings) and Duverger’s Antwerpse Kunstinventarissen (more than 3'900 inventories, about 70'000 paintings) have been scrutinised for landscape and winter paintings in a period from 1600 to 1689, following a list of 15 criteria including occupation of owners and buyers, attributed/anonymous paintings, ratio of landscapes to winters, prices, and distribution of paintings in different rooms.

Landcape paintings in Amsterdam make up 15% of all paintings compared to an estimated 10% in Antwerp. Winter landscapes in the Montias database make up 5.6% of all landscapes and 0.85% of all paintings. The respective numbers for Antwerp are 4% and 0.39%.

Occupation of owners/buyers are compared with the findings of Montias (2002), who examined these groups in auctions in Amsterdam. More than half of inventories in Amsterdam containing winter landscapes were owned by whole-sale merchants and manufacturers while craftsmen and ordinary servicemen owned 5% of inventories with winters. Contrary to these findings in Amsterdam, most of winter-containing inventories in Antwerp belonged to higher employees and public servants while large-scale merchants ranked third.

Other results are given in several tables according to the diverging structure of the two sources.

In conclusion, winter landscapes represent less than 1% of all paintings in Amsterdam inventories and less than 0.5% in Antwerp. In general, we find much less landscapes and winters in Antwerp than in Amsterdam reflecting the economic situation in 17th century Low Countries. This is confirmed by the different occupational distribution of owners and buyers possessing winter landscapes. On the other hand, there is no difference when we look at the hanging of paintings inside Amsterdam or Antwerp houses where winter landscapes are distributed evenly in public and private rooms.

In the discussion, I emphasise the socio-economic analysis of incomes and purchase power and present an appraisal of the term ’middle class’ in 17th century Netherlands. Contrary to widespread belief, nearly half of the Dutch society in this century could not take an active part in the art market. In spite of their obvious popularity, winter landscapes represented a very small fraction of the vast art production. My results place them mainly in the property of a prosperous to wealthy upper class of whole-sale merchants, factory owners and regents. Nevertheless, winter landscapes are part of the artistic effort to create a collective imagination of Dutch landscape.

Document type: Article
Date: 2020
Version: Primary publication
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2020 13:47
Faculties / Institutes: Research Project, Working Group > Individuals
DDC-classification: Organizations and museology
Controlled Subjects: Niederlande, Kunstmarkt, Malerei, Winter <Motiv>, Geschichte 1600-1700
Subject (classification): Iconography
Museology, Art Collection, Art Museum
Countries/Regions: Benelux
Additional Information: Verbesserte Version einer Masterarbeit an der Universität Zürich, Weiterbildungsstudiengang "Advanced Studies in Applied History“, 2019