Three exhibitions devoted to the golden century of Dutch art.
It is no less than three exhibitions that the Musée du Louvre devotes this spring to the golden century of Dutch art, the seventeenth century that has known artists as exceptional as Vermeer or Rembrandt. From the first one, we are given a collection of twelve works - which is, to say the least, exceptional on the part of an artist of whom only thirty-six are now known - in an exhibition devoted to Dutch genre painting. It is the first time since 1966 that such an opportunity has been offered and it has the great interest to put these rare and singular works in mirror with those produced by Vermeer's contemporaries such as Gerard Ter Borch, Jan Steen, Pieter De Hooch, Gerard Dou, etc. At the time, all these painters specialized in the representation of scenes, often elegant and refined, which depict bourgeois women occupied in playing a musical instrument, writing a letter probably gallant, receiving a visit, or even more simply embroidering or performing one of their daily activities. Behind these falsely simple and realistic scenes, there is a sort of idealization of bourgeois private life, a celebration of a lifestyle that is valued by the Dutch elite very much involved in its social and economic success. Indeed, the end of the seventeenth century marks the apogee of the global economic power of the Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, a new political force on the European chessboard that relies on the Protestant religion and on overseas trade. The comparisons made by the exhibition to highlight similarities, differences and filiations also make it possible to understand what makes Vermeer's true originality among these works which often seem very similar: he purifies and sublimates his subjects by a very personal use of space and light. We particularly liked the confrontation of the two paintings that open the exhibition and represent two women weighing gold and pearls: that of Pieter de Hooch is offered in a luxuriance of warm and modern orange planes while that of Vermeer plays on a a subtle filtered light that highlights the woman's face and her white fur plastron.
The masterpieces of the Leiden collection