Famous Dutch Golden Age Paintings

12 of the Most Famous Dutch Golden Age Paintings

These are the 12 most famous Dutch Golden Age paintings from art history.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer (1665)

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch baroque painter who specialized in the interior scenes of middle-class life. He produced relatively few paintings and evidently was not wealthy but used very expensive pigments. Girl with a Pearl Earring became known by its present title towards the end of the 20th century. This painting tells the story of Griet, a 16-year-old Dutch girl who became a maid in the house of the artist Vermeer, and it is now considered to be one of the most famous portraits ever created.

The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn (1642)

This painting is one of the most famous Dutch Golden Age paintings for three things: its size (363 by 437 cm (12 by 14+1⁄2 feet)), the use of light and shadow, and the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a static military portrait. It is a work of art by Rembrandt, an innovative and prolific master in three media (painting, printmaking, and draftsmanship), considered one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art.

View of Delft by Johannes Vermeer (1660-1661)

During the artist’s life, he was a moderately successful provincial genre painter from Delft, recognized in his hometown and the Hague, but he was almost unknown anywhere else. This is his best-known painting, done in a time when cityscapes were rare. It is believed that Vermeer created this painting using an optical device, possibly a camera obscura or a telescope to capture the details. It is painted from an elevated position to the southeast of Delft, possibly the upper floor of a house on the quayside across the river Schie.

The Art of Painting by Johannes Vermeer (1668)

This painting is believed by many art historians to be an allegory of painting, hence the alternative title of the painting The Allegory of Painting. This oil on canvas depicts an artist painting a woman dressed in blue posing as a model in his art studio. The subject is standing by a window and a large map of the Low Countries (the coastal lowland region in Northwestern Europe) hangs on the wall behind her. This painting is signed to the right of the girl I [Oannes] Ver. Meer, but not dated.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt van Rijn (1632)

This famous Rembrandt work was completed when the artist was only a 26-year-old. Medical specialists have commented on the accuracy of muscles and tendons, and it is until today unknown where he obtained such knowledge. The corpse is of the criminal Aris Kindt who was convicted of robbery and sentenced to death by hanging. Anatomy lessons were a popular social event in the 17th century and took place in rooms that were parts of the theatre. As visible in this painting, the spectators are appropriately dressed for this social occasion.

Meagre Company by Frans Hals and Pieter Codde (1637)

This painting is the work of two artists, Hals and Codde. Hals started painting the only militia group portrait, but was unhappy about commuting to Amsterdam to work on the painting, and was unable to deliver it on time. He painted the general outlines of the composition and completed several faces and hands, and one ensign on the left with the shiny satin jacket. Therefore, the sitters contracted Coffee to finish the work and he completed the costumes.

Malle Babbe by Frans Hals (1633-1635)

This is a painting by Hals, a Dutch painter. It is also known as the Witch of Haarlem. It depicts a mythic which-figure and is now often identified as a genre-style portrait of a specific individual, known as Malle (meaning “crazy” or “loony”) Babbe, who may have been suffering from a mental illness. It shows a face of a smiling woman, apparently talking o laughing at someone right to the canvas, with an owl sitting on her left shoulder. Her face is depicted in an almost manic grimace, while she is gripping a pewter beer mug with an open lid. She actually existed and was named Barbara Claes.

A Boy and a Girl with a Cat and an Eel by Judith Leyster (1635)

This painting is a literalization of a Dutch idiom “Who plays with cats gets scratched” and a proverb “To hold an eel by the tail” meaning that you do not get to hold onto something just because you have it. Leyster was a painter of portraits and still lifes, who signed her works with a monogram of her initials JL with a star attached. This was a clever wordplay, as the word “Leister” meant “lead star” in Dutch.

The Bull by Paulus Potter (1647)

Potter was a Dutch painter who specialized in animals within landscapes. What makes this painting so special is the fact that the artist painted something as ordinary as a bull on such a grand scale, which had never been done before. Despite this large size, he paid great attention to the smallest details, such as the lark in the sky, the flies on the bull’s back, and the cow’s whiskers, making this painting the epitome of Dutch naturalistic painting.

The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius (1654)

Carel Fabritius was a pupil of Rembrandt who, for some time, worked with him in his studio in Amsterdam. He passed away young, after being caught in the explosion of the Delft gunpowder magazine in 1654, which destroyed a quarter of the city along with his studio and paintings. At the time of the explosion, his student and the church deacon died with him, since they were working on a painting together at the time. Regarding this particular painting, it is not known whether it was in his studio during the explosion. The Goldfinch is unusual for the Dutch Golden Age due to its simplicity and composition.

Rhetoricians at a Window by Jan Steen (1658–1665)

Steen was one of the leading genre painters of the 17th century, whose works are best known for their psychological insight and sense of humor. These mirthful men are members of a chamber of rhetoric, a type of dramatic and literary society popular throughout the Dutch Republic. These art groups performed plays and poetry readings. Opposite them is a critic listening pensively while a jester provokes laughter from onlookers.

The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals (1624)

This is a portrait of the unknown subject with an enigmatic smile, much amplified by his upturned mustache. It is a work of Frans Hals, a Dutch golden age painter who was described as one of the most brilliant of all baroque portraitists. The portrait measures 83 × 67.3 cm (or 32.7 × 26.5 in), and is inscribed at the top right “Æ’TA SVÆ 26/A°1624”. This expands to aetatis suae 26, anno 1624 in Latin, meaning that the portrait was painted when the sitter was 26 and in the year 1624. The effect of the eyes appearing to follow the viewer from every angle is a result of the subject being depicted as looking directly forward,

What famous Dutch Golden Age paintings do you think we should add to this list? Comment below.

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