Monday, January 28, 2008
Thank You, Holland!
A Street in Delft by Jan Vermeer, painted 1657-58. The lady in the alleyway has a broom as if she had just finished sweeping the passage between the two houses.
I realized that when I was searching the Web for paintings of women housecleaning and came up with nothing, that I had forgotten to check in on the Dutch genre painters of the 17th century Golden Age of Dutch art. Sure enough, we find here paintings of ladies sweeping (in particular). It is a fascinating question as to the cultural shifts in Holland at the time that made genre painting possible--many beautiful paintings of the lovely and neat interiors of Dutch homes and the domestic activities of women and children.
Woman with a Child Blowing Bubbles in the Garden by Henrik van der Burch, 1660
A Woman Reading a Letter and a Woman Sweeping by Pieter Jansessens Elinga (1623-82--no date is given for the painting). For a time, Mr. Elinga with his wife and four children lived down the street from Rembrandt.
To me this last painting suggests the theme of Mary and Martha. The two women have nearly identical dress; the sweeping lady is larger and more prominent but in the shadows, while the reader is in the area of the painting that shows natural light. The house looks very clean and tidy, to be sure.
In case you are interested, I found the latter two paintings at The Essential Vermeer, a treasure trove of information on this great painter and of paintings by and information about his contemporaries.