Exhibitions / Dutch group portrait of the Golden Age from Amsterdam Museum collection

Dutch group portrait of the Golden Age from Amsterdam Museum collection
Dirk Jacobs, Govert Flinck, Nicholas Elias Picken, Bartholomeus van der Helst, Gerbrandt van den Ekhaut etc.
Moscow, Pushkin Museum, Volhonka 12
21.09.2013 - 19.01.2014
This exposition is considered to be an outstanding art event: it is difficult to imagine more Dutch phenomenon in art, than group portraits of the Golden age, which convey enduring civil spirit of the nation, proud of becoming new independent Republic.

At the exhibition you can see twelve large-scale compositions, which go out of the Amsterdam Museum very rarely. Transportation of this exhibit items is connected with thorough preparation work and requires special accuracy. Dimensions of the most monumental canvas (Group portrait of shooters from the troops of Captain Johan Heidekoper and Lieutenant Frans van Vaveren by Govert Flink) are about two meters and a half in height and more than five meters in length.

Exhibited works display three characteristic (but not showing all the diversity) types of composition - portraits of curators of charity institutions (orphanages, alms-houses, hospitals), scenes of anatomy lessons with participation of famous doctors and depiction of members of shooter’s corporations.

Regents of charitable institutions exercised important social function of the Amsterdam elite: care about sick and poor people. Responsibility and strict observance of their duties, exactingness to the personnel, economy in property management - all these traits were considered to be main virtues. Curators, dressed in black clothes, conveying godliness and dignity, are always portrayed at their work.

Another specific form of portraits, called Lessons of Anatomy, was very popular too. This new for art of XVII century appeared as a reflection of high interest to the understanding of physical structure of a man, which leads to the great progress in medicine. At many of those pictures we can see a table, where the names of depicted people are specified. Modern viewers may be puzzled by the naturalistic character of some scenes, but the contemporaries were not embarrassed by the presence of the demonstrational material, such as skeletons and publicly executed offenders. Expertize of the Dutch doctors and their professional unity was considered to be the main trait into the context of such images.

Talking about the customers of the group portraits it is necessary to mention the civil militia, members of which were city people from eighteen to sixty years, providing peace and safety of the people. Troops of the armored city guards with flags with patriotic mottos, depicted at the canvas, were the embodiment of the nation’s unity, ready for all sacrifices for political, religious and economic freedom. Beginning with the middle of the XVIth century, depiction of three Amsterdam shooting corporations - archers, arbalesters and hackbutters - is becoming an important theme of the art. Beyond the borders of the Netherlands examples of this kind of art are very rear. That is why it should be emphasized, that the State Hermitage houses two outstanding early group portraits, painted by the famous Amsterdam master Dirck Jacobsz.

All portraits, displayed at the exhibition, are the works, created by greatest Amsterdam artists: Dirck Jacobsz, Govert Flink, Nicolaes Eliasz Pickenoy, Bartholomeus van der Helst etc.

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