a history of western art

from the renaissance to the present

The Dutch Baroque


people, terms, and concepts: the five 'genres of art' (history-painting, portraiture, still-life, scenes of everyday life, landscape), Calvinism, iconoclasm, vanitas symbol (also known as a 'memento mori')


This topic looks at Baroque art in a majority Protestant (specifically Calvinist) country, The Netherlands, also known as Holland

          What are the five main ‘genres of art’? Which of these was considered the most important and why?

          Why did Dutch artists paint so few biblical history paintings, and turn instead to the so-called ‘minor genres’ of portraiture, still-lives, scenes of everyday life, and landscape? (Hint: what is iconoclasm?)

          What key contextual factors (religious, economic, and political) affected Dutch Baroque art? How do these factors make Dutch Baroque art different from the (Catholic) Baroque art of Italy?


Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Dutch Baroque, 1663-69

*** we didn't get to this work so you won't be responsible for it on the exam ***

How are Rembrandt’s biblical history-paintings typical of Baroque art? How are they different in ways that shade them towards the Protestant understanding of faith?



Rachel Ruysch, Flower Still-Life, Dutch Baroque still-life, after 1700

How do Dutch Baroque still lives convey the both the economic values and the religious values of the Dutch? What are vanitas emblems or memento moris, and why do they often appear in Dutch Baroque still-lives?


Jan Steen, As the old sing, so pipe the young, Dutch Baroque genre painting, 1668-70

Even though they are technically secular subjects, and indeed often show scenes of luxury and misbehavior, how do Dutch Baroque paintings of everyday life still convey the religious (and economic) values of the Calvinist religion?


Aelbert Cuyp, The Maas at Dordrecht, Dutch Baroque landscape, c. 1660

Why did Dutch people purchase landscape paintings? What ideas and values were conveyed by Dutch Baroque landscape painting such as this?