Arts - Spring 2018

Going Dutch

Subscription required

In these relentlessly disruptive times, 17th-century canvases from the Netherlands can provide moments of solace and hope

By Jason Wilson | March 5, 2018
Wikimedia Commons

I was standing in a room at the National Gallery of Art last October, puzzling at three Dutch paintings of women with parrots: Gerrit Dou’s Woman With a Parrot (1660), Frans van Mieris’s Woman Feeding a Parrot (1663), and Caspar Netscher’s Woman Feeding a Parrot, With a Page (1666). Having come to see the 65 works making up Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry, I had already looked at three paintings of women with lutes; two of women with clavichords; a half dozen of women writing, reading, or sealing letters (as well as one of a man writing a letter); two of women weighing coins on a balance scale; three of women washing their hands; and two of women peeling produce—an apple in one case, a parsnip in the other. Yet the parrots gave me pause. Why, I wondered, had three of the most famous Dutch genre painters dealt with the same scene within six years of one another? The accompanying wall text provided little help: “Expensive pets imported from the distant lands of the vast Dutch commercial empire, parrots were valued for the beauty of their plumage and their ability to imitate speech.”

Login to view the full article

If you are a current digital subscriber, login here.

Forgot password?

Need to register?

Already a subscriber through The American Scholar?

OR

Are you a Phi Beta Kappa sustaining member?

Want to subscribe?

Print subscribers get access to our entire website

You can also just subscribe to our website for $9.99.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Comments powered by Disqus