Dutch Golden Age

The Dutch Golden Age (Dutch: Gouden Eeuw Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɣʌudə(n) ˈeːu]) was a period in the history of the Netherlands, roughly spanning the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. The first section is characterized by the Eighty Years' War, which ended in 1648. The Golden Age continued in peacetime during the Dutch Republic until the end of the century.

The transition by the Netherlands to the foremost maritime and economic power in the world has been called the "Dutch Miracle" by historian K. W. Swart.[1]

Causes of the Golden Age

In 1568, the Seven Provinces that later signed the Union of Utrecht (Dutch: Unie van Utrecht) started a rebellion against Philip II of Spain that led to the Eighty Years' War. Before the Low Countries could be completely reconquered, a war between England and Spain, the Anglo-Spanish War of 1585-1604, broke out, forcing Spanish troops to halt their advances and leaving them in control of the important trading cities of Bruges and Ghent, but without control of Antwerp, which was then arguably the most important port in the world. Antwerp fell on 17 August 1585, after a siege, and the division between the Northern and Southern Netherlands (the latter mostly modern Belgium) was established.

The United Provinces (roughly today's Netherlands) fought on until the Twelve Years' Truce, which did not end the hostilities. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the Eighty Years' War between the Dutch Republic and Spain and the Thirty Years' War between other European superpowers, brought the Dutch Republic formal recognition and independence from the Spanish crown.

Migration of skilled workers to the Dutch Republic

De zielenvisserij - Fishing for souls (Adriaen Pietersz. van de Venne)
Fishing for Souls (Zielenvisserij), 1614, a satirical allegory of Protestant-Catholic struggles for souls during the Dutch Revolt (Rijksmuseum)

Under the terms of the surrender of Antwerp in 1585, the Protestant population (if unwilling to reconvert) were given four years to settle their affairs before leaving the city and Habsburg territory.[2] Similar arrangements were made in other places. Protestants were especially well-represented among the skilled craftsmen and rich merchants of the port cities of Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp. More moved to the north between 1585 and 1630 than Catholics moved in the other direction, although there were also many of these. Many of those moving north settled in Amsterdam, transforming what was a small port into one of the most important ports and commercial centres in the world by 1630.

In addition to the mass migration of Protestant natives from the southern Netherlands to the northern Netherlands, there were also influxes of non-native refugees who had previously fled from religious persecution, particularly Sephardi Jews from Portugal and Spain, and later Protestants from France. The Pilgrim Fathers also spent time there before their voyage to the New World.

Protestant work ethic

Economists Ronald Findlay and Kevin H. O'Rourke attribute part of the Dutch ascendancy to its Protestant work ethic based on Calvinism, which promoted thrift and education. This contributed to "the lowest interest rates and the highest literacy rates in Europe. The abundance of capital made it possible to maintain an impressive stock of wealth, embodied not only in the large fleet but in the plentiful stocks of an array of commodities that were used to stabilize prices and take advantage of profit opportunities."[3]

Cheap energy sources

Abraham Storck - A river landscape with fishermen in rowing boats (1679)
A river landscape with fishermen in rowing boats, windmills beyond, 1679

Several other factors also contributed to the flowering of trade, industry, the arts and the sciences in the Netherlands during this time. A necessary condition was a supply of cheap energy from windmills and from peat, easily transported by canal to the cities. The invention[4] of the windpowered sawmill enabled the construction of a massive fleet of ships for worldwide trading and for military defense of the republic's economic interests.

Birth and wealth of corporate finance

Rembrandt - De Staalmeesters- het college van staalmeesters (waardijns) van het Amsterdamse lakenbereidersgilde - Google Art Project
Syndics of the Drapers' Guild by Rembrandt depicting wealthy Amsterdam burghers.

In the 17th century the Dutch — traditionally able seafarers and keen mapmakers — began to trade with the Far East, and as the century wore on, they gained an increasingly dominant position in world trade, a position previously occupied by the Portuguese and Spanish.[5]

In 1602, the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC) was founded. It was the first-ever multinational corporation, financed by shares that established the first modern stock exchange. The Company received a Dutch monopoly on Asian trade, which it would keep for two centuries, and it became the world's largest commercial enterprise of the 17th century. Spices were imported in bulk and brought huge profits due to the efforts and risks involved and seemingly insatiable demand. This is remembered to this day in the Dutch word peperduur (as expensive as pepper), meaning something is very expensive, reflecting the prices of spices at the time. To finance the growing trade within the region, the Bank of Amsterdam was established in 1609, the precursor to, if not the first true central bank.[6]

Although the trade with the Far East was the more famous of the VOC's exploits, the main source of wealth for the Republic was in fact its trade with the Baltic states and Poland. Called the "Mothertrade" (Dutch: "Moedernegotie"), the Dutch imported enormous amounts of bulk resources like grain and wood, stockpiling them in Amsterdam so Holland would never lack for basic goods, as well as being able sell them on for profit. This meant that unlike their main rivals the Republic wouldn't face the dire repercussions of a bad harvest and the starvation it accompanied, instead profiting when this happened in other states (bad harvests were commonplace in France and England in the 17th century, which also contributed to the Republic's success in that time). In time the Dutch traders gained such a dominant position in Poland and the Baltic they all but turned into de facto satellite states.


According to Ronald Findlay and Kevin H. O'Rourke, geography favored the Dutch Republic, contributing to its wealth. They write, "The foundations were laid by taking advantage of location, midway between the Bay of Biscay and the Baltic. Seville and Lisbon and the Baltic ports were too far apart for direct trade between the two terminal points, enabling the Dutch to provide profitable intermediation, carrying salt, wine, cloth and later silver, spices, and colonial products eastward while bringing Baltic grains, fish, and naval stores to the west. The Dutch share of European shipping tonnage was enormous, well over half during most of the period of their ascendancy."[3]

Monopoly on trade with Japan

Amsterdam's dominant position as a trade centre was strengthened in 1640 with a monopoly for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) for trade with Japan through its trading post on Dejima, an island in the bay of Nagasaki. From here the Dutch traded between China and Japan and paid tribute to the shōgun. Until 1854, the Dutch were Japan's sole window to the western world. The collection of scientific learning introduced from Europe became known in Japan as Rangaku or Dutch Learning. The Dutch were instrumental in transmitting to Japan some knowledge of the industrial and scientific revolution then occurring in Europe. The Japanese purchased and translated numerous scientific books from the Dutch, obtained from them Western curiosities and manufactures (such as clocks) and received demonstrations of various Western innovations (such as electric phenomena, and the flight of a hot air balloon in the early 19th century). In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch were arguably the most economically wealthy and scientifically advanced of all European nations, which put them in a privileged position to transfer Western knowledge to Japan.

European Great Power

The Trip brothers, arms traders, built the Trippenhuis in Amsterdam, currently the seat of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, which is a typical example of 17th-century architecture.

The Dutch also dominated trade between European countries. The Low Countries were favorably positioned at a crossing of east-west and north-south trade routes, and connected to a large German hinterland through the Rhine river. Dutch traders shipped wine from France and Portugal to the Baltic lands and returned with grain for countries around the Mediterranean Sea. By the 1680s, an average of nearly 1000 Dutch ships entered the Baltic Sea each year,[7] to trade with markets of the fading Hanseatic League. The Dutch were able to gain control of much of the trade with the nascent English colonies in North America; and after the end of war with Spain in 1648, Dutch trade with that country also flourished.

Other industries

National industries expanded as well. Shipyards and sugar refineries are prime examples. As more and more land was utilized, partially through transforming lakes into polders such as the Beemster, Schermer and Purmer, local grain production and dairy farming soared.

National consciousness

The outcome of the revolt against Spain, better known as the Eighty Years' War, that had been fought over religious freedom and economic and political independence, and ended in total independence of the reformist northern provinces (see also Dutch Republic), almost certainly would have boosted national morale. Already in 1609 much of this was accomplished, when a temporary truce was signed with Spain, which would last for 12 years.

Social structure

Canal in Leiden

In the Netherlands in the 17th century, social status was largely determined by income. The landed nobility had relatively little importance, since they mostly lived in the more underdeveloped inland provinces, and it was the urban merchant class that dominated Dutch society. The clergy did not have much worldly influence either: the Roman Catholic Church had been more or less suppressed since the onset of the Eighty Years' War with Spain. The new Protestant movement was divided, although exercising social control in many areas to an even greater extent than under the Catholic Church.

That is not to say that aristocrats were without social status. On the contrary, wealthy merchants bought themselves into the nobility by becoming landowners and acquiring a coat of arms and a seal. Aristocrats also mixed with other classes for financial reasons: they married their daughters to wealthy merchants, became traders themselves or took up public or military office. Merchants also started to value public office as a means to greater economic power and prestige. Universities became career pathways to public office. Rich merchants and aristocrats sent their sons on a so-called Grand Tour through Europe. Often accompanied by a private tutor, preferably a scientist himself, these young people visited universities in several European countries. This intermixing of patricians and aristocrats was most prominent in the second half of the century.

After aristocrats and patricians came the affluent middle class, consisting of Protestant ministers, lawyers, physicians, small merchants, industrialists and clerks of large state institutions. Lower status was attributed to farmers, craft and tradesmen, shopkeepers, and government bureaucrats. Below that stood skilled laborers, maids, servants, sailors, and other persons employed in the service industry. At the bottom of the pyramid were "paupers": impoverished peasants, many of whom tried their luck in a city as a beggar or day laborer.

Workers and laborers were generally paid better than in most of Europe, and enjoyed relatively high living standards, although they also paid higher than normal taxes. Farmers prospered from mainly cash crops needed to support the urban and seafaring population.

Women's roles

Gillis van Tilborgh - Family Portrait (detail) - WGA22404
A family portrait, second half of the 17th century

The central role of women in the 17th-century Dutch household revolved around the home and domestic tasks.[8] In Dutch culture, the home was regarded as a safe-haven from the lack of Christian virtue and immorality of the outside world.[9] Additionally, the home represented a microcosm of the Dutch Republic, in that the smooth running of an ideal household reflected the relative stability and prosperity of the government.[9] The home was an integral part of public life in Dutch society. Public passersby could clearly view the entrance halls of Dutch homes decorated to show off a particular family's wealth and social standing. The home was also a place for neighbors, friends, and extended family to interact, further cementing its importance in the social lives of 17th-century Dutch burghers.[9] The physical space of the Dutch home was constructed along gender lines. In the front of the house, the men had control over a small space where they could do their work or conduct business, known as the voorhuis, while women controlled most every other space in the house, such as the kitchens and private family rooms.[10] Although there was a clear separation in spheres of power between husband and wife (the husband had authority in the public realm, the wife in the domestic and private), women in 17th-century Dutch society still enjoyed a wide range of freedoms within their own sphere of control.[8][9] Unmarried young women were known to enjoy various freedoms with their lovers and suitors, while married women enjoyed the right to publicly shame their husbands who patronized brothels. Moreover, married women could legally reject the sexual desires of their husbands if there were proof or reason to believe that a sexual encounter would result in transmission of syphilis or other venereal diseases.[8][9] Dutch women were also allowed to take communion alongside men, and widows were able to inherit property and maintain control over their finances and husband's wills.[9] However, a woman's sphere of authority still primarily lay in household duties, despite historical evidence showing certain cases of wives maintaining considerable control in family businesses.[8] Manuals written by men instructing women and wives in various aspects of domestic duties proliferated, the most popular being Jacob Cat's Houwelyck.[10] As evidenced by numerous 17th-century Dutch genre paintings, the most important domestic tasks performed by women included supervising maids, cooking, cleaning, needlework, and spinning.[10]

Unmarried women

As seen in art and literature at the time, unmarried young women were valued for maintaining their modesty and diligence as this time in a woman's life was regarded to be the most uncertain.[8] From a young age, burgher women were taught various household related duties by their mothers, including reading, so as to prepare them for their lives as housewives.[8] Dutch art at this time shows the idealized situation in which an unmarried young girl ought to conduct herself in situations such as courtship, which commonly included themes relating to gardens or nature, music lessons or parties, needlework, and reading and receiving love letters.[10] However, ideals of the young women espoused by genre painting and Petrarchian poetry did not reflect the reality. Accounts from travelers described the various freedoms young women were provided in the realm of courtship. The prevalence of Calvinist sermons regarding the consequences of leaving young women unsupervised also spoke to a general trend of a lack of parental oversight in the matters of young love.[8]

Married women and mothers

Dutch writers, such as Jacob Cats, held the prevailing public opinion concerning marriage. He and other cultural authorities were influenced by Calvinist ideals that stressed an equality between man and wife, considered companionship a primary reason for marriage, and regarded procreation as a mere consequence of that companionship.[8] However, non-egalitarian ideas still existed regarding women as the weaker sex, and the image of the turtle was commonly used to express the separate spheres and strengths of both genders.[8] In addition to supervising maids, cooking, cleaning, and prating needlework, women were also encouraged to maintain some financial control over domestic affairs, such as going to market and buying their own food.[8]

Maternity and motherhood were highly valued in Dutch culture. Mothers were encouraged to breastfeed their children, as using a wet nurse would prevent a bond from forming between mother and child. The Dutch believed that a mother's milk came from the blood originally in her womb and that feeding the infant such substances would also reap physiological and health related benefits.[8] Seventeenth-century Dutch society dictated that children should first begin to learn religion at home. Therefore, along with their husbands, women used family meal times to discuss religious topics and to focus on prayer.[8]

Old women and widows

Seventeenth-century Dutch culture maintained contradictory attitudes regarding the elderly, in particular elderly women. Some Dutch writers idealized old age as a poetic transition from life to death. Others criticized aging as an illness in which one is gradually deteriorating until they reach their final destination, while some lauded the elderly as wise and people who deserve the highest forms of respect.[8] However, treatises on behavior for elderly women and widows stressed not necessarily their inherent wisdom, but that they should maintain piety, practice moderation, and live a relatively secluded life.[8][9] Unlike other European artistic traditions, Dutch art rarely depicts elderly women as disgusting or grotesque creatures, but rather they are idolized as figures of piety and purity whom the younger generations of women can look up to.[9]


Interior of the Sint-Laurenskerk in Rotterdam by Cornelis de Man
Interior of the Laurenskerk in Rotterdam, c. 1664

Calvinism was the state religion in the Dutch Republic, though this does not mean that unity existed. Although the Netherlands was a tolerant nation compared to neighboring states, wealth and social status belonged almost exclusively to Protestants. The cities with a predominantly Catholic background, such as Utrecht and Gouda, did not enjoy the benefits of the Golden Age. As for the Protestant towns, unity of belief was also far from standard. In the beginning of the century bitter controversies between strict Calvinists and more permissive Protestants, known as Remonstrants, split the country. The Remonstrants denied predestination and championed freedom of conscience, while their more dogmatic adversaries (known as Contra-Remonstrants) gained a major victory at the Synod of Dort (1618–19). The variety of sects may well have worked to make religious intolerance impractical.

Renaissance Humanism, of which Desiderius Erasmus (c. 1466–1536) was an important advocate, had also gained a firm foothold and was partially responsible for a climate of tolerance.

Tolerance towards Catholics was not so easy to uphold, as religion had played an important part in the Eighty Years' War of independence against Spain (with political and economic freedom being other important motives). Intolerant inclinations, however, could be overcome by money. Thus Catholics could buy the privilege of holding ceremonies in a conventicle (a house doubling inconspicuously as a church), but public offices were out of the question. Catholics tended to keep to themselves in their own section of each town, even though they were one of the largest single denominations: for example, the Catholic painter Johannes Vermeer lived in the "Papist corner" of the town of Delft. The same applied to Anabaptists and Jews.

Overall, the country was tolerant enough to attract religious refugees from other countries, notably Jewish merchants from Portugal who brought much wealth with them. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes in France in 1685 resulted in the immigration of many French Huguenots, many of whom were shopkeepers or scientists. However, some figures, such as the philosopher Baruch de Spinoza (1632–1677), experienced social stigma.


Gerard Dou - Astronomer - WGA06646
Astronomer, by Gerrit Dou, c. 1650

Due to its climate of intellectual tolerance, the Dutch Republic attracted scientists and other thinkers from all over Europe. In particular, the renowned University of Leiden (established in 1575 by the Dutch stadtholder Willem van Oranje as a token of gratitude for Leiden's fierce resistance against Spain during the Eighty Years' War) became a gathering place for intellectuals. Jan Amos Comenius, the Czech educator and writer, was known for his theories of education, but also as a pioneer of Czech Protestantism during the 17th century. To escape the Counter-Reformation, he migrated to the Dutch Republic and is buried in Naarden, North Holland. Comenius accepted the invitation of Laurens de Geer to visit Amsterdam, where he lived the last 14 years of his life (1656–1670). He published his most important works there: 43 volumes in all, about half of his total output. French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes (1596-1650) lived in Holland from 1628 until 1649. He also had his most important works published in Amsterdam and Leiden. Another French-born philosopher, Pierre Bayle, left France in 1681 for the Dutch Republic, where he became a professor of history and philosophy at the Illustrious School of Rotterdam. He lived in Rotterdam until his death in 1706. As Bertrand Russell noted in his A History of Western Philosophy (1945), "He [Descartes] lived in Holland for twenty years (1629–49), except for a few brief visits to France and one to England, all on business. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of Holland in the 17th century, as the one country where there was freedom of speculation. Hobbes had to have his books printed there; Locke took refuge there during the five worst years of reaction in England before 1688; Bayle (of the Dictionary) found it necessary to live there; and Spinoza would hardly have been allowed to do his work in any other country."

Dutch lawyers were famous for their knowledge of international law of the sea and commercial law. Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) played a leading part in the foundation of international law. He invented the concept of the "Free seas" or Mare liberum, which was fiercely contested by England, the Netherlands' main rival for domination of world trade. He also formulated laws on conflicts between nations in his book De iure belli ac pacis ("On law of war and peace").

Christiaan Huygens (1629–1695) was a famous astronomer, physicist and mathematician. He invented the pendulum clock, which was a major step forward towards exact timekeeping. Among his contributions to astronomy was his explanation of Saturn's planetary rings.[11] He also contributed to the field of optics. The most famous Dutch scientist in the area of optics is Anton van Leeuwenhoek, who was the first to methodically study microscopic life—he was the first person to describe bacteria—thus laying the foundations for the field of microbiology.[12] The "microscopes" were simple magnifiers, not compound microscopes.[13] His skill in grinding lenses (some as small as 1mm in diameter) resulted in a magnification as high as 245x. Today, grinding and polishing is done with machinery or in-house tooling to create optics for microscopes and other optics.[14]

Famous Dutch hydraulic engineer Jan Leeghwater (1575–1650) gained important victories in the Netherlands' eternal battle against the sea. Leeghwater added a considerable amount of land to the republic by converting several large lakes into polders, pumping the water out with windmills.

Again due to the Dutch climate of tolerance, book publishers flourished. Many books on religion, philosophy and science that might have been deemed controversial abroad were printed in the Netherlands and secretly exported to other countries. Thus during the 17th century the Dutch Republic became more and more Europe's publishing house.


Osias Beert the Elder - Dishes with Oysters, Fruit, and Wine - Google Art Project
Osias Beert the Elder, Dishes with Oysters, Fruit, Candy and Wine, c. 1620/1625

Cultural development in the Low Countries stood out from neighbouring countries. With some exceptions (notably Dutch playwright Joost van den Vondel) the Baroque movement did not gain much influence. Its exuberance did not fit the austerity of the largely Calvinistic population. The major force behind new developments was the citizenry, notably in the western provinces: first and foremost in Holland, to a lesser extent Zeeland and Utrecht. Where rich aristocrats often became patrons of art in other countries, because of their comparative absence in the Netherlands this role was played by wealthy merchants and other patricians.

Centres of cultural activity were town militia (Dutch: schutterij) and chambers of rhetoric (rederijkerskamer). The former were created for town defence and policing, but also served as a meeting-place for the well-to-do, who were proud to play a prominent part and paid well to see this preserved for posterity by means of a group portrait. The latter were associations at a city level that fostered literary activities, like poetry, drama and discussions, often through contests. Cities took pride in their associations and promoted them.

In the Dutch Golden Age, the meals of the middle class consisted of a rich variety of dishes.[15][16] During the 15th century haute cuisine began to emerge, largely limited to the aristocracy, but from the 17th century onward dishes of this kind became available to the wealthy citizens as well. The Dutch Empire enabled spices, sugar, and exotic fruits to be imported to the country. By the late 17th century, tea and coffee consumption were increasing and becoming part of everyday life. Tea was served with sweets, candy or marzipan and cookies.[17] A rich Dutch mealtime of the time contained many extravagant dishes and drinks.[17]


Meisje met de parel
Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring

Dutch Golden Age painting followed many of the tendencies that dominated Baroque art in other parts of Europe, such as Caravaggesque and naturalism, but was the leader in developing the subjects of still life, landscape, and genre painting. Portraiture was also popular, but history painting – traditionally the most-elevated genre – struggled to find buyers. Church art was virtually non-existent, and little sculpture of any kind was produced. While art collecting and painting for the open market was also common elsewhere, art historians point to the growing number of wealthy Dutch middle-class and successful mercantile patrons as driving forces in the popularity of certain pictorial subjects.[18]

This trend, along with the lack of Counter-Reformation church patronage that dominated the arts in Catholic Europe, resulted in the great number of "scenes of everyday life" or genre paintings, and other secular subjects. Landscapes and seascapes, for example, reflect the land reclaimed from the sea and the sources of trade and naval power that mark the Republic's Golden Age. One subject that is quite characteristic of Dutch Baroque painting is the large group portrait, especially of civic and militia guilds, such as Rembrandt van Rijn's Night Watch. A special genre of still life was the so-called pronkstilleven (Dutch for 'ostentatious still life'). This style of ornate still-life painting was developed in the 1640s in Antwerp by Flemish artists such as Frans Snyders, Osias Beert, Adriaen van Utrecht and a whole generation of Dutch Golden Age painters. They painted still lifes that emphasized abundance by depicting a diversity of objects, fruits, flowers and dead game, often together with living people and animals. The style was soon adopted by artists from the Dutch Republic.[19]

Today, the best-known painters of the Dutch Golden Age are the period's most dominant figure Rembrandt, the Delft master of genre Johannes Vermeer, the innovative landscape painter Jacob van Ruisdael, and Frans Hals, who infused new life into portraiture. Some notable artistic styles and trends include Haarlem Mannerism, Utrecht Caravaggism, the School of Delft, the Leiden fijnschilders, and Dutch classicism.


Gouda waaggebouw februari 2003b
The Kaaswaag (Cheese Weigh House) in Gouda, finished in 1667, was designed by architect Pieter Post (1608–1669), as was the Waag in Leiden.

Dutch architecture was taken to a new height in the Golden Age. Cities expanded greatly as the economy thrived. New town halls, weighhouses and storehouses were built. Merchants who had made their fortune ordered a new house along one of the many new canals that were dug out in and around many cities (for defense and transport purposes), a house with an ornamented façade that befitted their new status. In the countryside, many new castles and stately homes were built; but most of them have not survived.

Early in the 17th century late Gothic elements still prevailed, combined with Renaissance motives. After a few decades French classicism gained prominence: vertical elements were stressed, less ornamentation was used, and natural stone was preferred above bricks. In the last decades of the century this trend towards sobriety intensified. From around 1670 the most prominent feature of a house front was its entrance, with pillars on each side and possibly a balcony above it, but no further decoration.

Starting at 1595, Reformed churches were commissioned, many of which are still landmarks today.

The most famous Dutch architects of the 17th century were Jacob van Campen, Pieter Post, Pieter Vingbooms, Lieven de Key, and Hendrick de Keyser.


Dutch achievements in sculpture in the 17th century are less prominent than in painting and architecture, and fewer examples were created than in neighbouring countries, partly because of their absence in the interiors of Protestant churches, as objections to the Roman Catholic veneration of statues had been one of the contentious points of the Reformation. Another reason was the comparatively small class of nobles. Sculptures were commissioned for government buildings, private buildings (often adorning house fronts) and the exteriors of churches. There was also a market for grave monuments and portrait busts.

Hendrick de Keyser, who was active at the dawn of the Golden Age, is one of the few prominent home-grown sculptors. In the 1650s and 1660s, the Flemish sculptor Artus I Quellinus, along with his family and followers like Rombout Verhulst, were responsible for the classicizing decorations for the Amsterdam city hall (now the Royal Palace, Amsterdam). This remains the major monument of Dutch Golden Age sculpture.


The Golden Age was also an important time for developments in literature. Some of the major figures of this period were Gerbrand Bredero, Jacob Cats, Pieter Hooft, and Joost van den Vondel.

During this time, a climate of tolerance developed in comparison to other European states with strict censorship restrictions paving the way for the Dutch to become a powerhouse in the book trade. This transformation is described by modern historians as the 'Dutch miracle.' Additionally, the Dutch enjoyed high literacy rates, and Dutch entrepreneurs took advantage of this. As a result, seventeenth century Holland became a great centre for the production of news, Bibles, political pamphlets. Louis Elzevirs and his descendants created what is considered one of the most eminent dynasties of the book trade. The House of Elzevir produced pocket editions of classical Latin texts which were scholarly, reliable, and reasonably priced. The Elziver dynasty died out in 1712 and the 'Dutch miracle' waned as international competition caught up to the Dutch book trade.[20]

See also


  1. ^ Swart, Koenraad Wolter (1969). The miracle of the Dutch Republic as seen in the seventeenth century. London: H.K.Lewis & Co Ltd.
  2. ^ Boxer Charles Ralph, The Dutch seaborne empire, 1600–1800, p. 18, Taylor & Francis, 1977 ISBN 0-09-131051-2, ISBN 978-0-09-131051-6 Google books
  3. ^ a b "Commodity Market Integration, 1500–2000" (PDF).
  4. ^ Saag Molens were invented in Uitgeest, according to the "Haarlemmermeer boeck" by Jan Adriaanszoon Leeghwater
  5. ^ The maps used by Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba to attack Dutch cities were made by Dutch mapmakers.
  6. ^ Quinn, Stephen. Roberds, William. The Big Problem of Large Bills: The Bank of Amsterdam and the Origins of Central Banking. August 2005."Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 8 June 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Baltic Connections: Mercantilism in the West Baltic
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Koot, Gerard (2015). "The Portrayal of Women in Dutch Art of the Dutch Golden Age: Courtship, Marriage and Old Age" (PDF). University of Massachusetts.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Schama, Simon (1980). "Wives and Wantons: Versions of Womanhood in 17th Century Dutch Art" (PDF). The Oxford Art Journal. Washington University in St. Louis.
  10. ^ a b c d Franits, Marjorie Wieseman; with contributions by H. Perry Chapman, Wayne E. (2011). Vermeer's women : secrets and silence. Cambridge: Fitzwilliam Museum. ISBN 9780300178999.
  11. ^ Bond, Peter (2010). Distant Worlds: Milestones in Planetary Exploration (illustrated ed.). Springer Science & Business Media. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-387-68367-6. Extract of page 186
  12. ^ Burgess, Jeremy; Marten, Michael; Taylor, JRosemary (190). Under the Microscope: A Hidden World Revealed (illustrated ed.). CUP Archive. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-521-39940-1. Extract of page 186
  13. ^ "Antony van Leeuwenhoek". www.ucmp.berkeley.edu. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  14. ^ "Optical Polishing & Lens Grinding Services - United Lens". United Lens. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  15. ^ de Graaf, Reitze A. (16 August 2004). "De rijke Hollandse dis". WereldExpat (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 23 December 2008.
  16. ^ "De Nederlandse keuken". Antiqbook (in Dutch). 2006. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007.
  17. ^ a b Rose, Peter G. (2002). "Culinary History of New York" (PDF). 16 (1). Culinary Historians of New York: 1–12. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 December 2013.
  18. ^ Helen Gardner, Fred S. Kleiner, and Christin J. Mamiya, Gardner's Art Through the Ages, Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, (2005): 718–19.
  19. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms: Pronkstilleven
  20. ^ Lyons, Martyn. 2011. Books: a living history. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum.


External links

Arnold Houbraken

Arnold Houbraken (28 March 1660 – 14 October 1719) was a Dutch painter and writer from Dordrecht, now remembered mainly as a biographer of artists from the Dutch Golden Age.


The Bentvueghels (Dutch for "Birds of a Feather") were a society of mostly Dutch and Flemish artists active in Rome from about 1620 to 1720. They are also known as the Schildersbent ("painters' clique").


In the visual arts a cityscape (urban landscape) is an artistic representation, such as a painting, drawing, print or photograph, of the physical aspects of a city or urban area. It is the urban equivalent of a landscape. Townscape is roughly synonymous with cityscape, though it implies the same difference in urban size and density (and even modernity) implicit in the difference between the words city and town. In urban design the terms refer to the configuration of built forms and interstitial space.

Dirck Hals

Dirck Hals (19 March 1591 – 17 May 1656), born at Haarlem, was a Dutch Golden Age painter of merry company scenes, festivals and ballroom scenes. He played a role in the development of these types of genre painting. He was somewhat influenced by his elder brother Frans Hals, but painted few portraits.

Dutch Golden Age painting

Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history roughly spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) for Dutch independence.

The new Dutch Republic was the most prosperous nation in Europe and led European trade, science, and art. The northern Netherlandish provinces that made up the new state had traditionally been less important artistic centres than cities in Flanders in the south. The upheavals and large-scale transfers of population of the war, and the sharp break with the old monarchist and Catholic cultural traditions, meant that Dutch art had to reinvent itself. The painting of religious subjects declined sharply, but a large new market for all kinds of secular subjects grew up.

Although Dutch painting of the Golden Age is included in the general European period of Baroque painting, and often shows many of its characteristics, most lacks the idealization and love of splendour typical of much Baroque work, including that of neighbouring Flanders. Most work, including that for which the period is best known, reflects the traditions of detailed realism inherited from Early Netherlandish painting.

A distinctive feature of the period is the proliferation of distinct genres of paintings, with the majority of artists producing the bulk of their work within one of these. The full development of this specialization is seen from the late 1620s, and the period from then until the French invasion of 1672 is the core of Golden Age painting. Artists would spend most of their careers painting only portraits, genre scenes, landscapes, seascapes and ships, or still lifes, and often a particular sub-type within these categories. Many of these types of subject were new in Western painting, and the way the Dutch painted them in this period was decisive for their future development.

Dutch School (painting)

The Dutch School were painters in the Netherlands from the early Renaissance to the Baroque. It includes Early Netherlandish (1400–1500) and Dutch Renaissance (1500–1584) artists active in the northern Low Countries and, later, Dutch Golden Age painting in the United Provinces.

Many painters, sculptors and architects of the seventeenth century are called "Dutch masters", while earlier artists are generally referred to as part of the "Netherlandish" tradition. Hieronymus Bosch and Geertgen tot Sint Jans are well-known examples of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Dutch painters. Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer, Jacob van Ruisdael and Jan Steen exemplify art during the seventeenth century. An individual work's being labelled or catalogued as "Dutch School" without further attribution indicates that an individual artist for the work cannot be ascertained.

There was a healthy artistic climate in Dutch cities during the seventeenth century. For example, between 1605 and 1635 over 100,000 paintings were produced in Haarlem. At that time art ownership in the city was 25%, a record high. Not all of these have survived, but more art has survived up to today from that period in Haarlem than from any other Dutch city, thanks mostly to the Schilder-boeck published by Karel van Mander there in 1604.

Ferdinand Bol

Ferdinand Bol (24 June 1616 – 24 August 1680) was a Dutch painter, etcher and draftsman. Although his surviving work is rare, it displays Rembrandt's influence; like his master, Bol favored historical subjects, portraits, numerous self-portraits, and single figures in exotic finery.

Genre art

Genre art is the pictorial representation in any of various media of scenes or events from everyday life, such as markets, domestic settings, interiors, parties, inn scenes, and street scenes. Such representations (also called genre works, genre scenes, or genre views) may be realistic, imagined, or romanticized by the artist. Some variations of the term genre art specify the medium or type of visual work, as in genre painting, genre prints, genre photographs, and so on.

Rather confusingly, the normal meaning of genre, covering any particular combination of an artistic medium and a type of subject matter (as, for example, in the romance novel), is also used in the visual arts. Thus, genre works, especially when referring to the painting of the Dutch Golden Age and Flemish Baroque painting—the great periods of genre works—may also be used as an umbrella term for painting in various specialized categories such as still-life, marine painting, architectural painting and animal painting, as well as genre scenes proper where the emphasis is on human figures. Painting was divided into a hierarchy of genres, with history painting at the top, as the most difficult and therefore prestigious, and still life and architectural painting at the bottom. But history paintings are a genre in painting, not genre works.

The following concentrates on painting, but genre motifs were also extremely popular in many forms of the decorative arts, especially from the Rococo of the early 18th century onwards. Single figures or small groups decorated a huge variety of objects such as porcelain, furniture, wallpaper and textiles.

Jacob de Gheyn III

Jacob de Gheyn III, also known as Jacob III de Gheyn (1596–1641), was a Dutch Golden Age engraver, son of Jacob de Gheyn II, canon of Utrecht (city), and the subject of a 1632 oil painting by Rembrandt. The portrait is half of a pair of pendent portraits. The other piece is a portrait of de Gheyn's friend Maurits Huygens, wearing similar clothing (ruffs and black doublets) and facing the opposite direction.

Jan Steen

Jan Havickszoon Steen (c. 1626 – buried 3 February 1679) was a Dutch genre painter of the 17th century (also known as the Dutch Golden Age). His works are known for their psychological insight, sense of humour and abundance of colour.

Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer (; Dutch: [joːˈɦɑnəs fərˈmeːr]; October 1632 – December 1675) was a Dutch Baroque Period painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. He was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime but evidently was not wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings.Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, and frequently used very expensive pigments. He is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work.Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes. "Almost all his paintings are apparently set in two smallish rooms in his house in Delft; they show the same furniture and decorations in various arrangements and they often portray the same people, mostly women."He was recognized during his lifetime in Delft and The Hague, but his modest celebrity gave way to obscurity after his death. He was barely mentioned in Arnold Houbraken's major source book on 17th-century Dutch painting (Grand Theatre of Dutch Painters and Women Artists), and was thus omitted from subsequent surveys of Dutch art for nearly two centuries.

In the 19th century, Vermeer was rediscovered by Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Théophile Thoré-Bürger, who published an essay attributing 66 pictures to him, although only 34 paintings are universally attributed to him today. Since that time, Vermeer's reputation has grown, and he is now acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age. Like some major Dutch Golden Age artists such as Frans Hals and Rembrandt, Vermeer never went abroad. And like Rembrandt, he was an avid art collector and dealer.

Matthias Stom

Matthias Stom or Matthias Stomer (c. 1600 – after 1652) was a Dutch golden age painter considered one of the masters of Utrecht Caravaggism. Other variants of his name are Matthias Stohom or Stomma, Matheo Schem and Matteo Tomar. Stom spent most of his artistic life in Italy, and 200 of his works have been preserved.


The Mauritshuis (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈmʌurɪtsɦœys]; English: Maurice House) is an art museum in The Hague, Netherlands. The museum houses the Royal Cabinet of Paintings which consists of 841 objects, mostly Dutch Golden Age paintings. The collections contains works by Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Steen, Paulus Potter, Frans Hals, Jacob van Ruisdael, Hans Holbein the Younger, and others. Originally, the 17th century building was the residence of count John Maurice of Nassau. It is now the property of the government of the Netherlands and is listed in the top 100 Dutch heritage sites.

Perseus Freeing Andromeda (Wtewael)

Perseus Freeing Andromeda is a 1611 oil on canvas painter by the Dutch Mannerist painter Joachim Wtewael. Since 1982 it has been in the collection of the Louvre in Paris. A preparatory drawing for it also survives in the Albertina in Vienna, reprising the pose in the same artist's St Sebastian Bound to a Tree for Andromeda. In the final painting he used a less curving and more supple pose for Andromeda.


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (; Dutch: [ˈrɛmbrɑnt ˈɦɑrmə(n)soːn vɑn ˈrɛin] (listen); July 15, 1606 – October 4, 1669) was a Dutch draughtsman, painter and printmaker. An innovative and prolific master in three media, he is generally considered one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art and the most important in Dutch art history. Unlike most Dutch masters of the 17th century, Rembrandt's works depict a wide range of style and subject matter, from portraits and self-portraits to landscapes, genre scenes, allegorical and historical scenes, biblical and mythological themes as well as animal studies. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age, when Dutch art (especially Dutch painting), although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was extremely prolific and innovative, and gave rise to important new genres. Like many artists of the Dutch Golden Age, such as Jan Vermeer of Delft, Rembrandt was also an avid art collector and dealer.

Rembrandt never went abroad, but he was considerably influenced by the work of the Italian masters and Netherlandish artists who had studied in Italy, like Pieter Lastman, the Utrecht Caravaggists, and Flemish Baroque Peter Paul Rubens. Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, Rembrandt's later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high, and for twenty years he taught many important Dutch painters.Rembrandt's portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible are regarded as his greatest creative triumphs. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity. Rembrandt's foremost contribution in the history of printmaking was his transformation of the etching process from a relatively new reproductive technique into a true art form, along with Jacques Callot. His reputation as the greatest etcher in the history of the medium was established in his lifetime and never questioned since. Few of his paintings left the Dutch Republic whilst he lived, but his prints were circulated throughout Europe, and his wider reputation was initially based on them alone.

In his works he exhibited knowledge of classical iconography, which he molded to fit the requirements of his own experience; thus, the depiction of a biblical scene was informed by Rembrandt's knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition, and his observations of Amsterdam's Jewish population. Because of his empathy for the human condition, he has been called "one of the great prophets of civilization". The French sculptor Auguste Rodin said, "Compare me with Rembrandt! What sacrilege! With Rembrandt, the colossus of Art! We should prostrate ourselves before Rembrandt and never compare anyone with him!" Vincent van Gogh wrote, "Rembrandt goes so deep into the mysterious that he says things for which there are no words in any language. It is with justice that they call Rembrandt—magician—that's no easy occupation."

Rembrandt lighting

Rembrandt lighting is a lighting technique that is used in studio portrait photography. It can be achieved using one light and a reflector, or two lights, and is popular because it is capable of producing images which appear both natural and compelling with a minimum of equipment. Rembrandt lighting is characterized by an illuminated triangle under the eye of the subject on the less illuminated side of the face. It is named for the Dutch painter Rembrandt, who often used this type of lighting.


A tronie (16/17th-century Dutch for "face") is a common type, or group of types, of works common in Dutch Golden Age painting and Flemish Baroque painting that shows an exaggerated facial expression or a stock character in costume. It is related to the French word “tronche” which is slang for “mug” or head.

Utrecht Caravaggism

Utrecht Caravaggism (Dutch: Utrechtse caravaggisten) refers to those Baroque artists, all distinctly influenced by the art of Caravaggio, who were active mostly in the Dutch city of Utrecht during the first part of the seventeenth century.[1]Painters such as Dirck van Baburen, Gerrit van Honthorst, Hendrick ter Brugghen, Jan van Bijlert and Matthias Stom were all in Rome in the 1610s, a time when the tenebroso of Caravaggio's later style was very influential. Adam Elsheimer, also in Rome at the same time, was probably also an influence on them. Back in Utrecht, they painted mythological and religious history subjects and genre scenes, such as the card-players and gypsies that Caravaggio himself had abandoned in his later career. Utrecht was the most Catholic city in the United Provinces, still about 40% Catholic in the mid-17th century, and even more among the elite groups, who included many rural nobility and gentry with town houses there. It had previously been the main centre, after Haarlem, of Northern Mannerist painting in the Netherlands. Abraham Bloemaert, who had been a leading figure in this movement, and taught the Honthursts and many other artists, also was receptive to the influence of his pupils, and changed his style many times before his death in 1651.

The brief flourishing of Utrecht Caravaggism ended around 1630. At that time, major artists had either died, as in the case of Baburen and ter Brugghen, or had changed style, like Honthorst's shift to portraiture and history scenes informed by the Flemish tendencies popularized by Peter Paul Rubens and his followers. They left a legacy, however, through their influence on Rembrandt's use of chiaroscuro and Gerrit Dou's "niche paintings" (a genre popularized by Honthorst).

Along with other Caravaggisti active in Italy and Woerden, they set the stage for later artists who worked in a Caravaggesque-inspired manner such as Georges de La Tour in Lorraine and Jan Janssens in Ghent.


A vanitas is a symbolic work of art showing the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death, often contrasting symbols of wealth and symbols of ephemerality and death. Best-known are vanitas still lifes, a common genre in Netherlandish art of the 16th and 17th centuries; they have also been created at other times and in other media and genres.

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