Various sources make it clear that the rise in the number of painters embarking on their career in Holland's major cities between roughly 1600 and 1630 was explosive. That both the quantity as well as the quality of their production reached unprecedented heights is evidenced by the multitude of paintings now hanging in our museums. The whys and wherefores of this astonishing phenomenon will always remain a point of discussion: countless factors, many of which defy description, may have played a role.
It must be understood that we are not alone in our present-day observation that something quite exceptional was transpiring in Dutch art of the seventeenth century. Contemporaries were also aware of the exceptional nature and quality of painting as well as the astounding growth in the production and collecting of the actual works of art. In this connection, the frequently quoted observations in the travel diaries of the Englishmen John Evelyn (1641) and Peter Mundy (1640) and the Frenchman Samuel Sorbière (1640) must be mentioned. Their comments regarding the vast amount of paintings they encountered everywhere in Dutch cities, and about which they wrote with sheer astonishment, must have become commonplace at the time. Quite likely a proud awareness of this phenomenon was already imbedded in the self-image of the prosperous Dutch burgher.v1
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