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Dutch Painting

Interior with a Woman at the Virginals

Emanuel De Witte
c. 1660
Oil on canvas, 77.5 x 104.5 cm.
Museum Boijmans van Beunningen, Rotterdam
Emmanuel de Witte

Emanuel de WITTE
Alkmaar c. 1616/18-Amsterdam c. 1691–1692

Emanuel de Witte occupies an important place in the development of Dutch painting in the middle years of the seventeenth century, both in the painting of church interiors and domestic interior scenes. He appears to have been trained in Alkmaar and was a member of the guild there in 1636. He then spent a short time in Rotterdam and by about 1641 was living in Delft. It was there that his style was formed a style which was to have some influence on the next generation of painters. He painted a number of rather somber interior scenes in which the fall of light plays an important part, and it may well be that he had a certain influence on Pieter de Hooch and even on Nicolaes Maes, who was influenced by the Delft school.

Most of de Witte's middle years were devoted to the painting of church interiors. He had moved to Amsterdam in 1652, thus avoiding the explosion of the powder magazine in Delft two years later. A surprisingly high proportion of de Witte's church interiors are imaginary, and it is difficult to see why people wanted pictures of church interiors which did not exist. By contrast, for instance, nearly all Hendrick van der Vliet's surviving church interiors depict the two churches in Delft. De Witte's work is somber in mood, with contrasts of light and shade and with a certain air of mystery quite unlike the feeling of most Dutch church interiors. For accuracy of tone and atmosphere it is necessary to look at Pieter Saendredam. In his last years in Amsterdam de Witte diversified his subject matter and painted several market scenes of a peculiar intimacy. He also painted one especially beautiful evening seascape which is in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

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