Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pieter Pietersz

Pieter Pietersz. Man and Woman by the Spinning Wheel with Bong, c. 1570.

Pieter Pietersz, born 1540 in Antwerp, son of the brilliant, bold Pieter Aertsen (whose work I plan to share with you sometime in the future), began his career by painting altarpieces and other religious works. But with the Reformation's individualist impulses (the same impulses that surged Christian capitalism around Europe), that career path soon ended, with commissions landing with those artists who, like Pietersz, could capture the simpler spirit of the times – away from Europe's grand churches, away from Amsterdam's Oude Kerk, toward the kitchen and the den.

Here, a bemused young woman meets our gazes, relaxed and distracted from her spinning. (Consider here the old "Protestant work ethic!") A gentleman caller, ignorant of the viewer's encroachment, leans in to her, predatory, perhaps about to whisper a jape or invite the young lady out carousing. Will she submit? Who can be sure – her gaze, though, is casually powerful, revealing to us something of Pietersz's sympathy for the female liberation latent in some Reformation theology. But still – the young man, lovingly painted bong in hand, may drive a hard bargain. Fancy-free and liberated times may await.


a.p.heckel said...

The bong in this one is particularly "crispy."

Jan Peeters said...

Yes – Pietersz's touch is light indeed! A master of the dancing shadow.

Hermann Wundrum said...

Do we dare cross our fingers (behind our backs) that the bong tips, spilling its water over the young woman's frock, just so we might delight in Pietersz's rendering of the damp cloth?