Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde

Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde. A Dealer in His "Office," 1672.

Most of you probably know Berckheyde for his lavish, stimulating views of Dutch church interiors. Indeed, he was a master of utilizing perspective as an emotionally evocative aesthetic tool even as he dazzled the eye with seemingly endless vaults and naves -- but Berckheyde, like so many of his countrymen, found spiritual founts among simpler things. His genre paintings are often overlooked in favor of the aforementioned urban and ecclesiastical works, but I find such pleasure among his less sumptuous subjects!

Here we have a common 17th Century Dutch occurrence: a visit to one's choice supplier. As others have noted, there is something of a class imbalance here; the buyer, as he bumbles with his purse, is watched almost mockingly by the dealer and his chap. His grotty attire contrasts with the sumptuous colors and drapery of the dealer and his furnishings. The heavy curtains seem to part and allow us to look upon a private affair. The tiles and the receding perspective into the dealer's bedroom (indicated by the Dave Matthews Band's European tour poster, something unlikely to be shown in Dutch sitting rooms of the time and reserved only for private chambers) allow us a moment to revel in Berckheyde's trenchant mastery of perspective.

Despite this comedy of class, the dealer is a relatable figure: his eyes are understanding and observant; the grinder in his lap shows that he cares for his friends, despite their social standing; and the Dilbert comic above his desk lets us, viewers from another age, in on a little joke. Ah, life -- how mundane, how beautiful! Sit back, as I am, with a cup of tea, and take a moment to cherish the everyday.


hurdy girdle said...
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Jan Peeters said...

I often imagine those scholars who visit our blog and leave with emboldened knowledge as Giotto's gently painted angels, fluttering round the genius of the Old Masters.

Hermann Wundrum said...

There is often shame in what we so desperately need. I remember being adrift in the years after completing my first masters degree, working for the gift shop at the University of Chicago. I was always underdressed for the severe cold and never felt the juding eyes fall heavier than while in the dentist's waiting room.

Jan Peeters said...

Ah, a shame all those who worship Great Mistress Art must bear. I recall returning home once, after my first term at Cambridge, wearing the same Baja poncho in which I arrived. Nothing could compare to the intense self-doubt I experienced after the numbing stares of my well-dressed, well-heeled fellow students at the Peterhouse quad. My mother, out of concern for me, gave me additional allowance before returning to England -- I spent it on a Starter jacket. Nothing felt warmer (either in my heart, or on my body).