DUTCH AND FLEMISH PAINTING OF THE 16TH-17TH CENTURIES
Religious and political turmoil in the 1500s split the Low Countries into two nations with differing social values and artistic tastes. Flanders remained Catholic and royalist; Flemish artists such as Rubens and Van Dyck glorified the Church and monarchy with grandiose themes, lively compositions, and vivid colors. The United Netherlands, however, became a republic populated mainly by Calvinists. Dutch Protestants like Rembrandt conveyed morals and religious messages through concealed symbolism in landscapes, still lifes, and scenes of daily life. In 1568, the northernmost provinces of the Low Countries broke away from Spanish control, eventually to become the Dutch Republic, a center of Protestantism. In the southern provinces, which remained under the rule of Spanish regents, the Catholic church and the court continued to be the most important patrons of the arts. Perhaps most characteristic of late sixteenth-century Flemish court art is the dignified, formal portraiture of Antonis Mor. Mor's reputation was eclipsed in the seventeenth century by that of Anthony van Dyck, who eventually became court painter to Charles I of England. The most sought-after Flemish painter of the seventeenth century was Van Dyck's teacher, the scholar, linguist, and diplomat Peter Paul Rubens, who was besieged with commissions from the nobility and religious orders of Europe for portraits, altarpieces, mythological scenes, and allegories. His stirring works were admired for qualities ranging from theatricality to emotional tenderness. The emergence of the Dutch school of painting in the early seventeenth century is one of the most remarkable phenomena in the history of the visual arts. The Dutch Republic, a small country that had only become a political entity in 1579 and was still suffering from the effects of a long and arduous war with Spain, would hardly seem to have had...
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