Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Samuel van Hoogstraten 1627 - 1678 - Dutch painter from the Golden Age

Dyrham Park and its fine 17th century mansion is a short car journey from my home - I posted the grounds and house previously here.  
Inside the mansion is a famous trompe l'oeil painting by Samuel Van Hoogstraten. The painting is displayed in a doorway across a hallway in order to create an illusion and literally 'fool the eye' of the observer. The artist draws us through an archway and into a Dutch interior.
The image depicts the possible loss of innocence as indicated by the birdcage dominating the top of the painting. A birdcage with the door open is a symbol of virginity lost. However, in this painting the door is open but the green parrot has not flown. It waits in the entrance - will it fly or will it stay within the cage? 
It is not easy to see in this photo but through the doorway beyond the staircase there is a pale faced young man looking through the window at a scene which shows an anxious looking girl. She faces towards her father who is wearing typical Dutch clothing of the period. There is another figure, perhaps her mother, sitting at the table.
A small scrap of paper lies on the staircase - is it a love note accidentally dropped? Fidelity holds a key that signifies her absolute trustworthiness, a key hangs on the pillar to the righthand side of the painting.
There is tension within the painting revealed by the arched back of the cat, and the young King Charles spaniel looks wary and apprehensive. 
The broom leaning beside the wall though considered primarily a female icon due to its domestic use, is also a fertility symbol of both sexes.
The putti angels depicted on the archway can be symbolic of either God's protection or punishment.
The outcome of the painting will never be known and will always remain a mystery.

58 comments:

  1. What a wonderful trompe l'oeil, Rosemary. I love these paintings full of clues and symbols, less familiar to us now but which would have been well-known to the viewers in the past. van Hoogstraten is new to me, but what a wonderful artist! Thank you for showing this fantastic picture.

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    1. It is an amazing larger than life painting sitting within this mansion at the end of a corridor of rooms. As you walk towards it the painting deceives the eye into thinking that the corridor stretches on for a long distance.
      I love finding the clues within work from that period, but I am sure there must be some in this painting that I have not found. Maybe others will discover the ones that I have missed - the busts of the man and women for example, I am not sure of their meaning.

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  2. A painting with many hidden meanings. Thanks for 'reading' it for us Rosemary and for sharing it here.
    Marian

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    1. I am sure there must be some other clues in the painting too Marian which I may have missed.

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  3. What a wonderful painting - and thank you for the explanation. I enjoyed looking at all the 'clues'.

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    1. I always think that it is interesting the way people at the time of the painting would have been able to read and understand the clues in the paintings whereas for us today they mostly pass us by.
      It is an interesting painting, the more you look at it the more you see. In particular I like the way it shows a Dutch interior of the 17th century.

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  4. Dear Rosemary,

    I have collected several books on trompe l'oeil, and this Dyrham Park composition is almost always included as a classic example. BUT, I haven't read about its symbolic interpretation until this posting. I think that the cat mirrors the dog is another interesting element. By the way, I would love to own a broom as well made as the one in van Hoogstraten's painting.

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    1. Dear Mark - I am very attracted to the broom too. I think that it must have been typical of Dutch brooms at the time, because I have seen a similar one depicted by Gerard Dou here -
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gerard_Dou-_Woman_Eating_Porridge-1637.jpg
      and Vermeers - The Love Letter here, if you are interested.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vermeer,_Johannes_-_The_Loveletter.jpg
      However, van Hoogstraten's is the nicest.

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    2. Thanks for the extra images, Rosemary. I visited both of them and agree with your choice. It says a lot about how paintings draw us in that I have looked at The Love Letter many times and never focused on that broom!

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    3. In Vermeer's The Love Letter I have read that the broom leaning against the door could possibly allude to a less respectable form of love; one suggestion is that the scene is in a brothel!!!

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  5. Incredible, the depth of this painting.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. This is a painting done by one your great 17th century Dutch painters.

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  6. Hello Rosemary, I love to analyze paintings, although I have no expertise. I see this painting as a series of chamber, doorways, and directions, underscored by the symbolism of passing from one are to the next. We see a long "hall", but in the foreground the rooms are lighter, and the floor appears as black and white, while when we pass into the back room, a red color prevails, signifying a different meaning once you progress there, perhaps a sinister one.

    The tile floor has a fairly regular pattern, but in the front section it forms a cross or "plus", pointing to the different paths, but a line of black tiles creates a barrier to accessing the stairway. The bird, as you point out, is able to fly away, and both the putti and the statues seem to be regarding its upward path. There is an additional way up, via the stairs, that the girl can take, although the bar of tiles seems to act as a check or warning.

    There are many chambers for the characters to explore, all offering different resolutions to their situation, and perhaps the map on the wall further allegorizes the path of their decisions. The first arch with its star-like carvings and putti-angels might represent the vault of heaven, while the second room shows past civilization, the third chamber living people, and the red, empty chamber at the end, devoid of activity and with its empty chair, becomes the most mysterious of all.
    --Road to Parnassus

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    1. Dear Jim - I really enjoyed your response to this painting and all of the thought you have given to analysing it. You are like me, and obviously enjoy paintings with hidden messages within them - a mystery to try and solve.
      I had looked at the flooring but had not come to any conclusions so I very much appreciated your ideas on the meanings within the interior.
      Wouldn't it be great to be able to sit down with Samuel van Hoogstraten and discuss this painting with him, and find out from him the complete story behind his work?

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  7. This is fascinating Rosemary, I too wondered about the significance of the far room with the red tiled floor but I am no expert in analysing paintings. It would be wonderful to find out what the complete story is.

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    1. How I should love to know the complete story - I love trying to read the signs and symbols from paintings done during the Renaissance period and the Dutch Golden Age - you can get so much more pleasure from them if you understand more about what is being conveyed.
      I greatly enjoyed reading the contribution to the discussion from Parnassus, and it seems as if you did too.

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  8. This is a verry beautiful painting, and a nice story.
    I love the trompe l'oeil.

    Greetings,
    Inge, my choice

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    1. I love trompe l'oeil painting too Inge, and did once seriously consider having one painted in our house.

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  9. What an amazing ability van Hoogstraten has to draw the viewer into the painting and to give the impression of a corridor leading from one room to the next. The hidden meanings of the painting are intriguing and fascinating.

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    1. The hidden meanings within paintings from the 16th & 17th century is something that I am very interested in as you have probably discovered. I have a wonderful book recording signs and symbols within paintings which I am always dipping into.

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  10. Rosmary, thank you - I could stare at this painting for hours. I am tempted to go and see if I can find a print....

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    1. Kate - you can get a print here
      http://www.ntprints.com/image/346537/-view-down-a-corridor-by-van-hoogstraeten

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  11. Unbelieveble how much you know about paintings. It's a misterious one this time.
    I have r-e-f-e-r-e visits too sometimes 50 a day but no problems with my email. I also don't know how to get rid of it. If you read on the internet a lot of people have many visits of this page but google does'nt give an answer.
    Have a wonderful day Rosemary.

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    1. Dear Marijke - since I switched on word verification r-e-f-e-r-e-r has finally gone away - fingers crossed. It took a day or two, but during the last 24 hours there have been no visits. I read this suggestion somewhere on the internet. I also reported it to google, and to Apple. I shall just wait and see what happens. It is not causing me any problems either, but I don't like it being there all the time, and keep wondering what it is up to. It also distorts your visits figures.

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    2. I reported it to at google but no response. I had two more but finaly they are gone. I don't want to put on the wordverification because I have so many problems to read the code. Let's hope it dissapears. But I do understand now that many of the German bloggers have a notice on their blog that they don't take any responsebility for links to their blogs. I hope it will stop.
      Have a wonderful day and thanks for taking time to respond.

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    3. I will keep an eye on the situation and if it goes for a week or two then I will take the verification away again. I wonder if the site has been taken down - it seemed to be coming from Latvia.

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  12. I once did a further education course on the art of the Northern Renaissance, but I didn't come across this artist. I enjoy symbolism in paintings such as this. I wonder if there's a commentary about this one? It's rather mysterious, although I would have had an idea about some of the symbolism.
    I've noticed that particular visit when looking at my blog stats although I wouldn't have known if you hadn't mentioned it. It's never appeared in my emails, but it's very disconcerting. It's this aspect that rather puts me off the enjoyment of using the internet and blogging. I find word verification very difficult because of eyesight problems even though it's possible to magnify the numbers and letters.

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    1. I am now on my second day without any visits from the spam referral site. By the way they were not emailing me - Marijke just misunderstood what I said. I think that they are using blogs to get themselves all over the internet. Whatever you do, never, ever click onto one of these unknown sites, they can lock you in, and if you do not know how to quit properly from your computer they can cause you a problem. I sent various complaints, one to google, one to apple, and another to blogger. Whether the site has been taken down or not I do not know. I will try switching the verification on again in a couple of weeks.
      I wish I knew if there was a proper commentary on this painting, but I have been unable to find one myself although I have looked. The National Trusts do not give much information on it either, they just say where it came from and how much Samuel Pepys enjoyed the painting.
      I noticed that they have a section for any observations on the painting, and I have sent them mine. However, I have told them that I am not an expert just interested in symbolism in paintings.

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    2. In some ways perhaps it's better that the viewer has to look hard to interpret and make a response to this painting without the benefit of a commentary, although it's useful to have some knowledge of symbolism in art whether religious or secular. The fact that the dog is looking at the viewer and almost barring the way and the broom is so prominent in the foreground makes this painting seem disturbing to me, especially as I feel the girl is being interrogated. Interesting that Samuel Pepys enjoyed the painting.
      Thanks for the advice re spam which I'm always wary of. This particular site seems to be viewing my posts, but doesn't get through on comments because I gave set the
      comments to receive only those who have an account. Nevertheless, it's not good.

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    3. Just in response to this r-e-f-e-r-e-r spam site again. Are you still receiving visits from them? They do not comment - in fact they have no contact with you whatsoever, they are a referring spam website using your blog. I don't know how it works, but they do mess up your own statistics too. I thought the site, which seems to operate from Latvia, might have been taken down, because I have now had about 48 hours without a visit. If you are still receiving visits on your dash board then it looks as if the word verification does defeat them. I also have comments from registered users only.
      Hope you can make sense of this.

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  13. Your version on what the painting is about is excellent. I somehow think I have seen this before, but I could be dreaming.

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    1. You probably have seen it somewhere, it is a memorable painting.

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  14. Dear Rosemary, I haven't a clue on how to read this painting. I do notice that Hoogstraten was not a very accomplished painter. His faces and busts are not well painted, however, the bird cage is a masterpiece. Painters of his era loved the idea of painting perspective, hence so many black and white or brown and white ceramic tile floors appear in many paintings and for many years. I see the painting as an exercise in painting perspective and all of the other elements are added to make it more interesting and fill open spaces. I know, a very simplistic view. ox, Gina

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    1. Dear Gina - I hope that you do not mind me having a bit more interchange with you on this painting.
      Samuel van Hoogstraten was an acclaimed master of perspective and a pupil of Rembrandt - this painting is extremely large and fills a doorway in a very large 17th century Baroque mansion as a piece of trompe l'oeil work.
      The Dutch painters from the Golden Age during the 17th century regularly used objects as metaphors which then became popular in 18th century French paintings. They were then embraced by the Pre-Raphlite Brotherhood in England.
      The theme of a bird cage for example generally had a moralising, erotic meaning, often connected with the loss of virginity. This message would readily have been understood by the viewers of the painting in the 17th century, but today that is not the case.

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    2. Dear Rosemary, You are right, of course and thank you for the additional illuminations.

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    3. Dear Gina - some would say that I have a bit of an obsession with symbolism in paintings.

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  15. Rosemary, I like this painting a lot. There's definitely a story here. The images are very symbolic as you explained here and they all come together to present the Artist's story. Thank you for your Art posts. Pamela

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    1. It is a stunning piece of work to see as you wander through the rooms in Dyrham Park mansion and see it in the distance. It is not until you are fairly close to it that you realise that it is in fact a painting.

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  16. Dear Rosemary,
    Thank you for another wonderful post-- I share your admiration for the 17th C Dutch painters! If I could, I'd collect these paintings before any others... There is a wonderful text related to this subject that you may enjoy: "The Rhetoric of Perspective: Realism and Illusionism in Seventeenth Century Dutch Still-Life Painting", by Hanneke Grootenboer. Enjoy!
    Warm regards,
    Erika

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    1. Dear Erika - Thank you for your recommendation, I shall look on Amazon.
      For some reason I am very attracted to paintings which have a hidden narrative running through them. Though not necessarily obvious at first viewing, often glimpses can be revealed through understanding the symbolism.

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  17. I too love this painting and many other Dutch 17th century works - but the name "Van
    Hoogstraten" gives me the shivers!

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    1. I hadn't linked the name Nilly - but I recollect who you mean. Nasty 'N' - I wouldn't ever want to cross his path.

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  18. Rosemary,
    My goodness! Now that you've pointed it out, I see it all. I find this painting a bit disturbing and unsettling. But I really love that enfilade view beyond. So stately! Hope to see it in person one day.

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    1. There is definitely tension in the air in this painting - you would like a visit to Dyrham Park when you are travelling over here.

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  19. A true tromp l'oeil, layers and layers of illusion and meaning. Truly fascinating Rosemary, thanks for explaining the details for us :)

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    1. Its situation at the end of a corridor of rooms does 'fool the eye' as you walk towards it - you are quite close before realising that it is a painting.

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  20. What a fascinating work of art. It must be quite large. I enjoyed this post and learning of all the symbols in the painting.

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    1. It is life size and in scale with a very large baroque mansion where it fits in a doorway - it must be getting on for 2¾ metres tall.

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  21. Many hidden meanings in that painting. Thank you for explaining and sharing them. Happy weekend, Rosemary!

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    1. The Dutch painters of the Golden Age were very good at planting hidden messages within their work.

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  22. Now that I know what it symbolizes, I can't wait to see it. Loved this. Thank you.

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    1. I do hope that you will have the opportunity to see it one day, and if so, you will know the hidden messengers within it.

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  23. Your explanation of the painting makes it worthwhile to take a closer look. It is a symbolic painting of the yearning for freedom and the restrictions imposed by those who wants to protect and reduce the risks that come with unfettered freedom.

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    1. In the 16th, 17th and 18th century paintings often carried hidden messages within them. Although the ordinary man couldn't read, he was very often aware of what the symbolism and metaphors within paintings stood for.

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  24. Dear Rosemary,what a wonderful painting!Great art ant painter!
    Very interesting the hidden massages!!!
    I hope you have a lovely weekend!!
    Dimi...

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    1. For me the hidden messages add to my interest of this lovely painting.

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  25. A fascinating interpretation, Rosemary, but for me the great attractions are the wonderful play of light and shade and the extraordinary sense of depth achieved by the artist. I feel I could just walk in and through those adjoining rooms quite naturally. :-)

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    1. That is good Perpetua - the trompe l'oeil painting has achieved its purpose.

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