Wednesday, August 2, 2017

European Portraits from the 1650s

Peter Lely
Portrait of a boy as a shepherd
ca. 1658-60
oil on canvas
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Peter Lely
Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Strickland née Pile
oil on canvas
Savannah College of Art and Design

"A viable model for thinking about some aspects of art and culture is precisely as a market in attention itself, an exchange of attentions valuable to the other.  We and the artist collude in a socially institutionalized assignation to barter our respective attentions.  He values our attention for many reasons, and not only because it may be associated with whatever sort of material reward the culture offers: his social identity and his sense of his own humanity are complexly involved in the transaction.  We, on the other hand, attend to the deposit or representation of his attention to life and the world because we find it enjoyable or profitable, sometimes even improving.  The transaction is not symmetrical: he values the attention we direct at him and his; we value the attention he directs at life and the world.  He values us as representatives of a general humanity: we value him for a specialized faculty, even if perhaps articulating a general human quality.  But the pattern is still that of a market, with choice on both sides and reciprocal agency."

– Michael Baxandall, from Shadows and Enlightenment (Yale University Press, 1995)

attributed to Hendrick Munnichhoven
Portrait of Beata Elisabeth von Königsmarck
ca. 1654
oil on canvas
Skokloster Castle, Sweden

Pierre Mignard
Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, called Molière
ca. 1658
oil on canvas
Musée Condé, Chantilly

Gerrit Dou
Head of a youth
ca. 1650
oil on panel
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

attributed to Jan Weesop
Portrait of Esmé Stuart, 5th Duke of Lennox and 2nd Duke of Richmond
ca. 1652-53
oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

"The Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid in An Inquiry into the Human Mind (1764) reflects on the faculty of sight, the product of an organ, consisting of a ball and socket of an inch diameter, with which we may within an instant perceive prospects (the peak of Tenerife, or St. Peter's church in Rome) it would take the sightless a lifetime to perceive by touch:  

If we attend duly to the operation of our mind in the use of this faculty, we shall perceive that the visible appearance of objects is hardly ever regarded by us.  It is not at all made an object of thought or reflection, but serves only as a sign to introduce to the mind something else, which may be distinctly conceived by those who never saw it. 

Thus, the visible appearance of things in my room varies almost every hour, according as the day is clear or cloudy, as the sun is in the east, or south, or west, and as my eye is in one part of the room or another: but I never think of these variations, otherwise than as signs of morning, noon, or night, of a clear or cloudy sky. 

. . . A thousand such instances might be produced, in order to show that the visible appearance of objects are intended by nature only as signs or indications; and that the mind passes instantly to the things signified, without making the least reflection upon the sign, or even perceiving that there is any such thing.  It is in a way somewhat similar that the sounds of a language, after it is become familiar, are overlooked, and we attend only to the things signified by them.   

– quoted by Michael Baxandall in Shadows and Enlightenment (Yale University Press, 1995)

David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl
Equestrian portrait of Carl Gustaf Wrangel
oil on canvas
Skokloster Castle, Sweden

Gerard Soest
Portrait of a man, called Aubrey de Vere, 20th Earl of Oxford
ca. 1656-57
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Willem Drost
Portrait of a young man
oil on canvas
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

Ferdinand Bol
Portrait of a lady
oil on canvas
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Diego Velázquez
Portrait of Infanta Margarita Teresa in a blue dress
oil on canvas
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Bartholomeus van der Helst
Portrait of Captain Gideon de Wildt
oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Gerard ter Borch
Officer writing a letter with soldier waiting
ca. 1658-59
oil on canvas
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Johannes Vermeer
Girl reading a letter by an open window
ca. 1659
oil on canvas
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden

"Unvarying laws as ancient as the world itself make the light of one body spring back on to another body, and from this successively on to a third, and then continuously on others, like as many cascades; though always with progressive reductions in strength, from one stage of falling to another.  Without the aid of these wise laws, all that is not immediately and without obstruction under the sun would be in total night.  To pass from the illuminated side of objects to the side the sun does not reach would be like passing beyond the surface of the earth into the interior of caves and caverns.  But, by an operation of the powerful springiness that God puts into every portion of this nimble substance, light, it pushes against every body upon which it arrives and is pushed back again, as much by its own bounce as by the resistance it meets."

– Privé Formey, writing on the topic SHADOW in the Encylcopédie (completed in 1765), as quoted in translation by Michael Baxandall in Shadows and Enlightenment (Yale University Press, 1995)