A Brill Calendar: May 22
Musings on the Study of Art History
Few scholarly disciplines developed strict principles as late as study of history.
It also stands to reason that rigorous examination of visual and performing arts as they originated, branched out, prospered and withered during ancient and past ages became subject to academic scrutiny even later. The first Dutch art-historian with a doctorate in that specialism – from Leipzig University, in 1891 – is Cornelis Hofstede de Groot (1863 – 1930). The argument may be illustrated by the evolving knowledge & understanding associated with the painter Jan Vermeer (1632 – 1675, both at Delft).
Soon after his short life was over, Vermeer's name quickly vanished in oblivion. His surviving works became attributed to contemporaries like Pieter de Hoogh (1629 – 1685), or labelled ‘Anon.; Dutch School 17th century’. Eventually, almost all Vermeer’s work was ascribed to other masters. The situation changed – dramatically – only in 1866, when a French art-historian identified 76 well-known paintings as products of the ‘Sphinx of Delft’. That order, given by foreign expertise and insight, proved to be too tall quickly; two years later 56 of them remained. Further reduction of that number became grist to the young mill of academic art-historians. It took almost one generation to reach a total attribution of some three dozen; halving Théophile Thoré’s original catalogue.
It is seldom that monarchs reigning by the Grace of God foresee the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge cultivated by scholarship. When The Kingdom of The Netherlands had yet to celebrate its second lustrum, its first king, Willem I (1772 – 1843) decreed, on May 22 1822, the State purchase of a none too large oil-painting, showing the sky-line and circumference of Delft city around 1660. A reason for the acquisition may have been that an earlier Willem, Prince of Orange was assassinated and put to his last rest in the home-town of Jan Vermeer.
At its greatest, as in ‘View of Delft’, art is like God’s love; passing all understanding.
2013, May 17
2013, April 11
2013, April 11