New issue: Oud Holland 134 (2021) 4
17 December 2021
Oud Holland wraps up this year with an article about the pioneering Vermeer exhibition of 1935. The issue also includes a comprehensive analysis of a picturesque motif in Belle Époque Bruges, and an article about the surprising mirrored world of Hercules Segers.
In 1935, Museum Boymans in Rotterdam organized the first major show about Johannes Vermeer and his Delft contemporaries. It was curated by director Dirk Hannema, on the occasion of the opening of the new museum building. Through new archival research, Justine Rinnooy Kan explores the concept, execution and reception of the exhibition, with a focus on Hannema as the driving force.
Around 1900, the city of Bruges was considered as the capital of symbolism. One of the motifs that was frequently described and depicted, notably in the budding tourist industry, was the black, hooded cloak or 'kapmantel' worn by local women. Stefan Huygebaert reveals the various and multilayered meanings of the attire in symbolist art: from a mourning cloak to a symbol of mysterious occultation, from a religious purpose to a social equaliser in Belgian society.
Recent research by Laurens Schoemaker has led to a revision of existing ideas concerning three works by Hercules Segers. An etching generally assumed to depict Amersfoort, turns out to be a mirror-image view of Rhenen. The city is also recognizable in two paintings by Segers. Remarkably, these landscapes are mirror images of each other. It was commonly believed that the larger painting depicted the correct orientation, but the opposite is true, as a result of which the two works must be described entirely differently.
Oud Holland wishes you a healthy and inspiring new year.
Laurens Schoemaker – Hercules Segers’ mirrored world: Three views of Rhenen – pp. 169-187
Hercules Segers (1589/90-1633/40) was one of the most remarkable artists of the seventeenth century. He depicted not only imaginary mountainous landscapes, but vistas with cities in the Low Countries as well. Recent research by the author has led to a number of notable revisions of existing ideas concerning three works by Segers. An etching of c. 1625-1630 in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, generally assumed to depict Amersfoort, turns out to be a mirror-image view of Rhenen. Many years of lobbying by Amersfoort printer and publisher Simon Willem Melchior preceded the acceptance of the wrong topographical identification of this print in 1966. Segers' artistic trip to Amersfoort, presumed in the art historical literature, never actually took place.
Rhenen is also recognizable in two paintings made by Segers between 1620 and 1630, which are in the collection of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Remarkably, these panoramic landscapes are basically mirror images of each other. It was commonly believed that the artist rendered the topographical situation in the large painting in the correct orientation, and in reverse in the smaller painting. However, the opposite is true, as a result of which the two works must be described entirely differently. Infrared reflectography (IRR) was used to reveal the underdrawing beneath the layers of paint in the larger work. Shown in reverse, the drawing depicts the broad landscape with the city of Rhenen in the correct orientation. It has become clear that Segers included St Agnes' Chapel, situated to the northwest of St Cunera’s Church. This convent church was demolished around 1630 to make way for the Koningshuis, a palace built for Frederick V of the Palatinate and Elizabeth Stuart, who were living in exile in the Dutch Republic.
The large painting showing the landscape in reverse can be regarded as the outcome of a special experiment. As far as we know, no other seventeenth-century painter of the Northern Netherlands ever imitated Segers in this. Moreover, the new insights shed a different light on the relationships between the three panoramas featuring Rhenen, and Segers' views of nearby Wageningen.
Stefan Huygebaert – Uncloaking the kapmantel in Belle Époque Bruges: The symbolist potential of a picturesque motif in art – pp. 188-209
Around 1900, the city of Bruges was a picturesque locus, considered by many as a 'capital' of symbolism, attracting artists and writers from every corner. One of the motifs that they frequently described and depicted at the time – aside from the usual suspects like canals and street views – was the black, hooded cloak or 'kapmantel' worn by local women. This article analyses the remarkable kapmantel by examining the reasons behind its popularity in symbolist art in particular. The author argues that the depiction of kapmantels played on a number of widespread tropes from the early nineteenth century onwards. They derive from the superficial picturesque language of tourism, as published in travelogues, printed costume series, and Belle Époque postcards.
While both of these visual sources first and foremost frame the kapmantel as a typical costume from Bruges, they also resonate with tropes stemming from written reports that explain the kapmantel as a dress of the lower class, the religious habit of beguines, and even as a veil to cover the beauty of girls. All of these very different associations were used by symbolists in their art works. However, they can be divided into four groups, each, less or more, with its particular meanings or symbols.
In some symbolist art works the kapmantel can be understood as an equaliser, both formally and socially. Or the motif can be interpreted as a mourning cloak in a city that – since Georges Rodenbach's 1892 novel Bruges-la-Morte – was associated with death. At the same time, Rodenbach’s oeuvre frequently mentions the local piety, including beguines, suggesting that the kapmantel had a religious purpose. Lastly, the attire became a symbol of mysterious occultation with references to hidden confraternities – because of the way it camouflaged a person’s identity. Altogether, the depiction and perception of the kapmantel show an ambiguous and multilayered interdependence between picturesque costume tropes and symbolism during the nineteenth century.
Justine Rinnooy Kan – The Vermeer exhibition of 1935: A major debut in historical perspective – pp. 210-234
In 1935, Museum Boymans (now Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) in Rotterdam held the first major loan exhibition devoted to Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) and the Delft school. It was curated by director Dirk Hannema (1895-1984), on the occasion of the opening of the new museum building. Through the research of archival material, this article explores the origin, concept, execution and reception of the exhibition, with a focus on Hannema as the driving force behind it.
The exhibition was a great success. It was critically acclaimed, and together with the new building it strengthened the reputation of Museum Boymans and Dirk Hannema. The exhibition concept addressed the pressing academic issue of Vermeer’s early artistic development, and offered scholars a chance to visually study this topic. Thanks to the rich selection of 142 paintings by over 35 painters, coming from over seventy collections, the event was also a fruitful opportunity to study seventeenth-century Delft painting and to clarify problems of attribution. The high quality of the illustrated catalogue further facilitated the advancement of knowledge about the exhibited works and artists.
In monographic literature about Vermeer, this historic exhibition is overshadowed by the Van Meegeren scandal of Vermeer forgeries, despite the fact that it took place in the years following the exhibition, from 1937 onwards. The well-documented affair shaped the way people now think about both Vermeer connoisseurship in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as the legacy of Dirk Hannema. In addition to offering readers a comprehensive understanding of the exhibition, this article aims to demonstrate that the silence surrounding the exhibition in monographic literature about Vermeer does not reflect its contribution to knowledge about the artist.