Saturday, June 9, 2012

Saturday Salon: A Favorite Painting or Two.....or Three!

Adriaen van de Venne (1580 - 1662) was a unique Dutch Golden Age painter of allegories, genre subjects and portraits.... He was also a miniaturist, designer and illustrator.

I'd never seen his work until very recently I stumbled over it online. (Isn't that always the way?) At first, I was a little stand-offish, after all - except for Rembrandt, Franz Hals and the flower painters, what do I know about early Dutch painting? Not much it turns out, since I'd never seen Van de Venne's work before.

But once I did, I was totally smitten.

I'll tell you what was apparent to me from the first moment: this 16th century man painted with a very modern (modern to today) sensibility. Skillfully fashioned and filled with wit, his work is very much like illustration - note the expressions on the figures, the attitude, the sway of the clothing. (I don't think I've ever seen illustration from the 16th century) These people (or animals) are not paralyzed in the moment. They are still alive and kicking. Of course, the best paintings have always had that, but I think it's Van deVenne's faces that make me think: modern! There is a kind of indulgent humor that speaks to me across the centuries.

Apparently there are very few details about Van de Venne's life and only one contemporary source. He was born in Delft in 1580, the son of wealthy middle-class parents. Early on he was taught drawing and illumination by a Lieden-based goldsmith named Simon de Valck and later went on to study with a well-esteemed painter of black and white images. Van de Venne had a rather successful career divided between Middelburg and The Hague, painting, illustrating poems and propaganda tracts and even writing his own verse.

Van de Venne not only painted the gentle images I've posted today, but also various deeper, darker subjects, often ribald and occasionally patronizing. I ran across a painting of a 16th century man pooping in public which made me cringe then laugh out loud. But I won't be showing that one here.

To learn more about Van de Venne's life, please use this link.

To really appreciate this work you have to get up close and personal. If you press on an individual painting, you'll get a larger view.


  1. Hello, Yvette - I'm always amazed when drawings survive this long. It seems the Dutch of Van de Venne's time enjoyed irony and humor, even in their finer paintings. I was recently visiting the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art, in Sarasota, and saw a beautiful painting of a church interior. It was painted with all the precision of Canaletto. And there in one corner was a dog lifting his leg!

  2. I love the last image you showed us. It think it's the tones I'm in love with.

  3. Very interesting. The humour is indeed appealing.

  4. Me too, Mark. It shows that someone, somewhere, sometime thought enough of them to make sure they were taken care of. I like to think it was more than chance. :)

    I love to see a sense of humor in an artist's work. Did you notice the heel of the peasant's foot sticking out of his old boot? At least he appears to be wearing a sock.

    There's just something about that first painting that makes me see it in motion. I wish someone who animate these drawings. They are perfect for that.

    I really love this work.

  5. You like his more serious work, Ryan.
    I like it well enough, but it's the humorous work that wins me over. He has such a light hand with those.

  6. Caftan Woman: They just make me smile.


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