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The Concept of Houding in Dutch Art Theory

Author(s): Paul Taylor


Source: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 55 (1992), pp. 210-232
Published by: The Warburg Institute
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THE CONCEPT OF HOUDING
IN DUTCH ART THEORY*
Paul Taylor

H ouding', wrote Willem Goeree in his Inleyding tot


d'Algemeene Teykenkonst
of 1668, 'is one of the most essential things to be observed in a Drawing
or Painting ... there is nothing in the whole of art which runs more against
reason, than to place things without [it] '.1
Samuel van Hoogstraeten, Gerard de Lairesse and Joachim von Sandrart seem
to have agreed with Goeree that 'houding'2 was an important concept in the Dutch
art vocabulary of the Golden Age. Hoogstraeten and Lairesse both devoted chapters
of their books on painting to the term's elucidation,3 and Sandrart claimed that to
bring about proper houding in a work was 'a very necessary rule'.4
Yet modern scholars have reached no consensus on the meaning of the word.
Seymour Slive translated it as 'conception',5 but in the opinion of J. A. Emmens,
'that is certainly wrong'. Emmens himself suggested 'gradual softening of colours',
linking the term to Sandrart's Universalharmonie der Farben.6 Ernst van de Wetering,
in his entry on Rembrandt's painting materials and working methods in the first
volume of A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, rendered it as 'attitude';7 but in a recent
essay in the catalogue to the exhibition Rembrandt: the Master and his Workshophe
proposes instead 'aspect', equating this with 'the tonal and spatial organization of
the picture as a whole'.8 Lyckle de Vries, in his recently published book on Johan
van Gool, suggests that 'houding'had different meanings at different times, and adds
that it is not always clear from the context which is being employed. Sometimes it
* This is an extended version of a 4 '... eine sehr n6tige Observanz'. J. von Sandrart,
paper given at the
'Low Countries and the World' conference in London Teutsche Academie der Edlen Bau-, Bild- und Mahlerey-
in April 1989. Thanks are due to Lorne Campbell, Ivan Kiinste, Nuremberg 1675, i, 3, p. 85. The passage of
Gaskell, Eddy de Jongh, Jean Michel Massing, Harry which this forms part is reproduced below on p. 227.
Mount and Elizabeth McGrath for their useful criti- 5 S. Slive, Rembrandtand his Critics,The Hague 1953,
cisms. All the translations are my own; Alain Arnould, p. 102.
Patrick Boyde, Joost Depuydt, Joachim Kaemper and 6 J. A. Emmens, Rembrandten de regelsvan de kunst,
Judith Pollmann kindly checked them. Amsterdam 1979 (1st edn 1968), pp. 75, 76, 90.
1 W. Goeree, Inleyding tot d'Algemeene Teykenkonst, 7 E. van de Wetering, 'Painting Materials and Work-
Middelburg 1670 (1st edn 1668), p. 128. The Dutch is ing Methods', in J. Bruyn, E. van de Wetering et al., A
given below on p. 212. Corpusof RembrandtPaintings, i, Dordrecht, Boston and
2 Throughout this article I write 'houding'when refer- London 1982, p. 30.
ring to the word and houdingwhen using it. I have left it 8 E. van de Wetering, 'The Invisible Rembrandt: the
untranslated, which I think preferable; probably the Results of Technical and Scientific Examination', in
best of the possible renderings would be 'union', for Rembrandt: the Master and his Workshop,exhib. cat.,
reasons which will become clear during the course of Berlin, Amsterdam and London 1991-92, p. 100. Van
the article. de Wetering's other entry in the catalogue presents an
3 S. van Hoogstraeten, Inleydingtot de HoogeSchooleder excellent discussion of many of Rembrandt's illusion-
Schilderkonst,Rotterdam 1678, pp. 300-01: 'Van de istic devices, and his conclusions are very close to the
Houding, Samenstemming, of Harmonie in't Koloree- ones reached here. 'Rembrandt's Method-Technique
ren'; G. de Lairesse, Groot Schilderboek,Haarlem 1740 in the Service of Illusion', pp. 12-39.
(1st edn 1707), ii, pp. 227-30: 'Van de Harmonie of
Houdinge der Koleuren'.

210
Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Volume 55, 1992

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HOUDING 211
seems to refer to the transitions of chiaroscuro, sometimes to the painting's
composition, sometimes to the harmony of colours.9 And Ton J. Broos, in his study
of Jacob Campo Weyerman, says that it could be a feature of persoonsverbeelding,the
representation of personality. 10
So the concept has bred a degree of confusion. This article is an attempt to cla-
rify the meaning of 'houding' through a close examination of the passages in which
it was discussed by Goeree, Sandrart, Hoogstraeten and Lairesse. The resulting
interpretation is closest to that of Emmens and to Van de Wetering's latest view,
albeit slightly broader than either.
The article has three sections. In the first, the sense of 'houding' is extracted
from Golden Age art-theoretical texts. In the second, its prehistory is investigated,
and related terms in Italian and French art theory are analysed. Finally, the way that
Dutch painters 'placed things with houding' is examined in a number of examples.

I
In modern (and usually in seventeenth-century) Dutch, 'houding' means 'bearing',
'posture' or 'attitude'; but in Golden Age art theory its meaning was generally more
technical. The first discussion of its theoretical sense occurs in the ninth chapter of
Willem Goeree's Inleyding tot d'AlgemeeneTeykenkonst:
CHAPTERIX.
Whichtreatsof Houding, orPerspec-
tive of light and shade,
bywhichthingscomeforward,
and recedebackward.
Houding is one of the most essential things to be observed in a Drawing or Painting; since it
gives the same sensation to the eye, that we enjoy in the contemplation of natural objects.
For whenever Houding is not found in representational images, such Drawings and Paintings
are senseless, and more than half dead. Also, through the lack of Houding, things appear
entangled in one another, packed together, or falling towards us in a tumble; such that there
is nothing in the whole of art which runs more against reason, than to place things without
Houding... We need, then, to show what Houding is, and the remarkable feat which is
necessary to achieve it. Houding, to express both the artistic sense of the word and the power
of its nature, is that which makes everything in a Drawing or Painting advance and recede,
and makes everything from the nearest point to the most central, and from there to the
most distant, stand in its own position, without seeming nearer or further, lighter or darker,
than its distance or closeness permits; placing each thing, without confusion, separate and
well apart from the objects which are next to and around it, so it remains in its own position,
in respect of size and colour, light and shadow; yes, being able to trace the interval of a
place, or distance which is open and empty between each object, receding or advancing
naturally to the eye, as if it were accessible with one's feet, and finding everything planted in
its own place; this is what one calls Houding...
9 L. de Vries, Diamante Gedenkzuilenen LeerzaemeVoor- en Schilderessen,
The Hague 1750-51, i, p. 17), but when
beelden:een besprekingvan Johan van GoolsNieuwe Schou- he used it in its art-theoretical sense he only used the
burg, Groningen 1990, p. 55. As suggested below (p. meaning laid down in this article, it seems to me: see for
220), 'houding'could have different meanings at differ- example ibid., i, pp. 148, 150, 180, 345, 384.
ent times; sometimes its everyday sense was employed in 10 T. J. Broos, TussenZwarten Ultramarijn.De levensvan
preference to its art-theoretical sense. Van Gool cer- schilders beschrevendoor Jacob Campo Weyerman(1677-
tainly used the word in its everyday sense on occasion 1747), Amsterdam 1990, pp. 172, 331.
(e.g. De Nieuwe Schouburgder NederlantscheKunstschilders

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212 PAUL TAYLOR
(IX. HOOFDSTUK.
Handelende van de Houdinge of Perspek-
tif van donker en ligt, waar door
de dingen voor-uyt komen,
en agter-uyt wijken.
De Houdingeis een van de nootwendigste dingen die in een Teikening of Schilderye moet
waargenomen worden; om dat zy ons het selve gevoel aan het oog doet krijgen, dat wy in't
beschouwen van de natuurlijke dingen genieten. Want wanneer de Houdinge in de
nagebootste beeldnissen niet gevonden word, zijn sulke Teikeningen en Schilderyen reden-
loos, en meer dan half dood. Ook schijnen de dingen, door de ontbeering der Houding,
alle in malkanderen verward, op een gepakt, of tommelings tegen ons aan te vallen: sulks
dat'er in de geheele konst niets kan gedaan worden, dat meer tegens de reden kan aan
loopen, dan dingen sonder Houding te plaatsen... 't Is dan noodig, dat wy toonen wat de
Houdinge is, en door wat opmerkende daad men die moet sien te bekomen. Houdinge, om
den zin van het konst-woord, en de kragt van hare natuur uyt te drukken, is dat gene, welk
alles dat in een Teikening of Schilderye verbond word, doet agter en voor uyt wijken, en
alles van het voorste tot het middelste, en van daar tot het agterste, op sijn eigen plaats doet
staan, sonder nader of verder te schijnen, noch ligter of donkerder te vertoonen, als sijn
ver-heid of nabyheid toelaat; invoegen yeder ding, sonder verwerring, los en wel uyt andere
die'er nevens en ontrent zijn, en op sijn eigen stant-plaats, soo wel van grootte als van
koleur, ligt en schaduwe gehouden blijft; ja datmen de tussen-ruimte van de plaats, of
distantie die tussen yder lichaam open en ledig is, van zig wijkende, of na zig toekomende
natuurlijk met het oog, als of het met de voeten toegangelijk ware, kan naspeuren, en op
sijn plaats geplant vinden: en dit noemtmen Houdinge...)"
As described here, then, houding is a means of creating a sense of space in a
picture. The artist must be careful not to allow the elements in a painting to be-
come 'packed together'; depth should be expressed lucidly and spatial relations
should be clearly legible. If the artist succeeds in 'placing each thing, without con-
fusion, separate and well apart from the objects which are next to and around it',
then an illusionistic space will be opened up in which the eye can roam: 'as if [each
object] were accessible with one's feet'. Viewers are given the sense that they can
stroll through a picture, walk round the table in some dining-room or saunter off
down a riverside path.
How is this effect to be achieved? Goeree gives his (rather convoluted) explana-
tion on the following pages.
So to achieve some Houding when drawing (whether one is practising from Drawings,
Plasterwork, Paintings or the life), one must take good note of what is in front and what be-
hind, or rather how the objects all follow on from each other: moreover one must consider
by what means they must [be made to] advance or recede, whether they should be
distinguished by dark or by light, and by which degree of more or less dark or light, so that it
comes to be placed here or there, in such and such a way: for the one as well as the other, in
proportion to the way it is set down, and the force that it has, whether dark or light, can be
made to advance or recede, as a result of the agreements and relations which the colours or
degrees of strong and weak have with each other...
(Om dan in het teikenen (het zy datmen zig na Teikeningen, Playster, Schilderyen, ofte het
leven oeffend), eenigsints de Houdinge te bekomen, moetmen wel letten, wat voor of wat
11 Goeree (as in n. 1), pp. 128-29.

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HOUDING 213
agter komt, of liever hoe de dingen alle volgelijk na malkander komen: ten anderen moet-
men aanmerken, door welke daad zy moeten voor of agter wijken, of het door donker of
door ligt geschied, en door welken trap van meerder of minder donker of ligt, dat het hem
daar of daar, of soo of soo komt te houden: want het eene soo wel als het ander, na pro-
portie dat het geplaatst is, en na de kragt die het heeft, het zy dan donker of ligt, voor-uyt als
agter-uyt kan doen wijken, uyt reden van de toe-eygeningen en opsigten, die de kleuren of
trappen van sterk en flauw tot malkanderen hebben...)12
Shortly after this feat of grammatical contortion, Goeree concedes that it is hard
to learn about houding from a written account. Nevertheless, his meaning can be
prised from the sub-clauses. Houding is achieved by a judicious use of light, shade
and colour. Light tones and strong colours tend to advance to the eye, whilst dark
tones and weak colours tend to recede-although this, as he points out, depends
on the way in which they are combined. 13 The artist must make use of such visual
properties in order to create a sense of space.
From Goeree's account it would seem that houding should be thought of as a
combination of relief and aerial perspective, but this leaves out an important part of
the word's meaning. The Inleyding tot d'Algemeene Teykenkonst,as its title makes plain,
is an introduction to the art of drawing; and as such it is not particularly concerned
with the use of colour. 'Houding', however, was primarily a colour term. It was used
by both Hoogstraeten and Lairesse as a synonym for 'colour harmony': thus Hoog-
straeten called his chapter on the subject 'Van de Houding, Samenstemming of
Harmonie in't koloreeren' (Of Houding, concord or Harmony in colouring), and
Lairesse entitled his chapter 'Van de Harmonie of Houdinge der Koleuren' (Of Har-
mony or Houding of Colours). The second meaning was not meant to exclude the
first. As the following passage from Hoogstraeten's chapter reveals, houding blended
relief, aerial perspective and harmony into a single concept:
So it still remains to say something of concordant composition and fitting arrangement.
Which secret of art we usually express with the word Houding; which in colouring means the
same thing as, in the art of measurement, the words Symmetry,Analogy, Harmonyand Pro-
portion;corresponding also to concord and charming melody in Music. Because the concept
contains within itself a pure assembly of powers tuned together: the fine arrangement of
colours, which we call the art of Garlanding; and the ordered arrangement of chiaroscuro:
together with advancing, receding, curvature and foreshortening; and finally, comprises

12 Goeree (as in n. 1), p. 130. et certains eclats dans le Ciel qui sont aupres du Saint
13 Van de Wetering (as in n. 8), pp. 33-37, discusses Jean et aux environs de la tkte et des bras du Christ, et
some of the ways in which Rembrandt placed darker qui etant dans une teinte obscure font davantage
colours before lighter ones in the pictorial space and paroitre la lumiere du Ciel et la force du jour, fit con-
still preserved the illusion of three dimensions. He also siderer que cette clarte qui vraisemblablement doit
considers an interesting passage from Hoogstraeten s'approcher davantage, et venir fraper les yeux, est
which attacks the idea that only light colours seem neanmoins si bien mise en sa place, que les autres corps
to advance through space. (Hoogstraeten, as in n. 3, pp. plus bruns ne laissent pas de s'avancer, et que les jours
306-09.) Cf. also A. Felibien, Entretienssur les vies et sur demeurent derriere dans leur lieu naturel. D'oiY l'on
les ouvragesdes plus excellenspeintres..., v, Trevoux 1725, peut apprendre que quand les couleurs sont bien trai-
pp. 350-51: 'Conferences de l'Academie Royale: tees, le clair et le brun demeurent tant6t loin et tant6t
seconde conference'. Philippe de Champaigne is discus- proche, et que c'est la maniere de disposer le sujet, les
sing Titian's Entombment(P1. 39b): '[Philippe de Cham- jours et les ombres qui contribui encore A la force ou A
paigne] montra l'artifice dont il [le Titien] s'est servi l'affoiblissement de couleurs, qui sert beaucoup A faire
pour mieux faire paroitre les jours et les ombres; et fuir ou avancer les corps.
I'Academie faisant voir certaines echapees de lumieres,

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214 PAUL TAYLOR
everything, over and above what has already been mentioned, that goes into the making of a
perfect painting.
(Zoo resteert'er noch van der zelver overeendrachtige ordening en meedevoeglijke schik-
kinge te spreeken. Welke geheymenis der konst wy gewoon zijn met het woort Houding
uit te drukken; 't welk in het koloreeren eeven het zelve beteykent, als in de konst der
maetschiklijkheyt de woorden Simmetrie,Analogie, Harmonie, en Proportie;zijnde ook als de
overeenstemming en bekoorlijke zangwijze in de Muzijk. Want het begrijpt in zich een
zuivere vergaderinge van samenstemmende kracht: het wel schikken der koleuren, 't welk wy
de Tuilkonst noemen; en de ordentlijke schikking van lichten en schaduwen: nevens het
voorkomen, wechwijken, ronden, en verkorten; en laet eyndelijk niets uitgeslooten van al't
gene dat, booven 't geene dat reets verhandelt is; tot een volmaekte Schilderye behoort.) 14
So Hoogstraeten here gives an additional sense to the term. In part houding
means 'the ordered arrangement of chiaroscuro' with which one creates a sense
of depth in a painting, just as Goeree suggested; but it also has the connotation of
harmony, 'corresponding also to concord and charming melody in Music'. More-
over, it means both these things at one and the same time: 'because the concept
contains within itself a pure assembly of powers tuned together'. A plausible illusion
of spatial relationships is to be thought of as harmonious, giving a pleasure
analogous to that of music.
Thus 'houding'unites two concepts which, in our own century, have usually been
kept separate. It is common today to think of harmony and illusion as two
independent things: a painting can be a superb feat of illusionism and yet be bereft
of harmony, or deeply harmonious, but abstract. Harmony, according to this
modern theory, is a function of the arrangement of colours and lines on a plane
surface, and illusionistic success is irrelevant to such a concern. Even when dis-
cussing Renaissance and Baroque paintings, twentieth-century art historians have
tended to drive a wedge between form and illusion. Two passages may serve as
examples of this widespread tendency. Seymour Slive andJakob Rosenberg wrote of
Emmanuel de Witte's architectural interiors that, 'It is not difficult to imagine
Mondrian nodding with approval at the light and shadow patterns found in these
seventeenth-century compositions.'15 And Walter Gibson, writing of Pieter Bruegel,
observed: 'It was natural that an artist of Rubens's stature should have been
attracted by Bruegel's formal qualities. The geographer Ortelius, on the other
hand, chiefly admired Bruegel's incomparable realism.'16 Such language would
have seemed strange to a Golden Age art theorist, for whom 'incomparable realism'
was a 'formal quality'.
The most extensive account of the meaning of 'houding' was given by Gerard de
Lairesse in his Groot Schilderboek. In the opening paragraph of his chapter on
'Harmony, or Houding of Colours' he states, with his usual self-assurance, that:
Since Artistic Spirits who are eager for knowledge are only too well aware that few Writers
have written of harmonyor houdingof colours, and that what they have so far written on the
subject is very obscure and difficult to understand, I shall expand my thoughts on this

14 Hoogstraeten (as in n. 3), 300. 16 W. S. Gibson, Bruegel,London 1977, p. 204.


p.
15 J. Rosenberg, S. Slive and E. H. ter Kuile, Dutch Art
and Architecture1600-1800, Harmondsworth 1966, p. 192.

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HOUDING 215
matter a little, in order to make it clearer, and shall communicate them to diligent Art
Lovers.
(Dewyl de leesgierige Schildergeesten doorgaans bewust zyn, dat 'er weinig Schryvers van de
harmonieof houdinge der koleuren geschreeven hebben, en dat het geen, 't welk zy daar van
noch hebben voortgebragt, heel duister en onverstaanbaar is; zal ik myne gedachten, om
deze zaak klaarder op te helderen, een weinig meerder uitbreiden, en aan de yverzuchtige
Konstbeminnaars mede deelen.)
Lairesse then gives a crisp one-sentence definition of harmony's relationship to
houding, as follows:
Harmonycomes from placing faint against forceful colours, and strong against weak, where
the houding is kept in such a way, that everything seems to flow naturally from everything
else.
(De harmoniespruit uit een plaatsing van flaauwe tegens krachtige coleuren, en sterke tegens
zwakke; daar de houding zodanig in blyft, dat het schynt als natuurlyk uit malkanderen te
vloeijen.)
So a harmonious balance of strong and weak colours will bring about an apparent
space in which all the objects, both near and far, are joined in a plausible illusion of
three dimensions, which has no apparent breaks or compressions. Lairesse goes on
to provide three examples of paintings in which houding has successfully been cre-
ated; two are purely imaginary, but the other is given some substance by means of
an accompanying print (P1. 40a).17 His description of the imagined colour relations
between the various objects in this print constitutes the fullest analysis in Dutch art
theory of the problems involved in creating houding:
This Boat, being the foremost thing in the picture, we depict heavily gilded, and forcefully
gleaming, against the shadow of the trees and rock. To the foremost flying figure, which is at
the same distance, I give a light red garment against the dark of the same rock, with
sufficient force to make it match the boat. The second, following the first, has a pure green
garment, just as light, against the aforementioned rock, although the same [i.e. the rock] is
weaker by half a tint; whilst the third-who is situated still further back and in the shadow,
against the deepest part of the cavern or 'through-view' (doorzicht),which is light, being be-
side the yellowy blue of the open air-wears a dark blue garment, which is set off and holds
its proper place. The standing figure, on the receding side of the boat, stands against the
'through-view' in a dark and glowing yellow garment, with more force than the blue
garment, and less than the prow of the boat which has the most power, being the largest
part, doubled as it is by its reflection in the water. On the other side of the river, against the
trees, are other figures, naked as well as draped in weakly coloured clothes, like apple
blossom, blue, light shot silk, and white, chequered here and there with yellow; and their
reflections play in the water with those of the green trees stretching to the opposite part of
the other side. These figures, although weak and light, are equal in their lessening of force
with the middle flying figure and at the same distance; whilst they are all of one nature and
are depicted in half-tints; just as the red of the foremost flying figure corresponds to the
yellow of the boat, both being powerful colours. The Rowers are in dark blue.
This Example is meant not only as an instruction for a Composition of this sort, but in
general for any composition one can think of. Not that a yellow object has to be in front,
with blue behind and green, purple or mauve in the middle; but any colour one wants; for

17 Lairesse (as in n. 3), reproduced opp. p. 229.

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216 PAUL TAYLOR
one could, instead of this gilded boat, have had a red one; and have dressed the foremost
flying figure in a yellow, rather than a red garment; provided, of course, that each was given
a suitable background. Although the yellow of the boat and the red garment of the figure
are two powerful colours, they are also slightly different in nature: and since the yellow is in
itself lighter than the red, the red requires a darker colour to be set off by.
If one wishes to dress the figures on the other side of the water, who are clad in apple
blossom, blue etc., in other colours, like green or red; one can do so freely, so long as... one
places a suitable ground behind, from which they can be set off to their distance; for
although they are in the background, there is no law saying they must be painted in weak or
half tints. There is no colour so powerful, that it cannot be moderated and modified to its
distance or interval. That in this example the colours are arranged according to their rank,
with the powerful at the front, and the less forceful further and further back according to
their nature; that is to show clearly, and to make completely plain, what each colour is fit for,
whether to come forward by means of its force, or to recede by means of its weakness.
Nevertheless it is scarcely likely that a subject, where all the colours appear so advantage-
ously according to their particular natures, will appear before us by chance, as is depicted in
this Image: but one can sufficiently alter the same to suit all circumstances.

(Deze Boot, als zynde het voorste, verbeelden wy heel verguld, en krachtig van flikkering,
tegen de schaduwe der boomen en steenrots. Het voorste vliegende beeld, op dezelve
distantie, geef ik een licht rood kleed tegen het donkere der zelve rots, met zodanig een
kracht dat het met de schuit overeen komt. De twede, daar aan volgende, heeft een schoon
groen kleed, mede licht, tegen de gemelde rots, alwaar dezelve, van een halve koleur,
flaauwer werd; terwyl de derde, die zich noch verder en in de schaduwe bevind, welke een
donker blaauw kleed, tegen het diepste des hols of doorzicht, 't geen licht is, nevens de
lucht, welke zich geelachtig blaauw vertoont, afsteekt en op zyne plaats blyft. Het staande
beeld, op de wykende zyde des boots, steekt met een donker en gloeijend geel kleed, tegen
het voorgemelde doorzicht, met meerder kracht af, dan het blaauwe kleed, en minder als de
voorsteven van de boot, die het meeste geweld doet, als zynde de grootste party, welke met
de weerschyn in het water verdubbeld word. Aan de overzyde der rivier ziet men tegen de
boomen noch andere beelden, zo naakt als met zwakke koleurde kleedingen, gelyk appel-
bloesem, blaauw, lichte we rschyn, en wit, hier en daar met wat geel geschakeerd; en hunne
schynsels met die van't groen der boomen in het water spiegelen, strekkende tot tegendeel
der andere zyde. Deze beelden, hoewel zwak en licht, zyn na hunne vermindering in kracht
gelyk met het middelste vliegende beeld als op eene distantie; dewyl zy van eene natuur in
halve koleuren bestaan: even gelyk het rood van het voorste vliegende beeld met het geel
van't schuitje, beide geweldige koleuren, overeenkomt. De Roeijers zyn in't donker blaauw.
Dit Voorbeeld strekt niet alleen in't byzonder tot aanwyzing van zulk een Ordinantie,
maar in't generaal van zodanige als men zoude konnen bedenken. Niet dat voor aan een
geel voorwerp moet weezen achter een blaauw, en in het midden een groen, purper of
paarsch; maar zodanig van koleur als men begeert: want men zou, in plaats van deze
vergulde boot, een roode konnen stellen; en aan het voorste vliegende beeld, in ste& van
een roode, een geel kleed voegen; wel te verstaan als men elk een bekwaame achtergrond
gave. Hoewel nu het geel der boot en het roode kleed van't beeld twee geweldige koleuren
zyn, zo zyn zy echter noch eenigsins onderscheiden van natuur: en vermits het geel uit zich
zelve lichter is als het rood, vereischt het rood ook een donkerder koleur dan het geel, om
af te steeken.
Als men nu, in plaats van de beelden aan de overzyde van het water, welke appel-
bloessem, blaauw, enz. gekleed zyn, andere koleuren wilde voegen, als groen, of rood; zo
kan men mede zyne vryheid daar in neemen, wanneer men...een bekwaame grond daar
achter stelt, waar door zy na hunne distantie afsteeken: want schoon zy in het verschiet zyn, is

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HOUDING 217
het echter geen wet dat zy van zwakke of halve koleuren geschilderd moeten weezen. Daar is
geene zoo geweldige koleur, die niet kan gemaatigd en bepaald werden na haare distantieof
afstand. Dat in dit voorbeeld de koleuren aldus na hunne rang geschikt zyn, de geweldige
voor, en de minder krachtige na derzelver aart verder en verder; dat is om duidelyk aan te
wyzen, en klaarlyk te doen begrypen, waar toe ieder koleur bekwaam zy, het zy om met
geweld door te dringen, of met zwakheid te wyken. Nochtans is het kwalyk mogelyk, dat ons
een zaak, daar alle die koleuren na hunne byzondere natuur zo voordeelig vallen, aldus by
geval zal voorkomen, gelyk hier in deze Afteekening aangetoond werd: doch men kan
dezelve in alle gelegentheden genoegsaam veranderen.)
Lairesse goes on to clarify this last sentence with a further example, this time not
illustrated. One can, he says, use white as one's foremost colour, even though it is
less forceful than yellow; but one must ensure that the other colours in the painting
are of less power, so that the white is not overwhelmed. To use his own image: when
the General is absent from the army, the Lieutenant General commands; when the
Captain is absent from the company, the Lieutenant commands, and so on. In a
picture where white is used as the foremost colour one may not use a pure red or a
pure yellow. Thus although he does not say it explicitly, Lairesse cannot suppose
that every arrangement of objects as they present themselves in real life can be
successfully depicted in a painting. If someone in a bright yellow garment is
standing a few yards behind a white column, then an artist who wishes to depict the
scene must alter the colour relations of reality in order to create a plausible
pictorial illusion.
Lairesse's remarks in the passage above on how to use colour and chiaroscuro to
create a sense of depth are clear enough, and need little comment. Hue, saturation
and tone are all varied in order to achieve the desired effect; yellow and red are
deemed more forceful hues than blue or green, lighter colours are more forceful
than dark. The use of contrast is an extremely important element in the production
of houding: backgrounds must be carefully balanced against the colours of the
objects which stand before them. When the pigments are combined in such a way as
to produce a plausible sense of interval between the elements of the composition,
then the resultant blend will be 'harmonious'.
A number of words used by Lairesse in this chapter were constant companions
of 'houding'and deserve discussion in their own right. 'Afsteeken',which is translated
above as 'to be set off', is the modern Dutch word for 'to contrast'. Its literal sense,
however, is 'to stick off',18 and the sense of three-dimensional differentiation which
this suggests was clearly part of its meaning in Golden Age art theory. Thus Lairesse
writes, in the passage above, of a dark and glowing yellow garment, which 'steekt af
tegen' the view into the distance, more than a blue garment would do. One could
translate this either as 'contrasts against' or as 'sticks off from'; he is clearly trying to
make the reader appreciate not only the colour contrast, but also the three-
dimensional effect caused by a yellow as opposed to a blue garment. 'Is set off
against' captures both meanings of the term, and intentionally so.
The words 'kracht', 'force', and 'geweld', 'power', were both used as attributes of
colours which advanced to the eye. 'Krachtig','forceful', could also be used of whole

18 Cf. the use of this term in the


Junius quotation
below, n. 29.

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218 PAUL TAYLOR

paintings; thus Hoogstraeten, in a celebrated passage, described Rembrandt's Night


Watch (P1. 43b) as
so forceful that, to some minds, all the other paintings there [in the Kloveniersdoelen]
stand like playing cards next to it.
(zoo krachtich, dat, nae zommiger gevoelen, al d'andere stukken daer [in de Kloveniers-
doelen] als kaerteblaeren nevens staen.) 19
So 'krachtig'could well be translated as 'forcefully three-dimensional'.20
The word 'doorsien', translated above as 'through-view', was used throughout
Golden Age art theory to indicate a view off into the distance, of which the vista in
Lairesse's print, in this case through a conveniently pierced rock, is an example.
Van Mander explicitly recommended that paintings be embellished with a doorsien,
which he felt added much to their visual appeal:
For our composition will certainly enjoy a beautiful nature, to the satisfaction of our mind, if
we give it an 'in-view' or 'through-view', with smaller figures in the background, and distant
views of landscape, into which the eye can penetrate. So sometimes we can set down our
figures in the middle of the foreground and allow a few miles to be seen over them.
(Want ons ordinancy moeste ghenieten
Eenen schoonen aerdt, naer ons sins ghenoeghen,
Als wy daer een insien oft doorsien lieten
Met cleynder achter-beelden, en verschieten
Van Landtschap, daer t'ghesicht in heeft te ploeghen,
Daerom moghen wy dan oock neder voeghen
Midden op den voorgrondt ons volck somwijlen,
En laeten daer over sien een deel mijlen.)21

19 Hoogstraeten (as in n. 3), p. 176; discussed by Slive edn Haarlem 1604); the passage appears on pp. 130-31
(as in n. 5), pp. 97-98. Playing cards seem to have been in H. Miedema's translation into modern Dutch with
a standard fixture in contemporary aesthetic abuse: see commentary, Den Grondt der Edel Vrij Schilder-Const,
Sandrart (as in n. 4, quoted below on pp. 226f), and G. Utrecht 1973. It is interesting that, according to Van
Vasari, Le vite de' piz eccellentiarchitetti,pittori et scultori Mander, some (presumably Netherlandish) artists criti-
italiani, ed. R. Bettarini and P. Barocchi, Florence 1966, cized Michelangelo's LastJudgementfor its lack of such
i, p. 126 (edn Florence 1568, i, p. 49): 'Cosi nella pittura a view: 'T'is veel gebruyckt geweest van Tinturetten/
si debbono adoperare i colori con tanta unione, che e' T'ordineren, soo met groepen oft knoopen, / En An-
non si lasci uno scuro et un chiaro si spiacevolmente gelus oordeel is oock veel metten / Hoopkens geordi-
ombrato e lummeggiato che e' si faccia una discordanza neert, maer doch besmetten / Eenighe zijn eere, niet
et una disunione spiacevole, salvo che negli sbattimenti, om de hoopen, / Maer dat hy om de Beelden hem
che sono quell'ombre che fanno le figure adosso l'una verloopen / Heeft, in 'tgheen d'ordinancy mach be-
all'altra, quando un lume solo percuote adosso a una langhen, / Datter en niet zijn inzichtige ganghen. //
prima figura che viene ad ombrare col suo sbattimento Niet latende sien, als eenighe souden, / Een insien van
la seconda. E questi ancora, quando accaggiono, eenen Hemel ontsloten, / En voor aen yet groots, so sy't
voglion esser dipinti con dolcezza et unitamente, per- wenschen wouden: / Maer wie en sal dit niet ten besten
che chi gli disordina viene a fare che quella pittura par houden, / Siende dit werck al vol Consten doorgoten, /
piti presto un tappeto colorito o un paro di carte da giu- Van de gheleerde handt des Bonaroten,/ Soo veel acten
care che carne unita o panni morbidi o altre cose piu- verscheyden van fatsoene / Der naeckten, daer het hem
mose, delicate e dolci.' It would seem, however, that om was te doene.' (It was a common practice of Tinto-
Hoogstraeten is here using the comparison to refer to retto to compose his pictures with groups or knots [of
the other paintings' lack of kracht,rather than to a lack figures], and Michelangelo's Last Judgementis also very
of smoothness in their chiaroscuro. For a discussion of much composed in terms of small groupings; but there
unione see below, pp. 222f. are some who besmirch [Michelangelo's] honour, not
20 Compare Vasari's use of the word forza' in the on account of the groupings, but because his interest in
quotation on p. 223 below. the figures has led him to err in a matter which can be
21 K. van Mander, 'Den Grondt der Edel Vrij Schilder- of importance in the art of composition: namely, that
Const', v, 12, in Het Schilder-Boeck,Amsterdam 1618 (1st there are no paths into the picture for the eyes. He does

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HOUDING 219

'Welstand', sometimes given as 'welstandicheyt', is another word which regularly


appears in the company of 'houding'and its close relations. It can be translated
simply as 'good appearance', but a literal rendering would be 'good standing',
which carries some sense of the three-dimensional solidity usually connoted by the
word. Willem Goeree gave as a synonym for 'houding'the word 'standgeving', 22whose
etymological proximity to is
'welstand' plain. The connection between houding and
is
welstand expressed thus by Lairesse:
Now, so as not to work in vain, one must bear in mind before all else that the overall houding
be well observed: that the tints and colours be arranged in such a way that, from the
requirements of the recessionand distance,when the eye glances at the painting, everything
has a welstand...
(Om nu niet vergeefs te arbeiden, zo moetmen voornamelyk in acht neemen, dat de
algemeene houding, wel waargenomen word: dat de tinten en verwen zodanig geschikt zyn,
dat na vereis der wykingen afstand, en het stuk uit der hand gezien werdende, alles een
volkomen welstandheeft...)23

'Welstand' can probably be translated best as 'appearance of solidity', or to be more


precise-and cumbersome-as 'appearance of plausible three-dimensional con-
struction', although the word's other connotations need to be borne in mind.
Philips Angel, in his Lof der Schilderkonstof 1642, is also illuminating on the sense of
'welstand', which he connects to 'kracht':
...for shadow being combined in its proper place, gives such enchanting force, and so
wonderful an appearance of solidity, that many things, which can hardly be depicted in
colours with a Brush, appear quite actual...
(...want de schaduwe by een ghevoeght zijnde op haer behoorlijcke plaets, gheven sulcken
tooverachtighe kracht, en wonderbaerlijcke welstandt; dat veel dinghen, die nauwelijcx door
gheen Penceelenmet verwenzijn na te bootsen, seer eyghentlijck doen schijnen...)
The passage which follows shows that Angel, like Lairesse, was only too aware of
how the artist has to traduce three-dimensional reality in order to create a plausible
illusion of space on a two-dimensional surface:
...the force which living and actual things possess, although their shadows are scattered,
unites them together; and despite the dispersal of their shadows they still have an appear-
ance of solidity; but we, due to the imperfection which remains in our nature, cannot give to
these living and actual things any appearance of solidity in our work, nor can we bring about
such force as we perceive in reality, unless we manage successfully to arrange the shadow and
not let the beholder see, as some would, a view of the crucial phrases, translating as follows: 'And Michel-
heavens opening out, with something large in the fore- angelo's Judgementis composed with crowds of figures,
ground, as [his detractors] would like him to. But who and yet it is wanting... For absorbed thoroughly by
will not think this to be for the best, when they see this figures, in what concerns the picture's organization, he
work which is so infused with art, from the learned omitted pathwaysfor the eyes into the image. For he did
hand of Buonarotti, with so many nudes in different not allow, as one should, access to the sky, nor place
poses: and this was his main concern.) See Miedema, something large in the foreground [beyond which to
ibid., p. 133; Grondt,v, 16-17. This passage was cited and look], as one should wish.' By obscuring the fact that
discussed by J. Stumpel in 'On Grounds and Back- Van Mander is reporting the opinion of others, and by
grounds: Some Remarks about Composition in Renais- leaving out the sentence which follows, Melion seriously
sance Painting', Simiolus,xviii, 4, 1988, pp. 225-27; and distorts the sense of the passage.
most recently by W. S. Melion in Shaping the Nether- 22 Goeree (as in n. 1), p. 129.
landish Canon. Karelvan Mander'sSchilder-Boeck, Chicago 23 Lairesse (as in n. 3), i, pp. 12-13.
and London 1992, p. 8. Unfortunately Melion omits

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220 PAUL TAYLOR
the light together in a good order: for the same applies here as with a Band of dispersed
Soldiers,who have competely lost touch with their HeroicLeader,and who cannot hope for
sufficient strength to effect a victory, until they have grouped together, and brought all their
strength to bear in one place, and so given themselves power enough to emerge victorious.
The same may be said of our scattered shadow, which, so long as it is dispersed, cannot
captivate the sight of Amateurs.For we must use seemingly actual force (as I call it) in order
to overwhelm and captivate the sight of Art-lovers,through a united order of light and
shadow joined together.
(...de kracht die de levende en wesentlijcke dingen hebben, schoon haer schaduwen
ghestroyt zijnde, onder een haspelen, ende evenwel noch een welstandt hebben; soo
konnen wy om de onvolmaecktheyt die in ons noch overigh is, het selve in onse wercken
gheen welstandt gheven, noch soodanighen kracht als sy ons voor komen; dan als wy het
selve wel te weghe konnen brenghen, wanneer wy de schaduwe, en het licht, ghesamentlijck
met goede orderen by een gheschickt hebben: want dit gaet hier even toe, als met een Bende
verspreyde Soldaten,en verre van een ghescheyden Krijght-Helden toe gaet, dewelcke gheen
macht tot overwinninghe en konnen hopen, ten zy dat sy by een rotten, ende alle macht
ghesamentlijcken toe brenghen, om soo door ghewelt de overwinninge te bekomen. Even so
gaet het hier met onse verdeelde schaduwe toe, dewelcke, soo langh alsse van een verspreyt
zijn, en konnen het ghesicht van de Lief-hebbers niet in nemen. Want wy moeten door schijn
eyghentlijcke kracht (soo noem ick het) het ghesichte der Konst-beminders, door een, een-
drachtelijcke goede orderen der 'tsamen-voeginghe van licht en schaduwen, overweldighen
en in nemen.)24
So what is seen is not what should be painted: reality must be rearranged if the eye
is to be satisfied, for a mere copy of 'the image on the retina' would not produce a
painting with either force or an appearance of solidity. Light, shadow and colour
have to be artfully selected and composed if the illusion of three dimensions is to be
produced on a two-dimensional surface.25

The words discussed above did not all enter the vocabulary of Dutch art theory at
the same time. 'Doorsien'and 'welstand'were used by Van Mander in Het Schilder-boeck
(1604) in the senses I have given, but 'kracht', 'geweld'and 'houding' were not used
there with their later meanings.26 'Kracht'and 'geweld'make their first such appear-
ances with Angel's Lof der Schilderkonst of 1642,27 and 'houding' with Goeree's
Inleyding tot d'Algemeene Teykenkonstof 1668. 'Houding' had also been used by Angel,
whilst attacking neatness in painting, but it is difficult to extract its meaning from
the context:
For, dear me, what is a painting, if one sits chewing over it for months, trying to grind it
down as fine as possible, if not one single sweet remnant of a houdingcan be found in it? In
truth, not a great deal...

24 P. Angel, Lofder Schilderkonst, Leiden 1642, facs. rprt p. 471, and idem, Kunst, Kunstenaar en Kunstwerk bij
Utrecht 1969, pp. 39-40. Karel van Mander,Alphen aan den Rijn 1981, pp. 121,
25 Cf. G. B. Armenini, De' veri precetti della pittura, ed. 245. For doorsiensee above n. 21.
M. Gorreri, Turin 1988, pp. 101-02 (1st edn Ravenna 27 See H. Miedema, De terminologie van Philips Angels
1587: pp. 83-84). Lof der Schilder-konst, alfabetisch en systematisch gerangschikt,
26 For 'welstandicheyt' see Van Mander (as in n. 21), v, Amsterdam 1975 [n.p.].
19; also the brief discussions in Miedema (as in n. 21),

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HOUDING 221
(Want, ey lieve doch wat is een Stuck Schildery,of men daer Maenden langh in sit en moordt,
en soecken't op't naeuste uyt te siemelen, sooder niet een alleynkse soet achter blijvende
houdinge in ghevonden kan werden? In waerheyt, niet met alle...)28
Angel may have employed the word with its later meaning here, but this seems
unlikely, for he writes of 'a single... houding' ('een alleynkse ... houding'), as if there
could be more than one in a painting. The traditional meaning of 'houding', as
'bearing' or 'posture', makes more sense in the context, but it is hard to be certain
what it was that Angel wanted to say, given that he used the word only once.
The notary and poet Cornelis de Bie used 'houding' without its art-theoretical
sense in his Gulden Cabinet of 1662, but given his distance from and vagueness about
contemporary artistic practice, this hardly proves anything about its use amongst
painters at the time. If, then, we count him out of the reckoning, and if we assume
that the word was still used with an earlier meaning during Angel's day, we can state
that 'houding'was adopted in the sense outlined above some time between 1642 and
1668.29 Goeree cannot, I think, be thought to have invented the word; from his
whole way of discussing it, it is clear that he was using a term current in con-
temporary artistic circles.
In any case, as we have seen, the relatively late appearance of 'houding'in the art-
theoretical vocabulary does not mean that the notions to which it referred did not
exist beforehand. Angel's concern that the artist should use 'seemingly actual force'
('schijn eyghentlijcke kracht') in his work, and Van Mander's comments on the
'through-view' (doorsien), suggest an interest in three-dimensional construction simi-
lar to that expressed by Goeree. Moreover, Van Mander had discussed the necessity
of depth creation, and linked it with aesthetic terms in a way which shows that his
thought on harmony and illusion was not too far from that of later writers. For
instance:
For heightening and deepening are much required to let your cartoons enjoy a painterly
nature, that not the slightest lack of advancing, deepening, raising, rounding, sweetness,
fluency, diminution or fading should be found: you must not shy lightly away from the work
and vexation but constantly seek it out, so the greatest appearance of solidity may be
achieved by diligence.

28 Angel (as in n. 24), p. 55. more than the enlightned part it selfe. As for the word
29 Emmens (as in n. 6) suggests that Franciscus Harmoge, it seemeth to signifie nothing else but an
Junius's word 'harmoge' had a similar meaning to unperceivable work of art, by which an artificer steal-
'houding'.Junius seems to have split the meaning of ingly passeth over from one colour into another, with an
'houding'between 'harmoge'and 'tonus' both of which he insensible distinction.' The Painting of the Ancients, in
derives from Pliny: 'We learne then distinctly out of the Three Bookes... WrittenFirst in Latine by FranciscusJunius, E
former consideration, That nothing can be bright, as E And Now by Him Englished, with Some Additions and
Seneca speaketh, without the mixture of light. And that a Alterations,London 1638 (facs. rprt Farnborough 1972),
good while after the invention of Light and Shadow, pp. 279-80; F. Junius, The Literature of Classical Art, i,
there was added unto Picture a certain kind of brightnesse, (The Painting of the Ancients), eds K. Aldrich, P. Fehl and
sayth Pliny, being an other thing than Light. This brightnesse R. Fehl, Berkeley, Los Angeles and Oxford 1991, pp.
was named Tonus, because it was something between light and 247-48. The relevant passage of Pliny: 'Postea deinde
shadow. As for the commissures and transitions of colours, they adiectus est splendor, alius hic quam lumen. Quod inter
were known by the name of Harmoge. The word 7bnus haec et umbras esset appellarunt tonon, commissuras
therefore seemeth to signifie an intention of light; vero colorum et transitus harmogen.' Historia naturalis,
namely, when one or other inlightned part of the xxxv, 29; for a brief but useful discussion of this passage
picture becommeth more vigorously bright, by making see J. Gavel, Colour: a study of its Position in the Art Theory
that which before was esteemed lightsome enough, of the Quattro- and Cinquecento, Stockholm 1979, p. 107.
serve for a shadow to what wee would have sticke off

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222 PAUL TAYLOR
(Want ghehooght en ghediept hoeft wel op gronden
U cartoen schilderich aerdt te ghenieten,
Datter gants gheen ghebreck en zy bevonden
Aen afsteken, diepen, verheffen, ronden,
Soeticheyt, vloeyen, verdrijven, verschieten:
Ghy en moet u den arbeydt oock verdrieten
Niet lichtelijck laten, maer stadich haken,
Door vlijt ter hooghster welstandt te gheraken.)30
The way that qualities of relief are mentioned in the same breath as 'sweetness' and
'fluency' in this passage points forward to the confluence of harmony and illusion
in the later meaning of 'houding'.
Seventeenth-century Dutch art theory was not, of course, written in a discursive
vacuum, and the reader may well be wondering if the ideas associated with 'houding'
were derived from non-Netherlandish sources. It is not possible to answer this ques-
tion precisely, since Goeree, Hoogstraeten and Lairesse did not discuss the matter
and, given the complex nature of linguistic influence and transformation, would
doubtless have been unable to provide a clear answer if they had. But ideas similar
to the ones examined here did appear in both French and Italian treatises. The
word 'unione'was an Italian near equivalent of 'houding', and the clearest expression
of its meaning was given by Vasari in his introduction to the Vite:
Unionein painting is a discord of different colours harmonized together, which through the
diversity of many techniques shows the parts of the figures distinct the one from the other, as
the flesh from the hair, and one garment different in colour from another. When the
colours are laid on blazing and vivid in a disagreeable disharmony so that they are tinted
and loaded with body-as was formerly the practice with some painters-the design be-
comes marred in such a way that the figures are left painted less by the brush, which makes
the light and shade seem natural and in relief, than by the colour.
All pictures, then, whether in oil or in fresco or tempera, should be so unite in their
colours that the principal figures in the stories are brought out with the utmost clearness,
the draperies of those in front being kept so light that the figures which stand behind are
kept darker than the first, and so little by little as the figures retire inward, they become also
in equal measure gradually lower in tone in the colour both of the flesh tints and the
garments...
And one can recognize in those paintings which possess these qualities that the intel-
ligence of the painter has, by the unione of his colours and the excellence of his design,
given charm to the picture, and prominence and stupendous force to the figures.
(L'unione nella pittura e una discordanza di colori diversi accordati insieme, i quali nella
diversita di piutdivise mostrano differentemente distinte l'una da l'altra le parti delle figure,
come le carni dai capelli et un panno diverso di colore da l'altro. Quando questi colori son
messi in opera accesamente e vivi con una discordanza spiacevole, talch6 siano tinti e carichi
di corpo-si come usavano di fare gia alcuni pittori-il disegno ne viene ad essere offeso di
maniera che le figure restano
piti presto dipinte dal colore, che dal penello che le lumeggia
et adombra fatte apparire di rilievo e naturali.
Tutte le pitture adunque, o a olio o a fresco o a tempera, si debbon fare talmente unite
ne' loro colori, che quelle figure che nelle storie sono le principali venghino condotte
chiare chiare, mettendo i panni di colore non tanto scuro adosso a quelle dinanzi che quelle
30 Van Mander (as in n. 21), xii, 15; cf. also v, 12, 40; pictoriae(1583-1639), eds G. J. Hoogewerff and I. Q. van
vii, 54 (copied with a few variations by A. Buchelius, Res Regteren Altena, The Hague 1928, p. 76); xii, 27.

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HOUDING 223
che vanno dopo gli abbino piut chiari che le prime, anzi, a poco a poco, tanto quanto elle
vanno diminuendo a lo indentro, divenghino anco parimente di mano in mano, e nel
colore delle carnagioni e nelle vestimenta, piuiscure ...
Et in quelle pitture che aranno questi parti, si conoscer~ache la intelligenza del pittore
ara con la unione del colorito campata la bont~adel disegno, dato vaghezza alla pittura e
rilievo e forza terribile alle figure.) 31
So here we have a word which pre-empts a number of the concerns of 'houding'.
Like 'houding' it includes the notion of harmony--'e una discordanza di colori di-
versi accordati insieme'32-and, also like 'houding', it alludes to the necessity of cor-
rect spatial construction: 'rilievo e forza terribile'. But there are differences. Vasari
writes disapprovingly of paintings in which 'the figures are left painted less by the
brush, which makes the light and shade seem natural and in relief, than by the
colour': for Vasari, and for the writers who came in his wake, 'unione'was associated
with a highly-finished style which displayed imperceptible gradations of light and
shade. As such it was opposed to the manner of artists like Tintoretto, Bassano and
Schiavone, where light passages could be directly juxtaposed with areas of dark, no
attempt being made to draw the two together gradually.33 A painting with 'una
dolcissima e delicatissima unione'34 had its lights and shadows blended by the
brush,35 and not left unmixed in thick swathes of impasto, or as Vasari put it,
'carichi di corpo' (loaded with body).
Yet few seventeenth-century painters left their pictures so 'carichi di corpo' as
did Rembrandt, who was praised by both Joachim von Sandrart and Andries Pels for
his command of houding.36 There was no suggestion on their part that Rembrandt
became less competent at constructing houding as his career progressed, so we

31 Vasari (as in n. 19), i, pp. 124-125, 128 (1568 edn, i, painted in the style he castigates-'si come usavano di
pp. 48-49, 50). This passage was quoted in translation fare gia alcuni pittori'-but it seems that he was being
by F. Pacheco, El Arte de la Pintura, ed. B. Bassegoda i deliberately polite. Tintoretto remained persistently
Hugas, Madrid 1990 (1st edn 1649), pp. 397-98. blase about soft sfumatothroughout his career, and ap-
Pacheco translated 'unione' as 'uni6n', and related it pears to have been noted for the fact by his contem-
closely to 'suavidad' Cf. the definition of union in R. de poraries or near-contemporaries. Carlo Ridolfi wrote in
Piles, Termesde Peinture,affixed to the end of the Conver- 1646 that, 'Ne gia come alcuni poco conoscitori del
sations sur la connoissance de la Peinture, Paris 1677: buono dell'Arte si credono, furono quelle opere fatte
'Accord & simpathie que les couleurs ont les unes avec dal Tintoretto per disprezzo, non vedendovisi certa
les autres. On dit, voila un Tableau d'une grande union. sfumatezza di colori, che appaga l'occhio de' meno
Et quand cette union est grande & bien entendfie l'on intendenti; poiche non sempre e lodato nel Pittore
peut I'appeller suavite.' For a discussion of unione, see l'usar le delicatezze e'l finimento'. Le maravigliedell'arte,
R. LeMolle, GeorgesVasariet le vocabulairede la critiquede ed. D. von Hadeln, Berlin 1914 (1st edn Venice 1648),
I'artdans les 'Vite',Grenoble 1988, pp. 19-42. For a gen- ii, p. 33, quoted by P. Sohm, Pittoresco:MarcoBoschini,his
eral discussion of Italian attitudes to colour and per- Critics, and their Critiques of Painterly Brushwork in
spective, see Gavel (as in n. 29), pp. 119-32. Seventeenth-and Eighteenth-Century Italy, Cambridge 1991,
32 Both Vasari and Armenini connected unione with p. 55. See also ibid., pp. 39, 84, 85, 161.
music. See Vasari (as in n. 19), i, p. 127 (1568 edn, i, p. 34 Armenini (as in n. 25), p. 127 (1587 edn, p. 107).
49): '... lo unito che tenga in fra lo acceso e lo abbagli- 35 For Baldinucci, unire was a specific process of blur-
ato perfettissimo e diletta l'occhio, come una musica ring wet paints into one another with the brush: 'Unire,
unita et arguta diletta lo orecchio'; and Armenini (as in congiugnere. Et unire termine de' Pittori; e dicesi de'
n. 25), pp. 126-27 (1587 edn, pp. 106-07): '...una bella colori, e del colorito, quando si levano loro le crudezze,
varieta di colori accordata rende a gli occhi quello che che appariscon fra l'uno e l'altro, facendo vi sia dovuta
all'orrechie suol fare una accordata musica, quando le unione fra essi e le mezze tinte, o altri colori, che stieno
voci gravi corrispondono all'acute e le mezzane accor- loro vicino, accioch? venga la pittura piii pastosa: questa
date risuonano, si che, di tal diversitA,si fa una sonora e operazione si fa quando la stessa pittura ? fresca, con
quasi una maravigliosa unione di misure, onde gli animi pennelli grossi e morbidi.' F. Baldinucci, Vocabolario
con meraviglia trattiene.' toscanodell'artedel disegno,Florence 1681, p. 182.
33 Vasari writes here in the past tense of artists who 36 See below, p. 227 and n. 44.

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224 PAUL TAYLOR
cannot assume that they were referring to his early fijnschilder period, when his
chiaroscuro was relatively smooth. Thus 'houding' cannot be thought of as a direct
equivalent of 'unione'; the Dutch concept referred to a pleasing and effective
evocation of space rather than to smoothness of finish.
The French word 'union' had a clear semantic and etymological connection to
'unione', and was also close in sense to 'houding'; indeed Verhoek, in his 1733 trans-
lation of Roger de Piles's Termes de peinture, translated the word as 'houwding'.37
Nevertheless, the sense of 'union' differed slightly from that of its Italian and Dutch
counterparts. Unlike 'unione', it did not necessarily refer to smoothness of chiaro-
scuro. Thus Roger de Piles could talk of the way Rembrandt laid his colours onto
the canvas unmixed so that they would appear fresh to the beholder, deliberately
avoiding the process of drawing light and shade together with the brush to form
what the Italians would have called an unione, and still claim that this technique pro-
duced colours which seemed 'tres-unies', albeit at a distance.38 In general, 'union'
was broader in connotation than 'unione'; and no writer suggested that it referred
simply to the technique of creating sfumato. Of the two it was in many ways closer in
meaning to 'houding'. There were artists in France who had thought through the
intricacies of depth creation with as much thoroughness as had Lairesse. In the
course of one of the Conferences of the Academie Royale, at which Sebastien
Bourdon discussed Poussin's Christ Healing the Blind at Jericho (P1. 38b), an anony-
mous interlocutor-plausibly identified by Jennifer Montagu as Charles Le Brun39
-gave us one of the clearest expressions of French ideas on the subject of union.
What one can add to what M. Bourdon has said of the colours and of the lights which make
the figures advance or recede, is that not only do all the colours of the draperies agree with
one another, but also that the figures are disposed in such a way that one does not see a
strongly lit element fall immediately over one equally luminous, nor a deep shadow over
another shadow of the same strength. When the edge of one lit piece of drapery falls on
another, it is usually at a place where there is a half tint. The same can be observed of the
shaded elements, the edges of which do not fall on the strongest shadows. And this is what
serves to detach the figures, and prevents two light colours in close proximity from together
startling the sight, and mingling the qualities they send out. For what causes the confusion
which usually dazzles the eyes, is that too many lit elements are placed near one another.
In the same way, when the shadows are mingled together they prevent one from well
distinguishing the figures, and the painting seems no more than a very disagreeable obscure
mass. But when one preserves a beautiful economy of colours and lights such as appears in
this Painting, so one gives to one's Work this harmony and this union which makes an agree-
able ensemble and a charming douceurof which the sight never tires.

37 De schilder-const, eerste in Latynze vaerzen beschreven door qu'il leur etoit possible. Ils donnoient sur cette pate
C. A. du Fresnoy: in't Frans gebragt, en met aantekeningen toute fraiche par des coups legers et par des teintes
verrijkt door De Piles, nevens een zaamenspraak over het Kolor- Vierges, la force et les fraicheurs de la nature, et finis-
iet; nu in't Nederlands vertaalt doorJ. erhoek, Amsterdam soient ainsi le travail qu'ils observoient dans leur
1733, p. 30. modele. La difference qui est entre ces deux Peintres
'8 The passage occurs in a comparison of Titian and sur ce sujet, c'est que le Titien rendoit ses recherches
Rembrandt in R. de Piles, Abregi de la Vie des Peintres, 2nd plus imperceptibles et plus fondues, et qu'elles sont
edn, Paris 1715, pp. 426-27: 'Ces deux Peintres etoient dans Rambrant tres-distinguees i les regarder de pres;
convaincus qu'il y avoit des couleurs qui se detruisoient mais dans une distance convenable, eles paroissent tres-
l'une l'autre par l'exces du melange; qu'ainsi il ne faloit unies par la justesse des coups, et par les accords des
les agiter par le mouvement du Pinceau que le moins couleurs.'
qu'on pouvoit. Ils preparoient par des couleurs amies 3• See her article on pp. 233-48 of this volume (p.
une premiere couche la plus approchante du naturel 241).

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HOUDING 225
'
(Ce que l'on peut ajouiter ce que M. Bourdon a dit des couleurs et des lumieres qui
servent a faire fuir ou avancer les figures; c'est que non seulement toutes les couleurs des
vetemens sont amies les uns des autres, mais aussi que les figures sont disposees de telle
sorte qu'on ne voit pas qu'une partie fort eclair'e tombe aussit6t sur une autre aussi lumin-
euse, ni une grande ombre sur une autre ombre de meme force. Lors que l'extremite d'une
draperie claire vient a se terminer sur une autre, c'est d'ordinaire sur l'endroit oi il y a une
demi teinte. Ce qui s'observe pareillement dans les parties ombrees, dont les extremitez ne
tombent pas sur les ombres les plus fortes. Et c'est ce qui sert a faire detacher le corps, et qui
empeche que deux couleurs claires et proches l'une de l'autre ne viennent tout ensemble
fraper la vie, et ne confondent les especes qu'elles envoyent. Car ce qui cause cette con-
fusion qui ebloiiit d'ordinaire les yeux, c'est lorsque trop de parties illuminees sont pres les
uns des autres.
De meme que les ombres etant confondfies ensemble, empechent qu'on ne distingue
pas bien les corps, et qu'il ne paroit qu'une masse obscure tres-desagreable. Mais quand l'on
garde une belle oeconomie de couleurs et de lumieres, telle qu'elle paroit dans ce Tableau,
alors l'on donne 'i son ouvrage cette harmonie et cette union qui fait un agreable concert et
une douceur charmante dont la vi^ene se lasse jamais.) 4

However, although there were close links between 'union' and 'houding', the
French concept was rather broader than its Dutch counterpart. The notion of har-
mony current in France was nearer to that of our own century than the one we find
used by Hoogstraeten and Lairesse. French art theorists laid great emphasis on the
necessity of using colour to express depth, as we have just seen; but they also
thought of the union of a piece as something more purely formal. Colour harmony
was not simply a matter of creating a pleasing illusion, for colours could agree with
one another simply as colours. This richer notion of harmony and union is evident
in the next passage, from an earlier Confirence of the Academie Royale. Philippe de
Champaigne has finished discussing Titian's Entombment (P1. 39b), and 'l'Academie'
-Le Brun again, one assumes-adds certain remarks, including the following:
It is also to preserve this same harmony of colours and this beautiful union of tints that Saint
John is dressed in a red cloak, picked out with a little yellow on the highlights. For thus it
harmonizes very well with the green tunic of Nicodemus; it unites agreeably with the Mag-
dalene's dress, and is not too distant from the red garment of Joseph of Arimathea, and
moreover it serves to make the arm of Christ which crosses over it appear more clearly.
(C'est encore pour conserver cette meme harmonie de couleurs et cette belle union des
teintes que Saint Jean est vetu d'un manteau rouge, releve d'un peu de jaune sur les clairs.
Car ainsi il s'accorde fort bien avec l'habit vert de Nicodeme; il s'unit agreablement a la
robe de la Magdeleine, et ne s'eloigne pas du vetement rouge de Joseph d'Arimathie, et de
'
plus il sert faire paroitre davantage le bras du Christ qui passe par-dessus.)41
These comments show that same concern for depth creation which was present in
the earlier quotation-the red cloak 'sert a faire paroitre davantage le bras du
Christ qui passe par-dessus'-but they also show colour relations relished for their
own sakes: 'il s'accorde fort bien avec l'habit vert de Nicodeme; il s'unit agreable-
ment • la robe de la Magdeleine'. In these latter remarks a concern with what the
40 Felibien (as in n.
13), v, pp. 465-66: 'Conf6rences colofisau sieclede Louis XIV,Paris 1957.
de 1'Academie Royale: septieme conf6rence'. For more 41 Felibien (as in n. 13), v, p. 354: 'Confrrences de
on the debates over colour and space in 17th-century 1'Acadimie Royale: seconde conference'.
France see B. de Teyssedre, Rogerde Piles et les debatssur le

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226 PAUL TAYLOR
Dutch would have termed houding is surely absent; 'union' embraced a range of
response to colour which 'houding' did not aspire to.
There is a sense, then, in which 'houding'reveals a set of concerns which, though
they were not peculiarly Dutch, seem nevertheless to have been held in higher
esteem in the Netherlands than elsewhere. Neither Italian nor French art theory
put as much emphasis on the necessity of creating a plausible illusion of space. And
indeed, it appears that this fact was recognized in the seventeenth century. Joachim
von Sandrart singled out the Hollanders for their mastery of this area of art:
It is, incidentally, my firm opinion, however often it may be denied, that all hard, light,
strong and high colours should be entirely avoided and utterly rejected, as the embodiment
of all discordin a painting, whenever their hard, gaudy nature is not broken, and muted, or
intelligently temperedwith other concordant and harmonious colours. These fresh and
unbroken colours then, as they are used by card-painters and dyers, as well indeed as by
others who wish to understand something of our art, are no more tolerable in an intel-
ligently made painting than it is healthy and pleasant to eat raw red meat straight from the
butcher's. All lovers of the truth are agreed in this, and recognize that a number of old
Germans, like Holbein, Amberger, Lucas van Leyden, Joos van Cleve42 and others, have
carried the torch before us in this matter; and their teachings have been followed by the
Netherlanders, in particular of late the Hollanders, who have brought to the highest levels
this art of mixing, breaking and reducingcolours from their crudezza,till everything in the
picture conforms to Nature. In a large altarpiece, or other painting, which requires a large
number of different colours, one should observe the diminution; that one loses oneself
further and further back, with the masses in proportion, and the colours following netto
from one figure to another, according to the rules of perspective,and holding their position
all the while; which in Dutch we call Hauding. This is a very necessary rule, but little under-
stood. And in this we can learn from our wonderful Bamboccio,as well as from others, in
particular from the industriousand in this respect extremely intelligent Rembrandt; who, as
one can see from their biographies, carried out wonders as it were, and constantly observed
the true harmony,according to the rules of light, without hindering any particular colour.
(Im fibrigen ist diss meine grfindliche Meinung, wie sehr ihr auch mag widersprochen
werden, dass alle harte, helle, starke und hohe Farben ingesamt zu meiden und zu ver-
werfen seyen, als eine Sache, worinn die ganze Discordanzeines Gemahls bestehet: wann
nicht deren hartkrellige Art gebrochen, und gedimpfet, oder mit Vernunft durch andere
annehmliche und vertragliche temperirtwird. Dann diese frische ganze Farben, wie von
Kartenmahlern und Farbern, auch wol von andern, die in unserer Kunst etwas verstehen
wollen, gebraucht werden, sind so wenig in einem vernfinftigen Gemilde zu dulten, als
wenig gesund und angenehm ist, das rohe Fleisch aus der Metzig ungekocht essen. Diesem
werden beyfallen alle so die Warheit lieben, und erkennen, dass etliche alte Teutsche, als
Holbein, Amberger, Lucas von Leyden, Sotte Cleef43 und andere, uns mit diesem Liecht wol
vorgegangen; welchen die Niederlinder, sonderlich zuletzt die Hollinder, lehrhaft gefolget,
und diese Kunst in den H6chsten Grad erhoben, wie man alle Farben mischen, brechen,
und von ihrer crudezzareducirenmoge, bis dass in den Gemahlen alles der natur ihnlich
kommen. In einem grossen Altar, oder auf einem andern Blat, das vielerley Farben bedarf,
ist zu beobachten die disminuirung: dass man nach und nach, in gerechter Masse, sich
verliere, und die Coloritungehintert, nach der PerspectivRegeln, von einem Bild zum andern

42 Sandrart, following Van Mander, confused father due to a mistranslation of Lampsonius. See C.
Joos van
Cleve with his mad son Cornelis; the name 'Sotte Cleef' Scaillierez, Joos van Cleve au Louvre, exhib. cat., Musie
('Van Cleve the Fool'), together with a fanciful rationale du Louvre, Paris 1991, pp. 7-14.
for its application, seem to have become attached to the 43 See n. 42.

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HOUDING 227
nettofolge und ihr Ort bekomme: welches wir auf Niederlindisch Hauding nennen. Diss ist
eine sehr n6tige Observanz,wird aber wenig erkennet. Und hierin haben wir zu lernen, von
unserm verwunderbaren Bambots,auch von andern, insonderheit von dem laboriosenund
dissfalls hoch vernfinftigen Rembrand: welche wie in deren Leben zu ersehen, gleichsam
Wunder gethan, und die wahre Harmonie,ohn Hinternis einiger besondern Farbe, nach den
Regeln des Liechts, durchgehends wol beobachtet.) 44
III
Some historians of Dutch art, conscious of how infrequently Dutch art theory seems
to have been read by Dutch artists,45 are wary of using the theoretical texts in their
analyses of the paintings, fearing that what they find there may not reflect the
attitudes of artists and connoisseurs in general. And yet this wariness seems rather
excessive, for even if the theory little influenced the practice, the practice almost
certainly informed much of the theory. Van Mander, Angel, Sandrart, Hoogstraeten
and Lairesse were, after all, professional painters, and thus well-placed to report on
actual workshop activity. Given the stress laid on 'houding' in the theoretical texts, it
seems reasonable to suggest that the concept was one often used in Dutch ateliers.
The very fact that the word was adopted as an artistic term leads one to suppose
that the notions to which it referred were widespread. For a word to enter a
language, a fair number of users must have an interest in deploying it.
Moreover, an interest in houding is reflected in the paintings themselves. It is not
hard to find examples. In The Night Watch (P1. 43b),46 Rembrandt disposed, lit and
coloured his figures in such a way as to impress a sense of deep space on the viewer;
and, as we saw in the passage from Hoogstraeten quoted earlier, in the eyes of some
of his contemporaries he succeeded brilliantly.47 Frans Banning Cocq and Willem
van Ruijtenburch are about to walk out of the painting, thus emphasising the con-
tinuity of the pictorial space with that of the viewer-an effect which must have
been far greater before the painting was cut down to its present size, since a hand-
rail at the left would have made it clearer that they are in fact crossing a bridge, on
which we are supposedly situated. That the pair stand out in front of the rest in so
krachtig a way is the result of a number of expertly-handled pictorial devices. Most
obvious of these is the strong light streaming down on them from the top left of the
painting: no other figures receive so much, and this immediately serves to detach
the pair from their surroundings. The effect is then heightened by the striking
contrasts of colour-black, red and cream-which Rembrandt has reserved for
these two, rendering them far more vibrant and imposing than the other figures, all
of whom are painted in terms of much smoother contrasts. 48 And the most striking

44 Sandrart (as in n. 4), i, 3, p. 85. Sandrart was not Artifex and the Library of the Artist in the XVIth and
alone in praising Rembrandt's control of houding: XVIIth Century', in De arte et libris. FestschriftErasmus
Andries Pels wrote of him that, 'voor niet een van all'die 1934-1984, Amsterdam 1984, pp. 11-22.
meesters week / in houding noch in kracht van koloryt 46 Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv. no. C5. Canvas, 363
bezweek': GebruikMnMisbruik des Tooneels,Amsterdam x 437 cm., signed and dated 'Rembrandt f 1642'. The
1681, pp. 35-37 (quoted by Slive, as in n. 5, p. 210, and literature on this painting is not reproducible in a foot-
Emmens, as in n. 6, p. 75). note. See Bruyn's comments in A Corpusof Rembrandt
45 For the small number of art-theoretical texts in Paintings (as in n. 7), iii, 1989, pp. 430-85, for an intro-
surviving inventories of artists' book collections, see B. duction; see also Van de Wetering (as in n. 8), pp.
Brenninkmeyer-de Rooij's comments in B. Haak, The 12-39.
Golden Age. Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, 47 Hoogstraeten (as in n. 19); see above, p. 218.
London 1984, p. 63; also further J. Bialostocki, 'Doctus 48 This feature of The
Night Watchis discussed in more

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228 PAUL TAYLOR
whites in the picture-on Banning Cocq's ruff and the feather in Van Ruijten-
burch's hat-have been kept for the figures placed in the front of the scene.
The lighting of The Night Watch has been deliberately stage-managed to give
Rembrandt the sense of space he requires. The action is supposedly taking place in
broad daylight on a canal in Amsterdam, but illumination of the sort depicted here
could only be cast by a rack of spotlights in a theatre; Rembrandt is creating the
schijn eyghentlijckekracht ('seemingly actual force') recommended by Angel. 9 Three
broad bands of light recede back into the arch: the first picks out Banning Cocq
and his lieutenant, the second illumines the small girl at left centre and the third is
cast on the back row of militiamen. In between are broad stripes of shadow.50
Disposing his illumination in this way allows Rembrandt to achieve the striking con-
trasts of chiaroscuro which the anonymous member of the Academie Francaise,
quoted above,51 commended in Poussin's Christ Healing the Blind atJericho (P1. 38b).
The most noticeable instances of this device are to be seen in the musket and leg
occluding the little girl at left, and in the very sharp contrast which separates Van
Ruijtenburch from the old musketeer behind him. In both of these cases the effect
is to distinguish the figures clearly, thus preventing the picture from becoming what
was described at the conf6rence just mentioned as 'a very disagreeable obscure
mass'. In his other paintings, Rembrandt usually expressed depth by having lit
figures stand forward from shadow; by introducing three bands of light into The
Night Watch he was able to achieve this effect in the same way three times over, thus
giving himself the extra depth required in so large and complex a group portrait.
The problem, of course, was that two of the bands of shadow had to stand before
bands of light. Rembrandt solved this difficulty partly by strong contrast and partly
through colour. The musketeer loading his rifle at the left is in shadow, but the rich
red of his costume advances towards the eye and holds him in place.
The lance in Van Ruijtenburch's hand, according to Filippo Baldinucci, earned
Rembrandt considerable contemporary fame, since
...although no longer than half a braccioin the painting, it seemed to everyone who looked
at it as if it had its full extent...52
Its depiction is a very obvious tour de force of houding, and it is not surprising that
people at the time should have singled it out in this way for comment.

detail in Van de Wetering (as in n. 8), pp. 32-33. aveva rappresentata un' ordinanza di una di quelle
49 See above, p. 220. This peculiarity of Rembrandt's compagnie di Cittadini, si procacci6 sa gran nome, che
light was also observed by Roger de Piles: 'Quoique poco migliore l'acquist6 giammai altro artefice di quelle
Rembrant ait traite des sujets sous l'aparence de toutes parti. La cagione di ci6 fu piu che ogni altra, perch&
sortes de lumieres; il semble n6anmoins qu'il ait affect6 egli fra le figure aveva fatto vedere nel quadro un [Capi-
d'exposer ses modeles sous une lumiere haut et resser- tano, con] piede alzato in atto di marciare, e con una
r6e, ou sous une lumiere d'accident; afin que les partigiana in mano cost ben tirata in prospettiva, che
ombres 6tant plus fortes et les parties eclairees plus non essendo pia lunga in pittura di mezzo braccio,
ramassees, les objets en parussent plus vrai et plus sen- sembrava, da ogni veduta, di tutta sua lunghezza...' F.
sibles.' De Piles (as in n. 38), p. 436. Quoted by Slive (as Baldinucci, Notiziedei Professoridel Disegno da Cimnabue in
in n. 5), p. 131. qua, Florence 1847 (1st edn Florence 1681-1728), v, p.
50 This phenomenon is also discussed byJ. Bruyn in A 305. The same passage appears in Cominciamento, pro-
,
Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings (as in n. 7), iii, 1989, pp. gressodell'arte dell' intigliare in rame, colle vite di molti de'
475-76. eccellentiMaestridella stessaProfessione,Florence 1686,
51 On pif,78:
p. 224. p. quoted and discussed in S. Slive (as in n. 5), pp.
52 'Costui avendo dipinta una gran tela, alla quale fu 108-09.
dato luogo nell'alloggio de' cavalieri forestieri, in cui

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HOUDING 229
Like almost all of Rembrandt's paintings, The Night Watch was worked up from
back to front: that is, he painted the background first, then the middleground and
finally the foreground.53 Gerard de Lairesse commended this practice, and gave as
one of his reasons for so doing the fact that it helped the artist to construct his
houding with more ease. He wrote:
... that it is no less pleasant than useful to know that one can see the piece making progress,
and that everything is fitting well together, in arrangement as well as houding,and is thereby
continuously tickling and pleasing the sight, as a result of which the desire [to continue] is
stimulated and whetted as many times as one looks at it.
(... dat niet min aangenaem als nut is, te weten dat men gewaar werd dat het stuk vordert, en
alles by malkander, zo in schikking,als houding wel staat, en daar door geduurig het oog
kitteld en vermaakt, waardoor de lust [om door te gaan], zo menigmael men het ziet, op-
gewekt en aangezet word.) 54
In a passage shortly before this, Lairesse clarifies the rationale for painting from
back to front, saying that one needs to have the background laid down before the
foreground so that one can correctly judge the kracht of one's foremost figures:
Here it seems to me that the surest and most certain way is to start from the back, especially
when the Landscape has most to contribute. For everything must be made to suit the
lightness or darkness of the sky, and the tints of the objects found in the scene; because the
light on the foreground, and the force of the figures, must be matched to this, the which if
begun in a different manner, would turn out most uncertainly.
(Hier in komt my voor, de allerwiste en zekerste wyze te zyn, het van achtere te beginnen,
inzonderheid wanneer het Landschap meest te zeggen heeft. Dewyl na de helder of somber-
heid des luchts zich alle dingen schikken moeten, en de tinten der voorwerpen gevonden;
want het licht op de voorgrond, en de kracht der beelden, moet daar na gepast worden, het
geen, anders begonnen zynde, zeer onwis uitvallen zoude.)55
Although Het Groot Schilderboekwas published fifty-five years after The Night Watchwas
completed, it is hard not to feel that Rembrandt's rationale for painting from back
to front was the same as the one laid down here by Lairesse.
The illumination of The Night Watch is so complex that an entire article could
easily be devoted to it, but Rembrandt certainly had no monopoly on elegant de-
vices for bringing about houding. A small flower painting of 1669 by Simon Verelst
(P1. 42a) is a good example of a similarly sophisticated approach in one of the
'minor genres'.56 Verelst has used a device for creating depth in his bouquet which
Lairesse was to recommend in Het Groot Schilderboekthirty-eight years later.57 This

53 See the discussion by Van de Wetering in A Corpusof 56 Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (Broughton Col-
RembrandtPaintings (as cited in n. 7). It is interesting to lection), inv. no. PD 50-1975. Canvas, 51.4 x 40.6 cm.,
compare this practice with that of Italian artists, who signed and dated 1669. Discussed in my PhD thesis,
generally painted the figures first and the background 'The Flower Fadeth: Looking at Floral Still Lifes in
afterwards: see the discussion by Stumpel (as in n. 21). Golden Age Holland', University of Cambridge 1991,
54 Lairesse (as in n. 3), i,
p. 14. Quoted by Van de pp. 246-47, ill. 68. For a colour reproduction and a dis-
Wetering, ibid.; unfortunately he translates 'houding'as cussion by P. van de Ploeg, see B. Brenninkmeyer-de
'attitude'. See, however, Van de Wetering (as in n. 8), p. Rooij et al., Boeketten uit de Gouden Eeuw / Bouquets from
100, from which it is clear that his interpretation of this the Golden Age, exhib. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague
Lairesse passage is now the same as the one presented 1992, no. 26.
here. 57 See Lairesse's comments on colour and spatial con-
55 Lairesse, ibid.,
p. 12. Also quoted by Van de Weter- struction (as in n. 3, ii, pp. 360-68).
ing (as in n. 7), with 'kracht'translatedas 'boldness'.

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230 PAUL TAYLOR

technique, which may be called 'a chiaroscuro of hue', is common in Dutch flower
painting from Roelandt Savery onwards.58 Flowers of warm colours, such as yellow
or orange, were usually placed at the front of a bouquet, and flowers of cooler
colours, such as blue or purple, were placed at the back. Verelst's chiaroscuro of
hue is an advanced and subtle one. In the front plane of flowers he has used white
and light pink roses, together with a very striking yellow-brown sprig of shrivelled
rose leaves. These stand forward from the green of the foliage and the blue morn-
ing glories in the second plane. The back plane, at the right, is taken up by a
column of rich crimson poppies in shadow, which play against the well-lit emerald
green of the foliage, and push it forward in space as much by colour contrast as by
difference in tonal balance. The result is what Gerard de Lairesse suggested the
flower painter should aim for: 'a hemisphere which gradually rounds'.59
Verelst's lighting is no less stage-managed than Rembrandt's. The artist makes
numerous 'errors' of chiaroscuro in order to increase the houding. At the bottom of
the painting, for instance, the red silk ribbon of the watch is brightly lit, whilst the
table edge behind it is in shadow. This disregards the laws of optics, but brings the
ribbon forward in space very effectively. In the centre of the painting is a strongly-lit
pink marigold; given the direction of the fall of light, this should be occluded by
the white rose in front and to the left of it, but it is not in shadow, since, presum-
ably, Verelst wanted to contrast the shaded side of the rose with a bright passage,
in the manner prescribed in the discussion of Poussin's Christ Healing the Blind at
Jericho, quoted above. Indeed, those remarks about Poussin's painting apply very
well to this one, if the words 'figures' and 'draperies' are replaced by 'flowers' and
'leaves'. Verelst has consistently ensured that light contrasts against dark and vice
versa, even if the lights come in places which ought logically to be in shadow. The
illumination of the bouquet as shown here could only have been brought about by a
complex barrage of small lights placed at various angles; it is the mark of Verelst's
subtlety, sense of restraint and grasp of schijn eyghentlijckekracht that we only notice
this fact after a close examination of the picture. It was not for nothing that Jacob
Campo Weyerman praised Verelst for his 'magnificent houding':
Simon Verelst was a Painter in a thousand, a Man who arranged his flower pieces with such
judgement, that one has to love them in their entirety, as much for the magnificent houding
and the lovely lights and shadows which he brought into them, as for the exquisitely painted
flowers.
(Simon Verelst is een Schilder geweest uyt duyzent, een Man die met zo veel oordeel zyne
bloemtafereelen schikte, dat men ze alommers zo zeer om de heerlyke houding, en om de
aardige lichten en schaduwen die hy daar op te pas bragt moet beminnen, als om de keurlyk
geschilderde bloemen.) 60
Different genres required different lighting effects, and the practitioners of the
various specialities solved their individual problems of depth creation in differing
ways. In landscape, for instance, broken cloud cover could be used to provide bands

58 These ideas are developed at length in my PhD Nederlandsche konst-schilders en konst-schilderessen, The
thesis (as in n. 56), esp. pp. 154-64. Hague 1729-1769, iii, p. 248. For a discussion of Weyer-
59 'een halve bol...die langsaamer hand rond word'. man's life of the artist, see Broos (as in n. 10), pp. 209-
Lairesse (as in n. 3), ii, p. 366. 11. Lairesse was also a great admirer of Verelst: see Groot
60o J. C. Weyerman, De levens-beschryvingen der Schilderboek(as in n. 3), ii, p. 356.

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HOUDING 231
of light receding over the fields towards the horizon. A similar device was used by
Poussin in his Israelites Gathering the Manna (P1. 38a),61 as was observed by Charles
Le Brun:
As for the fall of light, having represented an air thick and charged with morning mists, he
has increased the sense of recession in his distant figures, and softened them as much by the
quality as by the strength of his colours, to make those in front advance, and manifest them-
selves more vividly in the stronger light which they receive through some opening in the
clouds which he supposes above them: a supposition sufficiently authorized by the broken
cloud cover in the rest of the Painting.
(Quant aIl' panchement de la lumiere, ayant represente un air epais et charge des vapeurs
du matin, il a davantage precipite les diminutions de ses figures &eloignees,et les a affoiblies
autant par la qualite que par la force des couleurs, pour faire avancer celles de devant, et les
faire eclater avec plus de vivacite par la lumiere qu'elles regoivent avec plus de force au
travers de quelque ouverture de nuee qu'il suppose &treau-dessus d'elles; ce qu'il autorise
assez par les autres nuages entr'ouverts qui sont dans le Tableau.) 62
This sort of description would clearly be appropriate also for a painting like Jacob
van Ruisdael's View of Haarlem across the Bleaching Fields (P1. 41b):63 the fact that Van
Ruisdael so famously never painted a cloudless day probably had less to do with his
supposedly melancholy nature than with a desire to use bands of sunlight set against
cloud shadow to create a sense of depth through space.
Light effects were one way for an artist to evoke houding; another was compos-
itional choice. Dutch paintings are full of such features as paths leading off into the
distance (P1. 40b),64 sharply foreshortened shutters (P1. 43a),65 sun-lit canals seen
through doorways (P1. 39a),66 and narrow alleyways leading past houses (P1. 41a).67
Figures are often positioned in such a way that the viewer can walk round the scene,
and play a part in the action (P1. 42b).68 In fact, the placing of the figures to favour
the visual pedestrian was another of the features of Poussin's Manna singled out for
attention by Le Brun:
[Le Brun] said that what he calls elements, are all the figures separated in different places in
this Painting, which break up the viewer's gaze, give it the means in some way to walk round
the figures, and to consider the diverse dispositions and the different situations of all the
bodies, and the differences between those bodies.
([Le Brun] dit que ce qu'il appelle parties, sont toutes les figures separees en divers endroits
de ce Tableau, lesquelles partagent la vue, lui donnent moyen en quelque fagon de se
promener autour de ces figures, et de considerer les divers plans et les differentes situations
de tous les corps, et les corps mimes differens les uns des autres.) 69

61 Mus6e du Louvre, Paris, inv. no. 709. Canvas, 149 x 'N Mae'.
200 cm. 66 Pieter de Hooch, Interior,
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam,
62 F61ibien (as in n. 13), v, p. 406: 'Conferences de inv. no. C1191. Canvas, 72 x 77.5 cm., signed and dated
1'Academie Royale: sixieme conf6rence'. 'P D Hoogh 1663'.
63 Mauritshuis, The Hague, inv. no. 155. Canvas, 55.5 67 Johannes Vermeer, The Little Street, Rijksmuseum,
x 62 cm., signed 'JvRuisdael'. Amsterdam, inv. no. A2860. Canvas, 54.3 x 44 cm.,
64 Aert van der Neer, Windmills at
Evening, Museum signed 'Jv Meer'.
Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, inv. no. 2293. 68 Jan Steen, Laban Seekinghis Idols, Stedelijk Museum
Panel, 24.5 x 34 cm. 'De Lakenhal', Leiden, inv. no. 404. Canvas, 109.5 x
65 Nicholas Maes, The Daydreamer,Rijksmuseum, Am- 144.5 cm.
sterdam, inv. no. A245. Canvas, 123 x 96 cm., signed 69 Felibien (as in n. 13), v, 421.
p.

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232 PAUL TAYLOR
This article has only touched on the fringes of Dutch ingenuity in the creation
of pictorial depth. A great variety of technique was used to achieve houding: com-
position, colour, drawing and tone fused into a pictorial space in which the viewer's
eyes could roam. A successful three-dimensional effect could only be brought about
by a delicate balance of colours. On the one hand, the colours had to contrast with
one another sufficiently to produce a legible space where the individual nature of
each object was easily discernible. The edges of each thing were supposed to be
picked out with a contrast of hue or tone. If objects were not differentiated by
colour in this way, then the painting ran the risk of becoming 'a very disagreeable
obscure mass', in which things would 'appear entangled in one another, packed
together'. On the other hand, if colours contrasted too much, then there was the
risk that an object would seem 'nearer or further, lighter or darker, than its distance
or closeness permits', and the painting would end up, as Hoogstraeten put it,
looking like a chessboard.70 The middle way between these two errors in a painting
was true harmony of colour, perfect houding, where the colours combined to pro-
duce a space that seemed 'as if it were accessible with one's feet'.

WARBURG INSTITUTE

70 Hoogstraeten (as in n. 3), p. 305. He cites Junius as (as in n. 29). For a brief discussion see Slive (as in n. 5),
the source for this phrase, but I have been unable to p. 96. Cf. Van Mander, Grondt... (as in n. 21), v, 42.
find the original passage in The Painting of the Ancients

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Plate 38 HOUDING

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b-Nicolas Poussin, ChristHealing theBlind atJericho. Paris, Louvre (pp. 224, 240f)

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HOUDING Plate 39

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a-Pieter de Hooch, Interior.Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum (p. 231)

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Plate 40 HOUDING

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Rotterdam, Museum
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HOUDING Plate 41

...........

a-Johannes Vermeer,
TheLittleStreet.
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum
(p. 231)

b-Jacob van Ruisdael,


Viewof Haarlemacross :::.
theBleachingFields.
The Hague, Mauritshuis
(p. 231)

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a- Simon Verelst, VaseofFlowers. Cambridge,


Fitzwilliam Museum (pp. 229f)

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a- Nicholas Maes, The Daydreamer. Amsterdam,


Rijksmuseum (p. 231)

b-Rembrandt, The Night Watch. Amsterdam,


Rijksmuseum (pp. 218, 227ff)

This content downloaded from 128.235.251.160 on Wed, 10 Dec 2014 04:29:57 AM


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