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Hermitage History.part 10

Aug - 20 - 2014


Previous article: Hermitage History – Part 9.

In the XVII century none of the European countries hud lived through such a period of rich development of genre-painting, as llolland did. The life of peasantry found its expression in the art of Adrian van Ostadre (1610-1685), who showed the primitive scarcity nud certain rudeness of its lower sections, as well ns the common life of the well-to-do upper sections (plate 52). Jan van Steen (1626-1679), a fine observer of custom, possessing a sense of humour, gave a wide scene of the life of most various sections of Dutch population (plate 53). Terborch (1617-1081) and G. Metsu (1629-1667) (plates 54, 56), painters of intimate life of the elegant polite society introduce us into a very different circle. It is Pieter de Heoch (1629-1684) who sang the quiet pleasures of family life, the strictly observed order of a burgher household (plate 55).

Pictures by P.Claeaz (1595/97-1661), and by W. Kalf (1622-1693) belong to the beet specimens of still-life, which was greatly developed in Dutch art (plates 59, 60).

One of the most valuable treasures of the Hermitage is its collection of the works of ltembrandv (1606-1669) – tho greatest Dutch master. The place in this collection is occupied by the central two great masterpieces: “Danae” and “The Return of the Prodigal Son”. “Danae” (plate 63) is one of the most beautiful pictures of the great master’s workmanship; it fasciuates one lay llie strength and truthfulness of the feeling it expresses. Its subject still remains a matter of discussion and different inter-pretations among specialists. But whether we sea llanae imprisoned in a tower to which Jupiter aflame with passion penetrated in the shape of golden rain, or whether it is tlte heroine of a biblical legend, awaiting her lover, the main idea of the pictnre, i. e. the excitedly happy confusion and anticipation of a young woman awaiting her lover, is diacloeed by the painter with uncommon expreasiveness. It is, indeed, magic skill with which the soft elasticity of the young hody and the golden sunlight flooding the whole picture are painted. We see the genius of Rembrandt as a great master of chiaroscuro in a small picture called “The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard” (plate 64), in which the artist’s great gift for narration becomes evident, for he turns a moralizing story about the displeasure of labourers with equal pay for unequal work, into a tragically vivid conflict. His own ideas of rnan, of his inner . world, of the joys and sorrows that stir him are moulded by fher into biblical legends by means of his artistic imagination. Often as in the “Parting of David with Jonathan” (plate 65), he transfers the action into surroundings imbued with the magic spirit of ancient oriental legend, while his attention is mainly paid to showing the emotions of the two devoted riends, one of whom stands under an threat of deathly peril. ln “The Holy Family” (plate 66), imparting to the Madonna features of a simple Dutch woman and showing the scriptural episode in common everyday surroundings, Rembrandt discloses the idea of his picture in a purely genre-painting manner, giving his characters emotions common to human beings in general. Profoundly psychological portraits created during the later decades of his life are part of the most valuable inheritance of the great painter. They show ordinary people who had lived a long life of care, reflections, and emotions (plates 67, 68).”The Return of the Prodigal Son” (plate 70), painted not long before the artist’s death, is one of his greatest works. It is to a certaln extent the result of his whole creative activity. From the scriptural parable Rembrandt borrowed only the main motive of the father’s forgiving love for his son, who realising hb moral degra-dation returned to his paternal roof after he hadled s loose life, a life of poverty, and wandering. The great humanity of Rembrandt’s art found its strongest and most vivid expression in that picture, in which the painter’s artistic language achieved its utmost in laconic simplicity.

 V.F. Levinsol – Lessing

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