The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Friday, April 06, 2007
Not Seen and Not Heard
I recently bought a wonderful exhibition catalog on the Dutch genre painter Pieter de Hooch. He is purhaps best known for his domestic interiors featuring mothers and children of various ages. But as the catalog makes clear, he painted many other kinds of subjects including scenes of courtship/flirting.

De Hooch is often compared with Vermeer. Both were residents of Delft and it is widely acknowledged that De Hooch has a profound influence of Vermeer's development.

But the comparison between the two painters points to a glaring omission: Vermeer never, ever included children in his paintings. Granted, there are only 34 (or so) paintings known by Vermeer so this is not a mountain of evidence. But it is still surprising.

Nearly all other Dutch painters of interior scenes painted at least some scenes with children. This includes Rembrandt, Jan Steen, Frans Hals, Nicolaes Maes, Gabriel Metsu, Gerard Terborch, Isaak Ostade, etc.

The Dutch loved children. A biblical view of family life dominated Dutch culture of Golden Age and it is celebrated in the art of the period as well. Children have a major place in art of the period as well.

Which leads us to ask: Why did Vermeer choose not to paint them?