sehepunkte 5 (2005), Nr. 12

Marieke van den Doel et al. (eds.): The Learned Eye

As a literary form, the Festschrift presents special challenges, which become greater in proportion to the standing of the scholar being honored. Ideally, it should reflect the range of the scholar's own interests and connections to other writers, and the essays should be of a quality to stand on their own as contributions to the literature of the field. "The Learned Eye: Regarding Art, Theory, and the Artist's Reputation", succeeds in meeting these criteria, and more. By providing a larger conceptual framework for the individual contributions through the concept of "the learned eye," the volume achieves a kind of consistency of thought, despite the range of topics and approaches.

The introduction by Thijs Weststeijn plays a crucial role in setting out the framework of the learned eye. This phrase, traceable in form to classical rhetoric, became a staple of Renaissance and early modern art theorists. As Weststeijn tells us, this idea came to imply the supremacy of the artist as a judge of art because of the importance of first-hand experience. This idea is linked to Van de Wetering's own scholarly practice, informed by his training as an artist and his deep attentiveness to individual works of art as the starting point for his investigations. Weststeijn organizes the volume's fifteen essays under four rubrics: the work of art, the rules of art, the artist's reputation, and painters, patrons, and art-lovers, categories that also reflect important themes in Van de Wetering's own scholarship. As there is only space enough to single out a few among the fifteen, I have chosen those that seem particularly close to Van de Wetering's interests or methods.

Several of the essays treat painting practices in illuminating ways. For instance, Karin Groen traces the use of the color red for a ground layer on canvas paintings in the seventeenth century as reflecting older traditions of preparing late medieval and early Renaissance polychromed stone sculptures and murals, for reasons of cost and to facilitate drying and gilding of surfaces. Margriet van Eikema Hommes examines the differing approaches to depicting contours by four of the painters working in the Oranjezaal of Huis ten Bosch - Salomon de Braij, Gerrit van Honthorst, Cesar van Everdingen and Theodoor van Thulden - comparing their approach to the theoretical discussions of how contours should be depicted by such writers as Karel van Mander, Franciscus Junius, and Willem Goeree. While each of these painters deviated to some degree from the theoretical stance that contours should not be literally delineated, they did so in ways that still preserved the goal of painters and theorists alike: to enhance the sense of illusionism and convincing pictorial space. The author suggests that Van Thulden, who most consistently used contour lines, may have continued the practices of Rubens and his Antwerp school.

In another close study of artistic practice, Anna Tummers considers Aelbert Cuyp's application of established linear perspectival construction methods to the creation of his landscapes. The author questions the authenticity of a Cuyp painting in the Frick Collection in New York (Dordrecht at Sunrise, 1650s) because of inconsistencies in the application of perspective principles that lead to a more restricted sense of depth, contrary to Cuyp's established practices.

Arthur Wheelock builds upon Van de Wetering's attention to the technical use of color in seventeenth-century Dutch art by raising the issue of color symbolism, a system of meaning well established in Netherlandish art of earlier eras. Though this is an area of symbolic content not yet addressed by contemporary scholars of Dutch art, he notes the considerable attention that Karel van Mander and Samuel van Hoogstraten gave to color symbolism in their writings. A list of colors and their symbolic meanings appears four times in the papers of the Ter Borch studio estate, leading Wheelock to ponder the "narrative potential" (108) of color symbolism in two paintings by Gerard ter Borch, and to suggest its relevance to a range of artists, including Jan Steen, Johannes Vermeer, and, in certain cases, Rembrandt van Rijn.

Thijs Weststeijn reexamines the seventeenth-century understanding of Rembrandt's gifts as a history painter when seen through the lens of rhetorical strategies. Departing from Jan Emmens's positing of a negative 'classicist' critique of Rembrandt, Weststeijn finds in Samuel van Hoogstraten a positive, rhetorically-based evaluation of Rembrandt as a master whose work embodied passio (the passions) and enargeia (or vivid illustration, emphasizing movement), and "the virtue of ornatus" (120) or an appropriately ornamented style, in this case referring primarily to Rembrandt's use of light and color. Van Hoogstraten's praise of Rembrandt was cast in terms of "the virtues of the ideal orator," thus providing an alternative model of judgment, theoretically oriented yet positive in nature.

Eric Jan Sluijter poses the question of why Hendrick Goltzius took up the art of painting late in his career, in 1600 at age 42. Sluijter indicates that Karel van Mander's statements about how deeply impressed Goltzius was by painting in Italy, which he saw in 1590-91, provide the most important clue that this trip aroused a desire to compete with different means than through his mastery of line expressed in drawings and engravings. He suggests, though, that Goltzius wished to paint in a Venetian manner (thus emphasizing the convincing depiction of flesh) and needed to find someone who could teach him that. Sluijter offers as candidate for this instructor Frans Badens, who had resided in Italy for four years, accompanying Jacob Matham (Goltzius's stepson). The coincidence of timing between Badens's return to Haarlem in 1597, and Goltzius's production of technically accomplished oil paintings in 1600 might thus be no accident, and Sluijter reminds us that Van Mander described Badens "as a painter who played an important role in the recent changes in the art of the Netherlands", (162) even if he has faded into obscurity for modern audiences.

Michiel Franken discusses the important role of copies in the collection of the great French art patron Paul Fréart de Chantelou, who commissioned a number of copies of Italian paintings through the agency of Poussin. Ironically, Poussin proved reluctant to have his own paintings copied for Chantelou, and Franken suggests that this was a result of Poussin's desire to protect the autograph nature of his art, which he produced without the assistance of a collaborative workshop.

Finally, the inclusion of a bibliography of Van de Wetering's scholarship is welcome and will prove useful for many scholars in the years to come.

While every Festschrift contains essays of value, "The Learned Eye" maintains a higher level of general interest than many such volumes. The editors wisely limited the size of the book, and picked contributors who not only had close relationships with Van de Wetering but who could also look at issues - and specific works of art - anew, with innovative questions and approaches. The volume thus is an appropriate tribute to Van de Wetering, the central issues of his scholarship, and his unwavering commitment to works of art as the raison d'être of art history.

Rezension über:

Marieke van den Doel et al. (eds.): The Learned Eye. Regarding Art, Theory, and the Artist's Reputation. Essays for Ernst van de Wetering, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2005, 228 S., ISBN 978-90-5356-713-5, EUR 34,50

Rezension von:
Catherine B. Scallen
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Empfohlene Zitierweise:
Catherine B. Scallen: Rezension von: Marieke van den Doel et al. (eds.): The Learned Eye. Regarding Art, Theory, and the Artist's Reputation. Essays for Ernst van de Wetering, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2005, in: sehepunkte 5 (2005), Nr. 12 [15.12.2005], URL:

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