Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud

Pride and Morals


Was the glorious heyday of the Low Countries in the 17th century ushered in when capitalism took over the world of art? In the “gouden eeuw”, or the “golden century”, the seven northern provinces cast off the yoke of Spanish occupation and, with that, Catholicism and court conventions. It was now the turn of the bourgeoisie to seize the reins of the rich cities in the north, and to act from now on as the arbiter of taste.

For the artists this spelt a radical change in both their work and their income. It was no longer the church or a princely client that decided the form and content of a work, but the free market. For the first time, the majority of painters could no longer say who would eventually buy their paintings. This development not only led to an unprecedented boom; for some artists it also meant total destitution. There seem to have been more painters in Amsterdam than bakers, so some paid their bills with art rather than starve.

In addition, the market forced painters to specialise in landscapes, portraits, or still lifes. But whatever they painted, every work conveys their newfound pride in this small nation’s achievements: Just look at the way we have organised our country, how we rule the waves and have redefined art! But such pride is always faced with the knowledge that the things of the world are ephemeral. Well-bred people do not display their wealth, except in the guise of a moral message. The majority of masterpieces were created in this delicate balance between pride and moralising.

  • Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Leiden 1606 – 1669 Amsterdam): Self-Portrait, c. 1668. Oil on canvas, 82.5 x 65 cm. Acquired in 1936 as part of the Carstanjen collection. WRM 2526. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv
    Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Leiden 1606 – 1669 Amsterdam): Self-Portrait, c. 1668. Oil on canvas, 82.5 x 65 cm. Acquired in 1936 as part of the Carstanjen collection. WRM 2526. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv
  • Gerard van Honthorst (Utrecht 1590 – 1656 Utrecht): The Adoration of the Ahepherds, 1622. Oil on canvas, 164 x 190 cm. Acquired in 1855 as a legacy of Mr. Johann Heinrich Claren. WRM 2122. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv
    Gerard van Honthorst (Utrecht 1590 – 1656 Utrecht): The Adoration of the Ahepherds, 1622. Oil on canvas, 164 x 190 cm. Acquired in 1855 as a legacy of Mr. Johann Heinrich Claren. WRM 2122. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv
  • Aelbert Jacobsz. Cuyp (Dordrecht 1620 – 1691 Dordrecht): Fishing Boats in the Moonlight, c. 1650. Oil on canvas, 76.5 x 106.5 cm. Acquired in 1936 as part of the Carstanjen collection. WRM 2533. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv
    Aelbert Jacobsz. Cuyp (Dordrecht 1620 – 1691 Dordrecht): Fishing Boats in the Moonlight, c. 1650. Oil on canvas, 76.5 x 106.5 cm. Acquired in 1936 as part of the Carstanjen collection. WRM 2533. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv
  • Pieter de Hooch (Rotterdam 1629 – nach 1683 Amsterdam): Couple with Parrot, c. 1675. Oil on canvas, 73 x 62 cm. Acquired in 1968 as a gift from the Kuratorium Wallraf-Richartz-Museum und Museum Ludwig e.V. WRM 3218. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv
    Pieter de Hooch (Rotterdam 1629 – nach 1683 Amsterdam): Couple with Parrot, c. 1675. Oil on canvas, 73 x 62 cm. Acquired in 1968 as a gift from the Kuratorium Wallraf-Richartz-Museum und Museum Ludwig e.V. WRM 3218. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv
  • Frans Hals (Antwerp (?) 1581/1585 – 1666 Haarlem): Portrait of a Lady (Cornelia van der Meer?), c. 1640. Oil on canvas. Acquired in 1936 as part of the Carstanjen collection. WRM 2530. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv
    Frans Hals (Antwerp (?) 1581/1585 – 1666 Haarlem): Portrait of a Lady (Cornelia van der Meer?), c. 1640. Oil on canvas. Acquired in 1936 as part of the Carstanjen collection. WRM 2530. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv
  • Frans Hals (Antwerpen (?) 1581/1585 – 1666 Haarlem): Portrait of a Gentleman (Albert von Nierop?), c. 1640. Oil on canvas. Acquired in 1936 as part of the Carstanjen collection. WRM 2529. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv
    Frans Hals (Antwerpen (?) 1581/1585 – 1666 Haarlem): Portrait of a Gentleman (Albert von Nierop?), c. 1640. Oil on canvas. Acquired in 1936 as part of the Carstanjen collection. WRM 2529. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv
  • Jan van Goyen (Leiden 1596 – 1656 Den Haag): Landscape with River, 1652, Oak, 67 x 98 cm. Acquired in 1897 as a gift from Mr. Nakatenus. WRM 1017. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv
    Jan van Goyen (Leiden 1596 – 1656 Den Haag): Landscape with River, 1652, Oak, 67 x 98 cm. Acquired in 1897 as a gift from Mr. Nakatenus. WRM 1017. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv