Can the Prado be reformed before its pictures disintegrate?

At the request of the New York magazine ArtNews, of which in the 1970s I was Netherlands correspondent, I visited the Prado Museum in Madrid to report on the new climate control facilities being installed. The article appeared in the March 1980 issue, contributing to the award to ArtNews of the George Polk Award for Cultural Journalism. I am pleased to report that in the intervening decades the Prado has more than redeemed itself from the dire situation in which I encountered it.


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359 The Temple Mount in the Lowlands

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem exercises a bewitching lure over Jews, Muslims and Christians. Not even the famously sober Dutch Calvinists could escape its spell. At least four seventeenth-century churches in the Republic were identified in form with the Temple. So was the Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam. As similar as these features of the churches and the synagogue may look, the meanings they convey are antithetical.

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The structure of patronage networks in Rome, The Hague and Amsterdam in the 17th century

The Francesco Datini Institute in Prato holds a highly distinguished yearly conference (Settimana di studi) on economics and its history. The range of subjects is impressive and inspiring, from “Wool as a raw material” in 1969 to “Water management in Europe, twelfth to eighteenth centuries” in 2017. In 2001 the theme was “Economics and art,” with more than fifty European and American participants. My contribution was a comparison of the patronage networks in three major seventeenth-century art centers. I suggested that certain structural similarities reveal themselves that may point to deep-lying social forces.

The proceedings were published in 2002 in a form that is not easy to scan well. Now that I have tried, fifteen years later, I see that the results are legible enough. An invaluable feature of Datini proceedings is that they include the discussions following each block of papers. Click here for a column on the congress.

“The structure of patronage networks in Rome, The Hague and Amsterdam in the 17th century,” in: Simonetta Cavaciocchi, ed., Economia e arte secc. XIII-XVIII: Atti della “Trentatreesima Settimana di Studi” 30 april-4 maggio 2001,  Le Monnier for Istituto Internazionale di Storia Economica “F. Datini,” Prato 2002, pp. 567-74

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313 The hygric division of the royal palace

The royal palace in Amsterdam is being restored and cleaned. Technical repairs come in the first place, but the campaign is also intended to reduce the disturbing differences between the lightest and darkest blocks in the facade. To Schwartz’s eye the operation, impressive and succesful as it is, nonetheless increased the contrast between the upper and lower stories of the palace. Continue reading “313 The hygric division of the royal palace”

311 Love in the huiskamer

Between the 1610s and 1650 an enchanting form of painting was produced in Antwerp and Antwerp alone: the kunstkamer painting, an evocation of an art collection in which actions of various kinds take place. Love of art is not the only kind of love expressed in these paintings. In one of the very earliest examples of the genre, Schwartz discovers conjugal and filial love as well as love for God. Continue reading “311 Love in the huiskamer”

231 Miffy in bronze on granite

The Dutch children’s book star Miffy is 50 years old this month. Her statue, by the son of the creator of Miffy, Dick Bruna, stands on a square in Utrecht. It is executed in bronze and stands on a granite socle. Only the hardest of hard materials can be used for outdoor art in the Netherlands. Schwartz worries about the extreme degree of vandalism in his adopted homeland. Continue reading “231 Miffy in bronze on granite”