On four successive Mondays, from 21 January to 14 February, I moderated a webinar on the theme “Rembrandt seen through Jewish eyes,” in preparation for an exhibition of that name in the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow. One point of disagreement among the speakers was how welcoming the Netherlands was to Jewish immigrants. I felt that some speakers had too rose-colored an impression of things, for which I bring the following heavy evidence to bear.
There are nearly one-and-a-half times as many recorded Dutch painters of the seventeenth century by whom not a single work is known than masters with an identified oeuvre. And then there are those by whom we know only one really good painting. Where did their lost paintings go? Lots were thrown away, but others, Schwartz argues, are catalogued under well-known names. This subverts one of the basic assumptions of the connoisseur’s attribution.
Continue reading “393 The transparent connoisseur 6: Johnny One Work”
Rembrandt suffered from a rare condition that has not yet been diagnosed. He had an aversion to spires and sometimes to towers, lopping them off his depictions of buildings we know to have had them. Schwartz worries the issue.
The New York art gallery of Nicholas Hall asked me to contribute to a series of online writings called Food for Thought. My own thoughts went back to the 1990s, when I brought myself to pick up a research project I had abandoned in the 1960s. Impacted by current events, the memories are fraught with thoughts of mortality.
Art historians seldom let their personal predilections and aversions show through in their writing. An exception is the connoisseurship on Maerten van Heemskerck, one of the giants of sixteenth-century European art. His first cataloguer, Thomas Kerrich, set off an abusive trend in 1829 that prevails until our day, in a kind of historiographical bullying. Schwartz takes up the cudgels for Heemskerck. Continue reading “374 Heemskerck-bashing, late and early”
To mark the publication of the Dutch edition of a book on Pieter Saenredam that I wrote with Marten Jan Bok, the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem invited us to install a small exhibition in the museum. The central work was Saenredam’s painting of the town hall of Haarlem. Marten Jan and I wrote a booklet to accompany the show. In it we expressed the wish that the museum acquire the painting. This has not happened. It remained with Wildenstein & Co. until they put it into a sale at Sotheby’s New York on 28 January 2016. I am told that it was purchased by a married couple of distinguished American collectors who are planning to donate it to a U.S. museum. All the better that it has passed into the hands of people who really want it.
Schwartz muses on the Dutch research libraries he loves to visit, reminiscing about the past and worrying about the future.
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.
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.
What could be a greater honor than to be appointed Ambassador of the Free Mind? That title was bestowed on Schwartz by unrivalled champions of the free mind, the Ritman family of Amsterdam.