In ‘Rembrandt Curated’ we combine an artwork by Rembrandt with a work by another artist. The two works evoke associations with one another, whether it is the theme, composition, color scheme, or just a feeling. The ‘Rembrandt Curated’ of this week is: Ferdinand Bol, Governors of the Amsterdam Wine Dealers’ Guild, c. 1659 (Alte Pinakothek, Munich) and Rembrandt, The Sampling Officials of the Amsterdam Drapers’ Guild, known as ‘The Syndics’, 1662 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).
The group portrait is a typical seventeenth-century Dutch type of painting, in which members of the urban elite are often displayed in full-length. These citizens were most commonly wealthy merchants, members of guilds, or citizens that occupied high positions in public organizations such as prisons or orphanages. With group portraits, the members of the urban elite wanted to underscore and showcase their status. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to know that only the best painters were asked to execute these paintings, such as Rembrandt and his former pupil Ferdinand Bol.
On the left we see one of the aforementioned group portraits, painted by Ferdinand Bol. He has depicted the governors of the Amsterdam wine dealers’ guild. The painting was possibly executed in 1659, the year the guild was founded. We can see six leading members and a boy standing around a table, on which a richly decorated Persian rug has been draped. The boy, an assistant of sort, is holding a small dish in his left hand and an attribute to taste wine with in his right hand. The leading members of the guild are all wearing black hats, with the exception of the man sitting in the front, who has placed his hat on the table.
But also Ferdinand Bol’s former teacher Reembrandt painted an impressive group portrait, his first and only corporate group portrait. We see a group of syndics, sampling officials that were in charge of assessing the quality of the dyed cloth. Just like in Bol’s painting, every sitter looks straight at us. But this painting exudes also a unique sense of movement. The second figure on the left rises from his chair, and also the figures in the middle look up at us, as if to acknowledge our presence. Rembrandt’s painting has a lower vantage point than Bol’s picture, making the table seem to jut out of the painting, which gives it a three-dimensional quality.
What are your thoughts on these two artworks? Do they form a good pair? We would love to hear what you think!