Art and Commerce in the Dutch Golden Age


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Michael North; Translated by Catherine Hill

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During the seventeenth century, the Netherlands—a small country with just two million inhabitants and virtually no natural resources—enjoyed a "Golden Age" of economic success, world power, and tremendous artistic output. In this book Michael North examines the Dutch Golden Age, when Dutch society boasted Europe's greatest number of cities and highest literacy rate, unusually large numbers of publicly and privately owned art works, religious tolerance, and a highly structured and wide-ranging social network. He explores the reasons for the country's success in trade and industry as it emerged from the Eighty Years' War against Spain, and the ways that art played a role in the innovative climate of the times.

North looks at the practical aspects of this Golden Age—the banking system, demographic changes, and what made such industries as textiles and shipbuilding so successful. In this period commercialization not only had far-reaching effects on the economic life of the Netherlands, it also affected art, as market forces proved more powerful than patronage for the first time in Europe. With fascinating information about many artists, including Vermeer, Frans Hals, and Pieter de Hooch, North considers painting as a profession, the exhibitions and sales of art works (including the Dutch lottery system), auctions, and the prices that were paid for art. He compares the prices of different artistic genres and studies patterns of picture ownership. Through a close analysis of the private collection of Rembrandt's money lender, Harman Becker, North reveals the function served by works of art in Dutch households. This rich, in-depth view of the Dutch Golden Age will intrigue all readers with an interest in social, economic, or art history.

Michael North is professor and chair of modern history and head of the department of history at Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität, Greifswald.

"Overall, North presents a broad-angled view of the field and various possible avenues for further research. . . . An exemplary introduction and a very helpful reference to assess the state of research in early modern Netherlandish art and its trade for both beginning students and advanced scholars."—Choice

"Art and Commerce in the Dutch Golden Age will be of interest to general and scholarly readers."—Curtis W. Wood, History: Review of New Books

"A book that deserves to be put on the compulsory reading list of every first year art history student is Art and Commerce by the German historian Michael North."—Erik Spaans, NRC Handelsblad

"A stimulating synthesis of a large body of scholarship drawn not only from the field of art history, but also from those of social and economic history was as well. . . . A noteworthy addition to the literature of the field. In gathering together into one compact English edition a wide range of material published over many decades in several languages, North's book will not only interest specialists but will be especially useful for English-speaking students."—Wayne Franits, Sixteenth Century Journal

"This is a short and helpful introductory survey of Dutch seventeenth-century economic life and the place of the production of paintings, artists' careers and patronage within that whole."—Charles Ford, Burlington Magazine

"Michael North's Art and Commerce in the Dutch Golden Age is a readable and comprehensive survey of Dutch seventeenth-century art from an economic and social-historical aspect. . . . At the same time, the text's incontestable value is in presenting the findings of numerous detailed social-historical studies in German and Dutch to a wider English-speaking audience for the first time. The study can be recommended both to students of art history and to a wider readership interested in the Dutch culture of the period."—Anastassia Novikova, The Low Countries, A Yearbook

ISBN: 9780300081312
Publication Date: September 10, 1999
176 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
20 b/w illus.