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Domesticity in the Genre Paintings of Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals

Updated on July 5, 2012

Jan Vermeer - Officer and a Laughing Girl

Jan Vermeer - Officer and a Laughing Girl
Jan Vermeer - Officer and a Laughing Girl | Source

Rembrandt - The Music Party

Rembrandt - The Music Party
Rembrandt - The Music Party | Source

Frans Hals - Singing Boy with a Flute

Frans Hals - Singing Boy with a Flute
Frans Hals - Singing Boy with a Flute | Source


Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals followed the tradition of those like Bruegel, showing common, everyday scenes. While Bruegel’s “Wedding Feast” focused more on an event than a person, however, the new line of artists were more like portraits, focusing on a particular person as she or he went about their work. An example of this can be seen in Vermeer’s “Officer and Laughing Girl” which clearly focuses on the girl, with the officer a mere silhouette in the foreground, leading our eye past him and to the true focus of the painting. Vermeer continues this trend with “Little Street” and “Girl Asleep at Table.” Hals was a true master within the genre with a number of works that still amaze, including “Merry Lute Player,” “The Laughing Cavalier,” and “Singing Boy with a Flute.” They all show common, everyday sights, but by focusing in on them somehow makes them more important than they might otherwise be. Rembrandt has many works that show both full scenes of domesticity, including works such as “The Music Party,” but also paintings like “The Mennonite Minister Cornelis Claesz Anslo in Conversation with his Wife, Aaltje,” where the image is limited to one or two people.
This was still a new genre at the time, with portraits really beginning to gain in popularity. It’s no wonder that this type of paintings were growing ever more prevalent. These are three masters of the field, whose works added greatly to the canon of Baroque genre paintings.

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