Introduction

The innumerable paintings of the Dutch 17th century clearly illustrate the fashion and style of a Dutch interior of the time.

Family portraits and intimate scenes are often portrayed in an interior with pieces of furniture, prized possessions or utensils of the period.

Many of these scenes served as an inspiration for Dutch interior decoration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

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Furniture in the golden age

The portrayal of 17th century Dutch interiors became a major source of inspiration for Dutch interiors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is questionable how realistic these interiors were of the 17th century as historical sources such as probate inventories indicate otherwise. Marble floors and brass chandeliers were less common than most paintings suggest.

The artist included such features especially to display his skills. The depiction of perspective, the manifestation of light and the detailed nature and sheen of materials were highly prized by the connoisseurs and collectors of an artist’s work.

The impression conveyed by the majority of 17th century painting is sometimes too straight forward. They show too little of the abundance of Chinese porcelain, Japanese lacquer and other exotic works of art which were to be found in affluent interiors.

Probate inventories have revealed that many interiors were overcrowded with furniture often arranged in a disorderly fashion. Linen presses and layette cupboards mentioned in an inventory are seldom seen in a painting.

Dolls houses assembled by the wealthy women of Amsterdam of the last quarter of the 17th century do reveal the authenticity of the time and are a source of valuable information. They were interested in all aspects of the interior and the rooms display all the furnishings with textiles, the luxurious and practical items.

The man of the house was perhaps more concerned about the architecture of his house. 17th century furniture such as massive cupboards or sturdy tables suggest a certain masculinity associated with the building of the house designed and paid for by the man. Printed sources reveal information that furniture production was chiefly a masculine affair however they also reveal that women of the time made their voices heard to decisive effect.

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