Students will learn how to “read” a work of art for its social and political meaning by investigating cultural and historical context and by studying maps of the period.
Politics and Religion in 17th Century Dutch Art
Time Alloted3 class periods, 1 optional homework assignment
State Content Standards
7.9.4 Identify and locate the European regions that remained Catholic and those that became Protestant (first part of standard).
For the Visual Arts
1.1 Describe the environment and selected works of art, using the elements of art and the principles of design.
1.3 Identify and describe the ways in which artists convey the illusion of space (e.g. placement, overlapping, relative size, atmospheric perspective, linear perspective).
3.1 Research and describe how art reflects cultural values in various traditions throughout the world.
4.2 Analyze the form (how a work of art looks) and content (what a work of art communicates) in works of art.
- A large reproduction (art print, overhead transparency or computer-projection) of the focus work of art for display and for classroom instruction
- Worksheets or transparencies to present the discussion and writing prompts
- About Satire on the Spanish Withdrawal from the Netherlands
- Reproductions of the focus artwork for each student if possible
- Paper for written responses
- Computer access for the extension component
- Vocabulary development in visual arts
- Observation and recognition of artistic elements, principles and content in a specific artwork
- Comprehension and interpretation of visual details and symbols in a specific artwork
- Collaborative learning through participation in group inquiry and discussion
- Research skills in identifying and connecting a specific artwork with a primary historical document
(Sequence times are only approximate.) Materials: About Satire on the Spanish Withdrawal from the Netherlands "Pieter Quast, Allegory of the Spanish Withdrawal from the Netherlands.” Crocker Art Museum Curatorial Files.
Prompt: How did the artist use the following art elements in this work of art? Be specific in describing where in the artwork you see these elements.
Objective for Activity : Identify the Northern Province of Netherlands / Holland in relation to other European countries under Spanish control during the 17th Century.
Students – working either in small collaborative groups – or independently – will use the computer to access and then compare two different maps (primary documents) of Europe : one from 1560 and one from 1648.
History/Social Science Skills
Recognizing and interpreting maps of 16th and 17th century Europe to understand the implications of religion and geography during the 17th century.
Using knowledge from maps to support the understanding and interpretation of values communicated through a work of art.
Sequence for students :
Color printer and paper.
Venn diagram, optional.
Respond to the following question in written or verbal form.
Prompt : How does this study of the maps connect to your understanding of the work of art?
Keep a reproduction of this image on view for students throughout the period of this lesson for directed, as well as informal, reference.
Pieter Quast, born in 1605/6 in Amsterdam , is considered one of the most active artists of his period. In 1634, he entered the painter's guild in The Hague , an important city southwest of Amsterdam and bordering the North Sea . By that time, Quast was in his late 20s and establishing a promising career. Ten years later, he returned to Amsterdam where he remained until his death in 1647 at 41 years old. Quast's contemporary, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), settled in Amsterdam in 1631. Amsterdam at this time was the most populous city in the Netherlands , the center of an affluent merchant class, and the center of banking for Europe . Despite ongoing conflicts with Spain, Amsterdam 's prosperity made for a flourishing intellectual and cultural climate for a gifted artist like Quast.
Quast is best known as a keen observer of Dutch life, portraying carousing peasants, raucous soldiers and caricature-like actors in his drawings, engravings and paintings. Often his scenes were satirical or allegorical. His drawings were so popular that they were often made into engravings for wider distribution.
The tone of this work is comical in its caricature of the figures with their exaggerated expressions and gestures. The political content – ridiculing the Spanish presence in the Netherlands – pushes it into satire. Quast depicts his main character – a man dressed in the oversized collar and aristocratic clothing of a Spaniard – riding on the back of a bull. Portrayed as an object of ridicule, this figure is facing backwards, desperately holding onto the tail. His dislodged hat is sailing through mid-air. The bull, an animal known for its power, symbolizes the strength and resistance of the Protestant Dutch in the face of the Catholic Spanish. The bull also represents Dutch prosperity based on its cattle and dairy farming. The other characters in this composition seem to be added for comic affect. Like clowns at a rodeo, one figure is tossed into the air by the agitated bull, while other figures in distorted poses and facial expressions look on. One figure seems either asleep on the ground or about to be trampled by the bull. Another figure seems to run off. Since Quast was well known for his portrayals of peasants, actors, etc., these characters seem to be drawn from his repertoire of figures.
The Netherlands in the 17th Century
The humor in this work contrasts with its more serious political implications. The work comments on the relation between the primarily Protestant Netherlands (known as the Northern Provinces ) and Catholic Spain. In 1568, war broke out between Philip II of Spain and the Netherlandish Prince William of Orange . Among the factors forcing this conflict were the religious struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism in the Netherlands and Spain 's need for capital as it expanded into the New World . In 1609, the Protestant North and Catholic-controlled South signed a 12-year Truce. The Truce allowed the Dutch to trade with Spain and other countries (Dutch East India company formed in 1602; Dutch West India Company formed in 1621), and it allowed freedom from a Spanish-imposed religion. Even before the Truce, though, Spain 's power was greatly reduced throughout the world. Spain controlled only the Southern provinces, which are today known as Belgium . At the end of the 12-year truce, the treaty was not re-signed and war broke out again. When the Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648, formally ending the war, the positions of the two countries were quite different. The Netherlands decisively expelled the Spanish from its lands. Spain 's wealth and power were virtually depleted. For nearly 100 years, the Dutch enjoyed unprecedented prosperity.
Jeffrey Ruda, The Art of Drawing, Old Masters from the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California. Flint, Michigan : The Flint Institute of Arts, 1992.
(Pieter Janz. Quast) www.artnet.com/library 4/6/05
(Sequence times are only approximate.)
About Satire on the Spanish Withdrawal from the Netherlands
"Pieter Quast, Allegory of the Spanish Withdrawal from the Netherlands.” Crocker Art Museum Curatorial Files.