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Emanuel de Witte (Alkmaar c. 1617-1691/2 Amsterdam)
Emanuel de Witte (Alkmaar c. 1617-1691/2 Amsterdam)

The interior of the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, looking north-east, with a sermon in progress

Details
Emanuel de Witte (Alkmaar c. 1617-1691/2 Amsterdam)
The interior of the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, looking north-east, with a sermon in progress
signed and dated 'E DE WI.../A 165[1?]' (lower left)
oil on panel
17 1/8 x 13 1/8 in. (43.3 x 33.2 cm.)
Provenance
Magin Collection, Paris, by 1920.
Mathilde Frey-Baumann, Schloss Meggenhorn, Lucerne.
Literature
I. Manke, Emanuel de Witte, Amsterdam, 1963, p. 97, no. 84, fig. 34.
Exhibited
Berlin, P. Cassirer, May 1915, no. 153.

Lot Essay

Acknowledged as one of the greatest architectural painters of the seventeenth century, Emanuel de Witte joined the Guild of Saint Luke in Delft in 1642, moving to Amsterdam in 1652. Sometime after 1650 he abandoned the depiction of historical themes and began painting lofty church interiors. Once he adopted the theme of architectural perspectives, his stylistic development became a 'steady refinement of visual effects' rather than a search for new challenges. After circa 1660 he increasingly painted 'realistic imaginary churches' and repeated figure types that were already part of his repertoire, using them in the depictions of existing churches (W. Liedtke, Architectural Painting in Delft, 1982, p. 93). He depicted the same church interiors, sometimes from a new angle or viewpoint, but he always enlivened them with differing anecdotal content. Furthermore, his mature works from the 1660s, among which the present painting can be placed, are characterized by his growing ability to describe the varying qualities of light.

De Witte advanced the art of architectural painting in Delft through his exploration of such effects. Previous artists - for instance Houckgeest - had concentrated on the depiction of perspective and depth; de Witte, on the other hand deliberately softened the spatial recession in his pictures, allowing the more distant architectural features to fill in the picture field. The archways, figures and church furniture that Houckgeest would have used to create a sense of depth are used by de Witte to form a continuous horizontal barrier. Instead, he employs carefully placed patches of light and dark to create a sense of space, at the same time allowing the soft light to create a tranquility that echoes, or even anticipates, the work of Delft artists such as de Hooch and Vermeer.
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