From the museum press release, 3 September 2013
Animals in the Sinebrychoff Art Museum is a family event. A total of 67 Dutch 17th-century prints featuring pigs, cows, sheep and horses have
been chosen from the museum’s collections for display. Seafaring was the
primary source of prosperity in the Dutch society at that date, but also
agriculture and cattle farming contributed to the general well-being.
Domestic animals were popular subjects with artists, together with
peasant and bourgeois life, with its daily chores and village feasts.
Certain more exotic animals, such as camels, bears and eagles also
played a role.
Children find animal motifs particularly interesting, but these
masterfully executed prints hold adults just as spellbound. The
exhibition has been set up in the museum’s atmospheric Red Basement,
where the youngest members of the family can draw their own animal
pictures in the sketching corner.
The Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century was the outcome of great social
and economic change. The northern part of the Netherlands, i.e. Holland,
became independent in 1581, and many people turned Protestant during the
Reformation. Shipbuilding advanced, leading to a long period of naval
supremacy and economically profitable importing. Dutch achievements in
military skills and many fields of science were in the vanguard of
developments in Europe more generally. A golden age began in the arts.
Buyers of art works now included a new social grouping: the middle-class
bourgeoisie. The nobility’s position grew weak, and the Protestant
Church took a pointedly disapproving attitude towards art. Consequently,
the latter became secular and began to incorporate everyday themes that
pleased this new audience, that is, still lifes, landscapes, genre
paintings depicting everyday life, and portraits.
The number of artists and the quantity of their art increased
enormously, for art was in great demand. Artists specialized in their
own subject areas, and many worked in pairs: one painted animals, for
instance, and the other background landscapes for them. Paulus Potter
was one such artist, specializing in painting and producing prints of
The art business flourished, and prints were the most popular works of
art. Printmaking methods were already advanced and offered excellent
opportunities for artists who were skilled in drawing. Karel Dujardin
was a leading artist in the field of painting and drawing Italianate
landscapes, placing his animals in the forefront, with Italianate
mountains, castles and ruins in the background, and prints made by
Nicolas Berchem and Marcus de Bye featured pictures of pigs in the back
yard or sheep on the pasture and proud, noble-looking horses.
The animals displayed in the exhibition are from the museum’s collection
of old European art, specifically from the collections of Finnish art
collectors Alexander von Collan and Adolf Gustaf Ramsay.