CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Symbol and meaning in 17th-century Dutch art

Exhibition: 20 June - 30 September 2000

From Oberlin Online, 27 February 2009

The Paternal Admonition by Gerard ter Borch could be anything but, says Marjorie “Betsy” Wieseman, curator of western art before 1850. “The title comes from one interpretation–the artists themselves rarely gave these works titles–and not all titles accurately depict the artist’s intention.” The genre scene, in which a woman, standing with her back to the viewer, appears to be chastised by a seated male figure who gestures with raised hand while another woman, also seated, averts her eyes, “is really subtle and elusive,” says Wieseman. “There’s nothing explicit in the artist’s depiction, so as a result there have been a lot of different interpretations of the painting.”

Wieseman intends this “wonderfully vague and imprecise picture” to be considered in contrast with the other painting on loan, a memorial portrait of Gerard and Gesina ter Borch’s deceased brother Moses. In this work, says Wieseman, “the dead brother is surrounded by elements that can have symbolic references. I wanted to bring together a group of portraits and genre scenes that show the range of ways in which artists could use symbols and emblems to enhance and expand the meaning of an image and enrich the interpretation, or potential interpretation, of a scene.”

Wieseman will reach for her goal with works from the Allen Memorial Art Museum’s own collection and those borrowed from collections at the Columbus Museum of Art and Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art.

At the end of the shows in Oberlin and Amsterdam, a courier from the Rijksmuseum will return St. Sebastian [lent out for the bicentennial exhibition The glory of the Golden Age