Interior of the Buurkerk in Utrecht, Pieter Saenredam

Interior of the Buurkerk in Utrecht, Pieter Saenredam
Interior of the Buurkerk in Utrecht, Pieter Saenredam

Beyond the great geniuses of the time such as Rembrandt or Franz Hals, the truth is that the list of Baroque painters in the Netherlandsduring the 17th century is practically inexhaustible. Today as a sample we are going to talk about Saenredam.


Interior of the Utrecht Buurkerk, Pieter Saenredam

It is known that Pieter Saenredam (1597 – 1665) took his first steps with canvases and oils in a painter's workshop in the Dutch city of Haarlem, a workshop specializing in commissioned portraiture and also history painting. However, he soon decided to change the course of his art and opted for a subject that was then highly regarded and marked by intellectuality.

he devoted himself to painting architecture. He made countless paintings of exteriors and especially of exteriors of temples and large buildings. A good example is this work from 1644 in which he shows us the Interior of the Buurkerk in Utrecht.

Actually, many of these views are very similar to the one we see here. Although he changes the temple or the setting, he always presents us with church interiors absolutely radiant with light and stripped of ornamentation. They are compositions that were considered icons of mathematics and the laws of optics, and even had some materialization of the metaphysics of abstract sciences.

Saenredam reachedsuch a level of specialization that he worked side by side with the architect Jacob van Campen and used techniques more typical of the calculations of a topographer than of artistic perspective. That above all is manifested in all the previous studies and sketches of it, made in situ with endless measurements. But to be fair, when that transferred it to a canvas in the workshop, it could have been a long time, and on more than one occasion he seeks more the monumentality and grandeur of the image than absolute truthfulness in the representation.

A good example is this painting, since two previous sketches have been located. One corresponds to the right half of the image and would be a study made in 1636. While the painting dates from 1645.

We see as always a temple of Catholic origins, which with the arrival of Protestantism and the Reformation has been completely stripped of decoration and its walls have been whitewashed. A Gothic temple, a subject that particularly interests the painter, since he focuses above all on its oldest part, dating from the 13th century, to which he gives it even more height than the real one, stylizing its columns, thus increasing the spirituality of the scene.

These grandiose dimensions of architecture are still reinforced by the presence of some character, tiny compared to the environment and becoming references of scale. By the way, those characters were almost never painted by Saenredam himself. Someone from his workshop made it and of course his sketches never appear.

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