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The Manuscript: A Worldly Art

 “A Worldly Art” by Mariet Westermann is a piece that primarily focuses on portrait paintings. Portraits are a specific style of painting and this essay sheds light on the different techniques, poses, and hidden symbolism that portraits feature.

The time period in focus are the years between 1585-1718. This time period is also the time period in which famous painters, such as Rembrandt, lived and produced their own unique portrait styles.This essay also touches upon a number of lesser points such as architecture and analysis of portrait ironies.

The popularity of portraits in the sixteenth century was widespread, but one was only allowed to have a portrait commissioned if their family were either wealthy or noble. This fact is evidenced by the vast majority of portraits done in the sixteenth century depicting noblemen and other highly respected members in society. Nobility portraits were most prevalent, but other portraits of more common people can also be found.

Portraits of this time all hold nuanced differences, however there are a few broad similarities that can be found. Symbolism in the form of a pendant can be found in a large number of Dutch portraits. The pendant is said to symbolise the subject’s connection with their spouse.

Other similarities like the background and pose of subjects in the painting symbolizes social status and emotion. An example of this is the portrait of Anna du Pire by Bartholomeus. Du Pire is holding shells filled with water and is draped in a flowing robe with feather plumes garnishing her hair. All of this imagery is meant to symbolise the elegance of Anna du Pire.

Anna du Pire as Granida, by Bartholomeus van der Helst
Anna du Pire as Granida by Bartholomeus Van der Helst

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