Dutch Seventeenth Century “High-life” Genre Paintings: The Motif of Porcelain and Its Diverging Themes



Baker, Adriana E

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This thesis explores the motif of porcelain in seventeenth century Dutch “highlife” genre paintings. “High-life” genre paintings depict imagery inspired by the everyday lives of the upper echelons of Dutch society. My focus is on the periods between 1648 to 1700 when a notable shift in genre paintings occurred. I will follow recent art historical research that contends “high-life” genre images created multiple layers of associations for their contemporary audiences. In particular, I am interested in the significance of the inclusion of porcelain in “high-life” genre paintings as one of the components that create intricate layers of meaning. It is notable that porcelain was a product made for domestic use, as were the paintings that feature them. Yet porcelain as a commodity carries associations of global trade and is thus tied to the public world of commerce. I will argue that the inclusion of porcelain in “high-life” genre paintings creates associations to Dutch national pride in their trade, and their worldly knowledge of the “exotic,” while adding to the visual language of domesticity.



Porcelain, VOC, Dutch 17th Century, Collecting habits, "High-Life" genre painting, Domesticity