Room 26

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Framing and Unveiling Dutch Scenes of Everyday Life

Dutch scenes of everyday life can be deceptive in their verisimilitude. They present us with images of ordinary people doing familiar things in recognisable settings and appear to be faithful reproductions of reality. Yet Dutch genre painters did not represent every aspect of daily life. They favoured a handful of subjects that they often repeated. Examples are featured on one wall in this room and include figures frolicking on ice, playing games, napping outdoors or drinking and being merry.

The opposite wall explores how genre painters sometimes deliberately exposed the unreal nature of their works using various framing devices. They employed illusionistic archways, architectural niches and curtains to draw attention to their subjects while simultaneously creating an additional layer of separation between the viewer and the painted world. These devices allowed artists like Dou or Vermeer to display their technical virtuosity in creating convincing illusions of reality.