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Emanuel de Witte, The Interior of the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam

Key facts
Full title The Interior of the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, during a Sermon
Artist Emanuel de Witte
Artist dates 1615/17 - 1691/2
Date made about 1660
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 51.1 × 56.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Miss Sarah Solly, 1879
Inventory number NG1053
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Interior of the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam
Emanuel de Witte

An atmospheric light, something characteristic of Emanuel de Witte’s many church interiors, falls on the congregation gathered in Amsterdam’s Oude Kerk to hear a sermon. De Witte started his career as a figure painter but became a master of this genre, in which architecture and the effects of light play an important role.

There’s a slightly subversive detail in the foreground of this otherwise tranquil environment: two dogs sniff at each other, and the bigger one lifts its hind leg to urinate. The city of Amsterdam employed so-called ‘hondenslagers’ or ‘hondenmeppers' to keep dogs out of churches, to stop them disrupting services with behaviour like this. The congregation in de Witte’s picture, however, does not seem to have been disturbed – people listen to the preacher and study their Bibles.

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