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Pieter Saenredam, The Interior of the Buurkerk at Utrecht

Key facts
Full title The Interior of the Buurkerk at Utrecht
Artist Pieter Saenredam
Artist dates 1597 - 1665
Date made 1644
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 60.1 × 50.1 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Inscribed
Acquisition credit Presented by Arthur Kay, 1902
Inventory number NG1896
Location Room 16
Collection Main Collection
The Interior of the Buurkerk at Utrecht
Pieter Saenredam

This painting – an evocation of light, space, soaring architecture and ordered elegance – shows the inside of the Buurkerk in Utrecht. Several Dutch artists of the time specialised in painting church interiors, but Saenredam was particularly innovative. He exaggerated for effect: here he has stretched the height of the columns, creating a feeling of loftiness and allowing sunlight to flood the building.

The Buurkerk was not a contemporary building; it was constructed between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. But it had recently been remodelled in the new, unadorned Protestant aesthetic, and Saenredam celebrates this transformation. The walls, once multicoloured, have been whitewashed, and the altarpieces removed.

There are nods to other religious themes, too. The graffiti of the horse with four riders is a reference to the story of Reinout van Montalbaen, who embraced a religious life and helped in the construction of Cologne Cathedral.

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