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Pieter Saenredam, The Interior of the Grote Kerk at Haarlem

Key facts
Full title The Interior of the Grote Kerk at Haarlem
Artist Pieter Saenredam
Artist dates 1597 - 1665
Date made 1636-7
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 59.5 × 81.7 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2531
Location Room 16
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Interior of the Grote Kerk at Haarlem
Pieter Saenredam

Between 1634 and 1637, Saenredam made a series of views of the interior of the Grote Kerk (or the Cathedral of St Bavo) in Haarlem, the city where he lived and worked – this is one of them.

Even though it is a small picture, it required an enormous amount of work. Saenredam made sketches on site, followed by preparatory drawings based on precise measurements. He would then trace a final version directly onto the panel he was going to paint on.

He did, however, make significant adjustments to the final painting, usually to emphasise the grandeur of a building. By examining surviving drawings and comparing them with the painting, we can see that he significantly exaggerated the size of the foreground columns and deepened the spaces we can see through the arches. As a result the church appears much more monumental, with massive columns and distant vistas.

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