History Painting in the Netherlands, 1600–1700
Subjects from history, mythology and the Bible enjoyed steady popularity in both the North and South Netherlands throughout the 17th century. In the Catholic Southern Netherlands, artists benefitted from both Church and private patronage for religious works. Directed to create images that would renew and strengthen devotion to the Catholic Church, Flemish painters like Jordaens and Van Dyck selected religious themes that were simple, direct and compelling, intended to encourage introspection and piety on the part of the viewer.
In the Northern Netherlands, which in the 17th century was largely Protestant, most large-scale religious paintings were made for private patrons or for a handful of ‘hidden’ Catholic churches. Secular historical, allegorical and mythological themes were popular with elite private collectors and for decorating the many civic buildings then being constructed in the new Dutch Republic.