Love, Lust and Longing, In Dutch Painting

Love, Lust and Longing, In Dutch Painting


hi welcome to stories of art my name is
Carel Huydecoper today I’d like to tell you the story of a particular
subject in painting that you can find quite often in Dutch genre painting
especially in the in the 17th century I’m talking about doctor’s visits and
these paintings are usually actually quite small and you’ll find quite a few
of them in collections all over the world they’re all about love affairs
about scandals about cheating about unwanted pregnancies it’s your basic
17th century soap opera there are two main versions of these paintings and
I’ll discuss both of them but let me get out of the way so I can and so I can
show you this is a painting by Gerrit Dou or actually it’s a copy made during his
lifetime the real one is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and I’m
using a copy in the Rijksmuseum I’m using the copy because I could only find
a very high-resolution picture of the copy and not of the real one so well
here we can zoom in more closely in these pictures in all of the paintings
I’m going to show you we see doctors and I’m using the term quite
loosely because the distinction between doctors and quacks wasn’t a real one yet
doctors in general couldn’t really help people anyway because medical science
hadn’t really progressed that much but they could diagnose diseases sometimes
and they well would usually start by bloodletting or
doing something horrible like that in this case you can see that there’s a a
pen for bloodletting just in front of him that pan with the the gap in it you
place your arm you press your arm up against it and then your arm gets cut
above it and so the blood would pour into this pan and he could have a look
at it I suppose but in this case he’s looking at a flask of urine there were
quite a few doctors quacks that did that looked at urine to diagnose
diseases but in this case he’s not diagnosing a disease he’s trying to
determine if the patient is pregnant or not and either she is but people aren’t
happy about it or she isn’t and she’s trying to be and can’t get pregnant for
whatever reason because the lady in the background looks quite anxious she’s
actually she’s crying it’s probably not her that we should be worried about but
but she’s probably the servant of the patient and we can see that she’s a
servant because she’s carrying this bucket it’s a specific bucket that
servants would carry it is actually closable bucket and it had a lid and
servants would carry it when they were out running errands or whatever and we
can see that there’s a link to love here because there’s Cupid right above her
can you see it in the in the wall so they’re not trying to determine any
other type of disease it’s it’s all about pregnancies now don’t take my word
for it just yet but this is a type of painting you can find many of these and
some are more subtle than others one of the elements you always see in these
things is that people are unhappy about the results this is another one this one
made by Frans van Mieris and here you can see the doctor is looking at his
flask and we are reminded that it’s urine because there’s a bedpan right
next to the patient I assume that that’s the patient because she’s fainted
there’s an older woman trying to comfort her and there’s a young lady crying as
well so something has gone wrong that that’s what we’re meant to see here and
of course it’s a love story gone wrong now our mind is supposed to take over
and we were supposed to invent whatever went wrong she fell in love and her
lover left her and left her pregnant apparently something like that as I said
these things are about pregnancies they’re about sex and they’re about lost
lovers how do I know well mainly because there
our different versions that are less subtle than others and this one is very
very obvious it’s by Gotfried Schalcken and it’s in the Mauritshuis in
the Hague and here you can see well the crying lady the flask of urine the
doctor looking at it and a little boy making an obscene gesture and if we look
closely at this little flask we zoom in all the way then we can even see that
there’s actually a little baby floating around in the urine so the doctor can
actually see somehow that she has a baby in her belly now different version of
doctors visits are these, this is where a doctor takes the pulse of a
woman and it’s a woman that has lost all strength she’s just lying down as if
she’s fainted or about to or doesn’t have the strength to sit up straight and
again we are meant to see this as love sickness I guess her lover has left her
that’s the thing that we have to fill in ourselves there are several elements to
these pictures that are always the same what you almost invariably find is this
little box that you can see below her feet I’ll have a one later on where you
can see it even more clearly and that’s in Dutch called ‘een Stoof’ and it is a
very common thing in it it was a very common thing in a Dutch household it’s
also called the best friend of ladies or mignon des dames because it was
meant to keep a woman warm specifically a woman because what you did with this
this is a wooden box open to one side and has holes drilled in the top this
little pan you see here next to it has hot burning coals in it and you put that
inside the stove and then you put the whole thing underneath the skirts of a
woman so it keeps you nice and warm I say it’s used by women because of
course it’s much more useful if you have it underneath skirts then if you’re
wearing now there were lots of little poems and
jokes made about that these these little boxes with the hot coals are better than
having a a man because the Box doesn’t leave you the box is always around
when you need it and it keeps you nice and warm anytime you need it so there’s
a little allusion to love there another one is that you can see that in the
little pan that they’ve taken out there’s this sort of string that runs
into it there’s two explanations for that one is that there that when people
fainted they would sometimes revive them by burning some yarn and the smoke would
be a sort of a sharp smell that would bring you around that was the idea could
be that that’s it but there’s another one and that’s that
if you burned a specific garment the smoke would cure love sickness and that
garment is a garter belt that garter belts are not the same thing as we as we
have today they didn’t have elastic garter belts yet they didn’t have
elastic stockings either so you really needed garters if you pulled up a
sock there was nothing to keep it up so it would just fall back down again and
that’s why they would tie it around their leg with a piece of string is a
specific piece of string like this one and that’s called a garter belt now if
you burnt that smelt and inhale the smoke the idea was that you would cure
lovesickness but of course everybody knew that that doesn’t work that this
one is by Jan Steen and Jan Steen made these paintings by the Dozen he
must have made well over a hundred of these paintings and he often copied his
own work more or less because this one looks a lot like the next one can you
see that there’s sort of the same lady she’s in positioned in the same way and
the doctor is standing on the same side it’s just a room that’s a little bit
different but all the same elements again are there underneath her skirts we
can see the stoof we can see the little pan with the coals and and the
little garter belt lying in it and of course
she is more or less fainted and of course there there’s the doctor feeling
her pulse in this case it’s made abundantly clear what this story is
about we know that it’s about love and love sickness because of the piece of
paper on the floor that actually has lines on it and it says in Dutch ‘hier Baet geen Medicijn want het is Minnepijn” and that freely translated means
there is no medicine for this because it’s love sickness there’s actually a
painting in the background where you can see two people cuddling and it’s
probably some sort of other illicit love affair because apparently it has
something to do with the story I say apparently because he used that same
painting in the background in other versions of the same story because this
one can you see this is the same painting in the background and you can
see these two people sort of making love in the background on the painting and in
the foreground we can see a doctor writing a prescription and a lady lying
in bed apparently lovesick and again we there can be no doubt about what’s
happening to her because again on the floor – this piece of paper that tells
us that there’s no medicine because she’s lovesick I have another version
this one here you can see again the the the doctor feeling her pulse by the way
these doctors always wear clothing that was out of fashion this is something
that of course for us is very difficult to see but apparently they always wear
fashions that of nearly a century before so for a century a 17th century viewer
this would have been quite easy to see they look ridiculous sometimes they look
quite drunk but in this case he’s just standing there he doesn’t look
particularly drunk he’s just feeling her pulse she’s resting on the table she’s
lost all strength to live and we know why it doesn’t have the the lines of
there being no medicine but what we can see is this
box again the stoof with its a little pan out and the piece of string the
garter belt and in this case it actually combines the two types of doctor visits
because you can also see a little flask and well we can assume that that’s urine
there’s even the bedpan in the background another one by Jan Steen in
this case he’s doing both things at the same time looking at the urine feeling
her pulse and we have of course the standardized bits on the floor and that
you find in collections all over the world if you were to google doctor’s
visit painting you get dozens more of these some by Jan Steen as well and
some not but this is a nice one because here we can see that the lady is again
not very happy about the result the doctor has her flask of urine but
there’s another story element to it because in the background a man appears
and he gives a letter to a servant so maybe there’s that hope after all I’ve
always kind of liked this one again by Jan Steen and you see the same painting
in the background so you see that that where two lovers are cuddling up there’s
a doctor he’s feeling her pulse there’s a woman bringing over the flask of urine
and there’s lots of other bits there’s their little there’s a little there’s a
little pan with the coal and and the garter belt and here’s even a little boy
playing with with bow and an arrow sort of like a little kind of a cupid as I
said you can find many many more of these but now at least if you see one of
these in the museum you know what they’re about now I get asked all the
time if these things happened on a regular basis in the Netherlands in the
17th century and well we don’t know we don’t have any statistics but love
affairs I suppose happened as much as they do today unwanted pregnancies I
guess so again we we don’t have numbers but people don’t change that much it’s
only three and a half centuries ago so I guess it happened as much as it
does today and of course today we have many more ways to prevent these things
anyway that’s what this was my story for today I hope you enjoyed it if you if
you did give me a thumbs up please and maybe you would like to subscribe to my
channel if you haven’t already you can do that just by clicking on that button
below the video and well thanks for listening see you again soon bye

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *