Rembrandt’s Style vs Witwael’s Style

I believe that while historical context is certainly important when an artist is making it work, it is not as important to an artist as their style and their portrayal of the painting. As most artists may not be up to date on the most recent political events. They are certainly up to date ion the new techniques in painting and know their own style. Moreover, making an accurate depiction of history is not always important to an artist. It can be more about self expression and what artist feels. With saying that most of the paintings of this time period are realistic and are accurate depictions of the time period.
An example of this is seen in Westermann’s book where she describes Joachim Witewael’s painting, Mars and Venus Discovered by the Gods. There is almost nothing realistic about this painting. Since this style was one of its few its time period to portray such outlandish things that surround religious figures, it was not widely accepted or highly regarded. The stylistic features that are utilized by Witewael are not fascinating and are not ordinary by any means. My eye does not know where to fixate. All of the figures are looking in different directions. All of the objects are in disarray. All of the figures are showing nudity and have faces of desire and attraction. There are many different colors that are used. The colors are not light and very colorful. They are pink, blue, and green. The artist it also mocking or portraying riches in an interesting way with the necklace just thrown on the table and the object that has fallen over on the table. Moreover, the bed that looks expensive and has gold trim and other golden elements does not seem to be of much value to any of the figures.They are yanking at it and looking at different ways and do not seem to care or notice its value.
This painting is in stark contrast from Rembrant’s paintings and his overall style. As Westermann states “Rembrant’s history paintings could be graphic, even gruesome, in heir emotions and actions, but the settings and costumes defined unspecific, remote locals.97)”. This reveals that Rembrant was more concerned about an accurate depiction of the time period and was more concerned about the historical context surround his paintings. He was more interesting in directly depiction his audiences exactly how they appeared. Instead of Witewael’s style and his paintings. Witewael was more interested on provoking the public and having them question his work. Maybe, that is why Rembrandt is a more well known painter for Dutch art of this time period. He was more accepted and did not move away from the traditional style. Instead, Rembrandt took the traditional style made it beautifully detailed and exquisite.

Venus and Mars Discovered by the Gods by Joachim Witewael



4 thoughts on “Rembrandt’s Style vs Witwael’s Style

  1. Mars and Venus Discovered by the Gods(italicized),: Joachim Witewael, 1605, oil paint, 0′ 8″ x 0′ 6″

    Portrait of the Artist Son Titus(italicized), Rembrandt van Rijn, 1655, oil on canvas, 65 x 56 cm


  2. Claire, this is a really nice evocation of the formal chaos going on in Witewael’s painting, Mars and Venus Discovered by the Gods! Cheney raises a good question about whether viewers at the time already knew how to read it because they (or perhaps only those of a certain class and education) would have already known the story and found meaning in it that way. Historical analysis on our part would be needed to figure this out: first, the details of the myth it represents, and then whether 16th c. Dutch viewers (which ones) may have gotten that meaning. For us today, perhaps, though, the formal qualities–and the fact that the myth falls out of general (or even well educated) knowledge, means that these meanings are now lost to that painting, right? For Rembrandt, by contrast, we still value and recognize portraits as a known genre, even when we don’t know the person in the portrait. So perhaps the longevity of value or meaning may depend in part on the genre of painting?


  3. One thing I found really interesting here is that Wtewael’s painting, Mars and Venus Discovered by the Gods, depicts a well known mythological story that had been shared throughout history (since the works of Ovid (BC)). I wonder if this works popularity stemmed from the fact that it depicted such a well known, “risqué Ovidian theme” (Westermann, 95). It seems as though religious pictures, no matter the artistic technique, seem to garner attention from devotees or historians alike.


  4. Excellent argument here. I think you’re 100% correct that history is less important to an artist than the act of creating art itself. If this was not the case they would be labeled as historians and not artists. There are indeed exceptions (such as the poor saps commissioned by figures like Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler to paint their portraits), but generally the meaning of the art is internal. I must admit that I missed this point when I wrote my post. I mentioned that historical analysis can be used to find the artist’s motivation in creating the work, but I now realize that may not be exclusively in the realm of history. Although a battle might have inspired a certain depiction, formal analysis has much to offer in how and why the artist decided to create the piece as well.


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