I have chosen Rembrandt’s “Belshazzar’s Feast” to be in conversation with “The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis” from Westermann’s book. As mentioned, historical revolts and triumphs were often represented in official buildings to reflect the triumph of the Dutch Republic. I have always viewed this painting in context of the earlier “oriental” works of Rembrandt compositionally and stylistically. While this painting isn’t explicit in Oriental costume because of the historical scene being depicted, I find this painting similar to others in style and composition that it is worth noting. Rembrandt’s paintings throughout his career are full of “oriental” costume and scenes. Some of them are historical/biblical like the “Belshazzar’s Feast” and this one, but many of his these paintings are portraits of anonymous people donned in elaborate Eastern dress. This appropriation of the east and the prominence of the East India Trading Company calls attention to the darker side of the “Dutch Republic” that is being praised. The replacement of this painting by one in more fashionable contemporary dress and style, shows a shifting attitude of this darker scene that looks barbaric in nature, even though it is a proud moment.
The Folklore of ‘Zwarte Piet” can come into conversation with how other cultures were being viewed at the same time. The exoticness and almost caricatures of the Eastern identity through using their costume and customs as props is dehumanizing similar to how Blakely describes Zwarte Piet and black people in the Netherlands. The religious aspect is also important, as the chosen scenes of Eastern depictions are typically from the old Testament and in negative lights, such as “Belshazzar’s Feast” paralleling how a painting can be stagnant while emitting a powerful narrative that can be construed to anyone’s whim.