Blakely/Westermann Reflection

The Dutch have often used painting to reflect on their own history; however, most Dutch historical paintings addresses history through typological means. “A typological representation comments on a situation by comparing it with an earlier event” (Westermann 100). In the image above, the Dutch use the example of Roman general Marcus Curius to denote their idea virtuous leadership. In the painting, Marcus Curius is seen refusing goblets and chests full of gold, preferring his simple meal to the temptations of Rome’s enemies. According to Westermann, the Dutch hung this and several similar paintings in the Amsterdam town hall to remind the burgomasters of their duty to resist corruption, and to portray the two greatest virtues a burgomaster could have: modesty and fidelity.

Typology is analogous to folklore in the sense that it recalls an event or story in a dramatized and exaggerated way for a separate purpose. Blakely might compare this particular use of art to the Bogeyman. Though their audiences and methods are distinctly different, both Marcus Curius and the Bogeyman are “cast as the symbol for consciousness” (Blakely 62); while Marcus Curius served as an aspiration to remind politicians not to stray from virtue, the Bogeyman served as a source of fear to motivate children to follow social convention. Blakely would also likely note the social implications of each story. One song associated with the Bogeyman ends with “You can just call him the Black Man” (62), adding to the list of harmful ways in which black people were perceived in Amsterdam. In contrast, the painting of Marcus Curius paints the Romans as selfish and imperious through their use of bribery, an entourage of soldiers, and an African slave helping to carry the chests of gold; yet, this painting conveniently ignores that the Dutch were actively colonizing parts of Africa and Asia during this period and participating in the slave trade themselves.

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2 thoughts on “Blakely/Westermann Reflection

  1. Fantastic use of Blakely and Westermann to interrogate the painting, which still hangs in the former City Hall, I believe (we can ask Jennifer). And you’re abolutely right–the burgers were to be frugal and refuse temptations of riches, but their very wealth–the wealth that built that City Hall–was built in part on Dutch profits from the slave trade (and to lesser degree on their use of slave labor). I wonder if any contemporaries would have seen that horrible irony?

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  2. Kyle,
    I really enjoyed your editorial around this picture. Your connection between the boogeyman and Marcus was a very unique and interesting analogy. The way you worded it, along with the rest of your piece, was of a very high quality and helped my understanding of what you were trying to convey very well. I also liked how you tied to the boogyman back to the deeply rooted racism which existed during this time period. The irony of the slave trade that was going on, while this picture depicts Marcus looking down on slavery, is very much so relatable to when the Nazis arrived during world war two, and the leadership at the time didn’t avoid bribery and instead corrupted their leadership to keep themselves safe.

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