Westermann Reflection

The Image I chose the analyze is the Hendrick Avercamp’s Skating scene outside a Village from Westermann’s piece. This picture represents a break down of social-cultural barriers, such as economic status, and shows all people from different walks of Dutch society coming together. Wetsermann notes, “Avercamp’s panoramic view of a white world in which sky and ice merge by a distant horizon seems to delight in the waters ability to metamorpihize temporarily into more land for all.” (107) So as the sky and ice come together to paint a synonymously white picture, the Dutch citizens come together as one, and the independent barriers between individuals come down. However, the irony of an all white background during a time in which Black people were enslaved also paints a picture of the racism which was in the background of Dutch culture. 

Blakely mentioned in her piece that in pagan lore that darkness was the color for  death and winter. Thus, one interpretation could be that the winter bringing in the ice leads to the death of the social barriers which barred off segments of society from each other. Blakely also mentioned the winter celebration that occurred in which, “on the prescribed evenings on Ameland masked, often blackened, men and boys dressed in contrasting black and white trappings, would roam the village streets.” (43) As can be seen throughout the image on the lake, there is multiple men wearing mostly black outfits, with a white addition of clothing, and multiple people pictured wearing masks. Thus, this picture could be representing a festivity of sorts, which I believe is one of the interpretations Blakely would draw. 

Unrelated to the image I chose the analyze, there was one quote from Westermann’s piece which really struck me, “Dutch historians presented their nation as the new people of Israel, small but selected by God for moral leadership. They therefore favored legends about Jewish Heros and heroines.” (102) As many of us in this class wrote about Amsterdam during World War Two, I find it very ironic that Dutch historians made heroes out of the Jews, viewed themselves as the “new jews,” but then later betrayed those same people. 


2 thoughts on “Westermann Reflection

  1. Cool idea to look at a painting where “white” is not meant as having a racial meaning, but finding a way to see how it might be linked. Nice attention to Blakely’s history, which works to deconstruct the history of the notions of the color “black,” which had negative meanings well before Dutch people encountered Africans, and how readily those generalized negative meanings get attached to their notion of Africans and of race itself, a process that was accelerated by Dutch enslavement of Africans in the slave trade and the early Dutch colonies.


  2. Michael,

    I really enjoyed your post. The imagery you outlined of the sky and ice melding together, just as Dutch society appears to be without barriers is quite interesting.

    I also thought that it was important that you contrasted this with the reality of Holland’s racial attitudes at that time. You correctly suggest that this utopian picture is beautiful but not an accurate representation of reality.

    Finally, I like your point about the “new Jews” and how society and culture can differ from teachings and history.



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