Westermann and Blakely Reflection #2

“Fishing for the Souls” painted by Adriaen Van De Venne

Adriaen boasts his technique by creating the optical illusion of a bluebottle sitting on the painting of ‘Fishing for Souls’. Since this painting was created in Adriaen’s first year of career, the motive behind this outstanding, abrupt, incongruous, and incorrectly proportioned fly was to self-advertise. Adriaen also portrays himself in the full image of this painting. 

Adriaen confidently standing in the left bottom of the painting would be a bolster application to old Italian proverb “All painters depict themselves in their work”( Westermann 157). In the description of Samuel van Hoogstraten’s perspective box, Westermann points out three motivations of the artist “profit as the artist’s motivation is the virtual equal of fame and love”(Westermann 171). Adriaen’s explicit gimmick not only represents his character but also an effective short cut to those three motives: profit, fame, and love in the early stage of his career.

‘Fishing for Souls’ captured my interest as I assume Westermann and Blakely would focus on a very different point of the painting. Westermann would focus on Adriaen’s gimmick and symbolism hidden in the symmetrical difference between Calvinist and Catholic depicts. On the other hand, Blakely would focus on why there is no African presence in the painting. ‘Fishing for souls’ was painted at the peak of the Dutch golden age which as we know the most active era of the slave trade. It articulates the Christian belief of rescuing souls. Fact that no blacks portrayed in this painting could be evidence of Dutch society’s view at that time, blacks as commodities. Blakely would argue how the artist only portrayed white perspective into the painting, and compare it to the reality. In reality, many of those rescued Dutch are drawn in the face of political leaders who allowed, support, and performed the slave trade.


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