Blakely/Westermann Reflection (ZC)

The work I chose was “The Gouden Leeuw,” by William van de Velde II, which depicts the Dutch Naval presence that was the strength of the Dutch military and economy throughout most of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. From a military perspective, the Dutch made up for a fairly weak land army with a relatively super-powered naval force. This presence led to not only a national-defense safety net but also an economically advantageous situation that the Dutch handled masterfully. The Dutch people took great pride in their fleet, and works featuring this naval power, such as the one above, were commissioned on a very regular basis. Westermann writes that “although many seascapes were available cheaply, the best marine painters were among the most rewarded artists,” (Westermann, 112). Thus, Westermann legitimizes the depiction of the Dutch marine presence as among the most popular, and expensive, works of Dutch Art. This provides an interesting perspective on how to view Dutch art, as it can be seen as both an idolization of the things that the Dutch people held dear to their hearts, as well as an appreciation for the things that brought money into their economy.

Blakely’s viewpoint is very interesting as well, and I took notice of his mention of a dark color symbolism when discussing several works. In van de Velde’s work above, darkness is visible in several different areas, most notably in the water and in what appears to possibly be a storm cloud. This darkness put into the painting would not have been incidental, and Blakely’s viewpoint allows us to frame this darkness in a new perspective. The darkness exhibited here could represent the horrors that accompanied such luxuries as a powerful sea presence. Blakely’s viewpoint inclines me to believe that the storm cloud over Amsterdam is representative of the pain, sorrow, and other negative feelings that sweep over the families of Dutch crewmen during the crew’s prolonged absence while out to sea. More importantly, the darkness of the water could represent the darkness that colonialism brought about to those who were taken from their homes, subjugated, and put into the slavery of others. Though these are simply my own insights into the painting, this perspective was acquired through the study of symbolism surrounding dark colors, as is mentioned in Blakely’s book.

Overall, both Westermann and Blakely would likely agree that the Dutch naval strength created a situation that had both military and economic advantages. They would also likely agree that slavery, colonialism, homesickness, and disease were all negatives brought about by the same strength that created many strategic advantages. Given this understanding, it is clear that one could carry several different viewpoints at any given moment about the Dutch naval presence, and all are represented by this masterpiece.


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