Thursday, September 12, 2013

Painting of the Day: The Grocer’s Shop, 1672

The Grocer's Shop
Gerrit Dou, 1672
Acquired by King George IV, 1803
The Royal Collection
Dutch painters were masters of illusionistic painting. This gem of a canvas by Gerrit Dou shows the triumphant cleverness of Dutch trompe l’oeil painting.

On first glance, the painting is so neatly finished and so crisp that it almost appears to be a true bas relief. This sense is heightened by Dou’s use of a “stone” archway and ledge which frames the composition. This was an unusual presentation in 1672 and set the path for many similar artists to follow. A painting of a stone relief of children playing with a goat (below the ledge) only heightens the realistic effect.

Not only is this painting a masterpiece of illusionistic art, it is also an excellent narrative. Dou was known for his narrative paintings of every-day life. Here, he shows a scene of a high-end grocer’s shop with china jars and expensive produce. The figures appear to be interacting with one another in a manner which makes the viewer wonder what they’re discussing. The mystery of the scene is further expressed by the shadowy figure of an older woman in the background.

The influence of French fashions on Dutch society is evident in the costumes of the figures. It’s easy to see why this painting appealed to King George IV who purchased the painting in 1803 while still Prince of Wales.

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