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Pierer Jansz. Saenredam : “The Interior of Saint Bavo, Haarlem” (1628)

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Light fills the interior of the Church of Saint Bavo in Haarlem, one of the finest Gothic buildings still in existence today. Although Pieter Jansz. Saenredam based his work on careful on-the-spot studies, the painting combines two distinct views, one looking straight ahead and the other toward the chancel on the left. He even added an altarpiece and a stained glass window, which would probably already have been removed from the church by Saenredam’s time. By the 1600s, Protestant churches in Holland had become relatively austere in response to the teachings of theologian John Calvin.

The overall impression is one of strong verticality, soaring space, and penetrating light, a spiritual reference to the heavens above. The inclusion of small figures accentuate the viewer’s experience of exalted interior space. Saenredam described architectural elements in great detail: vaulted ceilings, moldings, decorative capitals, clustered pillars, and clerestory windows.

Credit Line: Text courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program (CC BY 4.0).

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