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Dutch burghers and their wine: Nary a sour grape

Henriette Rahusen, researcher, department of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art. The paintings that portray daily life in the Dutch Republic in the 17th century often include images of alcohol, be it wine or beer. Scenes of festive dinners and boisterous parties in taverns suggest that alcohol flowed freely, whereas in some depictions of intimate gatherings the presence of a single glass of wine merely hints at drinking. In other genre scenes signs of alcohol are totally absent. This lecture, given on October 14, 2017, by Henriette Rahusen, poses a number of questions: Did the Dutch imbibe with gusto or nip with restraint? Were they so wretchedly frugal in all things, excepting alcohol, as the paintings and historical records suggest? This lecture is in conjunction with the landmark exhibition Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry, on view from October 22, 2017, through January 21, 2018,  The exhibition examines the artistic exchanges among Johannes Vermeer and his contemporaries from the mid-1650s to around 1680, when they reached the height of their technical ability and mastery of genre painting.