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In Depth: “The Interior of the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam” by Emanuel de Witte

  • Wednesday, January 29, 2020
  • 11:00 a.m.
  • West Building, Main Floor - Rotunda
We stand in the central nave of a deeply shadowed church looking down towards the altar in this horizontal painting. Sunlight streams in from our right to bathe white pillars lining the nave with light, and it illuminates a wooden stall, like a private seating box, situated in front of the columns to our left. The forehead, eyes, and one hand of a young child peeks over the top edge of one of the panels, perhaps peering towards us. Touches of pale red and yellow suggest stained glass over the dimly lit altar at the far end of the church, across from us. Gold chandeliers with curling, scrolling arms hang along the length of the nave, well below the dark, vaulted ceiling. About a dozen of men wearing black enter the church in a line from the left, near the altar. Closer to us, to our right, two men lean towards each other in conversation with a dog nearby. One man gestures towards a rectangular stone slab that has been lifted from the church floor to reveal dirt underneath, to our left. Two shovels, a broom, and a skull lay nearby. In front of the men, in the lower right corner of the canvas, a woman sits and nurses a swaddled infant. A young boy and another dog near the pair looks towards or at us. Two dogs stand in the shadows around the column closest to us on the left, and one raises its leg to relieve itself on the base.

Emanuel de Witte, The Interior of the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, c. 1660, oil on canvas, Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2004.127.1