Monday, July 1, 2013

doing it like rabbits

Officieren van de Oude Schutterij in een landschap (Officers of the Old Militia in a landscape) by Claes Jacobsz. van der Heck, circa 1613
oil on panel, height 150cm x width 173cm
signed "C. Heck fecit" vertically on the end of a fallen log the militia men are sitting on in the lower right quadrant.


This is a unique among Dutch militia paintings. A few Dutch Militia Paintings are out of doors but this is the only one I'm aware of is set within a landscape (as opposed having a landscape as a background). Militias were formed to defend the towns and cities and the city of Alkmaar can be seen in the distant background.

Some militia's had their portraits painted in front of the Doelen (the militia headquarters). The reason for the setting could be that the militia went to the countryside to target shoot whereas other militias might target shoot to the city walls.

There is a house in the center of the picture and to its side is a cart/carriage. Another house is in the distance on the right. In the distance is the Sint-Laurenskerk (Saint Laurence) church.

The foreground has 17 men, the militia members. One of the foreground men gesturing to the left holds keys in his other hand.  A man pouring a drink on the right and several of the men in the foreground hold glasses. In front of the house appears to be dishes on the ground being licked clean by a dog. Many Dutch Militia Paintings were set during a meal with the members around a table. (like this one also from 1613 by Jan Tengnagel which also includes an ostentatious pouring of a drink.) The militia member sitting on the far left appears to have a dagger behind his back while, in contrast, the Tengnagel painting shows several men with swords.

The painter, Claes Jacobsz. van der Heck,  included a self-portrait of himself apparently as the man standing next to a woman in the midground in front of the house. In the background are many extraneous people (I count 15) which is uncommon for a militia painting. The painting has an assortment of sheep (11),  dogs (I count 8), and birds (including a peacock standing on the fence).


Also unique among Dutch militia paintings, in the upper left quadrant are 2 rabbits having sex :
Whoa! Those 2 bunnies are doing it like rabbits! detail of a Dutch Militia painting Officieren van de Oude Schutterij in een landschap (Officers of the Old Militia in a landscape) by Claes Jacobsz. van der Heck, circa 1613
detail of the center left section




an attempt to show the size and scale of the painting

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