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Michael Zell explores Rembrandt’s art in relation to gift exchange, a pervasive form of negotiating social relations in early modern Europe. While sometimes considered outdated in the nascent capitalist economy of seventeenth-century Holland, gift giving was embedded in Dutch culture as a potent instrument for nurturing social bonds. Gift exchange also served as an important alternate regime of value in the Dutch Republic’s increasingly market-oriented economy, including its market for art. Rembrandt’s presentation of his art in the form of gifts offers significant insight into his relations with favored patrons, collectors, and intimates.

Detail Summary
Date 23 July 2013
Time 15:00 - 16:45

Rembrandt’s engagement with the practice of gift giving became more pronounced during the later 1640s through the 1660s, when his audience was largely comprised of art-lovers (liefhebbers), gentlemen-dealers, and poets of the well-to-do burgher class with whom he maintained close relations. The intimate exchanges characteristic of Rembrandt’s personal patronage relationships are reflected in and constituted by the distinctive artworks he distributed as gifts. These works put into abeyance the utilitarian logic of market relations as well as the dependency that characterizes conventional patronage. They reveal Rembrandt’s increasing embrace of art’s capacity to exercise agency in consolidating assemblies of liefhebbers.


15:00-15:50 Lecture by Michael Zell

15:50-16:00 Reply by Celeste Brusati

16:00-16:10 Reply by Erna Kok (tbc)

16:10-16:30 Audience’s questions and discussion

16:30-16:45 Book presentation The Universal Art of Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627-1678), Painter, Writer, and Courtier (Amsterdam University Press)

Michael Zell (Associate Professor, Baroque and Eighteenth-Century Art) received his PhD from Harvard University’s Department of Fine Arts in 1994 and has been teaching at Boston University since 1996. His area of research is seventeenth-century Dutch art, with a particular focus on Rembrandt. His book, Reframing Rembrandt: Jews and the Christian Image in Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam was published by the University of California Press in 2002. He is the author of articles in the journals Art History, Simiolus, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek,and JHNA, and co-edited the volume Rethinking Rembrandt (2002). He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for his current book project For the Love of Art: Rembrandt, Vermeer, and the Gift in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art.

Celeste Brusati is Professor of the History of Art and Women’s Studies and Professor in the School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan. Recently, she was co-editor of The Authority of the Word: Reflecting on Image and Text in Northern Europe, 1400-1800 (Brill, 2011). She prepares the edition of an English translation of Samuel van Hoogstraten’s Inleyding tot de hooge schoole der schilderkonst (Getty Research Center).

Dr. Erna Kok was a member of the UvA/NWO project “Artistic and Economic Competition in the Amsterdam Art Market, c. 1630-1690”. This June, she successfully defended her PhD thesis Cultural Entrepreneurs in the Dutch Golden Age: The Artistic and Socio-Economic Strategies of Jacob Backer, Govert Flinck, Ferdinand Bol, and Joachim von Sandrart.

This meeting is supported by the Amsterdam Centre for Cultural Heritage and Identity and the Amsterdam Centre for the Study of the Golden Age.

Location: Museum Het Rembrandthuis, Jodenbreestraat 4, Amsterdam