“Velázquez, Rembrandt, Vermeer: Parallel visions is an exhibition that encourages visitors to not only appreciate the quality and importance of the 72 works on display, some by the most admired painters of 17th-century Europe, but also to establish points of comparison between them.
The traditional and long-standing idea of the art produced in different parts of Europe is that it is notably different: that Velázquez, for example, is “very Spanish” and Rembrandt “very Dutch”. This viewpoint is based on the excessive influence that 19th- and 20th-century nationalist mindsets and ideologies have had on our way of understanding art. Studies from that period placed enormous importance on the idea that every nation had a different national character, as a result of which the notion that these differences were manifested in the art of each country became widespread. This perspective functioned to minimise the traits shared by European artists.
The case of 17th-century Spanish and Dutch painting is symptomatic of this. Separated by a war, the art of these countries has traditionally been interpreted as opposing. Nonetheless, the legacy of Flemish and Italian painting, the influence of which defined all of European art, was interpreted in a similar way in the two places. In the 17th century both countries saw the emergence of an aesthetic that departed from idealism and which focused on the real appearance of things and the manner of representing it. In their works the artists represented in this exhibition did not express the “essence” of their nations but rather gave form to the ideas and approaches that they shared with an international community of creators.” — Museo Nacional del Prado
“The unity of Western painting is one of the great realities that reveals the unity of European culture.” — José Ortega y Gasset
“Neither Velázquez nor Vermeer nor other painters of the period expressed the essence of their nations in their art, as has often been said, but rather aesthetic ideas which they shared with an international community of artists.” — Alejandro Vergara, the exhibition’s curator
The exhibition is curated by Alejandro Vergara, Chief Curator of Flemish Painting and the Northern Schools at the Museo del Prado.
Images courtesy Museo Nacional del Prado.