Picturing Devotion in Dutch Golden Age Huiskerken
Wheelock, Arthur K
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Although the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic was officially Protestant, Catholics made up nearly one-third of the population. To circumvent laws prohibiting public worship, Dutch Catholics celebrated Mass in private homes converted into lavishly decorated huiskerken (house churches). Unfortunately, most huiskerken have been destroyed or poorly documented, and previous scholarship has examined altarpieces out of their historical contexts. This dissertation examines the decorative programs of two well-documented huiskerken: St. Bernardus in den Hoeck in Haarlem, rebuilt in 1638 and part of a large community of lay religious women (kloppen) in Haarlem, and ’t Hart, founded in 1663 in Amsterdam, and preserved today as the Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic). This is the first English-language study of the complete decorative programs of these two huiskerken and their liturgical functions, and I argue that devotional paintings are best understood as pieces of these decorative programs, which included embroidered textiles, illustrated sermon manuscripts, and liturgical silver. I employ reception theory to show that the imagery in these two huiskerken aided the celebration of Mass and meditation of laypeople, especially lay religious women. The examples of St. Bernardus and ’t Hart demonstrate that the decorative programs of huiskerken are largely indebted to lay religious women, who acted as patrons and creators of devotional objects. I prove that crafts like embroidery and inexpensive engravings, commonly considered “low” art, in fact served as creative sources for “higher” art forms like paintings. Furthermore, I conclude that the use of imagery in huiskerken is more closely related to medieval devotional practices than has previously been assumed.