Collecting seventeenth-century Dutch painting in England 1689-1760
This thesis examines the collecting of seventeenth century Dutch painting in England from 1689 marking the beginning of auction sales in England to 1760, Just prior to the beginning of the Royal Academy and the rising patronage for British art. An examination of the composition of English collections centred around the period 1694 when William end Mary passed a law permitting paintings to be imported for public sale for the first time in the history of collecting. Before this date paintings were only permitted entry into English ports for private use and enjoyment. The analysis of sales catalogues examined the periods before and after the 1694 change in the law to determine how political circumstances such as Continental wars and changes in fiscal policy affected the composition of collecting paintings with particular reference to the propensity for acquiring seventeenth century Dutch painting in England. Chapter Two examines the notion that paintings were Imported for public sale before 1694, and argues that there had been essentially no change In the law. It considered also Charles It's seizure of the City's Charters relaxing laws protecting freemen of the Guilds from outside competition, and the growth of entrepreneurauctioneers against the declining power of the Outroper, the official auctioneer elected by the Corporation of City of London. An investigation into the Poll Tax concluded that the boom in auction sales was part of the highly speculative activity which attended Parliament's need to borrow public funds to continue the war with France. Chapter Three discusses some of the economic circumstances In the Dutch-English alliance in 1689 which helped to establish the financial infrastructure supporting the importation and acquisition of paintings. A comparative analysis of subject matter in Dutch collections showed en increase in the production of landscape painting in particular which was In turn reflected fri English collections. The experimental procedure in Chapter Four Involved a detailed analysis of auction sales for the period 1689-1694 and drawing on the evidence provided in the previous chapters showed that the propensity to collect seventeenth century Dutch painting dominated collecting, and it was available in large numbers by Dutch artists working in England and by Dutch artists abroad. Chapter Five covers the period after 1695 to 1760 using random sampling of annotated sales catalogues (1711 to 1759) illustrating the effect of increased trade on the composition of collecting, demonstrating that marginally cheaper prices for Dutch landscapes, portraiture and genre painting challenged the growing taste for Italian or French landcapes, genre and religious and classical history painting. Dutch painting as an Investment Is also considered. This thesis contributes to the knowledge of prices paid for paintings for the period 1711-1759 through statistical analysis. Summaries of the average price paid for seventeenth century Dutch and other European paintings provide a scale to analyse prices often quoted In eighteenth century art historical studies. These summaries illustrate more precisely that paintings at auction sales were generally low in price providing a benchmark figure, which manipulated the market to the extent that paintings by living British artists were unable to compete.