Although this spacious church interior is largely imaginary, Emanuel de Witte’s precise description of architectural forms convinces us that he depicted an actual place. To create a sense of familiarity, he included some specific architectural features from the Oude Kerk (Old Church) in Amsterdam. In the late 1500s, militant Protestant sects occupied Catholic churches in the Netherlands and stripped them of rich decorations and “idolatrous” images. The resulting spare, whitewashed interiors became a favorite subject of Dutch artists, who were intrigued by the interplay of light and shadow over the unadorned walls, and by the challenge of depicting perspectival space.

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  • Title: Interior of a Church
  • Creator: Emanuel de Witte (Dutch, c. 1617-1692)
  • Date Created: c. 1680
  • Physical Dimensions: Framed: 89.5 x 80.5 x 6.5 cm (35 1/4 x 31 11/16 x 2 9/16 in.); Unframed: 62 x 54 cm (24 7/16 x 21 1/4 in.)
  • Provenance: Theodor Stroefer [1843-1927], Nürnberg, Family of Theodor Stroefer, Nürnberg, (Julius Böhler, Munich, Stroefer sale, Oct. 28, 1937, no. 122 [13,000 Reichsmarks, sold to Curt Bohnewand)1, Curt Bohnewand [1888-1966], Berlin and Rottach-Egern, Germany1, (Kunsthaus Lempertz, Cologne, Bohnewand sale, March 28, 1969, no. 25, probably sold to Schaeffer Galleries), (Schaeffer Galleries, New York, NY, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art), The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: CC0
  • External Link: https://clevelandart.org/art/1971.1
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Fun Fact: In the 1600s, Dutch churches functioned as public gathering places—even dogs were allowed!
  • Department: European Painting and Sculpture
  • Culture: Netherlands, 17th century
  • Credit Line: Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund
  • Collection: P - Netherlandish-Dutch
  • Accession Number: 1971.1

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