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Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn - The Three Crosses
Jan van de Velde II
Dutch, ca. 1593-1641
Plate from the Vita Brevis Series
Engraving on paper
Gift of Mrs. Alphons P.A. Vorenkamp

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This landscape scene is part of a set of six allegorical prints in which the artist Jan van de Velde II seems to be taking the viewer for a walk through a simple Dutch landscape. While most landscapes by Jan van de Velde were created for the mass market predominantly to please the eye, these scenes were clearly intended to be more than visual leisure walks. They were created to stir the soul and the mind as well as the senses.

The figures in this image are pilgrims to the church of St. James in Spain identifiable by the seashells on their hats, their tunics, and staffs. A visual representation of their journey was most often considered to be a metaphor for life itself and therefore instrumental in creating a contemplative mood. Van de Velde’s use of the symbolism of the pilgrim, combined with the repetitive use of the figures, as well as the simplicity and somewhat static quality of the composition, are reminiscent of the iconographic representations of seventeenth-century Dutch emblem books in which everyday moral lessons were translated into allegorical visual representations.

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