In the late nineteenth century, art critics regarded seventeenth-century Dutch paintings as direct reflections of reality. The paintings were discussed as an index of the democracy of a society that chose to represent its class, action, and occupations exactly as they were, wide-ranging realism was seen as the great accomplishment of Dutch art. However, the achievement of more recent study of Dutch art has been the recovery of the fact that such paintings are to be taken as symbolizing mortality, the renaissance of earthly life, and the power of God, and as message that range from the mildly moralizing to the firmly didactic. How explicit and consistent the symbolizing process was intended to be is a much thornier matter, but anyone who has more familiarity than a passing acquaintance with Dutch literature or with the kinds of images used in illustrated books (above all emblem books) will know how much less pervasive was the habit of investing ordinary objects than of investing scenes with meaning that go beyond their surface and outward appearance. In the mid-1960s, Eddy de Jongh published an extraordinary array of material — especially from the emblem books and vernacular literature — that confirmed the unreliability of taking Dutch pictures at surface value alone.
The major difficulty, however, with the findings of critics such as de Jongh is that it is not easy to assess the multiplicity of levels in which Dutch viewers interpreted these pictures. De Jongh’s followers typically regard the pictures as purely symbolic. Not every object within Dutch paintings need be interpreted in terms of the gloss given to its equivalent representation in the emblem books. Not every foot warmer is to be interpreted in terms of the foot warmer in Rowmer Visscher’s Sinnepoppen of 1614, not every bridle is an emblem of restraint (though many were indeed just that).
To maintain as Brown does, that the two children in Netscher’s painting A Lady Teaching a Child to Read stand for industry and idleness is to fail to understand that the painting has a variety of possible meanings, even though the picture undoubtedly carriers unmistakable symbolic meanings, too. Modern Art historians may well find the discovery of parallels between a painting and a specific emblem exciting, they may, like seventeenth-century viewers, search for the double that lie behind many paintings. But seventeenth-century response can hardly be reduced to the level of formula. To suggest otherwise is to imply a laboriousness of mental process that may well characterize modern interpretations of seventeenth-century Dutch Art, but that was, for the most part, not characteristic in the seventeenth century.
1. The passage is primarily concerned with which of the following?
A. Reconciling two different points of view about how art reflects
B. Criticizing a traditional method of interpretation
C. Tracing the development of an innovative scholarly approach
D. Describing and evaluating a recent critical approach
E. Describing a long-standing controversy and how it was resolved
2. The author of the passage mentions bridles in the highlighted portion of the passage most likely in order to
A. Suggest that restraint was only one of the many symbolic meanings attached to bridles
B. Provide an example of an everyday, physical object that was not endowed with symbolic meaning
C. Provide an example of an object that modern critics have endowed with symbolic meaning different from the meaning assigned it by seventeenth-century Dutch artists
D. Provide an example of an object with symbolic meaning that was not always used as a symbol
E. Provide an example of an everyday object that appears in a significant number of seventeenth century Dutch paintings
3. Which of the following best describes the function of the last paragraph of the passage?
A. It provides specific applications of the critical approach introduced in the preceding paragraph
B. It present a caveat about the critical approach discussed in the preceding paragraph
C. It presents the research on which a theory presented in the preceding paragraph is based
D. It refutes a theory presented in the preceding paragraph and advocates a return to a more traditional approach
E. It provides further information about the unusual phenomenon described in the preceding paragraph
4. The passage suggests which of the following about emblem books in seventeenth-century Holland?
A. They confirm that seventeenth century Dutch painting depict some objects and scenes rarely found in daily life.
B. They are more useful than vernacular literature in providing information about the symbolic content of seventeenth-century Dutch painting.
C. They have been misinterpreted by art critics, such as de Jongh, who claim seventeenth century Dutch paintings contain symbolic meaning
D. They are not useful in interpreting seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting.
E. They contain material that challenges the assumptions of the nineteenth-century critics about seventeenth-century Dutch painting.