Period IV newsletter

Johann Martin Veith (1650-1717), Allegorie des evangelischen Glaubens, 1698. Landesmuseum Zürich. Foto/Photo: TES.

Republican Switzerland and the Seven United Provinces

The book ‘ The Republican Alternative. The Netherlands and Switzerland compared’ (A. Holenstein, Th. Maissen, M. Prak (eds), Amsterdam 2008), is the result of the workshop on 7-9 May 2004, organised by the University of Bern.

These two confederal republics of early modern Europe (1500-1795) consisted of (thirteen) independent cantons/Orte (the Eidgenossenschaft) and provinces and their powerful cities  (Republic of the Seven United Provinces).

The book compares the religious, military and economic similarities and differences as well as personal ties and (scientific) relationship between these two republics.

The Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) changed the constitutions of both countries: the monarchy and the unitary state in the Netherlands and the Confederacy of independent cantons in Switzerland.

However, the comparison gives interesting and unexpected results and new facts.

The same can be said about the exchange between Dutch and Swiss artists in the same period.

It is a fact that there are no mountains in the Netherlands. However, Dutch painters have depicted many mountains, waterfalls, caves and other alpine landscapes in Dutch surroundings since the sixteenth century, although many painters had never visited an alpine country.

They did so before Swiss painters. Dutch painters thus became a source of inspiration for their Swiss colleagues and later vice versa.

Switzerland became a popular destination for Dutch painters in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They created a new (fantasy) image of alpine art.

Swiss artists also visited the (Protestant) Netherlands. They were inspired by the Dutch masters and their motifs. The exchange was particularly strong in the nineteenth century.

The close religious, military, economic, scientific and personal ties fit seamlessly into the research of the intensive artistic exchanges between the two countries in the period 1500-1795.

The Edition Kunst + Architektur in der Schweiz/Art + Architecture en Suisse (Nr. 3, 2020) of the Swiss Society for Art History (Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte/Société d’histoire de l’art en Suisse) recently published an interesting dossier on this subject under the title Schweiz-Niederlande. Kunst im Austausch/Suisse-Pays-Bas. Échanges aristiques, (Switzerland-Netherlands. Artistic exchanges).