Elmer E.P. Kolfin

Winner Dissertation Prize 2002

Een geselschap jonge luyden. Productie, functie en betekenis van Noord-Nederlandse voorstellingen van vrolijke gezelschappen 1610-1645

Supervisors: Prof. dr A.W.A. Boschloo, Prof. dr E.J. Sluijter
Nomination: Leiden University, Faculty of Arts

Report by the selection committee

‘Visual culture in general and 17th century genre pieces in particular do not construct or reconstitute social values, but mirror those where confirmation, transformation or inversion occurs. It is a serious overrating of the social function of visual culture that images should construct and reconstitute social values indeed.’ This is the provocative thesis in the dissertation of Elmer Kolfin. In his study on the production, function and meaning of images of merry companies in the northern Netherlands in de first decennia of the 17th century, the author reaches conclusions that are not only important for the interpretation of merry companies, but also for other specialisms that developed in Dutch painting in this period. Dr Kolfin studied the pictorial traditions of this theme group as a dynamic process. He shows that the ways in which these painting could be read by the public for whom they were intended must have been consistently determined by a certain combination of motives. A large amount of sources has been analysed. Technical study of the paintings led to conclusions regarding the production process. This is combined with an investigation into the relation between production method, art market and buyers. Finally an analysis is given of the broad range of illustrated literature in which the theme functions. This study greatly enriches our knowledge of the creation and functioning of a theme group in painting that was produced in large quantities.