This was also the era in which full-time art dealers emerged. Previously, most dealers were painters who traded in their own works and those of their colleagues, focusing more on the dealing if their paintings were less successful. Van Uylenburgh saw an opportunity to pursue more secondary market dealing beginning in the 1640s, when serious collections which held works by
became available in the international market. Men such as Johannes de Renialme, a stock market investor who also sold Italian artists, was one of Amsterdam’s top art dealers by the mid-17th century.
Around this period, Dutch tastes also began to change. After the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which saw the northern provinces triumph over Spain, the Dutch began to look outwards towards a more international
style. Dutch rulers looked to courts abroad and sought something similar, moving away from realism and towards something more idealized.
“With a new kind of social system, new people get into power, and they change the symbols of power and the iconography from those of former powers,” Kaiser said, noting how such an aesthetic shift is typical of regime change. “Whereas before it was a local style for the local market, now you had a return to the idealistic Baroque, so they zoomed in on that and tried to be up to date.”
Hendrick van Uylenburgh’s son Gerrit, who had taken over his father’s dealership and workshop, recruited the Liègois painter
to produce paintings in this Baroque mode. The younger van Uylenburgh used his contacts in Parisian and English courts to promote de Lairesse’s and others’ works internationally. Rembrandt, who continued to develop his own style, fell out of fashion, to the point where a massive, 5.5-by-5.5-meter commission he delivered for Amsterdam’s city hall was rejected, because he refused to paint in the Baroque style.
“The taste had changed,” said Kaiser. “The commissioners, the public—they wanted to have a kind of Flemish, idealized Baroque painting.” Instead, “Rembrandt did his thing…[and] that is the emergence of the independent artist, the visionary.”
The fraught painting hung in the city hall for eight weeks, after which the commissioners likely asked him to modify it, which Rembrandt refused to do. It was too large for his studio, so he cut it into pieces, retaining a 2-by-3-meter fragment which is now in Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum
. That may have been the end of his career, but it was the beginning of a new age, in which the artist is a visionary to whom society must adapt, rather than a craftsperson in service of a client.