The Dutch Golden Age–Global Trade, Art, and Slavery: A Three-Part Course with Dr. Eve Kalyva

The Dutch Golden Age–Global Trade, Art, and Slavery: A Three-Part Course with Dr. Eve Kalyva


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From a small province of the vast Spanish empire tucked in the corner of Europe and mostly under sea level, the Netherlands rose to become an independent global trading empire. By the middle of the seventeenth century (that is, by Rembrandt’s and Vermeer’s time), the Dutch discovered multiple sea routes and established ports and colonies around the globe. Riches from all over the world filled the markets of formerly provincial and now distinctly cosmopolitan Amsterdam: gold and diamonds from Africa, coffee and sugar from Brazil, cotton from India, silk, and porcelain from China, silver from Japan, and spices from Indonesia.

Global trading accumulated wealth and opulence for Holland. A new middle class of merchants and officers rose to fame and power, and the arts flourished. The wealth of the Golden Age, however, bore a dark secret: the slave trade.

In this three-part course, we will learn more about the so-called Dutch Golden Age in terms of global trading, art and slavery. In session one, we will consider the Dutch expeditions around the world, including Africa, Japan, and the Americas, and the slave trade. We will look at the East and West Dutch Indies companies, their trading routes, and their formidable financial and political power. In sessions two and three, we will look closer at Dutch society at the time and how it represented itself through art. Session two explores the burghers of Amsterdam through the portraits of Rembrandt; while session three delves deeper into everyday life in seventeenth-century Holland through the work of other great Dutch artists such as Johannes Vermeer and Frans Hals.

Led by an expert on art, history, and culture, Dr. Eve Kalyva, this interactive course will deepen your knowledge about both the Dutch and global history. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of trading expeditions, slavery and art.

Lecture 1: The Dutch Golden Age: Global Trading and Slavery

In our first lecture, we will consider the Dutch expeditions around the world, including Africa, Japan, and the Americas, and the slave trade. We will look at the East and West Dutch Indies companies, their trading routes, and their formidable financial and political power.

Lecture 2: Portraits by Rembrandt

In session two, we will explore the burghers of Amsterdam through the portraits of Rembrandt. Rembrandt had a unique ability to capture his sitters’ social status as well as personality; but unfortunately, his interest in revealing the truth wasn’t always welcome.

Lecture 3: Depictions of Everyday Life Through Vermeer and Hals

In our third and final session, we will delve deeper into everyday life in seventeenth-century Holland through the work of other great Dutch artists such as Johannes Vermeer and Frans Hals. We will explore themes of domestic life, seafaring, everyday pleasures, and moral lessons.

Eve is an art critic and a writer. She comes from an interdisciplinary background (physics, fine art, literature, art history) and completed her PhD at Leeds (2011) on conceptual art and experimental exhibition strategies. Her work examines art’s social practices, multimodality and social semiotics. Eve has worked as a lecturer in Europe and Latin America, and has collaborated with art institutions as a curator, critic and artist in residence. She has spent most of her life traveling and is intrigued by Amsterdam’s multinational and transcultural community, and vibrant artistic scene.

How does it work?

This is a three-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background in the Dutch Golden Age there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $105 for three lectures.

Is a recording available?

In general, our courses are not recorded. However, if you need to miss a lecture please let us know in advance and we can arrange for a recording for that session on an individual basis.

This course is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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