This small gallery highlights how political stability and economic prosperity in the newly formed Dutch Republic led to a flowering of the arts and demand for luxury goods by Protestant merchants and civic officials. The Republic was a union of the seven Northern provinces of the former Spanish Netherlands, created in 1648 after the long war of independence from Catholic Spain which started in 1560.
The works on display here show how Dutch artists, lacking traditional patrons such as the Catholic Church and aristocracy, concentrated on subjects suitable for domestic settings. Paintings were enjoyed for their own sake as attractive and decorative works of art; family and group portraits, landscapes, seascapes, still life and scenes from everyday life were popular themes. Many of the paintings here reflect this trend with works such as those by Teniers the Younger (1610–90), depicting everyday life of ordinary people while typical Dutch landscapes are also on view.
Examples of portraiture of the period capture the spirit of the age. Michiel van Mierevelt (1567–1647) painted Sir Dudley Carleton (a patron of the arts and friend of Rubens) while he was Ambassador to the Hague and the artist was court painter to the Prince of Orange. The English diplomat is shown wearing the fashionable lace ruff and black silk brocade of the time and the richness and delicacy of his clothes have been captured expertly by the artist.
The central case displays a collection of Dutch Delft with several pieces showing the strong influence of blue and white Oriental porcelain imports in pattern and design on this well established industry.