Art Exhibit Explores Music and Dance of an Earlier Age

An exhibition that the Polk Museum of Art’s director calls his institution’s biggest and most expensive will combine:

  • Old (rarely seen 17th Century Dutch and Flemish paintings) with new (a Spotify playlist)
  • Visual art with the performing arts of music and dance.

“Music & Dance in Painting of the Dutch Golden Age” opens on Saturday after a members’ reception at 6 tonight (free for members; $10 for non-members).

Visitors will see 27 paintings showing music and dance as it was enjoyed by people of all strata of Dutch society in the 1600s: drawing rooms of the wealthy to outdoor festivals of the peasantry.

The names of the artists will be unfamiliar to most viewers, but they were contemporaries of masters such as Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer and paint in similar styles.

What: “Music & Dance in Painting of the Dutch Golden Age”
Where: Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College, 800 E. Palmetto St.; Dorothy Jenkin’s Gallery and Gallery II on the first floor
When: Feb. 8 through May 31
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10-5; Sunday 1-5
Admission: Free

The exhibition is a collaboration between the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College and the Hoogsteder Museum Foundation of the Hague. It grew out of 2017’s “Rembrandt’s Academy,” the first collaboration between the two institutions.

After the success of the Rembrandt show, Florida Southern and the Polk Museum sought to present artistic representations of music and dance, according to Alex Rich, the museum’s executive director.

The result is the world’s first major exhibition to focus on music and dance of the period, said Willem Jan Hoogsteder, owner-director of Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder gallery.

“Celebrating Company in Interior,” by Williem van Herp, 1613/14-1677 (Courtesy of the Hoogsteder Museum Foundation)

As an art dealer familiar with holdings of private collectors throughout Europe, Hoogsteder was able to find pertinent pieces not seen by the public before. The result is a one-time exhibition exclusive to the Polk Museum.

Painting proliferated in the Netherlands during the 1600s as national fortunes created a rising middle class able to afford art that had previously been available only to nobility, Hoogsteder explained. The results included smaller paintings and the rise of still life and landscape works.

Some of the instruments shown in the paintings are no longer familiar, and much of the Dutch music of the period sounds like folk music to modern ears, Hoogsteder said.

In order to familiarize viewers with the instruments and music, a Spotify playlist is being assembled with each painting being represented by a song, he said.

The order of songs will mirror the order of paintings in the Polk Museum’s galleries, allowing visitors with Spotify on their smartphones to follow along through their headphones as they visit the exhibit.

Director Museum Rich said the staff is looking into ways to make the music available to gallery visitors who do not subscribe to Spotify:

Here’s the collaborative Spotify playlist “Music and Dance in Paintings of the Dutch Golden Age.” We’re told it doesn’t yet mirror the order of the paintings in the gallery:

The museum anticipates further combining visual art and performing arts by holding performances among the paintings. Rich said several local music and dance organizations have been invited to participate.

“From the earliest stages of planning the exhibition and selecting the works for the show, the idea of activating our gallery spaces with actual music and dance performances from our community was integral to our preparation,” Rich wrote in an essay about the exhibition.

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