Anthonie de Lorme

(1610 Tournai - Rotterdam 1673)

The Interior of a Renaissance-style Chrurch

89 x 125cm.(35 x 49in.)
oil on panel
signed and dated lower left: A. de Lorme 163(?)2

Catalogue Entry

Anthonie de Lorme  was one of the great painters of church interiors of the Dutch Golden Age. His work has been somewhat overshadowed by his better-known contemporaries, Pieter Janz Saenredam and Emmanuel de Witte, but at the height of his career he maintained an international reputation for his complex and beautifully handled depictions of the architectural interiors of sacred buildings.  These culminated in his celebrated series of internal views of the church of Saint Lawrence, or Laurenskerk, in Rotterdam, where the signs of a new reformed religion are manifest in the characteristic whitewashed walls, open spaces, and sober textual decoration of the Calvinist church. His account of the different parts of the church were reportedly so precise that they were used as a template for the reconstruction of the church after bombing during the Second World War.


The Laurenskerk paintings however are not typical of the larger body of de Lorme’s earlier work, which consisted instead of imagined church interiors, vehicles for displaying his fine skill in perspectival drawing, light and shade.  Church paintings in this style were in fact often referred in contemporary catalogues as ‘perspectives’, and there existed a considerable market of connoisseurs for these fanciful paintings that demonstrated their artistic credentials in Renaissance theories of perspective. Where many of his contemporaries specialised in painting sober Gothic churches, De Lorme’s early work revelled in the soft rounded arches and deep viewpoints of Italianate churches, buildings that recalled the Renaissance architect Brunelleschi and his famous experiments with linear perspective.  The present work is typical of his oeuvre, but all the more impressive for its apparent early date, when the artist would have been just a young man of twenty-two.


De Lorme sets up his imaginary easel at the front of the church, opening onto a dramatic vista of Italianate architecture: a high vaulted ceiling, columned arcades and arched openings with balustrades. The scene converges at a pair of arches ahead with a couple at its centre, an almost perfectly symmetrical view further sustained by the low hanging chandelier and only off set by the slight left placement of the ledger stone in the foreground of the painting.  The artist brings an almost Baroque sensibility to the scene.  The imposing, centrally arranged architecture, the dramatic, interior ‘spotlighting’, where we are offered only tantalising glimpses of select areas of the church, the stage-like platform on which different characters are engaged, all suggest a very theatrical, rather than religious space.


De Lorme was born just a year after seven provinces, including his own, seceded from Spanish Catholic rule under Philip II in 1609, resulting in the formation of the United Provinces of the Dutch Republic, and legitimising an iconoclastic, reformed religion.  However, if crucifixes and paintings of the Virgin are conspicuously absent in this painting, so are the markers of the now dominant Calvinist faith: the pulpit, the text panels displaying scripture, or a soberly dressed congregation.  De Lorme offers us instead a public scene, a picture of the everyday lives of Dutch citizens, not so far from the paintings of domestic and social life that we associate with Dutch art of the Golden Age. This is a view of the Wandelkerk, or walking church, a civic space within the main body of the church where all society could meet, do business, or simply wander throughout, admiring the interior. Children play marbles and other games, animated discussions take place between men of business, while work is underway lifting floor tiles in preparation of a new tomb, in the left foreground, and the gilding of another, right – graves that would have been destined for men or woman of important social status. The well-dressed trio before us lends a distinguished air, and would be highly identifiable to the sort of people who would desire to own such a painting.  All the elements paint to society and public life, rather than religion.  Even the inclusion of the organ – a controversial relic of Catholic churches as music was considered superfluous and profane in Calvinistic worship – signals an appreciation of music and civilised culture.  Post-reformation Dutch churches still maintained a function as concert venues outside religious services.



De Lorme produced many paintings on this same architectural theme, and was clearly interested in the technical possibilities in painting these Renaissance type constructions and the different registers for their display. In this painting, we are told we are in a church, while in another, strikingly similar interior, down to the details of the stonework and the floor, it is described as a temple.  In these atmospheric spaces a variety of actors disport themselves, including Jews and turban-wearing Turks, reminding us that the Reformed provinces were not totally under the thumb of Calvinism, but in fact accommodated a large variety of faiths and cultures.  Here is Dutch seventeenth-century society, elevated and celebrated within the lofty settings of an earlier, brilliant and high-minded age.  De Lorme’s church interiors assert the health and pride of Dutch culture and the supremacy of their artists

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