Rocking the Cradle of Dutch Domesticity: A Radical Reinterpretation of Seventeenth-century “Homescapes”

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In the light of a newly discovered source of thousands of seventeenth-century Dutch letters found in the English National Archive a case is made for a radical reinterpretation of seventeenth-century Dutch paintings. These so-called “homescapes” feature in the historiography of the modern home as proof of the fact that seventeenth-century Holland was the cradle of female domesticity. However, the captured Dutch letters written to the home front by seamen sailing on the large Dutch mercantile fleet, as well as the women’s letters to their seafaring husbands tell quite a different story. Especially the letters from the home front narrate of dire circumstances and shed a new light on the subjects of the homescapes, more in particular on the subject of letter-reading and letter-writing females, and intimate mother-and-child scenes. The nineteenth-century revaluation of the glory of seventeenth-century Dutch painting in general and the homescapes in particular explains how the myth of Holland as the cradle of female domesticity came into existence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-102
Number of pages30
JournalHome Cultures: the journal of architecture, design & domestic space
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • 17th century Dutch genre painting
  • art history
  • domesticity
  • gender
  • maritime history
  • price papers


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