The Goldfinch in Edinburgh

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November 8, 2016

The Goldfinch in Edinburgh

From 4 November - 18 December 2016, one of the most famous Dutch masterpieces in the collection of the Mauritshuis, The Goldfinch, will be shown in Scotland for the first time. The painting will feature in a special presentation at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.

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The Goldfinch, Het puttertje is a 1654 painting by Carel Fabritius of a chained goldfinch. It is an oil painting on panel of 33.5 by 22.8 cm (13.2 by 9.0 in)

From 4 November - 18 December 2016, one of the most famous Dutch masterpieces in the collection of the Mauritshuis, The Goldfinch, will be shown in Scotland for the first time. The painting will feature in a special presentation at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.

The Goldfinch
One of the rare works by Carel Fabritius to have survived. The painting is a touching portrait of a little bird sitting on its feeder, attached by way of a chain to its claw, standing against a white plastered wall. The goldfinch is characterised by red markings on its head and the bright yellow stripe on its black wing. Goldfinches, also known in Dutch as ‘water drawers’ (putters), were often kept as pets in the seventeenth century. They owe their nickname to the fact that they could be taught to draw water from a bowl with a bucket, the size of a thimble. Fabritius’s exceptional depiction was probably intended as a trompe l’oeil, an optical illusion. It is possible that the painting was meant to be hung high up on a wall, as the goldfinch is depicted as seen from below. At first sight it must have looked like a real little bird.

Carel Fabritius, Rembrandt’s most talented pupil

On 12 October 1654, an explosion at the gunpowder storage in Delft reduced much of the city to ashes. But the explosion also had major consequences for Dutch art, as the disaster claimed the life of one of the most talented artists of the age, Carel Fabritius. His studio, situated just a stone’s throw away from the gunpowder store, was wiped out by the blast. This explains why only a small number of his paintings have survived. The quality and the originality of the surviving works show Fabritius to have been one of the great masters of the Dutch Golden Age. His phenomenally deft brushwork made of him Rembrandt’s most talented pupil, while his subtle renditions of light and vivid palette were to influence Johannes Vermeer.