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Samantha Chang, Framing the Scene in the Seventeenth Century: Doors and Doorways in the Painter’s Studio

11 October, 2018 @ 1:05 pm - 1:50 pm

Doors and doorways orchestrate our movements and act as thresholds of constructed realities. Doorways are liminal spaces between representation and reality; they are “nonplaces” that allow the viewers to ploeghen (plunge) from the field of the beholder and insien (view into) or doorsien (view through) the fictive space of the painting. The term doorsien can be found in Karel van Mander’s 1604 publication, Het schilder-boeck (The Painter’s Book). The doorsien treatment is generally characterized by a doorway opening into a corridor, stairs, or back room, also known as doorkijkje (see-through door). The significance of the doorsien treatment can be seen in the oeuvre of Pieter de Hooch. Of his 160 works, only twelve do not feature his standard doorsien formula (Hollander 2002). Yet, out of the 140 works with doorsien treatment, only a handful of these paintings depict people walking through the doorways. This ratio of people in the painting walking through versus not walking through the doorways is reversed when we consider painter’s studio images. Rather than using the doorkijkje to see beyond the studio space, doorways in seventeenth-century painter’s studio images are used to invite the characters from the painting to step into the painter’s stage, his studio—much like asking actors to enter on stage in order to partake in the performance we call painting. The distinct treatment of doors and doorways in the painter’s studio, as opposed to the approach found in seventeenth-century genre paintings, emphasizes the theatricality of the studio space and the performativity of the act of painting while positioning the present viewers, us, in acting, rather than, spectator roles. This paper will stimulate further consideration of doors and doorways as pseudo-windows (Stoichita 2015) and formulate a framework of its aesthetic boundaries inside the painter’s studio. 

Samantha Chang is a PhD Candidate from the Graduate Department of Art at University of Toronto and a Visiting Research Student in the Department of Music at the University of Sheffield.

This session is organised by the EMDG. All welcome!

Please note that we are in the HRI Conference Room.


11 October, 2018
1:05 pm - 1:50 pm
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Early Modern Discussion Group


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