Allergory; man pilgrim leans on staff at left, woman standing near him, rolling meadows before, inscription on banner above couple
This landscape scene is part of a set of six allegorical prints in which the artist Jan van de Velde II seems to be taking the viewer for a walk through a simple Dutch landscape. While most landscapes by Jan van de Velde were created for the mass market predominantly to please the eye, these scenes were clearly intended to be more than visual leisure walks. They were created to stir the soul and the mind as well as the senses.
The figures in this image are pilgrims to the church of St. James in Spain identifiable by the seashells on their hats, their tunics, and staffs. A visual representation of their journey was most often considered to be a metaphor for life itself and therefore instrumental in creating a contemplative mood. Van de Velde’s use of the symbolism of the pilgrim, combined with the repetitive use of the figures, as well as the simplicity and somewhat static quality of the composition, are reminiscent of the iconographic representations of seventeenth-century Dutch emblem books in which everyday moral lessons were translated into allegorical visual representations. From: Golden Age Dutch prints and Drawings Exhibition March 4 to June 4th 2006
Other label: This landscape is from a set of six allegorical prints in which the artist seems to walk the viewer through a Dutch landscape. Van de Velde generally created his landscapes to appeal to the mass market; however, these scenes were clearly intended to be more than just a visual experience of a leisurely walk. The figures dressed in tunics and carrying walking sticks are on a pilgrimage along the route known as the “Way of St. James,” leading to a shrine for the saint in northwestern Spain. The scallop shell, a symbol of the pilgrimage, is identifiable on their hats.
The visual representation of this journey functions as a metaphor for life itself. The title, Vita Brevis (“Life is short”), emphasizes Van de Velde’s use of symbolism, and the simple, still quality of the composition is borrowed from seventeenth-century Dutch emblem books (see below). In these books, everyday moral lessons appear as allegorical visual representations.