Albert Eckhout and Frans Post: Two Dutch Artists in Colonial Brazil
from Brazil: Body & Soul
Rebecca Parker Brienen
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During the rule of the West India Company, Albert Eckhout and Frans Post, two Dutch artists chosen by the German count Johan Maurits, were sent to colonial Brazil to paint a portrait of the new world. Rebecca Parker Brienen's essay provides a historical account of the era—offering a bit of background on the artists—and analyzes their stylistic still lifes, portraits, and landscapes.
Indeed, praised for their "accuracy" and often called "documents," the images by Post and Eckhout allow us a unique view of this important period in the history of Brazil. Nonetheless, their works are like much seventeenth-century Dutch art and represent a mixture of "naturalistic and conventionalized descriptions of human situations and of nature." While the use of a naturalistic style suggests that they reﬂect reality, these images are actually carefully constructed works of art. Furthermore, the subject matter of Post's and Eckhout's works—the peoples, natural products, and landscape of Brazil—is hardly disinterested. Most likely displayed in the count's Brazilian Vrijburg Palace (completed ca. 1642) and Boa Vista (completed 1643), the paintings by Post and Eckhout formed the backdrop for receptions, banquets, and other formal occasions. Collectively, they offered a view of a beautiful, fertile, well-ordered, and conquered Brazil that was pleasing to the count and allowed him to possess the country "body and soul."