CODART Canon announces the 100 most important Dutch and Flemish works of art

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CODART Canon announces the 100 most important Dutch and Flemish works of art
Johannes Vermeer, View of Delft, ca. 1660-1661, Mauritshuis, The Hague.

THE HAGUE.- CODART, an international network of some 700 museum curators of Dutch and Flemish art, announced the CODART Canon. The CODART Canon consists of 100 Dutch and Flemish works of art dating from before 1750 that are of particular importance to the history of art. The list can now be found on

Results of the ballots
On the basis of two ballots (one held among museum curators followed by a second one among the general public), a special committee established the resulting canon. The list naturally includes big names such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens, Johannes Vermeer, Jan van Eyck and Jheronimus Bosch, but there are also many works of art by lesser-known artists such as Geertruydt Roghman, Johan Gregor van der Schardt, and Claes Sluter. Although paintings outnumber other kinds of artworks, the list also includes a number of striking objects, such as a medieval chandelier from the Church of St. Walburga in Zutphen and bridal gloves dating from ca.1600–1625 from the collection of the Rijksmuseum.

Maartje Beekman, director CODART: “We see the canon as a starting-point, a guide to help navigate the vast quantity of Old Master art that is on view in museum collections throughout the world. The voting and the canon itself are also intended as a way of introducing the public to some of the lesser-known works of art from this period. In addition, we hope that the canon will encourage a lively debate, as it has already done among fellow curators.”

As things stand, the list includes five female artists. In part, this is because fewer women than men were active creators of art before 1750. Even so, it is highly questionable whether these artists would have been included in a top 100 in the past; conversely, the number of women included in a future canon may well increase. This is a good example of the timebound nature of a canon and emphasizes the importance of viewing it in its particular context, as reflecting a particular moment in time.

To ensure that the CODART Canon constitutes a representative selection, CODART drew up a number of rules. For instance, it set a maximum number of two works per art form for each artist. Furthermore, to ensure diversity among the different art forms, it set the numbers per category at 60 paintings, 10 drawings, 10 prints, 10 sculptures and 10 works of applied art. This explains why neither Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring nor Rembrandt’s The Jewish Bride ended up being included in the canon, in spite of the many votes they received.

The next step
Now that the masterpieces have been selected, CODART has set itself the task of informing the wider public about them. CODART need to explain why these 100 Dutch and Flemish works of art from before 1750 are considered to be particularly important. To start with, this information will be gathered and shared on CODART’s online platform. Following on from that, there are plans to produce a book and to make short videos and podcasts about the CODART Canon.

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