PhD Dissertation

Painters’ playbooks:​

Deep mapping socio-spatial strategies in the art market of
seventeenth-century Amsterdam

Weixuan Li

If you were a painter in 17th-century Amsterdam...

when the art market was volatile.....

How do you plan your way to success? Or at least eke out a living?​

Painters in 17th-century Amsterdam often turned to the commonly recognised references, or playbooks’. These widely-accepted guides helped them navigate the intricate art market, and make informed artistic and business choices decisions, even when their intentions weren’t explicitly stated.
While we can’t directly access the thoughts of these painters, we can analyse their revealed choices to decipher which playbooks influenced them. 
By examining the choices of various painters, we can identify patterns in collective behaviour that offer insights into their underlying motivations and inspirations.

How to observe and analyse painters' collective behaviours?

Historical Sources + Digital Methods

Deep mapping

Connecting historical materials

Network analysis

Revealing social relations

Spatial reading of inventories

Understanding painting display

This study shows that many factors were at play in the art market:

Time periods

Painting skills

Family backgrounds

Workshop locations

Social network

House interiors

In a nutshell, 

This study blended theories in economic sociology and geography with digital humanities methods. It viewed the art market as a socio-spatial phenomenon in which painters and others worked together, choosing their place and social circles wisely.

 The study shined a light on how location and social connections influenced the art world. These market traits steered what painters chose to create, affecting the innovation of 17th-century art. 

In essence, this research provides a fresh perspective on the art market by emphasizing its social and spatial aspects.

The next time you step into an art gallery,

Keep in mind that the stunning paintings before you are shaped by a complex interplay of social and spatial influences on the artist’s craft.

Each painting is a manifestation of the painter’s playbook.

Without further ado,

Delve into the comprehensive exploration….

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Want to know more?

Join me at the dissertation defence
Tuesday 12 September, 2023,

@ the Agnietenkapel,
University of Amsterdam