Rembrandt / 1662 / Syndics of Clothmaker's Guild Canvas Prints by PosterBoys
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THE SOLID, serious business men of Rembrandt's Holland, enjoying the fruits of a vast commercial expansion, lived in a world of things that could be touched, and bought and sold. When they had acquired a position in life which commanded the respect of the community, they wished, as all men do, to have a permanent record of their success. If they had no special prominence they thought in terms of their participation in some social or business group. On the whole their mentality was not unlike that of a Chamber of Commerce today in a small American city. Dutch society in the seventeenth century was well integrated; men's common interests brought them together in trade associations and fraternal orders. And frequently, after a new election of officers, they commissioned a group portrait, to be placed on the walls of a clubhouse or in the offices of a trade association.
Thus it was that the five syndics of the Amsterdam drapers' guild came to Rembrandt to be painted. Rembrandt was flourishing then; he was fashionable; to be painted by him was an expression of personal substance and social importance.
These patrons were satisfied with the painting; they were pleased to see themselves pictured with so much dignity and seriousness in their daily job of work. This is no doubt what they wanted in the picture and what they sought when they posed themselves the way they did and assumed an expression of dead seriousness and intense preoccupation with their small world of commerce.