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In the words of de Lairesse: I say then, that although modern [contemporary] things seem to have some prettiness, …

As I reprobated the white sattin in the picture of the death of Cleopatre by Lairesse, and make no objection here, it must be remembered that the subject of Lairesse's picture is heroick, and he has treated it in the true historical style, in every respect, except in his white sattin: but in such pictures as Terburgh painted, the individuality and naturelness of the representation makes a considerable part of the merit."Reynolds's remarks must be understood in the context of his general theory of art, and the issues he addresses as part of his notion of 'grand style.' Heroic subject matter demanded a heroic style, and the naturalism of the drapery in de Lairesse's work was as inappropriate as idealized figures would have been in genre painting.The peasant brawls of Van Ostade (see image below) or Adriaan Brouwer were condemned out of hand both for their coarse subject matter and for the "worse than nature" manner in which they were depicted while the quite, middle-class assemblies of Van Mieris or Vermeer would have been considered depicted "as in nature," and, therefore, lacking the nobility of the "antique." Nonetheless, de Lairesse judged the (burger-like) subject matter far more acceptable than the "beggars, brothels, taverns, smokers, gamblers, filthy children on the potty-chair, and even dirtier and more horrible things," but still inferior to the Classical subject matter. Differently from other writers on Classical painting, de Lairesse dedicated an entire chapter "Aanwyzinge om het burgerlyke of cierlyke modern wel uit te beelden" ("Method for correctly representing what is city-like or elegant modern") in his Confronted by the formidable amount of paintings in the Netherlands of exceptional facture (and popularity) whose subject matter had nothing to do with his lofty ideals, de Lairesse felt that some sort of allowance must be made for the plethora of tastes and did not reject all of them categorically: "As the genius of artists differs greatly; one leading to the sublime, another to the common, even to the meanest; so we find ourselves obliged to treat of all parts of the art, in order to be useful to every one, " for it is …more commendable to be like a good Mieris [Frans van Mieris, Vermeer's contemporary] in the modern manner, than a bad Raphael in the antique." Johannes Vermeer c. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York This work is one of Vermeer's most finely balanced works, cleansed of all anecdote and distracting detail.The artist's elegant, essential and muted style may have been nothing more than fruit of a deep-rooted personal inclination nad/or a natural participation in the general refinement genre painting the 1660s and 1670s cultivated especially in Delft where the artist lived and worked.

Perhaps, our concepts of artistic perfection and Classicism are much wider than what de Lairesse had in mind.Samuel van Hoogstraten, another Dutch theorist and painter, painted genre andworks, the latter of which has more to do with pictorial sorcery than the search for uplifting content, even though he was awarded a medal by the Holy Roman Emperor for his efforts.Cesar van Everdingen, who was sometimes referred to as one of the Haarlem Classicists or Haarlem Academics, repeatedly depicted courtesans playing musical instruments or combing their hair (see image left).) which he broke down to "worse than nature," "as in nature" and "better than nature." The concepts of gentility, grace and decorum were fundamental in true painting, as de Lairesse put it, "if [they] are missing from a picture we cannot approve of it." The figures should be purged of anything incidental as well as the mundane details in both dress and physiognomy.Even the postures of the poor and destitute had to be modified to meet acceptable standards of grace.The fact that the minor events of life, like those depicted by Vermeer, might be vehicles for great art had not yet been theoretically established.