Chapter 9 of the Bourgeois Revaluation:
The Dutch Preached Bourgeois Virtue

What made such talk conceivable was the “rise” of the bourgeoisie in northwestern Europe. Numbers rose, true. But the rise was more than a matter of numbers. It was a rise in dignity, accompanied by public opinion, and of liberty, accompanied by revolution. The rise happened in the Netherlands especially, and the Netherlands was the irritating model for the rest.

The Dutch gave up aristocratic or peasant images of themselves a century before the English and Scots or even quite a few of the American English colonists did, and two centuries before the French. What made the project of ethics in commerce conceivable was the economic and political rise of the middle class around the North Sea, merchant communities hurrying about their busy-ness with ships packed with herring, salt, lumber, wheat, and later with colonial products, the “rich trades” of spices and porcelain. The league of Hansa towns in the DDDD centuries from Bergen to Novgorod, and south to Deventer in the Netherlands, never took national form, though it had fleets to put down pirates and was more powerful than most states at the time. In the eighth century a “Frisian” was a synonym for “trader” — and for “Dutchman,” since the languages nowadays called Frisian and Dutch had not yet diverged (and they had then just barely diverged from English), and Frisia was not as it is now confined to the northern Netherlands. 160 The Jews, the “Italians,” and the Frisians were the international traders of the Carolingian Empire around 800.

The Dutch became in the High Middle Ages the tutors of the Northerners in trade and navigation. They taught the English how to say skipper, cruise, schooner, lighter, yacht, wiveling, yaw, yawl, sloop, tackle, hoy, boom, jib, bow, bowsprit, luff, reef, belay, avast, hoist, gangway, pump, buoy, dock, freight, smuggle, and keelhaul. In the last decade of the sixteenth century the busy Dutch invented a broad-bottomed ship ideal for commerce, the fluyt, or fly-boat, and the German Ocean became a new Mediterranean, a watery forum of the Germanic speakers — of the English, Scots, Norse, Danish, Low German, Frisian, Flemish, and above all the Dutch — who showed the world how to be bourgeois.

The shores of the German Ocean seemed in, say, 98 CE an unlikely place for town life and the bourgeois virtues to flourish. Tacitus at least thought so. The storms through which a skipper would cruise in his schooner were rougher than the Mediterranean of a navicularius, and were rough more of the year. Tacitus claimed that the Germani, and certainly the wild Batavii among them, used cattle rather than gold and silver as money, “whether as a sign of divine favor or of divine wrath, I cannot say”(he was criticizing civilized greed). 161 “The peoples of Germany never live in cities and will not even have their houses adjoin one another,” in sharp contrast to apartment-dwelling Romans at the time. 162 And he claimed it was precisely those whom Dutch people later looked on as their ancestors, the Batavians, who were the first among the Germani in martial virtue (virtute praecipui) .163

The modern Dutch therefore dote on Tacitus. But it is doting, not a racial history, because the Dutch have been since the fifteenth century at the latest the first large, Northern European, bourgeois nation. It was and even still is a “nation” in a loose and ethnic sense, and nothing like as nationalistic as England or even France. The modern master of Dutch history, Johan Huizinga — his name is Frisian — believed that Holland’s prosperity came not from the warlike spirit of the Batavians of old, or in early modern times from the Protestant ethic or the spirit of capitalism, or from modern nationalism, but from medieval liberties — an accidental free trade consequent on the worthless character of Dutch mud flats before the techniques of water management were invented, and the resulting competition among free cities after the breakup of Carolingian centralization. 164 It was always about trade, not battle. “We [Dutch] are essentially unheroic,” Huizinga wrote. “Our character lacks the wildness and fierceness that we usually associate with Spain from Cervantes to Calderòn, with the France of the Three Musketeers and the England of Cavaliers and Roundheads. . . . A state formed by prosperous burgers living in fairly large cities and by fairly satisfied farmers and peasants is not the soil in which flourishes what goes by the name of heroism. . . . Whether we fly high or low, we Dutchmen are all bourgeois — lawyer and poet, baron and laborer alike.” 165

In the late sixteenth century the course of the Revolt against Spain stripped away the aristocracy, which in parts of the northern Netherlands had been pretty thin on the ground to begin with. Many aristocratic families simply died out. After the northern Dutch had made good their defiance of the Spanish, as early as 1585 — though it was not official until 1648 (and bizarrely the Dutch national anthem down to the present day still declares loyalty to the King of Spain) — they lacked a king, and so the aristocracy could not be refreshed. It is an instance of the importance of marginality in theorizing the liberal evolutions of the seventeenth and eighteenth century that North Holland was far from the courts of Burgundy or even of Brussels that attempted to rule it, and very far indeed in distance and in spirit from its nominal ruler from 1555 to 1648, Madrid. City-by-city the United Provinces were quite able to govern themselves, thank you very much. They lay behind, or rather above, the Great Rivers, as the Dutch call them, protected the same way the German army of occupation was protected in 1944 by a bridge too far. What was left to do the ruling was the haute bourgeoisie, the big merchants and bankers, very haute in such a compacted, urbanized place at the mouth of two of Europe’s larger rivers. Yet such regenten, regents, for all their pride in humanistic learning and their hard-eyed rule over the mere “residents” (inwoners) without political rights, were not aristocrats literally, in their own or in the public’s eye. They never disdained trade; they were always businesslike and numerate (to the irritation, for example, of their non-bourgeois allies); they were not soldiers or courtiers; their titles were not literally inherited; they did not deny their bourgeois or even lower roots. They were just rich and powerful: that’s not an “aristocracy” in a sense that Europeans understood it from the time of the first Greek cities down to Eton College and the German dueling fraternities.

The mud flats became rich cities without, so to speak, anybody noticing, and by the time Philip II and the Duke of Alva and others sprang to attention it was too late. The place of great European cities, true, was still the Mediterranean. In 1500 three out of the (merely) four cities in Europe larger than present-day Cedar Rapids, Iowa (viz., 100,000 check) were Mediterranean ports, two of them Italian: Venice and Naples, with Constantinople. Of the twelve in 1600 half were still Italian (Palermo and Messina, for instance, had become giants of honorable city life). 166 Yet it is indicative of stirrings in the German Ocean that Antwerp in the mid sixteenth century temporarily and London by 1600 and Amsterdam by 1650 permanently broke into the over-100,000 ranks.

By the early seventeenth century the tiny United Provinces contained one-and-a-half million people, as against about six million in Britain and over eighteen million in France. And more Dutch people (360,000 or so) lived in towns of over 10,000 in 1700 than did English people then, out of a much larger population. The United Provinces were bourgeois, all right.

“Holland is a country where. . . profit [is] more in request than honor” was how in 1673 Sir William Temple concluded Chapter Five of his Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands. The “honor” that Temple had in mind was that of a proud aristocracy. Yet the profit more in request, shamefully in the view of English aristocrats and gentry, was not achieved at the cost of the Dutch bourgeoisie’s soul. The question is whether Holland was the worse in spirit for being so very bourgeois. In the town-hating, trade-disdaining rhetoric of some Christianity and of all aristocracy and nowadays of more or less all the clerisy of artists and intellectuals, Holland would be corrupted utterly by riches earned from gin, spices, herring, and government bonds. It would be “bourgeois” in the very worst modern sense. Was such a town-ridden place less ethical than its medieval self, or less ethical than contemporary and still aristocratic societies like England or France?

Not in its declarations. The student of Dutch literature Herman Pleij has argued that “the virtues associated [in the sixteenth century] with capitalism and the Reformation were not new. . . : they had already been setting the tone for more than two centuries in Brabant and Flanders,” south of Holland proper.” 167 He has studied the rise of urban literature in the southern Low Countries, 1350-1550, which, he writes, “played an active role in forming, defending and propagating what came to be called middle-class virtues, which revolved around . . . practicality and utilitarianism,” what I call (and they called) prudence. 168 The tradesmen and burghers of Arras, Brussels, Louvain, Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges (all except for Arras now in Belgium; until the sixteenth ***check century the northerly places like Amsterdam were not prominent) used existing models to point a bourgeois tale: “a knight could, in fact, be perceived as an aspiring entrepreneur.” 169 Thus Heinric en Margriete van Limborch, a thirteenth-century romance of knights and their ladies, was printed in 1516 for the bourgeoisie with such commercial amendments as having Heinric instructed on achieving his knighthood to “pay generously whenever you travel [as both knights errant and dusty merchants were both in the habit of doing]. . . then people will speak honorably of you.” Honor was not merely the knightly fighting and hunting and wooing of the original text, but the traveling and especially now in 1516 the honest paying of the merchant readers. 170

For the sixteenth and especially the seventeenth century, and the independent north rather than the Spanish-retained south of the Low Countries, I could rest the case by pointing to Simon Schama’s brilliant Embarrassment of Riches, which discusses . . . . “The Dutch feared literal drowning “in destitution and terror,” a worry that was “exactly counterbalanced by their fear of drowning in luxury and sin” (p. 47). “distinguishing between proper and improper ways of making fortunes, and the concept of wealth as stewardship” (p. 420). brief summary of Schama, not repeating what’s said in The Bourgeois Virtues

Another art historian of the Dutch, R. H. Fuchs, notes that Golden Age painting was infused with ethics. After the sixteenth century (the first age of printing) the Calvinist and bourgeois Netherlanders eagerly bought “emblems” — paintings and especially etchings illustrating ethical proverbs. Fuchs shows an example from 1624 of a mother wiping her baby’s bottom: Dit lijf, wat ist, als stanck en mist? “This life, what is it, but stench and shit?” Such stuff is especially prevalent early in the seventeenth century, it would seem, when Dutch painting had not yet (as Svetlana Alpers has argued vigorously, against such “iconological” readings) separated itself from written texts.

A painting such as Bosschaert’s Vase of Flowers (1620) looks to a modern eye merely a bouquet that an Impressionist, say, might paint from life, though in Holland in the seventeenth century with much more attention to surface detail than the Impressionists thought worthwhile. But under instruction one notices — as the bourgeois buyer would have noticed without instruction, since behind his canal house he cultivated his own garden — that the various flowers bloom at different times of year. Therefore the bouquet is botanically impossible (Fuchs DDDD, p. 8). Something else is going on. The iconologists among art historians favor a theological interpretation: “For every thing there is a season, a time to be born and a time to die, saith the Preacher.” “That in principle,” writes Fuchs, “is the meaning of every [Dutch] still-life painted in the seventeenth or the first part of the eighteenth century.” 171 I said that Fuchs’ view (and the view of many other students of the matter, such as E. de Jongh, whose work is seminal) has opponents. Eric Sluijter, for example, joins Alpers in skepticism. He notes a 1637 poem by the Dutch politician and popular poet Jacob Cats (1577-1660) which portrays painters as profit-making and practical, and therefore uninterested in preaching. He analyzes in detail one of the few contemporary writings on the matter, in 1642 by one Philips Angel lecturing to the painters of Leiden. The conclusion Sluijter draws is that “it is difficult to find anything in texts on the art of painting from this period that would indicate that didacticism was an important aim.” 172

The argument of the skeptics, in other words, is that secret meanings, if no contemporary saw them, might not in fact be there. Fair point. The purpose of paintings would not be, as the iconological critics think, tot lering en vermaak, “to teach and delight,” reflected in museum guidebooks nowadays — this from the humanism tracing to classical rhetoric and Cicero, two of the offices of rhetoric being docere et delectare (and the other being movere, to move to political or ethical action). 173 At least it would not be ethical teaching, delighting, moving. Perhaps, as Alpers argues, it was essentially scientific, showing people how to see.

But even Alpers and Sluijter would not deny that a still-life of a loaded table with the conch, book, half-peeled lemon, half-used candle, vase lying on its side, and (in the more explicit versions) a skull signifying all the works that are done under the sun, such as Steenwijck’s painting of c. 1640, entitled simply Vanitas, was a known genre, to be read like a proverb. Pieter Claesz’s still life of 1625/30 in the Art Institute of Chicago is filled with symbols of Holland’s overseas trade — olives, linens, sugar, lemons — to the same end. All is vanity and vexation of spirit, saith the preacher. It does not matter much if the Dutch painters knew they were making moral tales, as long as their audience experienced them that way. [Use the book on such paintings here.] The point is similar to that of the “new” literary criticism of the 1940s and 1950s: a poem or painting can have a moral, or any other artistic effect, without it being consciously inserted by the poet or painter.

We ignoramuses in art history are liable to view “realism” as a simple matter of whether the people in the picture appear to have “real” bodies (though rendered on a flat canvas with paint. . . hmm), or instead have half-bodies of fishes or horses, or wings attached for flying (‘fantasy”); or whether you can make out actual objects apparently from this world (again admittedly on that flatness), or not (“abstraction”). If it is just realism, under a naïve theory, then there is no ethical burden in the paintings. They are just pretty, and pretty accurate, pictures of the world around us. How nice, and how very real. And how irrelevant, it would seem, for the ethical history of the first large bourgeois society in Europe.

Fuchs observes on the contrary that what he calls “metaphorical realism” was the usual mode of early Golden Age painting showing (barely) possible figures or scenery which nonetheless insist on referring to another realm, especially a proverbial realm, always with ethical purpose. The same is true of much of French and British realism in painting of the early-to-mid nineteenth century, such as Ford Maddox Brown’s “Work” [1852-63; in two versions] or in France what the slightly mad painter, Gustave Courbet, called “real allegories.” Richard Brettell notes that Courbet and then the more accomplished Manet put aside the Academic conventions of mythology in favor of apparently contemporary scenes, but made pictures nonetheless “ripe with pictorial, moral, religious, and political significance.” 174

Two centuries earlier the Dutch pioneers of metaphorical realism, or “real” allegories, would depict merry scenes of disordered home life, such as Steen’s painting of c. 1663 “In Luxury Beware” (itself a proverbial expression: In weelde siet toe), with ethical purpose. Such a scene became proverbial. A “Jan-Steen household” still means in Dutch a household out of control. 175 “The painting is littered with realistic metaphors. Even an untrained eye can spot them: while the mother-in-charge sleeps, a monkey stops the clock, a child smokes a pipe, a dog is feasting on a pie, a half-peeled lemon and a pot on its side signal the vanitas of human life, a woman in the middle of the picture with the deep décolletage of a whore brazenly out at us, holding her full wine glass at the crotch of a man being scolded by a Quaker and a nun, and a pig has stolen the spigot of a wine barrel (another literal proverb, Fuchs explains, for letting a household get out of control).

The Golden Age of Holland, in other words, if thoroughly bourgeois, was ethically haunted. Oil paintings in the Netherlands in the seventeenth century were like plays in Shakespeare’s London or books of sermons in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries or the European novel before modernism or movies in the movie palaces of the 1930s or videos of films in the late twentieth century or pulp novels in the early twentieth century. All these were immensely popular art forms in which the culture, even the elite, seemed to be thinking out its values. Now of course it is perilous to hitch the art of a culture to its ethical reflections — except that here the very point is that the art declared itself to be ethical reflections, regardless of whether or not people carried out the reflections in action. Despite, or perhaps because of, the pull of Mammon, in other words, Hollander talked ethics.

The age was still one of faith — an age initiated not in the Middle Ages, as was once so commonly thought (one can make the case that medieval people, who might take communion once a year, were less religious than their spiritually aroused descendents in the sixteenth century), but in the Reformation, as in gereformeerde Holland, with newly devout Catholics and Jews mixed in. Ordinary Europeans in the Middle Ages were barely Christian.

The transcendent therefore keeps bursting into Dutch art, as in Rembrandt. One thinks of holy parallels in seventeenth-century English poetry, especially from priests like John Donne and George Herbert or Puritans like John Milton. The literary English and the painterly Dutch reaching for God seems to come to a climax of earnestness around the middle of the seventeenth century, and then collapse into cynical exhaustion. Poetry and painting in the age of renewed faith was not just entertainment (delectare) . It had deadly serious work to do of teaching and moving (docere et movere), justifying God’s ways to man, to be sure, but also as Trevor-Roper observed Doing Politics (regere). A. T. van Deursen instances Cats, who began as a poet of emblem engravings and who “wanted to instruct his readers through moral lessons. . . . Those who desired something more erotically tinted would have to learn Italian” — or buy a painting. 176 Nothing means in the early-seventeenth century notion merely what it seems. Everything in the poem or painting points a moral.

An urbane reaction followed, in Dryden, for example, and in late Golden Age Dutch painters. A century later the keys to this system of early-seventeenth-century moralizing symbols in both poetry and painting had been entirely mislaid. Romantic critics in England had no idea what Milton was on about, since they had set aside the rigorously Calvinist theology that animated his poetry. And even so spiritual a reader as Blake gets Milton wrong, in imagining that Satan was the hero of Paradise Lost. The two pillars that van Deursen spoke about, Christianity and pagan literature, had been pushed apart by early Enlightened and then Romantic Samsons, and the ethical building had collapsed. In looking at painting even the Dutch critics of the late eighteenth century had misplaced the emblematic keys to their own national art (admitting that some recent writers, such as Alpers and Sluijter, think there was no key to be lost in the first place). Foreigners had no chance at all.

Gerard Terborch had painted around 1654-55 a scene in a brothel in which a young man bids with a coin for a woman (whose back is turned to the viewer) dressed in lovingly rendered satin. The procuress goes about her business. And the table shows a vanitas arrangement. The scene was conventional — Vermeer did one, for example; two if you include Officer and Laughing Girl around 1657 in a different arrangement, similar to a painting of 1625 by van Honthorst named explicitly The Procuress (in which a lute is offered: luit in Dutch, Fuchs explains, can mean either the musical instrument or a vagina). Yet by 1809 [Elective Affinity] Goethe was interpreting the Terborch painting as a scene of a father [that is, the john] admonishing his daughter [that is, the whore] while the mother [that is, the procuress] averts her eyes modestly. 177 Goethe is not to be blamed: an eighteenth-century engraver had retitled the work “Paternal Admonition,” and appears to have deleted the coin from the client’s hand. But Goethe likewise misunderstood Milton’s Satan as a Romantic hero, and Hamlet as one, too. And so we have here a change in sensibility, away from a “realistic” engagement with the world.

The painters themselves as much as the critics forgot, too. Fuchs shows the metaphoric realism of the Golden Age giving way in the mid-nineteenth century to a pictorial realism, that is, a realism not of the soul — remember the flowers blooming and dying at different times of year — but of the eye. Or of the mechanized eye. The camera obscura, we have only recently discovered, played a big role in painting from the Renaissance on. When photography came, the artists follow suit en masse. Like a snapshot, the subjects just happen to be in the frame of the picture, as in Gustave Caillebotte’s masterpiece in the Art Institute of Chicago (1877). The bourgeois walkers at a rainy Paris intersection in the newly built quarters are glimpsed just at that moment, which will in an instant dissolve meaninglessly into another moment. A different level of reality is not breaking in from above — though one might argue that impressions such as this carried their own vanitas message. But at last in the Industrial Age the ethical transcendent is rejected, as it was embraced in the early Golden Age.

The first large bourgeois nation of the North was ethical, that is, and very far from blasé about the good and bad of trade.

Nor was Holland especially corrupt in its political declarations. Rather to the contrary. The word “corruption” means “activities involving payment that we do not like.” It is unjust, unloving, unfaithful behavior in aid of prudence, that is, profit. It is a spilling of our profane into our sacred. We do not regard paying for milk as corruption, but paying to get out of a Russian airport is. “Corruption,” then, is a fancy word for self-interested behavior we don’t like.

In its political rhetoric Holland declared for virtue, and against corruption. The Northern, literate Protestant nations on the North Sea were cradles of democracy, of course, at least of a highly limited “democracy” among the full citizens of the towns, and here too Holland led. The Dutch Republic was an insult to the monarchies surrounding it, more so even than the older and less imitable islands of non-monarchy in Switzerland, Venice, and Genoa. The Republic’s federal form (in which each province had a veto in the generality, and each city in the seven provinces) was an inspiration later to the Americans. Although the Republic was I repeat nothing like a full-franchise democracy of the modern type — the big property owners, as in the early American republic, were firmly in charge — it was always an irritating contrast in theory to the divine right of kings just then being articulated by Spanish Philipand English Charles and French Louis.

Protestantism had something to do with all this good talk about the rights of man (and in Holland the reality even of some rights of women). The priesthood of all believers, and behind it the individualism of the Abrahamic religions generally, was central to the growth of the strange notion that a plowman has in right as much to say on public matters as a prince. Radical Protestant church governance, among the Anabaptists and after a while the Quakers, which allowed a position at least for a saintly plowman, was a practice field for a democratic theory long a-borning. Yet on the medieval Catholic side, too, as again the school of Quentin Skinner has taught us, the theory of natural rights justified a right even of revolution. Skinner argues that French, Dutch, and English theorists of politics in the early seventeenth century owed a good deal to a scholastic tradition.

The English in their impetuous, aristocratic, pre-bourgeois way went a lot further in the 1640s than the Dutch did. At the Putney debates of the New Model Army in 1647 Colonel Rains [or Rain***]borough declared, “I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that government that he has not had a voice to put himself under.” 178 And he was a gentleman, a Puritan colonel. Charles I himself coined the word “leveller” to describe the notion, which seemed insane to most English people in 1647 — as one of his supporters put it scornfully, that “every Jack shall vie with a gentleman and every gentleman be made a Jack.” 179 Until the nineteenth century such shocking views did not prevail, as against the position more usual at the time — that, as General Ireton, Cromwell’s son-in-law, replyied to Rainsborough, “no person has a right to this [voice] that has not a permanent fixed interest [namely, land] in this kingdom.” Charles I, fifteen months after Putney, asserted the counter-position succinctly, before the headman’s block: “A subject and a sovereign are clean different things.” To which Milton replied a month after Charles’ demise, “No man who knows aught can be so stupid to deny that all men naturally were born free, being the image and resemblance of God himself. . . . unless the people must be thought created all for [the king], he not for them, and they all in one body inferior to him single, which were a kind of treason against the dignity of mankind to affirm.” 18 What is novel in Milton’s assertion is that every Jack should have political as against a vaguely spiritual dignity. David Wootton notes elsewhere that the Putney debates of 1647 were not published until the 1890s. For a long time the specter of radical democracy kept being pushed back into Hell. But in the eighteenth century Rousseau brought it out for good: “No more dangerous set of ideas [than a man's a man for a' that] surfaced in the Enlightenment,” writes the historian of the Enlightenment Margaret Jacob. 181 The radical position had been articulated, and long haunted Europe.

Most of these were Christians, and of course the fact mattered. Whatever their actual debt to the scholastics, the Protestants had challenged the monarchies and aristocracies of popes and bishops by imagining early Church history as their model. They wished to omit a millennium of church history. Malcolm MacKinnon, disputing the route by which Max Weber connected Protestantism to capitalism, notes that “Puritan idealism was more concerned with ecclesiology than soteriology [more with matters of church governance, that is, than the doctrines of salvation that Weber focused on], concerned with ‘purifying’ church government. . . . The Puritan Revolution of the 1640s. . . established the political preconditions of modern capitalism.” 182 When priests were literally rulers, when cardinals marshaled armies and abbots and bishops collected a fifth or more of the rents in England, in Holland, and in other European lands, religion was politics. “Religion, in fact,” observed Hugh Trevor-Roper in 1940, “was also an aspect of politics — the outward symbol, the shibboleth, by which parties were known. . . . Religion was not merely a set of personal beliefs about the economy of Heaven, but the outward sign of a social and political theory.” 183 What seems to us absurd excess in Archbishop Laud or Oliver Cromwell, he argues, is no more or less absurd than would be invading Poland in the name of Lebensraum or defending South Vietnam in the name of anti-Communism or invading Iraq in the name of suppressing world terrorism or any other peculiar modern project.

It was a small step in logic, if not in immediately practice, to the citizenship of all believers. The philosopher Charles Taylor notes that in the repeated splitting of Protestant churches, “in this recurrent activity of founding and refounding, we are witnessing more and more the creation of common agencies in secular time,” that is, a school for liberal revolutionaries. 184 The popular historian Arthur Herman notes that the Presbyterian Kirk in Scotland was from the time of John Knox “the single most democratic system of church government in Europe.” 185 Herman may not be remembering that in the same 1560s and 1570s the Dutch were creating the same sort of church government, by contrast to the less radical Lutherans and Anglicans elsewhere around the German Ocean. No bishops, said the Dutch. We shall have pastors chosen by the lay elders, that is, in Greek, “presbyters.” And after such a change it was a small further step to republicanism in secular matters. When the northern Dutch like the northern Britons cast off their lord bishops in the sixteenth century they fell into the further act, as the Scots did not, of casting off their monarch and his aristocrats, too (though the “casting off” was unintended, a consequence of the Dutch Revolt against Catholic Spain). Bourgeois Holland, with its rhetoric of rights against kings and aristocrats, led the way in Europe. As a nation of traders — but also earnest Christians and big buyers of morally instructive art — the Dutch put on show what is supposed in anti-capitalist rhetoric to be impossible: the Virtuous and Republican Bourgeois.

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