Adriaen Pietersz van de Venne (1589-1662) created his own style that combined moralization, satire, landscape painting and allusions to Dutch idioms. He was truly a versatile artist, painting, illustrating books, creating satire and even writing poetry. For more in-depth coverage of Van der Venne read Issue 60 of Dutch the magazine.
Merry Company in an Arbor is one of four of his paintings representing the seasons, but also exploring the dangers of love and lust. Van de Venne’s is contemporaries would have found this painting, representing spring, and the others in the series quite charming.
The painting is full of humorous and allegorical scenes. On the left, for example, we see the arbor of the title, in which young women are singing and playing musical instruments. Like sirens, they seem to be luring men toward them. Some of the men are spying on them, perhaps planning their way in. Others have climbed great heights in the trees, with the most foolish (notably dressed in a jester’s hat) jumping out of the tree. He will likely be caught in the nets, just as another man, who is being dragged away by one of the women.
While the paintings are meant partially as commentaries on the pitfalls of lust, they are also meant to entertain the viewers. These kinds of allegorical paintings were common in the Netherlands at the time.
Van de Venne was a successful and respected figure, having worked for a time in the royal court, as well as being an active member of the Guild of St. Luke even serving as its dean and deacon. Today his works can be found in major collections, including the Rijksmuseum, British Museum and Getty Museum.
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