Written Paintings: Real and Imaginary Works of Art in De Lairesse's Schilderboek
The aim of De Lairesse's Groot Schilderboek (1707) was to translate the laws of international classicism into practical rules for studio use. Its text is interspersed with descriptions of imaginary paintings, meant as inspiring examples for young artists. These written paintings are of the author's own invention. In two cases, however, a Roman sculpture can be recognized as the source of inspiration. In the process, the emotional content of the mythological figures was changed drastically. De Lairesse campaigned for the improvement of genre painting. One of his imaginary examples was a tea party. Willem van Mieris illustrated this subject in one of his works without, however, closely following the Schilderboek's text. De Lairesse's most elaborate "written painting" is meant to emulate Jan Steen's topsy-turvy families. He tried to create perfect genre paintings by combining the best elements from the work of his predecessors, while eliminating their shortcomings.