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DOUBLE DUTCH: Secrets, Symbols and Hidden Meanings in Dutch 'Golden Age' Painting 

The merchants of seventeenth century Holland filled their town houses with paintings. But these upright Calvinist citizens rejected biblical subjects and Baroque melodrama. 

Favourite themes were found closer to home. Still lifes and scenes of everyday life (genre scenes) reflected the prosperity and self-esteem of the new Republic. The detailed realism of these paintings convinces us we are looking at a window onto a past world. But is there more to Dutch art than meets the eye?

Vanitas and 'Pronk' still lifes display an abundance of luxury goods, flower bouquets and exotic foodstuffs. If we look closely, however, the inclusion of a pocket-watch, fading bloom or blemished fruit might hint that consciences are troubled by such ostentation.

In the genre scenes, there is rarely anything to cause offence. However, innocent objects hint at adult themes: lap dogs and plucked chickens, lutes and virginals, foot warmers and bed warmers.

This is a world of subtle hints and double-entendre, spoken through a language of symbols, emblems and motifs. Join me to explore the hidden meanings in art and become a fluent reader of 'Double Dutch'!