Saturday, November 19, 2011

That important first step in forging the Dutch Masters

(Click on image to enlarge)

Windmills at Zaanse Schans
Watercolour and crayon
©2011 Charlene Brown

At the end of our cruise, we had a full day in and around Amsterdam, and we went out to a polder – land reclaimed from the sea. The Dutch began the polder system in the 13th century, building dykes, then using canals and windmill pumps to drain the land and keep it dry. We walked out to one of these windmills and climbed up inside it for a close look at the gears connecting the blades to the grindstones.  
Our guide explained that the windmills didn’t just mill grain – some (including the very one we were in, apparently) were used to grind pigments for the Dutch Masters of the 17th century. He stressed the importance of the quality standards maintained in sourcing the ingredients for the paint used in ‘The Golden Age of Dutch Painting,’ mentioning that only Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan could produce the exact blue demanded by the Masters.
I mentioned that they have beautiful Lapis Lazuli in Chile, and he allowed that the Chilean product was indeed quite good, “But you’ll never be able to restore an old Dutch Master (or forge a new one) with Lapis Lazuli from anywhere but Afghanistan!”  It goes without saying (and he didn’t say it) that any Dutch masterpiece I attempted wouldn't fool anybody no matter where my Lapis Lazuli came from…