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Oil painting - Interior of a Church

Interior of a Church

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Antwerp (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    1660s (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Neefs, Pieter the elder (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on oak panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by George Mitchell

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Pieter Neefs (1578?-1656/61) was born in Antwerp and probably trained with Hendrick van Steenwijk the Elder (ca.1550-1603) or Younger (ca. 1580-1649). In 1609, he became a master in the Antwerp Guild of St Luke and specialised in the depiction of highly detailed churches' interiors, which figures were sometimes painted by other artists such as Frans Francken II. His sons Lodewijck (1617-1649?) and Peeter II (1620-after 1675) seem to have been employed in his workshop and imitated their father's work.

This painting is a good example of the many imitations and replicas of the famous church interiors painters, Pieter Neefs the Elder and sons, identifiable as such for its mediocre quality. This composition shows a catholic church interior with a crowd of people involved in different activities such as preying, meeting or begging… This trend illustrates that churches in the Netherlands played an important role in everyday life and was an integrant part of the daily activities.

Physical description

Interior of a Gothic church with the central nave and two aisles on each side that housed two altars: two figures preying are kneeling in front the left-hand side altar; other figures among whom elegant ladies and gentlemen, beggars and children are wandering around.

Place of Origin

Antwerp (probably, painted)


1660s (painted)


Neefs, Pieter the elder (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on oak panel


Height: 13 cm estimate, Width: 17 cm estimate, :

Object history note

Bequeathed by George Mitchell, 1878

Historical significance: Church interiors were a popular subject in the Netherlands during the 17th century and the present painting is a good example of the large production of such pictures. The composition and the style relate to the work of Pieter Neefs the Elder and his son, however the mediocre quality of the details and the wobbly line of the figures indicate that this is the work of one of their numerous followers.
Neefs was particularly attentive to the soft transition between light and shade, a compositional scheme that the artist tried to follow in this painting, and had an extreme attention to details revealed in the painstaking depiction of each decorative elements of the church. Here, the clearly catholic edifice with its Gothic features, the draughtboard floor, the large carved tombstones, the rich tabernacle on the right hand-side pillar and the two altars in which one can distinguish pink and white marbles, the ebony frame and the large altarpieces emulate the style of Neefs without reaching the high degree of his refinement. The figures' garments, albeit hardly distinguishable, suggest a date around 1660 and 1670.
Neefs' and his followers prolific output of church interiors reflects the evolution of the art market in the Netherlands where the burgomasters were more and more interested in the acquisition of paintings representing their daily activities and social range.

Historical context note

Architectural paintings, i.e. paintings in which a building or a group of buildings or ruins constitutes either the main subject of the composition or plays an important role in it, in the Netherlands began in the 16th century, especially in the virtuoso perspective views of such artists as Hans (1527-1606) and Paul Vredeman de Vries (1567-after 1630). Architectural paintings include views of church interiors, both real and imaginary; interior and exterior views of imaginary palaces and, occasionally, country estates as well as exterior views of important buildings, such as cathedrals, town halls and country houses. This genre painting particularly flourished during the 17th century when artists such as Pieter Saenredam (1597-1665), Emmanuel de Witte (ca.1617-1692), Jan van der Heyden (1637-1712) and Job (1630-1693) and Gerrit Berckheyde (1638-1698) produced detailed representations of actual and fantasy architecture as main subjects of their compositions. Pieter Saenredam is generally regarded as the artist whose depictions of actual church interiors established a new genre in Dutch painting even though important precedents occur in the work of other artists such as Hendrik van Steenwyck (ca.1550-1603). Saenredam's pictures however obtained the favours of the art market that enable him and contemporary artists such as Pieter Neefs the Elder (1578?-1656/61) and the Younger (ca. 1580-1649) to support a career largely devoted to this speciality.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Interior of a Church', follower of Pieter Neefs the Elder, 1660s

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

C.M. Kauffmann, Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 201, cat. no. 246.
A catalogue of the National Gallery of British Art at South Kensington with a supplement containing works by modern foreign artists and Old Masters, 1893, p. 183.


Oil paint; Oak


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Churches; Gothic; Figures




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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