During the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, pioneering books on art theory— by Richardson, Piles, Lairesse, and many others—formulated benchmark criteria to assess the quality of paintings and shaped a canon of favorite masters, schools, and subjects. Less is known about the actual appropriation of this high-brow canon by laymen art lovers, amateurs, and connoisseurs. Flemish and Dutch travel diaries are used in this article to unveil more details about these middlebrow art observations. Was a long and expensive Grand Tour the sole vehicle for close encounters with the arts? How did laymen's interest and discourse about the arts evolve over the long run? Finally, the study attempts to reconstruct the Netherlandish "common" taste for individual masters, schools, genres, and periods.


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pp. 29-56
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