Tronie

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A tronie (16/17th-century Dutch for "face") is a common type, or group of types, of works common in Dutch Golden Age painting and Flemish Baroque painting that shows an exaggerated facial expression or a stock character in costume. It is related to the French word “trogne” which is slang for “mug” or head.

Dutch language West Germanic language

Dutch(Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language spoken by around 24 million people as a first language and 5 million people as a second language, constituting the majority of people in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is the third most widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German.

Dutch Golden Age painting

Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history roughly spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) for Dutch independence.

Flemish Baroque painting

Flemish Baroque painting refers to the art produced in the Southern Netherlands during Spanish control in the 16th and 17th centuries. The period roughly begins when the Dutch Republic was split from the Habsburg Spain regions to the south with the Spanish recapturing of Antwerp in 1585 and goes until about 1700, when Habsburg authority ended with the death of King Charles II. Antwerp, home to the prominent artists Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens, was the artistic nexus, while other notable cities include Brussels and Ghent.

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Definition

Joos van Craesbeeck's The Smoker, an example of a "tronie" Joos van Craesbeeck - The Smoker.jpg
Joos van Craesbeeck's The Smoker, an example of a "tronie"

The term 'tronie' is not clearly defined in art historical literature. Literary and archival sources show that initially the term 'tronie' was not always associated with people. Inventories sometimes referred to flower and fruit still lifes as 'tronies'. More common was the meaning of face or visage. Often the term referred to the entire head, even a bust, and in exceptional cases the whole body. A tronie could be two-dimensional, but also made of plaster or stone. Sometimes a tronie was a likeness, the depiction of an individual, including the face of God, Christ, Mary, a saint or an angel. In particular a tronie denoted the characteristic appearance of the head of a type, for example a farmer, a beggar or a jester. Tronie sometimes meant so much as a grotesque head or a model such as the type of an ugly old person. When conceived as the face of an individual and of a type a tronie's aim was to express feelings and character in an accurate manner and must therefore be expressive. [1]

In modern art-historical usage the term tronie is typically restricted to figures not intended to depict an identifiable person, so it is a form of genre painting in a portrait format. Typically a painted head or bust only, if concentrating on the facial expression, but often half-length when featured in an exotic costume, tronies might be based on studies from life or use the features of actual sitters. The picture was typically sold on the art market without identification of the sitter, and was not commissioned and retained by the sitter as portraits normally were. Similar unidentified figures treated as history paintings would normally be given a title from the classical world, for example the Rembrandt painting now known as Saskia as Flora .

Genre painting paintings of scenes or events from everyday life

Genre painting, also called petit genre, depicts aspects of everyday life by portraying ordinary people engaged in common activities. One common definition of a genre scene is that it shows figures to whom no identity can be attached either individually or collectively—thus distinguishing petit genre from history paintings and portraits. A work would often be considered as a genre work even if it could be shown that the artist had used a known person—a member of his family, say—as a model. In this case it would depend on whether the work was likely to have been intended by the artist to be perceived as a portrait—sometimes a subjective question. The depictions can be realistic, imagined, or romanticized by the artist. Because of their familiar and frequently sentimental subject matter, genre paintings have often proven popular with the bourgeoisie, or middle class.

Portrait Artistic representation of one or more persons

A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person. For this reason, in photography a portrait is generally not a snapshot, but a composed image of a person in a still position. A portrait often shows a person looking directly at the painter or photographer, in order to most successfully engage the subject with the viewer.

History painting genre in painting defined by historical matter

History painting is a genre in painting defined by its subject matter rather than artistic style. History paintings usually depict a moment in a narrative story, rather than a specific and static subject, as in a portrait. The term is derived from the wider senses of the word historia in Latin and Italian, meaning "story" or "narrative", and essentially means "story painting". Most history paintings are not of scenes from history, especially paintings from before about 1850.

History

The genre started in the Low Countries in the 16th century where it was likely inspired by some of the grotesque heads drawn by Leonardo. Leonardo had pioneered drawings of paired grotesque heads whereby two heads, usually in profile, were placed opposite each other in order to accentuate their diversity. This paired juxtaposition was also adopted by artists in the Low Countries. In 1564 or 1565 Joannes and Lucas van Doetecum are believed to have engraved 72 heads attributed to Pieter Brueghel the Elder that followed this paired arrangement. [1]

This paired model was still being used by some artists in the 17th century. For instance, the Flemish artist Jan van de Venne who was active in the first half of the 17th century painted a number of tronies juxtaposing different faces.

Jan van de Venne Flemish painter

Jan van de Venne or Jan van der Venne, also known as Pseudo van de Venne, was a Flemish painter of genre, religious scenes, and cabinets who was court painter to the governors of the Southern Netherlands. Many of his works depict "low-life" genre scenes of tooth-pullers, card-players and hurdy-gurdy players, tronies and expressive religious scenes.

Several Rembrandt self-portrait etchings are tronies, as are paintings of himself, his son and his wives. Three Vermeer paintings were described as "tronies" in the Dissius auction of 1696, perhaps including the Girl with a Pearl Earring and the Washington Young Girl with a flute . Frans Hals also painted a number of tronies, which are now among his best-known works, including the two tronies known as Malle Babbe and the Gypsy Girl (see gallery).

Adriaen Brouwer was one of the most successful practitioners of the genre as he had a talent for expressiveness. His work gave a face to lower-class figures by infusing their images with recognizable and vividly expressed human emotions—anger, joy, pain, and pleasure. His Youth Making a Face (c. 1632/1635, National Gallery of Art) shows a young man with a satirical and mocking gesture which humanises him, however uninviting he may appear. Brouwer's vigorous application of paint in this composition, with his characteristically short, unmodulated brushstrokes, increases the dramatic effect. [2] Genre painters often returned to the old theme of the allegory of the five senses and created series of tronies depicting the five senses. Examples are Lucas Franchoys the Younger's A man removing a plaster, the sense of touch and Joos van Craesbeeck's The Smoker which represents taste. [3]

The tronie is related to, and has some overlap with, the "portrait historié", a portrait of a real person as another, usually historical or mythological, figure. Jan de Bray specialised in these, and many portraitists sometimes showed aristocratic ladies in particular as mythological figures.

See also

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