SAENREDAM, Pieter Jansz
(b. 1597, Assendelft, d. 1665, Haarlem)

Interior of the Sint-Bavokerk in Haarlem

Oil on panel, 200 x 140 cm
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Acknowledging the absence of significant Church patronage in the Northern Netherlands, several painters, most innovatively Pieter Saenredam, created a new genre of church painting that celebrates the clean walls of Protestant churches, virtually devoid of decoration. In Calvinist churches the most important piece of furniture was the pulpit, from which preachers read and preached to the congregation. In this painting the pulpit leans against a distant pillar. This church interior belongs to one of the 'neutral' genres of painting that Calvin had authorized for use in decoration and teaching rather than in religious ritual.

The prominent organ displays biblical fragments exhorting worshippers to use music and songs to praise God and to teach Christian values. These references contribute, probably deliberately, to the Calvinist debate on organ music in services. While strict theologians considered music too frivolous, most churches continued to use organs.