VENNE, Adriaen Pietersz. van de
(b. 1589, Delft, d. 1662, The Hague)

Fishing for Souls

Oil on panel, 98 x 189 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

In this painting van de Venne represented the moral superiority claimed by Dutch leaders. The painting visualizes Christ's words to his disciples, "I will make you fishers of men," as a contemporary contest for souls between two Reformed boats at left and two Catholic vessels at right. The orderly Dutch Protestants are more successful, catching people with the Bible and with the Christian virtues Hope, Faith, and Charity inscribed in the net. The near-capsizing Catholic monks use incense and music for lures. On the left bank, Dutch leaders are neatly aligned, opposite the less numerous Flemish dignitaries on the other side. Although the Southern Netherlandish camp is painted respectfully, their background is literally constituted by a withered tree and a Pope borne by adulatory monks.