The Burning of Amsterdam Town Hall, 9 June, 1652
28.5 cm x 34.7 cm (11 1/4 in. x 13 11/16 in.)
Jan de Baen
(Haarlem, The Netherlands, 1633 - 1702, The Hague, The Netherlands)
Medium and Support:
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Leo Steinberg Collection, 2002
Not just the seat of local government, the medieval Town Hall of Amsterdam had been the subject of innumerable works of art, from the early etchings of realistic urban views by Claes Visscher, to the poetic architectural paintings of Pieter Saenredam. During the night of 9 June 1652, with work already underway on a new town hall, the old one burned to the ground. The event became emblematic of the passing of the old order and the end of the vibrant first period of Dutch nationalism. De Baen’s etching combines the immediacy of a chronicle report with the visual appeal of a conventional fine print. It is a precocious example of the function, even aspects of the style, of modern news and documentary photography.