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The Dramatic Image: Baroque Prints of the 17th Century

Jan van de Velde
Dutch, 1593–1641

The Pancake Woman

Etching, about 1626

A frowning and foreboding old woman sits before a fire holding a large knife in preparation to cut a small fruit. Over the fire, a large and shallow crepe pan heats. Two children sit in the warmth of the fire and happily consume pancakes while another child beckons the old woman with a coin.

The fire illuminates the scene, with all that falls outside of its light rendered shadowy and dark. The faces and bodies of the old woman and children seem cast in high relief as the light picks out detail. This print emulates the style of the Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1573–1610). Caravaggio, perhaps the most influential early Baroque artist, was noted for his technique of using strong lighting to enhance, isolate, and give life to his naturalistic subjects.