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Govaert Flinck: Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom

John Nolan served as curator at the Museum & Gallery for twenty years. In this month’s segment, he shares his thoughts on one of his favorite works from the collection.


Object of the Month: May 2014

Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom

Oil on canvas, c. 1655

Govaert Flinck

Dutch, 1615–1660


Govaert Flinck began his artistic career in the studio of a Mennonite preacher named Lambert Jacobsz of Leeuwarden. However, after Rembrandt settled in Amsterdam, Flinck assured his future success by entering the great master’s studio as a journeyman. He was the first to closely imitate Rembrandt’s new, Amsterdam style, so much so that some of his pictures were sold as if by Rembrandt himself.

In spite of his facility to learn his master’s style, Flinck later abandoned his teacher’s manner to assume a lighter classical style of painting learned from nearby Flanders. This change proved to be one that the patrons loved and, consequently, brought him great popularity and wealth. The officials of Amsterdam patronized Flinck more than any other artist (including Rembrandt), which is evidenced by his winning the most important civil commission in Amsterdam—the decoration of the new town hall—with this very work!

As the winning entry, Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom is a preparatory sketch for the much larger finished canvas, which still hangs in its original position as a chimneypiece in “The Moses Room” of the Amsterdam town hall. Flinck would have shown the present sketch to the town commissioners for approval before working on the final canvas. This colorful and ambitious composition marks the height of Flinck’s powers as the leading historical painter of his day. Govaert Flinck’s classical style of painting became the standard for Dutch artists for the next hundred years.

John M. Nolan, Curator 


Published in 2014