The Embarrassment of Riches is a book by Simon Schama. It’s an interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age.
‘At the apogee of its powers in the seventeenth century, Holland was a tiny island of prosperity in a sea of want, Its homes were well-furnished and fanatically clean; its citizens feasted on 100-course banquets and speculated fortunes on new varieties of tulip. Yet, in the midst of plenty, the Dutch were ill at ease. In this brilliantly innovative book-which launched his reputation as one of our most perspicacious and stylish historians- Simon Schama explores the mysterious contradictions of a nation that invented itself from the ground up, attained an unprecedented level of affluence, and lived in constant dread of being corrupted by its happiness.
Drawing on a vast array of period documents and sumptuously reproduced art, Schama re-creates, in precise and loving detail, a nation’s mental furniture. He tells of bloody uprisings and beached whales, of the cult of hygiene and the plague of tobacco, of thrifty housewives and profligate tulip-speculators. He tells us how the Dutch celebrated themselves and how they were slandered by their enemies.’, Schama (1987)
I learned several things from the book:
- I’m Dutch. It was interesting to read about the background of some still existing cultural habits in the Netherlands.
- How art is a reflection of its time and why you therefor have to decode art.
Schama, S. (1987), The Embarrassment of Riches, New York: Vintage Books