Degree Granting Department
Humanities and Cultural Studies
burgher, colonialism, foreign, maidservant, mercenary, otherness
During the second half of the seventeenth century, alcohol and tobacco were consumed at all levels of the social strata in the Dutch Republic. These products and their consumption were important to long standing traditions and were vital to the Dutch economy. Paradoxically, however, moralists and ministers attempted to curb intoxication by associating it with the loss of one's masculinity or femininity. Intoxicated men and women were stigmatized as morally inept, unruly, and a threat to the family, community, and even the nation. Dutch genre paintings depicting alcohol and tobacco consumption are often described as moral warnings or didactic messages, but these images were more than teaching aids for Dutch youth. The intoxicated characters in these paintings represented a larger social anxiety towards the threat of foreign invasions. Foreign labor, including soldiers, sailors, and maidservants, held a precarious position within the Republic and in Dutch homes, and these foreign workers became easy targets for moralists and ministers who sought to perpetuate the Dutch national myth of superiority through allegories of foreign otherness. There is a large body of scholarly work that explores seventeenth-century Dutch society; however, little attention has been given to the significance of alcohol and tobacco consumption. This paper addresses these concerns with a special emphasis on paintings created during the True Freedom (1650-1672). Through the examination of paintings, moral treatises, and religious sermons, I will discuss depictions of alcohol and tobacco consumption and juxtapose them to the ideal man and woman as described by moralists and ministers. For the seventeenth-century Dutch, images of alcohol and tobacco represented an insidious infection in a pristine community. But these condemnations tell us much more about the anxieties of seventeenth-century Dutch society than about the inherent evils of intoxication.
Scholar Commons Citation
Beeler, David, "Sobering Anxieties: Alcohol, Tobacco, and the Intoxicated Social Body in Dutch Painting During the True Freedom, 1650-1672" (2014). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.