I have just started reading a book titled The Making of Home by Judith Flanders. The preface states that it traces the evolution of the house from the sixteenth century to the homes of today. In the introduction it discusses the Dutch homes we are all familiar with in the paintings of the 1600s.
However, Flanders states that the homes in Holland at that time didn’t look like the paintings. The Dutch artists wanted to show off their ability to paint beautiful pictures with balance, lighting etc. To do that, everything had to look clean, uncluttered and expensive so the artists painted floors of black and white tile that were found only in the foyers of the public buildings, they painted oriental carpets on floors that usually had no carpets at all, and uncluttered rooms where the viewer could focus on the main subjects in the scene. In actuality, five people living in one room with no sanitation, which was lighted and warmed only by firelight must have created a very different picture.
I can imagine the artist saying, “Well, I wasn’t painting this picture for a historian anyway. i just liked the picture.” Point taken. And with photo shopping and camera angles, are we sure our pictures portray our times any more accurately than theirs? Probably not.
Do the pictures we publish in books or magazines show homes that look like the ones we live in or idealized homes with beautiful, expensive decor and nothing out of place? And we only seem to want to see the homes of the rich and the famous. Will people four hundred years from now know what our homes really looked like? Who Knows?