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Listening to What You See: Selected Contributions on Dutch Art

Listening to What You See: Selected Contributions on Dutch Art


This volume brings together over 25 scholarly essays, reviews and shorter contributions by Peter Hecht, preceded by an introduction on what he thinks his life in art history has taught him. The title indicates what his collected papers have in common: together they represent an attitude of listening to what you see. Hecht is very suspicious of applying a method and believes that looking at an image until it speaks is essential to understanding it. Also, he has done much to prove that it not only pays to study the subject of a picture as part of an iconographical tradition, but that one should study it within the oeuvre of the artist who made it as well.


Hecht’s attitude has supplemented and corrected the iconological approach to Dutch seventeenth-century painting, and some of his best-known critical papers are included here. So are a few contributions on the changing taste for specific kinds of Dutch painting and an iconographical study that brought to light the subject of one of Rembrandt’s most ambitious early works, which had remained unrecognized ever since it was discovered in1924. Its composition had always been misread, and it was again a matter of listening to what you see before its subject could be identified.

Apart from a few scholarly reviews, Listening to what you see also contains a sample of Hecht’s writings for the public at large. Defending public art collections, showing what art can mean in times of crisis when it is not accessible, as was the case when Covid forced the museums to shut down, and talking about what art may do for us – provided that we listen. The volume ends with a personal musing on a picture by P.C. Wonder and a tribute to Charles Donker, the outstanding print maker from Utrecht.

  • By Peter Hecht

    January 2024

    Hardback, 260 x 216 mm

    326 pages, 210 colour illus.

    ISBN 978-1-915401-08-3



    Peter Hecht is a specialist in Dutch seventeenth-century art, who is also a well-known champion of the Dutch public art collections. He taught at Utrecht University, organized several succesful exhibitions and was a long-standing editor of Simiolus, Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art.

  • In the press

    "A specialist of the Dutch Golden Age, this collection ... reveal[s] the evolution of his thought for 50 years."—Apollo


    "a personal but scholarly tour d’horizon of the greats of Dutch painting"—The New Criterion


    "A gentleman to the end, Hecht is provocative all the same. “Listening to what you see” is a tonic."––The New York Sun

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