In 1588, the seven Protestant provinces of the northern Netherlands separated from the southern, governed by the Catholic Spanish monarchy. This new Dutch republic, of which Holland was the largest province, grew rapidly, eventually dominating world trade with its significant shipping company. Economic success contributed to the “golden age of Dutch art” and allowed people throughout society to acquire works of art.
Both north and south of the abyss, artists during this period increasingly specialized in certain “genres” of painting, such as portraiture, landscape, still life or scenes from everyday life. Although artists in the Northern and Southern Netherlands developed different themes and styles, there was a great exchange between the two countries, and many artists worked in both areas.