Art and soul: Clive Ashwin looks to painting for the bigger picture

‘Vermeer’s work speaks to two of the central testaments of Quakerism.’

‘What might a picture of a kitchen scene in seventeenth-century Delft have to say about our spiritual life today?’ | Photo: The Milkmaid by Jan Vermeer van Delft

At the time of its origins, in the second half of the seventeenth century, Quakerism must have seemed very remote from other Christian traditions. Most of those had, in varying degrees, become highly dependent upon the arts in their broadest sense, including painting, sculpture, architectural symbolism, costume, devotional literature, and liturgical music. Early Quaker Meeting houses would have been bare of these embellishments, as indeed most of them still are. The spartan simplicity of the Meeting house was reflected in the dress, domestic life, and language of the early Quakers.

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.