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"Kids and Dog Marking Their Territory, Oude Kirk, Delft"

Emanuel de Wittless

One of the long-forgotten Dutch Depressionists of the 17th century, Witless had a hard time competing for commissions against some of the brighter lights of Dutch painting like Franz Hals, Jan Steen, and, of course, the incomparable Rembrandt van Rijn. After a number of rejections his agent, Hans Feetz, advised him to specialize and find an artistic niche he could call his own. 

This was easier said than done, as 17th-century Dutch painters had already sewn up the Dead Animal Still Life niche, the Vase of Flowers niche, the Drunken Peasants niche, and the Interior Portrait of Women Scaling Fish/Peeling Potatoes niche. When Wittless attempted to sneak his "Drunken Peasant Woman Scaling Dead Fish and Peeling Potatoes with Vase of Begonias" into the Leiden Museum competition in 1648, he was dragged around the back of the building and soundly thrashed by Gerrit Terborch, Quiringh Brekelenkam, Jacob van Ruisdael and Johannes Verspronck for intellectual property rights violation across their respective niches. 

It may have been the concussion Wittless suffered as a result of the fracas, but whatever the reason, as soon as he got out of the hospital he immediately began a new series of paintings based on a niche no one had claimed, namely Church Interior Vandalism with Un-Housebroken Dogs, a niche he was certain no one else had claimed, or, for that matter, would want to. This quickly led to the subject painting (1650), and a series (1651-1657) of similarly-themed works like "Young Girls Egging an Altar with Incontinent Cocker Spaniel", "Gang Members Tagging their Turf at Delft Cathedral with German Shepherd  Accident", and "Interior of the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, with Toilet Paper Streamers and Dachshund Dump". It was the latter painting that caused the Hague to prohibit anyone from selling canvas, paints, brushes or puppies to Witless for the remained of his brief life.


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