About the CODART Canon

Being a curator entails not only having substantial knowledge about and caring for the collection under your supervision, it also involves making choices. What do you show and which narrative do you tell? With the CODART Canon the members of CODART will present a selection from the extensive and diverse range of early modern Dutch and Flemish art that is disseminated throughout the world. In making the CODART Canon we aim to highlight what the curator does, to make the works of art more visible, and to stimulate discussion about the profession and about art.

Together we make a list of 100 superb works of art that provides an overpowering overview of the work of the Dutch and Flemish Old Masters. Aesthetic highlights, crucial masterpieces, and striking outliers that are of great importance to art history. The result will be a survey – but not, of course, a comprehensive survey. That would be impossible: too many beautiful artworks have been made to achieve that.

On this page:

The initial selection

The initial selection was made by the program committee. This is made up of eight CODART members, all of whom are curators of Dutch and Flemish art. You can find the names of the current committee members on this page. They chose the initial list of 100 works of art, along with a number that just failed to make the “grade.” This selection is emphatically intended solely as a provisional, exploratory gambit.

A canon is always linked to a particular moment in time, and choices will be personal. In drawing up its preliminary list, the committee tried to represent the full breadth of art by Dutch and Flemish Old Masters, which consists of so much more than only the most famous names. The criteria applied to each of these works, according to the committee, was that they should not be omitted from a survey, that they are of high aesthetic value, and/or they are of crucial importance to art history in some way. In the choice of the works, the committee also tried to include works in less well known institutions. That does not alter the fact that a large proportion of the selection consists of works found in the most famous and largest museums in the world.

The principles governing the selection of works in the CODART Canon

CODART seeks to place 100 works of art in the limelight. Works from our field: Dutch and Flemish art from ca. 1350 to 1750 from a range of disciplines: paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures and applied arts.

The Canon will not include more than two works in a particular medium by any one artist. The artists were born in the region that now encompasses the Netherlands and Flanders or worked within this territory for a long period of time.

To ensure that the Canon provides a wide-ranging picture of the entire field of Dutch and Flemish art, a particular weight will be attached to each discipline, so that a representative number of objects will be chosen from each category. This means, for instance, that if all the drawings in the survey were to be eliminated during the voting procedure, a certain percentage of the drawings that received most votes will nonetheless be added after voting has concluded.

Progress of the project

All visitors to the website can follow the formation of the Canon. On the page Current Canon, the gallery will be constantly updated every time someone has cast their vote. The selection period for CODART members ran from 14 October to 5 November 2019. Curators from thirteen countries participated to collectively create the CODART Canon that was presented at a public symposium on 18 November at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Following the presentation of the Canon, the general public was invited to vote.

The public vote

From 18 November through 8 December 2019, everyone is invited to vote. Do you strongly disagree with the curators’ choices? Take the opportunity to submit your own canon. The entries will influence the final selection. Do you consider that an important work has been omitted altogether? Let us know and provide arguments in support of your position. There is a chance that your work may be added to the Canon.

Guide to the procedure

As soon as you have opened the selection page, you can scroll through the list. You can record your choices for each work by pressing the red button Select. The 100 works that are currently included in the Canon are tagged with a red label bearing the letter “C”. You may find short motivations given by CODART members and members of the program committee by clicking the ‘i’ in the upper left corner of a number of the works.

At the top of the page you find two tabs: one with the list of all the artworks and a second with your own selection. This makes it easy to switch back and forth between the two lists. At the top on the right is a number indicating how many works you have selected. Everyone can select a maximum of 100 objects. Perhaps you only want to select 10, or 50. That is entirely up to you – there is no obligation to carry on right up to 100. Once you have pressed the button Submit your selection, your choices will be automatically incorporated into the current overview of 100 masterpieces. If you wish, you can alter your selection at any moment via the link in the confirmation e-mail you receive after submitting your list.

Are you searching for something specific? There is a search bar on the selection page. You can use the filter to search by artist(s) or by each of five different types of objects. Alternatively, you can choose to display only the works that are currently included in the list of 100 artworks, or only the ones that are not.

Do you feel that an artwork has been wrongly left out? You can let us know by pressing Add an object. All proposals will be evaluated and some might be added to the list.

We encourage you to leave your comments! You can do so if you strongly disagree with something, or if you want to provide additional arguments for including a particular work. We are eager to hear your views. The debate on the artworks is an essential part of creating this Canon.


We are particularly grateful to the Friends of CODART Foundation for their contribution to the CODART Canon project. We wish to thank the members of the CODART program committee for their enthusiasm and hard work, and the board of CODART for having faith in our wild plans and supporting them. We thank individual CODART members for sharing their expertise: Yvonne Bleyerveld, Peter van der Coelen, Nico Van Hout en Bieke van der Mark. We also want to thank the RKD – the Netherlands Institute for Art History, the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the Mauritshuis in The Hague, Teylers Museum in Haarlem, and of course, all the CODART members who have taken the time, or are doing so, to build up their own CODART Canon.

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General acknowledgement

CODART is the international network of curators of Dutch and Flemish art. CODART aims to make this widespread cultural heritage more visible and accessible to an international public and to increase public knowledge of Dutch and Flemish art. CODART is supported by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science by way of the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD), which is also CODART’s main cooperating partner.

CODART refers to the database of the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History containing the names and biographical details of artists. For the details of objects, the relevant museums are consulted. All images of artworks belong to the public domain unless stated otherwise. For more information on the re-use of images and texts, go to the page on Terms and Conditions.

More information about CODART can be found on www.codart.nl/about-codart

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