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The Interior of St Bavo's Church, Haarlem (the 'Grote Kerk')

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The Interior of St Bavo's Church, Haarlem (the 'Grote Kerk') 1648


This view of the fine interior of Haarlem’s Gothic cathedral is one of Saenredam's greatest paintings. He made a series of at least eleven pictures showing it from a range of viewpoints, of which this is by far the largest. The National Gallery's work was based on a preliminary sketch and a more precise measured drawing which demonstrates his close study of the architecture, but also indicates that Saenredam exercised artistic licence in the finished picture. He deliberately distorted the proportions of the pillars and vault to increase the sense of monumental scale. He included his signature and the date on the left column, rather like graffiti, along with a scribbled sketch, possibly representing St Bavo and his falcon.

Glossary Open

Artistic licence

The freedom of artists to detour from representational ‘truth’ for artistic reasons.

Artistic licence


  • Acc. No. NG 2413
  • Medium Oil on panel
  • Size 174.80 x 143.60 cm (framed: 230.50 x 172.00 x 6.20 cm)
  • Credit Purchased by Private Treaty with the aid of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund (William Leng Bequest) and the Pilgrim Trust 1982