Magazine May 4, 2009, Issue

A Dutch Master Rediscovered

Detail of The Cardplayers, ca. 1623–24 (National Gallery of Art/Milwaukee Art Museum)

In his classic essay “Of the Standard of Taste,” David Hume asked how we could tell whether a given work was a masterpiece. “Durable admiration” was the criterion he offered. Which is to say, it’s not so much our judgment as the judgment of the ages that does the sifting. Faced with the work of our contemporaries, we can announce our likes and dislikes, but we must wait upon the dispassionate adjudications of time to arrive at any authoritative discriminations. When it came to matters of aesthetic judgment, authority, for Hume, was largely a posthumous energy.

I thought about Hume’s thesis

To Read the Full Story
Roger Kimball — Mr. Kimball is publisher of Encounter Books, and co-editor and publisher of The New Criterion.

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