At the Rijksmuseum with Jean Baptiste Vanmour: “The First Day of School”

Welcome to September and the Beginning of a New School Year!

September is my favouite month of the year, which dates back to my childhood. September signaled back to school and a new year of learning. With the warmth of summer fun still with me, I organized my school supplies and set up a new time schedule for my studies. I loved the first day of school.

This September, I feel that same sense of a new learning experience as I travel virtually to the Rijksmuseum to view “The First Day of School” by Jean Baptiste Vanmour,

Jean Batiste Vanmour was a Flemish-French painter, known for his detailed portrayal of life in the Ottoman Empire during the rule of Sultan Ahmed III.  This was in the Tulip Era, a period marked by relative peace before the advent of great change.

Thank you for traveling with me on this virtual adventure.


Click on Painting to View the Story of “The First Day of School”

The First Day of School, Jean Baptiste Vanmour, c. 1720 – c. 1737

Nothing is known about the training of the French artist Vanmour (1671-1737) and his early years as a painter. In 1699 he left for Istanbul, in the retinue of the new French ambassador, Marquis Charles de Ferriol. There Vanmour painted representatives of the government and various population groups. When De Ferriol returned to France in 1711, Vanmour stayed behind and worked for various Western diplomats, including Cornelis Calkoen. Calkoen had been appointed ambassador to the Ottoman Empire by the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands in 1727; he was also an art collector and gave Vanmour several commissions. To meet the great demand for paintings, Vanmour had his compositions reproduced in his studio by assistants. Yet he was in need of money in the last years of his life. The artist lived and worked in Istanbul until his death in 1737. Rijksmuseum

The First Day of School, Jean Baptiste Vanmour, c. 1720 – c. 1737

For more information on Jean Baptiste Vanmour and to view his paintings, head over to the Rijksmuseum.

Published by Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

16 thoughts on “At the Rijksmuseum with Jean Baptiste Vanmour: “The First Day of School”

    1. I am delighted that you stopped by and added a very insightful and without prejudice comment, Resa. When I first viewed this painting, I went on a mini research adventure to discover more about veils. I read that the history of veils and head-coverings goes back in history and was included in many societies. Until recently, veils were fashionable and some have been seen on recent fashion runways. (2015 Chanel’s birdcage veils. https://www.tatlerasia.com/style/fashion/paris-haute-couture-birdcage-veils-at-chanel-and-giambattista-valli). Wedding veils continue to be sought after. I remember Jackie Kennedy’s veil at the funeral of J.F.K (I have a vivid memory of that day). I found a great article on the Shetland Museum Archives that indicated that “Shetland knitters made veils from mohair and machine-made wool imported from the British mainland, but they could trade veils at a higher rate with the merchant if they used Shetland wool, which in this period was all hand-spun.” https://www.shetlandmuseumandarchives.org.uk/blog/face-veils-a-victorian-fashion-accessory-for-the-new-norm#:~:text=On%20the%20practical%20side%2C%20a,exhalations%20from%20people%20and%20animals.&text

      What I most enjoy about looking at one painting at a time is that I find the stories of people and societies that have gone before us. Vanmour spent most of his life in the Ottoman Empire and lived during turbulent times. We owe a debt of gratitude to artists.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I will checkout the links! Thank you!

        Agree, we owe all artists a debt of gratitude.
        You know, I designed the costumes for “Little Mosque on the Prairie” for 7 years.
        There were many discussions about head coverings and face coverings.
        One episode was”Ban the Burka”.
        Anyway, Zarqa Nawaz was the creator and she taught me a lot.
        She is a Muslim woman who is very modern, and leading the way for other Muslim women.
        She is modern and has a great career.
        I took the position because I was allowed to present the Rayyan character in a modern way.
        Her hijab were pretty and her clothes tailored, yet modest.
        Zarqa went to a Christian/Muslim conference at a University in Europe. She said my costumes were a huge topic of discussion, and many students were writing papers on my modern take for Muslim women.

        Did you send more hugs? A bunch just fell on my lap!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. This is wonderful news, Resa! You have had and continue to have many exceptional experiences that give you a special wisdom and understanding of cultural memories. Clothing and style reflect our values and norms. Yes, I sent hugs on the wing, as Teagan would say!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. What I find fascinating about looking at history through the eyes of a painter, is the ability to see cultural diversity in action. Vanmour was extremely popular/politically connected and had assistants to keep up with the demand, although he did die in poverty. The painting: “Wedding Procession on the Bosphorus” has the same look and feel as “The First Day of School.”
      https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio/artists/jean-baptiste-vanmour/objects#/SK-A-2000,3

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Your choice of this painting today is so appropriate, since this is the first day of school in many locations. The children, from young to teen-age, and older left home this with notebooks, pen and pencil, possibly noon lunch in hand for the exciting first day of school. The painting is beautiful and even a casual view tells an interesting historical story. Thank you for your interesting comments. On a personal note, I am reminded of my first day of school, and more importantly, my time in high school. I remember my nervous feelings in grade 12, when I realized that all the lower grades were looking to me as an example and for courage!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting painting, Rebecca! Great description of it when one clicks on the painting, and great post about it and the artist by you! Today is the first day of school (10th grade) for my younger daughter, so I could relate — albeit dressed much more casually when doing so. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. When I entered Grade 10, I felt that I had become an adult. It was the beginning of looking at what would happened graduating from high school. Please give my best wishes to Maria – I know that this will be an amazing year for her.

      I have learned so much from researching the story behind a single painting. When the lockdown occurred, museum and art galleries offered amazing ways to visit them. Of course, I must add a quote and this is from Jeanie Kahnke, (Sr Director Muhammad Ali Center): “It’s not a museum. It’s not a place of artifacts; it’s a place of ideas.”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you, Rebecca, for the best wishes for Maria! Yes, it’s a pivotal year.

        You’re right that many museums started doing amazing things during COVID. And your concluding quote was terrific as always. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    1. The Rijks is a remarkable place to visit via on-line, Robbie. They have opened the doors and welcomed all visitors from across the world. When I view their stories and interviews it is as if I am there is person. They have given account holders the ability to curate a personal collections. I have learned a great deal from researching one painting at a time. Everyone painting has a story.

      Liked by 2 people

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