George Cram drew this Diagram of the Principal High Buildings of the Old World in 1897. The obelisk at the back of the picture is the Washington Memorial which perhaps hardly qualifies as 'Old World' - but fair enough, as Cram was based in Chicago we can allow the poetic licence. The colourblocking indicates the material used, with stone as the light yellow and gold as the more intense, darker yellow tone. Pink is granite, although why the Pantheon is classified as granite is anyone's guess. On the right hand side, the central transept of the Crystal Palace looms large, so large in fact that it could clearly contain the dome of the Pantheon. The comparison between St Peter's (Rome) and St Paul's (London) in the centre of the image is also striking, with the London dome looking significantly smaller than its Vatican counterpart. However, the real comparison should be between St. Peter's and Brunelleschi's dome - which, on the right hand side, is just as large but less squat, although its total height is considerably less due to the high drum of St. Peter's. And, on the other hand, St. Paul's is larger and wider than the dome of the Paris Ste Genevieve appearing here on its immediate right; the French dome is a copy of the British original squeezed almost to lantern-like proportions. But perhaps the nicest thing about this drawing is the way Cram, well, crams an array of Gothic cathedrals in the background, making only their spires peek out of the profile of the pyramids. The result here is way more than the sum of the parts and to be honest rather than a diagram we should properly call this a capriccio.
This is not the Amsterdam of the Golden Age - it's the late 1700s and the Netherlands have by now become rather marginal to the artistic debate in Europe. However, this rather anecdotic painting by Isaak Ouwater still manages to surprise us by its frontality and flatness. The façade becomes a grid, and instead of offering us a glimpse of the domesticity it protects it only displays an array of empty, dark, abstract rectangles. This is quite striking as the culture of the window is still very strong today in the Netherlands: device to see and to be seen, expression of the ideology of transparency, openness, and directness that has inspired the most heroic moments of Dutch culture from the age of Vermeer to that of the Superdutch.
The painting is striking in and of itself for its composition and abstraction, but, on top of that, it also shows a certain resilience of Dutch visual culture even beyond these moments of glory. Which is, hopefully, somewhat encouraging if we think about the contemporary condition.