Research School for Economic and Social History


Cum laude PhD defence alumna Weixuan Li

On 12 September 2023, Posthumus-alumna Weixuan Li successfully defended her PhD thesis Painters’ playbooks: Deep mapping socio-spatial strategies in the art market of seventeenth-century Amsterdam cum laude at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam. Promotors were Professor Charles van den Heuvel and professor Julia Noordegraaf, co-supervision was provided by Dr Claartje Rasterhoff and Dr Marten Jan Bok.

The art market in seventeenth-century Amsterdam is often considered a competitive, multi-layered arena in which diverse artists catered to a broad and varied clientele. However, traditional economic and art-historical approaches struggle to fully comprehend this intricate market system. To address this, Weixuan’s dissertation introduces a socio-spatial approach using digital methods to examine the art market and explain the artistic outburst in seventeenth-century Amsterdam. By synthesizing various historical sources digitally, this study analyses artists’ collective behaviour – or ‘playbooks’ – as revealed in their location choices, social relations, and the use of house interiors. Her dissertation interprets the art market not as an economic platform but as a socio-spatial phenomenon wherein artists aligned their behaviours with career goals and social and spatial milieu. Interpreting historical data from a socio-spatial perspective, this study argues that the changes in artists’ playbooks both shaped the multi-layered market structure and influenced artistic innovation in seventeenth-century Amsterdam. It therefore, offers a behavioural explanation, contrasting traditional economic reasoning, for the creative outburst in the so-called Golden Age of Dutch art.

The N.W. Posthumus Institute staff congratulates Weixuan with her promotion.