The 17th century is considered the Golden Age of Dutch exploration, trade and expansion.
To the surprise of the major European players of the period, "out of the blue" a new world power emerged. Also Dutch people nowadays find it difficult to believe, that this small country once dominated the world seas, and could wage war first against Spain, later against England, France and German states at the same time. And prevail ! For a couple of decades anyway.
Backgrounds on what caused that explosion of energy on page into the world.
This expansion had (for better or for worse) an impact on many other parts of the world. With the buttons left you can go to some of the regions concerned.
Science and art boomed as well. There was money, there was a market, so there was invention and production.
Today, everybody knows Rembrandt. But in his time he had literally hundreds of colleagues, and successful competitors. The production of paintings and engravings was nothing less than an industry. It is estimated that a staggering 5 to 10 million works of art have been produced during this 17th century in the Netherlands. Probably less than 1 % have survived.
The English visitor John Evelyn was amazed by the sheer numbers on sale. As he noted in his diary : "pictures are very common here, there being scarce an ordinary tradesman whose house is not decorated with them.”
Paintings being part of every day live is reflected in the choice of treated subjects. Often of a very intimate nature.
If you're curious what Holland must have looked like in those days, you'll find 17th century houses in Amsterdam, of course. But for a flavour of those days, a town like Leiden, or the small fortified towns in the region are probably more appropriate.