Of the many types of great public buildings, town halls are among the most prominent in the townscape and therefore in art. In contrast to the palaces and mansions of the upper classes and the churches and cathedrals of the church, civic buildings represent the role of government and the growth of democracy. For these reasons, they feature especially strongly in Dutch seventeenth-century townscapes.
In all centuries, for local and amateur artists in particular, they represent their town’s civic history; centrally located, they usually also included a market house and a courtroom. Paintings of schools, prisons, hospitals and other public buildings were also often made as a record of a local landmark, perhaps destroyed by war or redevelopment.