Houbraken Translated


Volume 1, page 130-139

Page 130

Poelenburch also had a nephew named Wouter van Steenre, who studied art with him.

Among his contemporaries and fellow artists ALEXANDER KEIRINCX also mounts the stage. He was a painter of handsome landscapes but had no skill at figures, which is why Poelenburch decorated most of his pictures with figures.

Experience and many examples have taught us that natural passion is a commanding mistress, as will be further vindicated by the biography of JORIS van SCHOOTEN. He was born in Leiden in the year 1587 and was from youth on by nature inclined to art to such a degree that instead of filling his paper with letters at school he daubed his paper with small men and animals, such as dogs, cats and so on, to which his writing teachers were much opposed and with which his parents were dissatisfied. And no matter how often he asked, they would not grant him permission to study drawing. Yet it would never have come to that were it not that someone among his parents’ acquaintances (who was a lover of art) had argued his case. This reminds me of the years of my youth, when, put in the same position, I could not move my parents to let me study drawing but had to take solace in handling twine for two consecutive years with one Johannes de Haen, now auction master and bonded broker in Dordrecht. But this work had a favourable unforeseen outcome, for this de Haen, being newly married, often took his new wife to visit friends and assigned me the


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supervision of the store. Having been a student of Nicolaes Maes, portrait painter in Dordrecht, and seeing my passion for the art of drawing, he gave me a drawing and then a print to copy to have me stay on the job and pay attention to it, by which I progressed so far that, recommended by good friends, I was placed with Willem van Drielenburg, landscape painter in Utrecht, before I had fully served out my time. This was in the year 1669. To return now to our Van Schoten, his parents let themselves be persuaded and in the year 1604, when about 17 years old, he was placed with Evert van der Maes, a good portrait painter, where he so improved in art within three years that he could manage on his own wings. Then wanderlust crept up on him, but his parents frustrated that intention and married him off, since which time he remained in Leiden, daily practicing the painting of histories, landscapes and especially portraits, such as may still be seen in the shooting gallery of Delft [1-4].

The remembrance of things are of great help to join events on the string of time, but when they have been worn down and erased, and no one has recorded anything about them, one can easily be mistaken in the circle of time to which one assigns things, seeing that in this respect one has only the most probable guesses as aid. We found no reason for a biography of JAKOB ERNST THOMANN (since he never lived or stayed in Nederland) other than that we find confirmed there the beginning of the lives of some painters


Joris van Schooten
Seven officers of Captain Johan van Banchem's banner, dated 1626
panel, oil paint 175.5 x 192.5 cm
upper left : IV Schoote Ao 1626
Leiden, Museum De Lakenhal, inv./cat.nr. 386

Joris van Schooten and David Bailly
Seven officers of the orange-white-green banner of Captain Herman van Brosterhuyzen, 1626 (dated)
panel, oil paint 175 x 190 cm
upper right : I.V. SCHOOTE FECIT 1626
Leiden, Museum De Lakenhal, inv./cat.nr. 389

Joris van Schooten
Officers of the yellow-orange banner of Captain Cornelis van Kerchem, dated 1626
panel, oil paint 173 x 193.5 cm
Leiden, Museum De Lakenhal, inv./cat.nr. 388

Joris van Schooten
Nine officers of Captain Laurens van Lanschot's banner, dated 1650
panel, oil paint 198 x 271 cm
location unknown : IV Schoote fecit 1650
Leiden, Stadhuis Leiden

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(concerning which we have only employed speculation), as we shall show in the end.

JAKOB ERNST THOMANN, who was born in Hagelstein in the year 1588 and (after he had been taught the rudiments of art and made fair progress) travelled to Italy in the year 1605. He spent 15 consecutive years in Naples, Genoa and Rome in the practice of art. In Rome he chose especially the company of Adam Elsheimer, Pieter Lastman and Johannes Pinnazzio, otherwise known as Jan Pynas, who daily, when the sun rose above the horizon, drew the most gratifying rural prospects after life.

Elsheimer having died, he left for his fatherland to get over the sorrow of such a loss more quickly. He had absorbed his friend’s handing of the brush to such a degree that several of his pieces have been taken for Elsheimer’s work. He died in the service of the Emperor in Landouw [= Lindau] , on the 2nd of October 1653.

We learn from this that Pieter Lastman, whom we have placed in 1581, was already in Rome in his twenty fourth year, if we maintain that our Thomann found him there in the year 1605. But this cannot be concluded with certainty seeing that some of those 15 years that Thomann was in Italy could have passed before Lastman and Pynas arrived there or that they got to know each other. Be that as it may, their time of birth was probably around the year 1581.

Now follows


Nicolaes van Geelkercken
Portrait of Pieter Feddes van Harlingen (c. 1586-1623), dated 1615
paper 146 x 210 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-1886-A-10434

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a glass or regular painter I know not, nor anything about his way of life or art. But in the outer decoration of his portrait cut into copper, palette and brushes appear, and on the border of the frame it says PETRUS FEDDES PICTOR, 1615 [5], which has us count him among the painters of the 15th [sic] century. One also sees several etched prints by him marked P. Harlingensis.

Guessing is fallible, goes the old Dutch saying. We will see this confirmed in the present subject of our reflection,

HENDRICK ter BRUGGHEN. Cornelis de Bie and Joachim von Sandrart mistakenly call him Verbruggen and write that he was born in Utrecht in 1587. But I learned from a printed Notification or warning to all lovers of the art of painting etc. that the mentioned Hendrick Ter Brugghen was a Transisalanus, meaning from Overijssel. He was born in 1588, but married and lived in Utrecht because his father fled from Overijssel to Utrecht at the time of disturbances, riots and persecution in 1581, and he, his son and his progeny remained there since then with their households. The exception is his son’s son, Meester Hendrik ter Bruggen, who now lives in The Hague. After he had learned the firm foundations of art with Abraham Bloemaert, wanderlust crept up on him and a desire to follow in the praiseworthy footsteps of great masters. Thus he visited many foreign regions in his youth (besides having lived in Rome for ten years), where he left samples of his excellent art, consisting of histories, especially a great piece placed above the high altar


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of the Great Church of Naples. He did not sign this piece, just as he did not do so with many of his artworks, since his flowing handling of the brush was well enough known everywhere. An outstanding work of art by him hangs in Middelburg with Mister van der Streng, during his time receiver general etc. It shows a merry banquet with life-sized figures. He had the honour that when Rubens came to Utrecht to visit the practitioners of the art of painting, he especially praised him in the company of everyone. Sandrart, who mentions this journey of Rubens and was even his guide, does not say a word about this, which has one suspect that he and Ter Brugghen were not good friends. After all, the writer of the repeatedly mentioned printed Notification alludes to this when he gives a further opinion concerning Sandrart: Having made good use of his time in Italy he returned to his fatherland and followed nature closely but unpleasantly by his own preference for obtuse and depressing thought. He takes Sandrart’s silence for such an evil that he applies the saying: That it is easy for a living donkey to tread on a dead lion with its feet.

But let that pass. As if annoyed by his fame, death cut off the thread of his life in his 42nd year on all saints’ day, and the following grave inscription remained in his memory.

Here lies Ter Brugghen, by death
Surprised and vanquished:
Robbed of the precious light of life,


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Submerged in the dark grave:
In which life turns to dust.
But still the praise remains
Of what he has achieved,
To live
on in spite of envy.

Which words correspond to the expression which the knight Adriaen van der Werff wrote from Rotterdam on the 18th of April 1707 [= 5 April 1707] in a letter to comfort Mister Richard ter Brugghen, introduced thus: Commendable painters have the advantage that their works walk through the whole world and therefore can always speak for them etc.

Finally the mentioned Richard, his son, decided to give his father’s city of birth, Deventer, a present of several of his works (after the example of the Athenian painter Nicias) [6-9], which also happened on the 5th of August 1707, as I learned from a printed extract from the Resolutions of the city of Deventer.

Now appears the painter PIETER van BRONCKHORST, born in Delft on the 16th of May 1588. How diverse the passions of men are, and how different in preferences, is clear when one sees that the one chooses this, the other again that aspect of art for reflection and application. Bronckhorst chose not the easiest but instead the most difficult and labour-intensive in art, namely views of temples and churches furnished with histories. However he practiced this specialism with great renown, as may be seen in two famous pieces in particular, of which the one is placed in the Judgment Chamber


Hendrick ter Brugghen
Saint John writing his Gospel, 1621 (dated)
canvas, oil paint 77 x 102 cm
upper left : HTBrugghen fecit 1621
Deventer, Museum De Waag (Deventer)

Hendrick ter Brugghen
Saint Luke writing the gospel, c. 1621
canvas, oil paint 75.5 x 102 cm
Deventer, Museum De Waag (Deventer), inv./cat.nr. H1992-0071

Hendrick ter Brugghen
St. Matthew writing his Gospel, dated 16[21?]
canvas, oil paint 73.5 x 100 cm
: HTBrugghen fecit 16[..]
Deventer, Museum De Waag (Deventer), inv./cat.nr. H1992-0069

Hendrick ter Brugghen
Saint Mark writing his Gospel, c. 1621
canvas, oil paint 75 x 102 cm
lower left : HTB [....]
Deventer, Museum De Waag (Deventer)

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of the Town Hall in Delft, being a sumptuous and grand building, with Solomon's first judgment depicted in it [10]. The second may be seen with the widow of the artist's son, being a temple from which Christ expels the buyers and vendors. He died on 21 June 1661. He is followed by

ADRIAEN van der VENNE, painter and poet. He was born in Delft in the year 1589. His parents were wealthy people coming from Brabant. It seems to me, going by the description Cornelis de Bie has for him, that his parents placed him in Leiden to learn the Latin language. But he at once learned to form such handsome ideas from reading the old poets that he also developed a craving to paint them on paper or with paints, to which end he sought out one Simon de Valck, master goldsmith and painter, who taught him the rudiments of art. Then, having developed the intention to continue with art diligently, he went to Jeronymus van Diest I, a painter of handsome grisailles, with whom he continued art for some time and was later brought so far by his intellect that his art pleased the Prince of Orange, the King of Denmark and other rulers at that time. In addition he was a profound poet, as he demonstrated with his rich intellect and poetic finds in a multitude of compositions that he made in the service of engravers, especially for the often reprinted rhyme work by Mister Jacob Cats and a great number of Emblemata or emblems, which hold their value amongst


Pieter van Bronckhorst
Architectural capriccio with Solomon ging verdict (1 Kings 3:16-28), dated 1622
panel, oil paint 135 x 187 cm
upper right : PVB 1622
Delft, Stadhuis Delft

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bibliophiles. Amongst the books written by him are known to me: Sinne-Vonck op den Hollandtschen Turf etc., Hollandsche Sinne-droom op het Nieuw Wys-Mal etc. in 12, and Tafereel van de Belacchende Werelt, 1635, in 4.

Just as an esteemed poet does injustice to the lustre of that art when he turns his pen to playful songs, satires and filthy slander of his fellow men, even though those things often bring more profit to the book sellers and are more marketable than something commendable, so the painter (says Pliny) tarnishes moral art when his brush paints only pubs, whorehouses and other contemptible and shameful things, just as the mentioned Pliny mentions even for those early days one Pyrcicus, who made nothing but irritating things and bad jokes.

At the end of the fifteen hundreds there was one JOHANNES TORRENTIUS, born in Amsterdam in the year 1589. He painted small nudes artfully and elaborately. But the effect of his figures was not only shameful to look at, but randy, impure, rude or offensive, seducing and inviting to filthy acts, so that he was strictly forbidden to make and sell them. But when he did not wish to listen to or obey this edict, thinking to get away with denial, he was imprisoned at the order of the court of justice of Amsterdam, and when interrogated refused to admit that he was the maker of that of which he


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was accused, though proof to that effect was all too clear. Thus he was put on the rack. Sandrart says on p. 299 of the Latin edition: That the Council of Haarlem placed him on the rack. But he remained obstinate, without wanting to confess his sins. But his head was better able to stand up to the accusations than his body was to withstand the pain of the rack, for he died during torture. And the brushwork by his hand that they found was burned at the hands of the executioner in the year 1640. The circumstances of the case indicate clearly enough that his scenes extended to enticements not so much to Cyprian as to Sodomite reprehensible acts. We show his portrait, committed to copper in 1628, when he was 39 years old, in Plate G, behind Daniël Seghers.

It pleases us here on the occasion of this filthy subject to splice in the beautiful lesson of Franciscus Junius in his 3rd book about De Schilder-konst der Ouden, where he says about such scandalous scenes: That they bring about the voluptuous desire of the unreflective spectator with immoral scenes. Therefore an honourable and honest artist ought to mind that he does not let himself be seduced to the depiction of such things for profit or vain praise from a rash throng, seeing that various great masters lost the reputation of an honest name because they all too avidly pursued the fame of I know not what farcical wittiness.

Here applies the proverb: One need not put lice in a fur; enough will get in on their own.

Now there are a host of examples which show


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how horny displays tempt the sweet tooth. Petronius Arbiter tells about a youth who, seeing a display of the rape of Ganymede by Jupiter and of the shameless naiads who entice the beautiful Hylas to dishonour, broke out in these words. Do the gods also do this? And then runs wild.

With respect to Torrentius, Urbain Chevreau gives us a very similar example of a scene in which Jupiter outsmarts Danaë in the guise of golden rain. Achilles Tatius says about this in Book 1 of De Clitophontis & Leucippes amoribus: Even if a man undertakes abstinence ever so seriously, he is still easily tempted to emulate bad examples, especially if they are examples of those for whom he has positive feelings. Because the shame of the offense is then altered into a libertine boldness by the status of such predecessors. Thus Donatus also said of some poets; what great damage do they do when they furnish someone who is inclined to all sorts of failings on his own with naughty examples. And we have applied this verse to our painter:

The name of Herostratus will survive for centuries;
For the damaging act that he carried out with the Ephesians:
When he set the temple of Diana on fire.
used his brush to light the sparks
Of sin in the bone and marrow of youth.
His name
does live on after his death; but with shame.

It is an incontrovertible truth that the effects of human intellect are nothing other than indifferent beyond appropriation, and that the appropriations and ends of the intellect


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