Houbraken Translated


Volume 1, page 140-149

Page 140

can only be good or bad, praiseworthy, or contemptible. As a consequence the saying the greater the painter, the wilder, and what people intend by this, is to be challenged. At least it is proven that there is no necessary consequence, since commendable men, even those in a religious context, have not hesitated to take up the brush. Just as people saw in olden days that Cardinal Franciscus of Verona, who led a holy life and was an enemy of all evil and therefore never willing to depicts subjects of levity (although he was often requested to do so by princes and worldly lords), yet handled the brush and was a good painter. As did the honourable gentleman Don Bartolommeo della Gatta, abbot of San Clemente in Arezzo, and in later days our

DANIEL SEGHERS, a Jesuit, born in Antwerp in the year 1590. He was able to handle all sorts of flowers so loosely, so vivaciously, so clearly, purely and thinly, that it was amazing. In Brabant, being in the Church of the Jesuit Paters, I saw a whole chapel hung with his paintings, amongst which were wreaths and swags of flowers so intelligently and artistically grouped together according to the requirements of the colours that I said to the company I had with me: It is inconceivable that Glicera, concubine of Pausanius, so famous with the Greek authors for flower arranging, could have assembled them with such virtuosity. There was also in his time a Pater Johannes van der Borcht of the Order of Friars Minor, who practiced engraving.


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But I do not wish to treat the subject of engraving, because that Roman damsel Claudine Stella carries off the fame of all of them. For if one were to make a list of them all (which would make for an almost infinite number) I am convinced I could show that out of a hundred not one would be able to match her skilful handling. The proof of my contention may be seen in the print that she engraved after the famous work by Nicolas Poussin depicting Moses making the water come forth from the rocks with his staff to slake the thirst of the near-perished people [1].

Seghers was a pupil of Jan Brueghel I, nicknamed the Velvet, who was also a flower painter in his early days. And just as flowers, the decoration of spring, are desired by all for their beautiful appearance and fresh odour, so were those by Seghers gladly received by all lovers of the art of flower painting because they were seen to flower so beautifully in the autumn of the fifteenth [sic] century, both by the common and the great, especially Archduke Leopold Wilhelm and Frederik Hendrik, Prince of Orange, who greatly venerated him for two of his pieces. One sees his portrait as painted by Jan Lievens in print [2-3], which we followed in our plate G.

The great poet Joost van den Vondel, tempted by seeing Daniel Segher’s flower pieces, composed the following verse


Claudine Stella after Nicolas Poussin
Moses Striking the Rock, dated 1687
Buffalo (New York), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, inv./cat.nr. 1891:4.55

Jan Lievens
Portrait of Daniel Seghers (1590-1661), c. 1635-1644
London (England), British Museum, inv./cat.nr. Gg,2.233

Paulus Pontius (I) after Jan Lievens published by Martinus van den Enden (I)
Portrait of Daniel Seghers (1590-1661)
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-OB-16.416

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The spirit of Seghers is a Bee,
In which the Netherlanders
take pride.
She sucks her honeyed delicacies
And perfume from all sorts of flowers.
A bee flew toward his
Painting and odour and colour,
And called out. Nature forgive me:
That flower panel has
deceived me.

He played his part and is departed. Ere another appears we wish to let the stage curtain fall for a short while to complete what was left untreated in the preceding digression.

Our digression was recently interrupted in midstream (just as the sound of strings is by the raising of the stage curtain). We will now take up and continue on that note.

We spoke of the sacrificial equipment which showed up in connection with heathen religion, and it remains to speak about the artfully crafted tripods and tripod trestles which meant so much to the ancients. The tripods were suited to various uses and were not only made of copper and silver but also decorated with all kinds of artful figural work and foliage, which they presented to particular gods as pleasing gifts.

Amongst the various ones that Heroditus saw in Thebes in Boeotia, he recalls a splendid tripod in the temple of Apollo Ismenios, which features the inscription in Kardian letters;

The ruler Laodamus dedicated this tripod
Loaded with
artwork to the great god Apollo.


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Various depictions of ancient tripods or tripod trestles are seen in memory of their use on Roman coins, of which we show correct illustrations in the adjoining plate, like that of Vitellius with the inscription: Pont. Max. tr. pot. Augur. High priest of tribunicial powers, Diviner.

Thus it is also on a coin of Antonius, who took on the honorary name of Augur or Bird Diviner amongst his important honorary titles. Not unlike this one is the coin of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, though with the distinction that a snake appears above the tripod stand. See fig. 43.

The great esteem which the heathens had for such tripods has no other reason than that they recalled the Delphic tripod stand, of which the blind people believed that Apollo answered the oracle questioners. We say the blind people because there is no lack of examples to prove that men of outstanding intellect and close observation among the ancients mocked such deceptions.


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Cato was wont to say: That he was surprised that a diviner did not laugh every time he encountered a diviner, because they led the common people by the nose under the guise of religion.

Many have worked hard to understand the religion of the heathens from the inside, to discover and bring to light the vanity and deceitfulness of the diviners and temple priests. But we consider it only in exterior outline and refer to the splendid visible decorations (the glitter of which in the eyes gave common people all the more respect for religion) to be of service to our fellow artists in general and assiduous youthful painters in particular by showing them the way to the archaeology which is essential for those who would undertake the depiction of histories and prefer not to misunderstand the customs of ancient peoples. And so that curious youths may be assured that knowledge of such things may be of help to painters, they need only observe how Gerard de Lairesse has always known how to make use of such embellishments when fitting (to add lustre to his work), and he would have deserved even more fame if he had imitated antiquity in this respect.

We judge that we have thus far said enough with respect to heathen offerings and their attributes, although we have only considered the "fringe" (so to speak) of the curtain. Our aim did not reach further: and one deems a matter complete when it satisfies the intent.


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We have previously brought various painters, men of unsullied life and actions on stage, and just now Daniel Seghers, who observe art and monastic life at the same time. Now a scruffy sheep again sneaks in among the shaven flock. It seems that things do not go all that evenly in the world. Besides, the stage sometimes requires a change of persons and actions.

ADRIAEN van LINSCHOTEN (on the list of regents of the guild of Saint Luke in Delft his name is entered as Cornelis Adriaan Linschoten under the year 1627) was born in Delft in 1590. I am not able to say truthfully with whom he studied art, but some believe he was a student of Jusepe de Ribera. Certainly all the information that has come down to us shows that he understood the art of painting better than the art of living well. For he led a loose, unreflective and careless life which would have reduced him to poverty were it not that two sisters of his, having died, made him heir to the annual income from their inheritance.

In the year 1634 he left for Brabant and there married a young girl of low descent who passed her time with needlework but was beautiful and had good sense. After the passing of some years he came to live in The Hague with his wife and two daughters. Pieter van Ruijven, painter in Delft, has told me that he knew him in 1677 or 78, being by then a man of 87 or 88 years with a long unkempt beard. Speaking of Van Linschoten's art,


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he was able to tell that he had painted the incident when the Apostle Peter encounters the maidservant of the high priest so naturally, and the state of the feeling in the features so ingeniously, that a certain preacher took such pleasure in it that he asked him to also paint the remorse of Peter as counterpart on another canvas. This happened and it did not turn out any less skilfully or according to his liking. When the preacher then came to see the work and stood in front of it looking with amazement, he said; what do you think mister preacher? Have I not captured that cry-baby well? The Preacher, looking at him askance, said: What now! What are you saying? Whereupon he only made things worse by saying: Why sure: was he not a big fool to go cry about that? I have so often lied and sworn against my better conscience, and I have never cried about it. The preacher, turning around, said: For shame, you godless man, now that I hear this I don't desire to own your art, and went away without looking back at it.

With Mister Salomon van der Heul, gunpowder manufacturer outside the Watersloot Gate, hangs a work of art by him depicting an alchemist in his workshop, inventively thought out and painted, especially the breast and arms of the male figure, which are not only fleshly and naturally painted, but also firm and artfully drawn. And there are more like it in the houses of the oldest families of Delft.

Now we come to LUCAS de WAEL, born in Antwerp in 1591. All that comes from cats wants to hunt mice says the old Dutch proverb. Thus it was also with this Lucas, whose father was a painter. For


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he, also having appetite for art, made a start in it with his father and then with Jan Brueghel, whose handling he was able to follow wonderfully well. Having travel on his mind, he went early on first to France and from there to Italy, where he made many handsome works of art in both fresco and oil paints. He usually had more changes or more varying objects in his works than did his master, for one sometimes saw foreign waterfalls on rocky ground as well as sun shines, lightning and thunder storms used in his work, which he showed naturally in a loose way. He was still alive in the year 1660, being 69 years old, and lived in Antwerp, where he daily practiced art with desire and diligence.

Not as the least of the art fires which the goddess of painting lit in Friesland in olden days is to be reckoned

WYBRAND de GEEST. He was a commendable history and figure painter, famed amongst his contemporaries. In Rome, where he lived for several years to practice after the best models, he was called the Friesian eagle on account of his high flight in art.

How closely he paid attention to everything is clear from his Kabinet der statuen, in which the makers of the sculptures are identified and the places where they stand are shown. This book was printed in Amsterdam in the year 1702.

One can see his portrait in plate F, next to Frans Hals.


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Amongst the lyric poetry of Vondel, I find this warning for Wybrand de Geest;

Oh Geest, who at the Friesian court
Gives life to ash and dust,
And floats with
inventive brushes
And paints on canvasses and panels:
I believe you correct
Mother Nature,
And dare
the sun ignite her holy fire
singe the fingers,
To bring life to your picture.
Look on Prometheus, whom you
When you make mankind immortal,
paint light on the earthly realm,
Plunder the heavens of its rays.
Once they chained such a man
To a rock in the north,
And trimmed his bold wings,
have him serve as bait for birds.
It is ghosts who walk the
is true, but without flesh or bone.
Everyone knows his station and worth.
The visible ghosts
live on earth.
Thus you remain with us here below,
With Noyen sitting by your side.
You know how to charm his tongue,
With the best of
divine rhymes.
He is used to wedding his poetry
To your painting,
You suck his poems with your ears,
His eyes kiss your

His son’s son, also named Wybrand, still practices the art of painting. He had Jan Anthonie de Coxie as teacher when he lived in Amsterdam.


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Among his contemporaries and countrymen are counted Jan Willemsz. De Wilde, a commendable portrait painter, and Jelle Reyners. The latter was an artful glass painter. In Sneek an artful window donated to the church by the carpenters’ guild may still be seen in which is depicted the flight of Joseph (their patron) and Mary to Egypt. It is judged to surpass the work of the renowned Crabeths, who painted the windows in the St. John’s church in Gouda. After him follows

JACOB POTMA, born in Workum in Friesland. Not knowing the time of his birth, we could not place him more fittingly than behind his teacher, Wybrand de Geest, through whose instruction and diligence he became a commendable portrait and history painter. In addition he was a man who (as is usually said) understood the world and became in his time first chamberlain of the Elector of Vienna [= Maximilian Philipp Hieronymus, Duke of Bayern-Leuchtenberg] , where he also died in the year 1684, possibly of dysentery, which killed a large part of the army at that time.

GERARD van HONTHORST was born in Utrecht in the year 1592. He learned the rudiments of art with Abraham Bloemaert and then headed for Rome, where he had improved so greatly in a few years that the most fastidious connoisseurs and lovers of the art of painting took great pleasure in his art, especially his night lights. Just as he was later sought out for his outstanding art, both in portraits as well as compositions, by various cardinals, the King of England, Charles I, the King of Denmark and finally the prince of Orange at the time.


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