Houbraken Translated


Volume 1, page 160-169

Page 160

to copy that method from the Germans, as happened with the approval of his parents.

But being there (who knows the decisions of fate in advance?) he gets to know the Netherlandish painters. Be it that the advantages of the art of painting now appealed to him more than those of silver working or be it that the secret desire for painting first revealed itself in him, he turned to the study of painting and persevered in it for several years on end with great application and diligence, both under the supervision of his master and on his own. But before my pen brings him back from Germany to his fatherland, a certain incident that he encountered while away comes to mind.

The place where this happened has slipped from my memory (as many years have passed since my master Samuel van Hoogstraten, his son, told me this). Nor does it really matter. He fell into a sickness so serious that nothing was to be expected but death. His landlady, who served him with great attention and care and loved him for his pleasant behaviour, wishing to relieve her conscience, walked to a priest who, on her testimony, administered him the hallowed bread. The sick one, having just consciousness enough that he noticed this was being served to him in the Catholic manner, let it fall out of his mouth, so that later on, with the shaking of the covers, it fell to the ground behind the bed, and later, when having recovered somewhat, he had gone out for a walk to get some fresh air, it was found below the bed by the woman who, having seen him go out, had come to clean the room. She kept this to herself


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until he had completely recovered from his ailment. In the meantime the Feast of Easter was approaching and, as a consequence, the time for confession. Then she had to come out with it. About this she said to him: To my sorrow I must say to you that you must leave because you have desecrated a relic of the Church and have despised the worthy merits of the Holy Sacrament, for I have found a part of the host on the ground under the bedstead, and on this account you must get away in time in case you wish to save yourself from the mishap that would proceed from this, for confession is imminent and I may not keep silent about this. Which had as consequence that he returned to the home of his parents all the sooner. Having come home his father asked him: what he intended to do, whether he now wished to set up shop as master silversmith or in another way give proof of his progress in art which he had achieved on his journey. He replied to his father, who was most surprised that he had exchanged the hammer for the brush and wished to turn to painting instead of to working silver. He did it too, and came so far by exceptional application and diligence that he carried the name of a good painter. I have seen some works by him that were well drawn and also naturally painted. Also, from that incident that my master Samuel van Hoogstraten relates on page 107 of his Inleydinge tot de Hooge schoole der schilderkonst, it appears that he was able to imitate objects naturally with his brush.

The year of his death became apparent to me from a margin notation on a drawing that my master


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Samuel van Hoogstraten had sketched after the features of his deceased father. This drawing is still kept as a remembrance of his grandfather by Mister David van Hoogstraten, known well enough for his poetry, in his art book among portraits of old and new ingenious men.

He died in Dordrecht on the 20th of December of the year 1640. His portrait is seen in Plate I, below Leonard Bramer.

Now follows the painter and architect JACQUES FRANCKAERT. He was born in Brussels, but the date of his birth is not known to me, seeing that Florent Le Comte and Cornelis de Bie did not record anything. Thus we bring him onto the stage between the years 1560 and 1621, being the birth and death years of Archduke Albrecht, son [=nephew] of Emperor Ferdinand II, who was his Maecenas and showed him great favour for his competence in various arts and sciences. He was architect and fortifications master of Brussels, in which time he also built the Church of the Jesuits. In addition he understood painting, geometry, perspective, poetry, and the art of living well which, when combined, can make a man happy, for no matter how great the talents and intellect of a man may be, they are but half talents (says Balthasar Gracián). But when the art of living well is added, everything has more allure. She completes everything, even lack of reason. She gilds the failures. She covers the imperfections, etc. This much is given to those who possess that quality.

Franquart was also especially beloved by


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the Infante Isabella Clara Eugenia, for whom he painted the mysteries or hidden aspects of the rosary, which were sent to Pope Paul V and later engraved in copper.

He taught the art of painting to Anna Francisca de Bruyns, who studied with him as a maiden, so that she surpassed all women painters of that time.

He later exempted himself from all practice and gave himself over to the love of flowers, which provided him with a moral mirror of his mortal life, which perished shortly thereafter.

At the close of Michiel van Mierevelt we said in a word or two that he left two sons who both practiced art and that Pieter, the elder, in particular was not unequal to his father in the art of portrait painting, and also indicated the place in Delft where remains of his brushwork were to be seen. Now in 1596, the year of his birth, I must add to the praise and fame of PIETER van MIEREVELT that before I first knew that Michiel Mierevelt left two sons or had seen something of their art, I was shown a portrait by Gerardus Wigmana, painter in Amsterdam, which he had bought as a piece by Michiel Mierevelt, which I also took it for. But the mark (being a P and M in ligature with the year 1620) which stood on the back had me doubt this until coming home I looked up the Beschryvinge der stadt Delft and found recorded on page 851 that Michiel had a son named Pieter, who died in his earliest


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youth on the 11th of December 1632 in the 27th year of his life.

His second son, Jan van Mierevelt, had also made a good start in art, but an unfortunate accident prevented his progress. He became insane and died in the year 1633.

That same year 1596 brought forth LEONAERT BRAMER. Spurred on by wanderlust, he already headed for Arras in Artoys in his eighteenth year, and from there to Amiens, Paris, Marseille and Genoa, and finally to Rome, where he occupied himself for several years, first with continuing his art diligently after many sublime models and then with displaying his talent at the art-loving courts of Rome, Venice, Florence, Mantua, Naples, Padua etc. His artworks which mainly made him famous were a Raising of Lazarus [1], very bustling in composition, well drawn, and clever in light and shadows, a Denial of Peter [2] and many others, and since he was more set on fame than money, he was satisfied that his name was famous throughout Italy and headed back to his fatherland to show his art there as well. Now the princely house in Rijswijk still dazzles with an important sample of his praiseworthy spirit. His portrait, based on one that Antony van der Does engraved [3], appears in Plate I, at the top.

One often still sees among lovers of art his small histories painted on copper, which are clever in invention and artfully conceived.

On one of his important scenes painted on copper, depicting Thisbe with Pyramus,


Leonaert Bramer
The Raising of Lazarus, c. 1630-1635
Chicago (Illinois), New York City, art dealer Richard L. Feigen & Co.

Leonaert Bramer
Saint Peter's denial
Milwaukee (Wisconsin), private collection William & Sharon Treul


Antony van der Does after Leonaert Bramer published by Joannes Meyssens
Portrait of Leonaert Bramer (1596-1674), 1649 or earlier
The Hague, RKD – Nederlands Instituut voor Kunstgeschiedenis (Collectie Iconografisch Bureau)

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her lover [4], Ludolf Smids composed the following verse.

Honourable greyness! what do you look for at dreaded night,
With torchlight at
this grave of Ninus? It is the father
Of Pyramus, and it is Thisbe’s soft mother!
How will these two conduct themselves, do they tread nearer?
Here lies the female lover in the lover’s pale arm.
Oh unfortunate and too pitiful corpses!
Each becomes aware of his child. See both sorrowfully
The mother’s knees buckle. He supports her while she collapses:
But under the supporting, he almost collapsed with the woman,
If Bramer had not with the power of bold paints,
Strengthened her; covered the blood with night, and hidden
The murderous gun; he tries to keep her from dying,
Harnessed with metal so that she
May ever lament in a copper painting.

One finds recorded amongst the old painters, examples of those who proceeded with their work slowly and others whose work (as the proverb says) flew out of the hand.

Protogenes took a lot of time to make his artworks, painting them four times so that they might outlast marble. Leonardo da Vinci, they say, worked on his beautiful Mona Lisa four years and left the work


Leonaert Bramer
The discovery of the dead Pyramus and Thisbe, c. 1630-1635
Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv./cat.nr. R.F. 1989-7

Leonardo da Vinci
Portrait of Mona Lisa, c. 1503
Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv./cat.nr. 779

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incomplete. And Zeuxis boasted that he spent a long time on his works, saying: Haste gives no lasting beauty, since steady and slow work will give the work a lasting power and will have it keep a durable lustre. To which the saying applies,

Hastily done, hastily perished.

Others on the contrary were able to finish their artworks with incredible facility, such as Rosso Fiorentino, Pordenone, Perino del Vaga, Polidoro da Caravaggio, and among the Netherlanders, in olden days, Frans Floris, who, when he once wished to surpass his usual rapidity to show what the brush could achieve when it was spurred on by ambition, painted six pictures, life-size, within seven hours, which had to serve the splendid entry of Emperor Charles into Antwerp.

We have laid these preparations to commemorate three well-known brush warriors, namely Knibbergen, Van Goyen (about whom we will speak soon) and Porcellis. They (as Hoogstraten relates in book VI of his Inleyding tot de hooge schoole der schilderkonst) had undertaken a wager together to each make a piece while the sun shone.

François van Knibbergen placed a rather large canvas on his easel and, having his brush at his command, began to paint in such a practiced way that everything he put down was done, for air, recession, trees, mountains and spuming waterfalls, flowed from his brush like the letters from the pen of an accomplished writer. He recorded his foliage and sparkling greens in an


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accomplished light manner. The thin clouds flowed as if from his hand, and the cliff-like rocks and crumbly terrain were playfully born from his paints. Next to him sat Jan van Goyen, who worked in an entirely different way. Because he washed his entire panel here light and there dark, more or less like a multicoloured agate, he undertook to search for all kinds of nice drolleries in it, which he indicated with brush touches with little difficulty, so that an inventive recession decorated with peasant villages appeared. Here one saw an old homestead, with gate and water courts appear and mirrored in the lapping water, also various flags of ships and boats loaded with cargo or travellers. In short, his eye, directed as if looking at forms that were hidden in a chaos of mixed paints, guided his hand and intellect in a skilful way so that one saw a completed painting ere one could rightly discern what he intended. The third was Jan Porcellis, the great phoenix of the seascape. But the spectators almost gave up hope when they saw how slowly he handles his brushes, Yes it seemed as if he at first deliberately wasted time, or did not know how to begin. But this was because he first formed a fixed conception of his entire work before he put paint on the panel. But the result did show that this was the right way to proceed, because though he persisted to work at leisure, he did everything certainly, and in the evening his piece was as finished as those of his combatants. And though Knibbbergen’s piece was larger and that of Van Goyen more detailed, Porcellis had observed more naturalness, and was deemed by the connoisseurs to be more worthy, though neither


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was prepared to reject his own.

I also hold this last way for the most certain, as well as the second for the strangest, and if you, reader, are able to listen, I will tell you a similar story about the French La Fage, well known from his drawings and prints.

JAN van der BRUGGEN, who associated with him in Paris, had told his countrymen in Brabant miracles about this Raymond Lafage and promised them that he would one day bring him from Paris, which he finally did. He took him to the ordinary painter’s pub and placed him at the hearth next to the chimney without anyone noticing and even less having any suspicion that it was La Fage who had come in with him. In addition he had no glistering gold or silver on him, which at once catches the eye and often gives cause to the curious to know who such a one may be.

It was not long before the company admonished Van der Bruggen to fulfil his promise, whereupon he answered with laughing mouth: What if I happen to have brought him with me? This had everyone perk up their ears and one after another they now began to ask, where is he? Upon this (after keeping them fooled for a long time, he said La Fage is part of our company and pointed him out, but they took this for mockery, which is why some did not restrain themselves from saying (pointing the finger at him) is this la Fage? It sure looks like him. This drew la Fage out of his corner. He stuck up his neck like a peacock and said with a biting voice: I am he himself, and if you want


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to see proof, then have paper and ink brought. This was at once supplied to him and he sitting at the table which they all encircled, and also on chairs and benches to be able to see him over the front individuals, asked: what they wished he should make? Whereupon one in the crowd called out to him: Pharaoh when he drowns in the Red Sea, which was contradicted by all because it was improper to demand from someone who did them the honour of joining their company, a work that would take up the entire evening and therefore leave no time to entertain him. However, the word was spoken and La Farge set to work. Here he sketched an arm, yonder a leg, hear a head, there a foot, then some beginning of the figures joined together in the distance and then again in the foreground, so that in no time the entire sheet of paper was everywhere covered with bits and pieces of horses and human figures. Finally this chaos transformed from mixed body parts into a well disposed drawing, completed within two hours, to the amazement of all, in which he had depicted how Pharaoh and his army and horses and wagons with which he pursued Moses, drown in the red sea while Aaron and all of Israel on dry land shout with joy at their deliverance. And all this was drawn according to art and with a host of graceful additions, both vases and jugs and many variations of clothing, veils and headdresses too many to relate. This was thus reported to me by a good source, and I again


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