Houbraken Translated


Volume 1, page 220-229

Page 220

reason demands that we here commemorate the certain compositions which Pieter van de Plas has produced with his art brush in his time to the amazement of all art lovers, since we can discern from it that nature mildly favoured him with gifts of the highest perfection to be seen in life. His works may be found in Brussels and other foreign cities, which witness without exaggeration that he did not need to give way to anyone of our century in greater perfection in reason, proportion and command of any part of painting. He died in Brussels.

Here we let follow the art practitioner JACOB de GEEST, painter of Antwerp, on whose death the poet Jan Vos made this funeral lamentation.

Antwerp, lament, yes lament, your art is now in danger:
Let all tears run freely
down your cheeks.
Do you ask for what reason? your painter’s
spirit [geest] is dead.
He who
loses his spirit [geest] has no hope for any art.

This same poet applied the following lines to the painter Gerrit Bartels, who died from the fall of a stone.

Two stones tore the body of Bartels away from us;
The one which crushed his head, and the other on his grave:

One hears his offspring moan in vain next to these stones.
Death does not
spare any spirit: it laughs as others weep.


Page 221

Now follows PIETER NEEFS I from Antwerp. He painted regal palaces and galleries in perspective, but in particular views of temples and churches seen inside, with all their ornaments, balconies, elevated choirs, altars, pulpits and what is inherent to that work, being a labour-intensive propensity which I would sooner see than make myself.

The Dutchman DIRCK van BABUREN will not fit badly here. But I am not able to say anything about him other than I understand from certain descriptions that his art consisted of work similar to that of the previously mentioned artist.

That which did not at all resemble consecrated temples and churches was the preference that CHRISTOFFEL and JACOB van der LANEN had selected for their treatment in art, consisting of the depiction of companies in which people make love, gamble, drink and practice all sorts of merry and sensual ways of passing time.

We had almost skipped over and forgotten HENDRIK de CLERCK. He is famous for the profound poetic finds that he treated in his brushworks as well as for his handsome moralizing pieces, of which there is still the odd one to be seen in Brussels in churches. He was a student of Maerten de Vos.

There are also some pieces by ANTOON SALLAERT to be seen in Brussels, where he was born and also died. GUILLIAM MAHU, portraitist, was also born and buried in Brussels.

Also esteemed at that time for their art were


Page 222

AUGUSTIN BRAUN and JOHANNES HULSMAN, painters of Cologne, as well as FRIEDRICH BRENTEL and Jacob van der Heyden, born in Strasbourg, who were honoured by rulers for their art, as was also Denis van Alsloot by Duke Albrecht VII.

Finally the Antwerp artists ABRAHAM MATTHIJS and GILLLIS van TILBORCH II appear on the roll of names. Of them I have nothing to write but that the latter painted farmer fairs and markets and that the former was a good landscape painter. Just as I have nothing to say about our Rotterdam artist DAVID de HAEN II but that I conclude from the following rhyme that he had been in Rome.

Who from Holland’s land
Flew to Rome
Where his great intellect
Was greatly celebrated.

These I find unnoticed with respect to their birth, so that there is not a date to be found. We therefore wish to let them pass by unnoticed.

It often depresses me when I encounter authors who preceded me by more than a half century and consequently were so much nearer the time of life of such artists whose acts they purport to describe but who say nothing of what must have been there to be said. Yes, it grieves me that coming so late with many matters having lapsed into obscurity that as a consequence


Page 223

I am not able to write about them as I had wished. I have been thinking for more than twenty years how necessary it was that someone sharpen the pen to write about this material and since then comforted myself with the hope that someone would come along who would take the memory of so many outstanding painters to heart. But nothing has come of it except that now and then this or that individual has published a piecemeal treatment of them in the French language, so that we have had to accept, and the reader with us, that things turn out meagre for many.

As for example with

JUSTUS van EGMONT, born in Leiden in 1602, who was so advanced in art that the King of France, Louis XIV, took pleasure in it and kept him for a long while at his court and rewarded him with laudable gifts. Even so, one finds nothing recorded about him, such as with whom he studied art or what manner he had, but only that he was a history painter.

I have more than once said that worldly matters consist of steady change. And experience has shown us more than once how the changes of the entire life’s years of one human being are linked by reversals and that those of another run on in good fortune, so that all his time overflows with happiness without ebb tide. The last saying will be confirmed by the following story.

PHILIPPE de CHAMPAIGNE was born in Brussels in 1602. His parents were


Page 224

of humble birth but had much money, and as he was their only son, they took great interest in him. His inclination ran early on to the study of painting, to which they agreed. But they did not make a good choice in that respect, which caused him to often change master, to sadden him, and to have him decide to practice after life without any instruction, which worked out well.

His bust is seen opposite in Plate L, between the portraits of Jan van Bronchorst and Pieter van Asch, where he is sketching an academy picture on paper next to his portrait.

With his 19th year, travel entered his head, whereupon he decided to travel through France to Italy, but he remained some time in France in the home of a German, a formidable painter. Later he went to live by himself in the Collège de Laon, where Nicolas Poussin then rented a dwelling and became a close friend of Philippe. Nicolas Duchesne, a painter but a fool and airhead, had agreed to paint some work in the Palais de Luxemburg and used these two young artists to this end. Champagne did the large and Poussin the small work for the decoration of that space, and they understood each other in this. The queen took great pleasure in the work, especially in that of Champagne for its clarity in comparison to that of Poussin. Duchesne, who noticed through this that he had (as the saying goes) cast himself out of the nest and that he would be assigned no other work, became envious of Champagne and caused trouble. But Champaigne, who loved peace,



Page 225

evaded this and left for Brussels to visit his brother. When he had been there for some time he again decided to go to Italy but to make his journey through France and not through Germany. But before he could set out on this journey, the abbot of St. Ambrose, Sur-Intendant des Bâtimens came to Brussels with the news that Duchesne, who had become repugnant to him, had died, and requested that he return to Paris.

Hardly had CHAMPAIGNE arrived in Paris and he was made intendant of the art cabinets of the queen [= Maria de' Medici], with an annual income of 1,200 guilders. She also let him paint large works in the convent of the Carmelites [2], at which time he also married the daughter of the oft-mentioned Nicolas Duchesne, who had much money. See how events arranged themselves to his happiness from the beginning? And how some of this world must always row against current and wind while others sail easily before the wind.

Cardinal de Richelieu sought via others to tempt him from the service of the Queen with offers that he would be able to command as much as he desired to paint for him, but he declined this politely and added: that he would assign a painter to the cardinal (in case he desired such) who would please him and requested that he might remain in his favour. This answer having been transmitted to the cardinal caused him to develop even greater esteem for him because he did not want to be unfaithful to those who rewarded him well, and let him paint his portrait in various ways [3].


Philippe de Champaigne
The assumption of the Virgin, after 1630
canvas, oil paint 394 x 243 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv./cat.nr. MI 333

Philippe de Champaigne and studio of Philippe de Champaigne
Triple portrait of Cardinal de Richelieu (1585-1642), 1642
canvas, oil paint 58.7 x 72.8 cm
London (England), National Gallery (London), inv./cat.nr. NG798

Page 226

He was diligent and of a hard working nature and made many famous artworks in that kingdom.

In the Cabinet des singularitez d’Architecture, Peinture, Sculpture, & Gravure Etc. Par Florent le Comte, I.D. p. 78 there is a list of all his famous works, of which is especially praised a certain piece in which is depicted Louis XIII kneeling before a statue of Mary, whom he offers his crown of state [2]. He had painted this piece for the silver merchants of Paris and it is was hung in the church of Notre Dame or the church of Our Lady, as they are want to do annually according to an old custom, for which they then select one of the most important painters. This artwork hangs on display on the feast day of Mary, from morning to night, to be viewed by everybody.

Monsr. Poncet, Councilman at the Court of Aids once came to visit him on a Sunday to be painted by him, but he refused to do this (though Poncet was a great man and a particular friend of his) because he took the strictures of the church and the violation of common practice seriously, no matter how keen he was on profit.

At that time the fame of Charles Le Brun, then still in Italy, was trumpeted throughout all of France, and his adherents made his competences even greater than they were (as it usually goes if people want to do someone a favour) to promote him as court painter to the young Louis XIV. But Champaigne was not disturbed by this. He


Philippe de Champaigne
Louis XIII kneeling before the Virgin with the dead body of Christ, 1638
canvas, oil paint 342 x 267.5 cm
Caen, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen, inv./cat.nr. 163

Page 227

had (as the proverb goes) his sheep on dry land, and died in 1674, 72 years old.

Not a single but several examples have had us see that the seed of art spreads in the family blood and produces new blossoms of art from one century to another.

Leafing through the books by Joachim von Sandrart I find mention on p. 69 of the third volume of his Teutsche Academie of one van AELST who was not only a high flyer in the art of painting but also an important architect, which is why he was selected by the magistrates of Antwerp to have the triumphal arches for the 1550 entry of Philip II, son ofCharles V, made after his designs. By him the books:

Siciliae & Magnae Graeciae Historia, ex antiquis
illustrata. (with medals) and

De Romanae & Graecae antiquitatis monumentis
priscis Numismatibus erutis, per Hubertum
Goltzium Herbipolitanum Venlonianum,
divem Romanum,
were written.

This Van Aelst is the same man that Karel van Mander calls Pieter Coecke van Aelst, who died in Antwerp shortly after the year 1550. For his bequeathed writings on architecture were published in print in 1553 by his widow Mayken Verhulst. He also left a son named Pauwels, who also practiced art and was married, from whom it is believed (though Van Mander only mentions his widow and says:


Page 228

That she was later married to Gillis van Coninxloo II ) that the Van Aelst recorded for the year 1602 in the Beschrijvinge der stadt Delft (now the topic of our pen) had his origins.

EVERT van AELST was born in Delft in 1602. He was a commendable painter of all sorts of still life, especially fruit, which he was able to depict very naturally, as also iron harnesses, morions and all sorts of shining metals of which he was able to reproduce their appropriate shimmer and reflections as required. He died in 1658, leaving as follower in art WILLEM van AELST, son of his brother Jan van Aelst, notary in Delft, who learned this art so well from his uncle that though still young, he surpassed him, yes, improved in art so much and was able to imitate life so naturally that his brushwork did not look like a painting but like life itself. During his youth he practiced art for four years in France and seven years in Italy and was held in high esteem by cardinals, rulers and great lords at that time. In 1656, having returned to his fatherland, he and his household headed first for Delft and then to Amsterdam, where his art was highly esteemed by art connoisseurs and sold for a high price. From this one can clearly see, and conclude in general, that all arts and sciences were not at first invented in their perfection, but that the inventor, or others progressing on that basis, discovered and invented in steps that which was lacking to bring them


Page 229

to their highest perfection. Willem, also known as Guillelmo, was a man who (after he had been in Italy) possessed a magnanimous character and who was deferential to no one, especially if he had drunk above his level. It happened that the burgomaster of Maarsseveen got into a quarrel with him about some business or another, whereby they came to have words.

Van Aelst, who did not wish to lower his sail for a burgomaster of Amsterdam in a matter in which he believed himself to be in the right, shot up, pulled his upper jacket open and showed the golden medal and chain on his breast which he had received from the Grand Duke of Tuscany, saying: you were born with a moneybag around your neck, and that is all; but what I am, I am through merit. But that this boloney (as the saying goes) came back to afflict him, not even he who told it to me doubted.

A man (says Baltasar Gracián) looses respect by a tenacious defence, because such is not to speak the truth but sooner to display his stubbornness. And in another place, some depend so much on their accomplishments that they take no trouble to make themselves liked.

Although (as I just said) he had a magnanimous character, he was still struck by the flaming shaft of the son of Venus, so much so that besotted with his maid servant, who was a fat krauthead, he married her and bred three handsome children with her. At that time he lived on the Prinsengracht, near the Wallonian orphanage, where he also died in 1679. But I have not been able


Cookies disclaimer

Our site saves small pieces of text information (cookies) on your device in order to deliver better content and for statistical purposes. You can disable the usage of cookies by changing the settings of your browser. By browsing our website without changing the browser settings you grant us permission to store that information on your device.
I agree