Houbraken Translated


Volume 1, page 230-239

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to learn the year of his birth and have therefore linked his biography to that of his contemporary fellow artists.

Jan Vos made the following verse on his most important flower scenes.

Here sweet spring appears in winter
Nature, which has drugged all who paint with her brush,
Begins, now she sees this,
to pine from mere regret.
Aurora, take your wig
garnished with roses from your head:
Here grow roses that outstrip your
So Van Aelst becomes famous through art the world over.
He who conquers others ought to be elevated.
His hand, full of spirit has
this flowered leaf
Painted with a glow that will never fade.
The foliage that braves heat and cold will last forever.
Lady Venus would wish to have her wreath made of this growth
To show off with the leaves when she holds
feast day;
Or when she comes assail the heart of Mars lovingly,
adornment of women is the frame of paintings.

After his death, his widow left for her own country with the children (this was in the year 1680), where a brewer, tempted by the hard Ryksdaalders that she had brought with her, married her. But it did not take long before a sad accident befell the oldest of the children, being a well-formed boy, for he fell into the brewing kettle and was burned alive.


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Experience has taught the farmer that fertility does not only depend on the quality of the seed but particularly on a well structured and fertilized soil.

Comparing the youth setting out in the practice of art to a field, and the lessons of the teacher to the seed, we shall see that they should both be more or less of the same good character. For if the ground is not informed by judgment and fertilized by intelligence, diligence and curiosity, there is little hope of reaping a rich harvest. If, on the contrary the ground is good, then what is to be anticipated will certainly exceed expectations. This is established by JAN van BRONCHORST, who through zeal, innate curiosity, and acquired observation (although he had received only little seed of teaching in the field of his desire) germinated the seed so well that it is witnessed of him that even if someone were to have the luck of a distinguished intellect and the greatest master in art as his teacher, he could not be more experienced in the most advanced comprehension of art.

He was only eight years old when he was placed with a glass writer named Jan Verburgh to learn the rudiments of drawing, which he practiced for a year and a half with great diligence and ambition, and then with two other ordinary glass painters until 1620, when he developed a desire to undertake a journey to France to continue his art there. Thus he undertook the journey via Brabant when a certain coincidence


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arrested his progress. For having arrived in Atrecht he ended up by accident with one Peeter Mathys, an artful glass painter with whom he remained for a half year, in which time he had the opportunity to make many handsome works. From there he went to Paris, where he encountered a highly competent master of glass writing named Nicolas Chamus, where he remained for some time and then headed back to his native city, where as master in that art he continued it with diligence and industry. But still he was never satisfied with himself, since this activity seemed too slight to him. This was the right whetting stone to sharpen his brain to greater undertakings. This intention was all the more fanned up when he had the opportunity to associate with Cornelis van Poelenburch and see him paint. His pleasant and appealing handling so much attracted his mind that he firmly decided to switch to oil painting and to attach himself to the handling of Poelenburch. But that dragged on for some time even after Poelenburch had left for England. In 1637 he still handled glass painting but in 1639 he discharged himself from it, daily striving without instruction and coming so far that time will not easily mow down his fame. He was born in Utrecht in the year 1603.

The New Church of Amsterdam still shows off three of his artfully painted church windows next to the choir. One sees depicted in them how Peace shackles and imprisons the war god Mars and expels warfare and his following, and how the welfare of sea and land flowers


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as Discord, periwigged with snakes, is banished. She is represented by the horn of Plenty, which dispenses flags of foreign merchant companies, just as books indicate that learning, arts and sciences flower most beautifully in times of peace. And on the doors of the organ one sees depicted by his brush the triumph of David over the defeated Goliath, the anointing of Saul as king, and how he intended to impale David, playing before him, on his spear [1].

One can see his portrait at the top of Plate L, where he displays himself next to a painted church window.

In that same year, 1603, NICOLAES KNÜPFER came into the world in Leipzig. As if born to art by his nature, he did nothing from youth on but daub all his books with figures and animals instead of learning his school lessons. For which he was often criticized and punished by his master. But it was all in vain, for if he was denied paper and ink he helped himself to charcoal and drew on the walls as high as he could reach, for which the housemaid often treated him most severely. His father, seeing that all that he tried could not deflect his passion, at first thought that this had come about because he had no inclination for learning languages. He therefore thought up all the trades that he could, wrote them on a sheet of paper and laid it before his son, saying that he could choose from all of them what he wanted, but he chose nothing other than to study painting. But I should say this in advance,


Jan van Bronchorst
Organ doors with the history of Saul and David, dated 1655
Amsterdam, Nieuwe Kerk (Amsterdam)

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that the most important reason why the maid was so hard on him for messing up the walls was that he sketched his figures so paradise-like naturally all over the walls of the house that she could see just as well as Eve that they were naked. Just as among other things he sketched very cleverly where Ulysses appears naked before Nausicae, following the description by Homer. His father then placed him with a painter named Emanuel Nysen, where he lived for two years. But that did not work out to his advantage, because instead of instructing him in art he used him as servant to carry his cloak behind him when he went out. Not able to stomach this he ran away and came to Magdeburg where he earned his keep for some time with making paint brushes, which he again gave up to go to a dabbler. He remained there until the year 1630, when he went to Utrecht and gained the opportunity to demonstrate his great diligence and passion for art to Abraham Bloemaert, who, seeing his natural inclination and how far he had advanced more by acquisitiveness than through instruction, gave him a place in his household, where through good instruction and diligence he came so far in little time that he could rely on his own wings, yes taking so high a flight in art that he had the honour of painting three pieces for the King of Denmark [= Christian IV] showing the battles at which his forefathers had claimed victory. Where or when he died, I have not been able to discover.


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In that same year 1603 was born in Antwerp JAN COSSIERS, a man who is greatly esteemed by natives of Brabant, especially for an artwork that hangs in Malines, in the church of the great beguinage, which is by itself enough to trumpet his fame as far as lovers of painting are found [2-4]. After he had visited many courts and left evidence of his art brush everywhere, he died. That is certain, but in what year I do not know.

This year, 1603, so fertile in growing art practitioners, also brought forth SIMON de VOS, worthy of commemoration. He was a man who thoroughly understood the basics of art and used them judiciously. His works, especially well known in Brabant, bear witness to what he was able to achieve with his brush.

We do not have much to say about JAN van BIJLERT, their contemporary born in Utrecht, other than that, as it seems to us he at first lived a loose and dissolute life and later developed an aversion to it. He then turned to the practice of the art of painting, made felicitous progress in it and garnered fame from that change of preference.

Before we end this year 1603 we also need to commemorate the Delft painter PIETER van ASCH. This was a commendable landscape painter, especially on small scale. One rarely sees any of his brushworks because he did not make much, having to invest his time in another way (to care for his father [= Jan van Asch] and mother [= Maertgen Pietersdr.]). But what one sees is good. He was commendable and pious in


Jan Cossiers
The mystic marriage of Saint Catherine, c. 1650
Mechelen, Begijnhofkerk (Mechelen)

Jan Cossiers
Saints Margaret, Ignatius, Catherine of Siena, Elizabeth of Hungary, Gertrude and Dominic, c. 1650
Mechelen, Begijnhofkerk (Mechelen)

Jan Cossiers
The lamentation of Christ, c. 1660
Mechelen, Begijnhofkerk (Mechelen)

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his way of life and reached an advanced age. For the painter Jan Verkolje I, born in 1650, still associated with him and also committed his portrait to copper [5], which we followed (no other being available). It is located below Plate L, next to a small pael on which a landscape is sketched.

After him follows

CHRISTIAEN van COUWENBERGH born in Delft on the 8th of September 1604. He had Johan van Nes as instructor in art and then travelled to Italy, from where, unusually advanced in art, he returned to his native city of Delft. There he painted many artworks, both histories and life-sized nude figures, and garnered much fame with them. In addition to other locations, one also sees the art of his brush in the princely pleasure palaces Rijswijk and Huis ten Bosch [6]. After that, in pursuit of his fortune, he went to live in Cologne, where he died on the 4th of July 1607. Among his fellow citizens, contemporaries and artists are reckoned:

Leonaert Bramer, Pieter van Asch, Adriaen Cornelisz. van Linschoten, Hans Jordaens I, Cornelis de Man and Johannes Vermeer.

They were all still alive when Dirck van Bleyswijck ended his book, Beschryvinge der stadt Delft, in 1667.

Now a place is required for DANIEL van HEIL, born in Brussels in 1604. Just as his city of birth differed from that of the preceding artist in distance apart, they differed even more in their choice of brushwork. For the preceding one seems to have applied himself


Jan Verkolje (I) after Pieter van Asch
Self portrait of Pieter van Asch (1603-1678),
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-OB-17.502

Christiaen van Couwenbergh
Minerva and Hercules opening the Doors for Victory, dated 1651
The Hague, Paleis Huis ten Bosch (Oranjezaal)

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to gratification of the eye of the spectator, whereas this one aimed at moving the soul, for he mostly painted arsonist fires and the like as subjects that are chilling to see. Nevertheless (what is witnessed in his praise) everything was painted so naturally that only the heat was lacking. Amongst his most important pieces are counted the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah along with the entire region by a fire from heaven etc. And the burning of Troy, where one sees how,

When Sinon’s torch destroyed the city with its flame
King Priam lay before the eyes of his maidens,
Harnessed on the ground, defeated by Pyrrhus’ sword;
Where Hekuba lamented the fall of her famous
Sunk down
on the bloody corpse of her spouse;
Or there Aeneas carries Anchises on his shoulders,
And gives Ascanius
his hand in the middle of the wailing;
signs that make such historic depictions recognizable.

We had almost forgotten to commemorate the commendable Dordrecht painter JACOB GERRITSZ. CUYP, whose brushwork charmed art lovers early on, but will pay attention to him when we bring his son Aelbert Cuyp on stage. He painted small oxen, cows and sheep etc. The prospects behind them were mostly land and water views that may be seen around Dordrecht, which he drew after life for his use, and his way of painting was clearly glowing and melting.


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This Jacob Gerritz. Cuyp of Dordrecht, student of Abraham Bloemaert, Izack van Hasselt and Cornelis Tegelberg, all landscape painters, and Jacques de Claeuw, who painted still lifes, were the heads or instigators who founded the artist society of St. Luke in Dordrecht in 1642 after they had left the guild of the five trades (as stipulated in the act of separation). But before I produce some particularities (to inform the reader of what happened from time to time that affected the painters) it will be useful first to point out how the painters of the St. Luke’s guild and other trade guilds are involved, from whom the name of St. Luke’s guild has its origins, and how the painters left these guilds in various cities and founded fraternities which consisted solely of artists and art lovers.

How much the painters and their works were esteemed by the great of the world in olden days has been mentioned by many writers, as is known to the inquisitive. It will therefore not be necessary to dig up a multitude of examples from doubtful antiquity, but we will only take up what in later years serves our purposes.

Leonardo da Vinci was so greatly esteemed for his art by the King of France [= François I] that this ruler repeatedly came to visit him when he lay on his sickbed and offered to shake his hand, so that it was finally in the


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King’s arms that he gave up the ghost. See Karel van Mander p. 57.

The assassination of Polidoro da Caravaggio was taken so badly by the Council of Rome that the murderer was sentenced to so severe a punishment as if he had done in one of the Council. This is noted by Philips Angels II on p. 22 of his Lof der Schilderkonst and adds to this that even in later centuries the Venetians believed their reputation to be so enhanced by art that they annually gave commendable masters 300 crowns so that they might remain within her walls. And the further one goes back in antiquity, the more one discovers the great respect that they had for art and artists. It was Apelles and Praxiteles who alone had the fortune that the greatest world ruler admired their art, to which a certain poet alluded, saying:

Apelles was selected out of many,
To paint the great Alexander;
Praxiteles had permission, and no other,
To sculpt a marble statue of that hero.

The first also painted a nude Venus Anadyomene for the ruler, says Pliny, that is freshly arising from the sea, for which he was granted the beautiful Campaspe, Alexander’s concubine, as a living model after which to paint. But what happened? The ignited passion, no matter how much he tried to cover it up, was not so much to be dissembled for Alexander not to notice. He, seeing his magnanimity put to the test by this, decided that just as he had thus far conquered the world, he should also control his inclinations. He


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