Houbraken Translated


Volume 1, page 240-249

Page 240

takes leave of his sweet Campaspe and gives her to Apelles.

Mentioned Pliny also notes that later in time a Greek ruler, wanting to keep art in honour and repute, stipulated by law that no one should be allowed to study art or to practice it unless they were of noble birth. And this concept was disadvantageous for art in that such a high barrier was raised for those who desired to study it, since competent spirits and shrewd intellects were strangled and consigned to the plough because they were of low birth, whereas on the contrary nincompoops were raised to the brush only because they were of high birth. This caused a noticeable decline in art until Emperor Maximilian I healed this break in art, declaring on one occasion that he could make a hundred noblemen out of a hundred farmers but that he could not make one good painter out of a hundred noblemen. This same ruler at once ennobled artists in general, which is still commemorated by their coat of arms (being three silver shields on a blue ground). Karel van Mander mentions this incident on page 131 B, in the life of Albrecht Dürer, and a similar one in the life of Hans Holbein II on p. 143. However, it remains to be investigated how this mentioned coat of arms came to be identified as St. Luke’s coat of arms.

The writers who sometimes made it their business to sniff through early developments, both ecclesiastic and worldly, have noticed that when these lands had grown in population and power and with the Roman


Page 241

Faith and profane government settled in, people erected guilds or fraternities for the members of trades and crafts and privileged these with advantages and rights, including some saint or patron or another as guardian angel. Examples are the carpenters’ guild with St. Joseph, the smiths with St. Eligius, the shoemakers with St. Crispin, the tailors with St. John the Baptist, the painters with St. Luke and so forth, which had a particular chapel and altar in churches in which they carried on church services and sacrifices at certain times, from which originated the saying: St. Luke must have a new patch on his old cloak. There were also various other fraternities, such as that of St. Hubert, which had free hunting as privilege and more of the same, who were required to observe religious rites, the one more the other less, according to the institution. For example, the confraternity of the brotherhood of Mary was required to have masses performed at fixed time with prayers for deceased brothers, which they insisted on being allowed to continue unimpeded in the act of surrender, when the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch joined the gentlemen of the States General in 1629. This remained the case, with the exception that this would take place in secret so as not to cause irritation, until 1642, when it had largely died out, excepting that some of the Reformed Religion subscribed to it, which was taken badly by the ‘gentlemen’ preachers of that time, who professed classical proceedings about this


Page 242

in various cities and compiled essays which they submitted to the universities. The preachers of the Classis in Gorichem, meeting in June 1643, were the first who took this work to hand and sent their proposals and questions concerning it in writing to the professors in Leiden. Jacobus Trigland and Friedrich Spanheim were professors of religious studies at the time. He who wishes can check the booklet, Verdict of various Professors etc. concerning the Marian Brotherhood, by a lover of truth etc. printed in 1645, while we, having wandered too far from the track, must step back to the time in which Emperor Charles V governed these lands to say that they endowed some cities with privileges, and also advantaged their guilds with a certain right by which they would keep everything irritating and disadvantageous about their business and actions outside the city, so that they who wished to share in these advantages were necessitated to purchase burgher and guild rights of the cities with money.

Now various painters of the time had taken up the custom of running public stores and sales days of paintings and thus, in pursuit of profit, protected themselves with the privileges of a guild. But when with time glass painting fell into complete neglect and only glass making survived, and when due to hard times even common painters regressed to daubing and increased the number of the coarse painters so that the guild brotherhood therefore consisted mainly of tradesmen, the art practitioners took counter measures,


Page 243

as if the noble art was done an injustice to be classed with the tradesmen. This is why they then sought opportunities to leave that brotherhood and found a confraternity of art practitioners only. In some cities they also involved the art lovers. The brotherhood of Dordrecht was implemented in 1641 with a petition that they presented to the noble gentlemen burgomasters and aldermen of the city, who granted their separation from the glass makers. They not only granted this with few exceptions, but they allowed painters an Act to their advantage, signed M. Berk, with ten articles: That no one was allowed to walk the streets with some paintings too sell these at the doors Etc. XII. That no one coming from the outside was allowed to carry on any public sales of paintings etc. And a further elaboration of this XIth article, granted in 1643, said That no one, be it from outside or inside, be it under any pretence whatsoever, be permitted in any way any sale of paintings, except for those of the art society of St. Luke, called the fine painters, etc.

Painters followed this path in various Dutch cities.

As became clear to me from notes that were taken, those of The Hague came together on the 15th of February 1656 to consider the path to separation and to present a petition concerning it to the council of that place. The petitioners were 48 in number, and among


Page 244

these was Dirck van der Lisse , then ruling alderman.

That same year their request for separation from the guild of glassmakers, chair makers and bookbinders was granted, and at first the upper part of the butter weigh house and later four rooms above the hay market were allotted for their free use. The largest room served for the sale of paintings that came from houses of mourning or other places from which the confraternity draws it profit.

The ceiling of this room, seen from below is divided into four corner compartments with an oval in the centre, all with carving and artfully painted. The first corner piece, painted by Theodoor van der Schuer, depicts the three principal colours. The second, by Daniel Mijtens II, shows where virtue writes histories on the back of fame, which are trumpeted forth by her. The third is by Augustinus Terwesten I, in which perspective and architecture appear. In the fourth, by Robbert Duval, astronomy and geometry are seen. The central compartment, painted by Willem Doudijns, shows the civic might of The Hague, under the protection of which painting, sculpture, glass painting and engraving present themselves. Next to this one sees Pallas accompanied by Love of Art, the coarse painters with ladder and dab pot, the book binders with vice and press, and the chair makers with their tools, diligently pounding away in the heavens of art. And in the chimney piece, painted by Mattheus Terwesten, one sees Mercury training the youth for the school of art, spurred on by fame and reward.

The second room serves as meeting place and displays a glass case full


Page 245

of art books with gilded spines, bequeathed to the art room by someone or another in his memory, as also in two frames, the funeral verses on the burial of the famous painters Daniel Mijtens, which took place on the 19th of September 1688, and Willem Doudijns, the one versified by J. Sterrenberg and the other by Silvius.

The third room was founded in 1682 as the public drawing place or Academie. The fourth room serves for use by the servant of the art society.

Haarlem, one of the oldest cities of Holland, already saw early on a flowering art school and numerous art societies within its walls. But not to drag up everything out of fear of boring the reader, I would only mention something about the art society of the Antwerp painters, because their art society began earlier than any other of the art societies of the Netherlands and, secondly, because no other was favoured with such advantages as that of Antwerp. I wished especially to refresh the memory of it so that all city administrators may be spurred on by this praiseworthy example to give such aid to the elevation of art and repute of cities.

I find booked in the memorial of the painters’ chamber of Antwerp that it began in 1450 and that in 1454 the painters joined together and began the first art society, of which Jan Snellaert and Jan Schuermoke were the first regents or higher members. Since that time art flowered there with great lustre. Also, the art society


Page 246

(so that art might more and more progress) founded an Académie, or place to practice drawing the nude after life in the year 1664, and in the year 1695 a plaster-academy for which they sought out the finest casts of the most esteemed antiques. These Academies or art schools were enlarged and improved in 1694 and 1695, since which time this room displays a marble bust of the Duke of Bavaria, then Governor of the Spanish Netherlands and great lover of the arts, especially the art of painting, as well as a diligent propagator of its practice.

The money for the maintenance of the two mentioneds academies and further associated costs is provided by 12 permits granted by the Governor to the art society at the order of the King of Spain [= Philip IV] to compensate for the mentioned costs for the advancement of art.

Each of these permits is estimated at a value of about 800 guilders, since they are hard to come by. And they are sold by the artists’ society to wealthy citizens, whether guild masters, church masters, neighbourhood masters, reserve officer candidates and lesser officers of the civic guard to give them exemption for life from civic levies, which can be expensive and vexing. Once a privileged individual has died, the permit at once reverts to the art society, which sells it again and helps itself to the income for the maintenance of the art schools.

The last two of the mentioned permits were bestowed on them by favour of the Elector of Bavaria when they inaugurated him as protector of the arts and


Page 247

the art society. This happened on the 2nd of February 1693. The painters’ room was richly hung with brushwork by outstanding masters, and Mister Jan Babtist Grijns, former burgomaster and chief of the art rooms and deacons, fetched the ruler, lit by many torches, to the art room, where a table with delicious food stood arranged to treat his eminence, while all sorts of artful string playing was heard. And at the end opened a stage on which the Antwerp city maiden leaning on a water jug (depicting the Scheldt) appeared. At once Apollo appeared who approached her and spoke: What makes the city maiden so sad? What can be the reason that you have salt tears rolling down your pale cheeks? Take courage; the gods have been moved by your complaints. When at the crack of dawn (continued the sun god) I steered my horses out of the brine, I saw a hero of the house of Austria approach you to place you under his protection, whereby the arts will flower in full lustre as before, etc. A sculptor and painter also appeared on stage, the latter with a painted canvas on which the siege of Belgrade was depicted, and above them Fame, which trumpeted the ruler’s renown. That was also the prime gist of this play, which Barbara Ogier, housewife of Guilliam Kerricx, who versified it, also has me know. And surely this play deserves to be praised, all the more because it was composed in so short a time.


Page 248

Two times four and twenty hours,
Between day and between night,
Was this brought on

But the most amusing part of this play was that the mentioned Kerricx had made the bust of the ruler in marble after a painted portrait without the ruler knowing this, and it was covered with plaster so that it was as if a rough block of stone was brought onstage. The sculptor, who at times during the play looked at the Elector as if he wanted to hack out his image in marble, sometimes gave a blow of the hammer on the block, whereby at first a chunk sprang which revealed the upper crown. Then followed an eye, then the other, the nose and so forth until the sculpture was fully revealed. The Elector stood looking at this in amazement and declared that he had never been amused in this way. This bust still stands in the art room [1]. It would have been better for art if he had remained present. Yes, it is to be regretted that change of ruler extinguished his art fire, but that also had others ignite, so that art rose to great worth.

With this we wish to end our digression and to open the stage curtain with the painter

AELBERT CUYP, born in Dordrecht in 1605. He was the son of Jacob Gerritz. Cuyp, a commendable painter, with whom he studied art, although he differed in handling from his father in that he was a little more tidy, nor as rough in his brush handling as his cousin Benjamin Cuyp, who was a fellow student of his,


Guilliam Kerricx
Portrait of Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria (1662-1726) as Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, dated 1694
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, inv./cat.nr. 678

Page 249

although I have seen things by him that were masterfully brushed. In addition his father stuck to his single preference. To Aelbert, on the contrary, it seemed to be all the same what he made. Oxen, cows, sheep, horses, fruit, landscape, still waters with ships, it seemed to make no difference to him, and what is bound to amaze one is that he painted it all equally handsomely and naturally. In addition he paid particularly close attention to the times of day in which he depicted objects, so that in his scenes one can distinguish the hazy dawn from the clear noon, and that again from the saffron-tinted dusk. I have also seen various moonlights by him which were very naturally depicted and so arranged that the moon was pleasantly reflected in the water. The most important of his artworks are probably those in which he depicts the Dordrecht cattle market, as well as the riding ring, in which he was able to use the picturesque horses that were usually there, so that one could recognize them. That no models or drawings by other masters were found in his place after his death is proof that he followed nature only. Nor was it in his nature to spend money on these models or drawings, for he always had as his motto: Moths don't consume hard rix-dollars. However, he was a man of irreproachable life and elder of the Reformed Church.

In his time he drew a multitude of landscape prospects both outside Dordrecht as elsewhere which, outlined in black chalk and washed with juices, are witty and naturally treated.


Cookies disclaimer

While surfing the internet, your preferences are remembered by cookies. Cookies are small text files placed on a pc, tablet or cell phone each time you open a webpage. Cookies are used to improve your user experience by anonymously monitoring web visits. By browsing this website, you agree to the placement of cookies.
I agree