Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 1, page 290-299


Page 290

Thus Abraham drew himself after life,
We recognize
his hand and spirit from outline and stroke,
The flow with equal richness, like a deep creek [diepen
beek].
It’s
a fine arrangement of nature granted to few
The field in which he
grazes with his gifted brush.
The fount of the man’s intellect does not cede to rays of the sun
Nor even to Apelles’ eye in churches and in rooms.
Witness
print and canvas, and choir glass and panel.

After this we let follow Abraham’s contemporary JAN THOMAS born in Ypres. He had chosen the same wake of art as the preceding artist. Wanderlust and the desire to be more complete in art early on drove him to Italy, famous for its excellent masters in art. Climbed up in art through steady application and diligence, he was painter of the Bishop of Mainz [= Elector Johann Philipp von Schönborn]. And in the year 1662 he was painter at the court of Emperor Leopold I.

On him follows his diligent contemporary

THEODOOR van THULDEN. He showed clearly by tireless application that he was after lasting fame, just as he gave evidence of that which, in spite of his detractors, will announce his ability in art for as long as they live. He painted many praiseworthy altarpieces, but his preferences most inclined to the depiction of peasant kermises, weddings and all sort of witty boorish scenes. He also had a good etching technique, as one can see from the Ulysses by Francesco Primaticcio of Bologna, which he made in Paris [1-2]. In 1662 he lived in

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1
Theodoor van Thulden after Nicolò dell' Abate after Francesco Primaticcio
Odysseus telling his adventures to Penelope, 1633
paper, etching, copper engraving, letterpress print 204 x 248 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. BI-1883-1235-51

2
Theodoor van Thulden after Nicolò dell' Abate after Francesco Primaticcio
The cyclops Polyphemus guards his flock, 1633
paper, etching, copper engraving, letterpress print 225 x 256 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. BI-1883-1235-12


Page 291

‘s-Hertogenbosch, his place of birth, and was esteemed by everyone for his art. So also

JUSTUS SUSTERMANS of Antwerp, who was highly esteemed for his art by the Grand Duke of Florence, and beloved by all the courtiers. So also was

JAKOB von SANDRART of Amsterdam esteemed and honoured by his contemporaries and fellow artist for his handsome compositions and pleasing painting at the electoral court of Bavaria.

Now appears the famous

PAUL de VOS, born in Hulst in Flanders. Fortune pursued him with favour and advantages both in Spain and in other realms and courts. He was an excellent painter of animal hunts, with which he also decorated various rooms for the Duke of Aerschot, where he was still active in 1662. His portrait [3] as well as those of Theodoor van Thulden and Justus Sustermans have come out in print amongst the portraits cut by Pontius after Van Dyck and Diepenbeeck.

In that same year 1607, on the 19th of November, that great light of art ERASMUS QUELLINUS was born in Antwerp. He was at first so advanced in languages and literary sciences that he became Magister Philosophiae, but he later turned to the practice of painting and was famous on account of his bold brush and composing of histories, as in Antwerp, in the refectory or dining hall of the Norbertines of the Saint Michael's [Abbey], which he [= Jan Erasmus Quellinus] decorated entirely with histories from the New Testament in which eating and drinking people may be seen [4-6] (as, among others, where

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3
Anthony van Dyck and Joannes Meyssens and Schelte Adamsz. Bolswert
Portrait of Paul de Vos (1595-1678), c. 1630-1641
paper, etching, engraving, 8th state 237 x 152 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-BI-7426

4
Hendrik Causé after Jacques van Croes after Jan Erasmus Quellinus
Paintings on the northern wall in the refectory of the Sint Michielsabdij in Antwerp, 1660-1699
paper, etching, copper engraving 305 x 508 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-OB-7113


6
Hendrik Causé after Jacques van Croes after Jan Erasmus Quellinus
Painting on the western wall in the refectory of the Sint Michielsabdij in Antwerp, 1660- 1699
paper, etching, copper engraving 308 x 160 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-OB-7114

6
Hendrik Causé after Jacques van Croes after Jan Erasmus Quellinus
Painting on the eastern wall in the refectory of the Sint Michielsabdij in Antwerp, 1660- 1699
paper, etching, copper engraving 308 x 162 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-OB-7115


Page 292

Christ lies at the table and Mary salves his feet). These like other meaningful depictions to which he was able to apply an astute judgment and artful treatment of the objects, show us that he was a great master in art.

This, and nothing else, have I been able to say about Peter Paul Rubens, his teacher of art. Nor do I know if his elevated art outstrips that of his master. Consequently I believe I have bestowed the praise that he deserves. Cornelis de Bie, on the contrary, raises the sail of his lustre so high that is doubtful that it can stand up to the winds of contradiction. Thus he says:

So I believe that the spirit of Zeuxis or Raphael
Is mixed
with the soul in the body of Quellinus.
For the reason that his art was able to achieve such power
As if he had sucked the first milk out of Pictura
So wonderfully his art
glimmers at the peak of honour:
........

This is not enough for our writer, but he continues to promote the fame of Quellinus’ art thus:

What Greece fails to mention when it wishes to boast about art,
And thinks to
surpass the world with its painters,
Because Protogenes did not find anyone
(So it appears) his equal in any kingdom.
But no. Erasmus can silence their thirst for fame

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Page 293

When his worthy hand shows a trial piece........
This goes a tone too high.

The marble statues (the paintings have been eradicated by time) which were transported from Greece to Rome are examples that irrefutably demonstrate that the art of that time had climbed to the highest level.

To take for bluster everything that the ancients have written in praise of it, and to elevate the art of Quellinus so high that nothing that made the ancient artists famous can touch it, seems to me to tend to bragging. If De Bie had said that the artworks of Quellinus had far exceeded the art and power of a painting, believed authentic, that St. Luke painted after the Holy Mary, as it could not match his works, it would be easier to believe. For it has happened that a connoisseur who was shown a scene painted by St. Luke (as people claimed) and studied it attentively, finally said: Luke, Luke! How lucky you are to be dead, for if you lived today and had to make your living with painting, you would hardly earn dry bread.

When my master Samuel van Hoogstraten was at the court in Vienna, the aforementioned piece by St. Luke was so worn by time that it had lost almost all of its power, for which reason Emperor Ferdinand had it copied. But why argue? Our writer is a poet, and the Latin saying of Horace applies here:

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Page 294

.......... Painters and poets
Have equal power to dare anything
.

His son, Jan Erasmus Quellinus, was in Rome in 1660, when he was only 27 years old, where his art net with great success.

Our Erasmus, whose portrait is seen at the bottom of Plate N, also had a nephew named Artus Quellinus, who practiced the art of sculpture. Vondel calls him the light of sculpture and Netherlandish Phidias and expresses himself thus about his portrait, as painted by Nicolaes de Helt Stockade:

Stockade thus painted half of the visible part
Of Artus
Phidias. Why not all of him,
Body and soul equally, his art with all its sparks?
Thus
Quellinus carved himself in marble.

The reader may well have noticed that at the beginning of Quellinus’ biography, when I showed the contents of some of his brushworks, I said lay at the table to indicate that Jews were in the habit of reclining on beds during their meals. However, it may not be unserviceable if my pen expands more widely about this, so that youthful painters can make use of this when they wish to show such subjects and avoid the straying of many.

From where and when the habit of reclining at meals crept in amongst the Jews cannot be said with certainty. Hugo de Groot is of the opinion that this custom came to the Jews through emulation of the

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Page 295

Assyrians and Persians, for we read in Esther 7 verse 8 that Haman fell on the bed on which Esther lay. It could also be that the practice was passed on to the Greeks and then to the Jews. One reads in Plato: Boys take off the shoes of Alcibiades; so that he may lie down. Thus, with the feet unshodden and projecting backwards from the bed, and with Christ following that way of lying down, it is easy to understand how Mary the sister of Lazarus anointed the feet of Christ.

We find with Antonius Bynaeus a remarkable instance drawn from Aristophanes, where the old Philocleon sums up the many services performed for him: And first my daughter washes me and anoints my feet and kisses them kneeling down. Thus Luke also said in chapter 7, verse 38 of his gospel: And standing (to wit Mary) behind his feet, she began to wet his feet with tears and she dried them with the hair on her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with salve.

The anointing of feet is also mentioned by Jewish masters. Johannis Lichtforus has an instance from the Tractate Menachot from which this is to be seen. The maid, it says, brought a golden vat full of oil with which he anointed his hands and feet.

We have also thought it not unserviceable to indicate the way of reclining at the table with a sketch drawn from a very old marble stone shown by Fulvio Orsini, on which is depicted a bed next to a table with three legs at which lie a man and his wife. And we have imitated it in Plate N next to

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Page 296

the portrait of Erasmus Quellinus. Next to it we also show a snuffed-out grave lamp to indicate that the above mentioned lights of art have been extinguished by time, envious of their fame.

Around this time we also find mention of a CHARLES ERRARD II, praised by Cornelis de Bie on page 520 of his Het gulden cabinet.

By whom his art brush full of lively niceties
Temps the spirit and seduces by
gracefulness.

Leiden, which like other Dutch cities could also pride itself on the production of townsmen who stood out like bright torches in the art of painting, also produced in the year 1607, on the 24th of October,

JAN LIEVENS. His father Lieven Hendricx was an artful embroiderer, later a leaseholder. And seeing the great inclination and passion that his son had for the art of painting, he placed him, but eight years old, with one Joris van Schooten to establish the foundation and rudiments of art. When he had become about ten years old, his father, seeing that he persisted in that passion, decided to let him proceed and placed him with the famous painter Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam, with whom he remained for two full years and commendably progressed in art.

After this time he practiced art on his own, using life as his instructor and brought it so far with diligence and assiduity (and luck being on his side) that all connoisseurs were amazed that a boy of

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Page 297

twelve or a few more years was able to achieve so much in art. At that time he copied the Democritus and Heraclitus by Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem so closely that people could not discern any distinction between the two [7].

As an example of his special diligence and unrelenting passion, the chronicler of Leiden tells that when in the year 1618, on the 4th of November, a great disturbance broke out in Leiden between Remonstrant mercenaries and other citizens, so much so that the burgomasters were obliged to have the musketeers take up arms to quell the disturbance, he sat there drawing with such diligence that he neither paid any attention to it all nor became unsettled.

He early on made handsome portraits, especially that of his mother Machtelt Jansdr. van Noortsant, which was marvellously artful, as well as handsome compositions. Amongst these was one depicting a student, amusingly got up in hat and clothes, sitting reading a book by a burning peat fire. It was life-sized and so skilfully painted that the Prince of Orange [= Frederik Hendrik] had it bought and bestowed it on the English ambassador [= Robert Kerr], who in turn presented it to his King [= Charles I], who took great pleasure in it. That was also the reason why, when he got the inclination to see other lands, he went to England, where he was welcomed and painted the King, Queen, Prince of Wales and many of the greatest Lords, for which he was richly rewarded. This was in the year 1631, when he was about 24 years old.

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7
Jan Lievens after Cornelis Ketel
The philosopher Heraclitus weeping, c. 1623
panel, oil paint 45,7 x 40,6 cm
Aachen, Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum


Page 298

Having been in England around three years he returned to Calais and from there to Antwerp, where he settled down with his household and married the daughter of Michiel Colijns [= Andries de Nole], the famous sculptor in stone. At this time he painted many works worthy of fame for papist monks and special persons, such as in 1640 for the Prince of Orange as well as two pieces for the Leiden burgomasters, one of which depicted the famous deed of the Roman Scipio Africanus when he returns the engaged princess inviolate to her groom.

He also had the honour (along with Govert Flinck and Ferdinand Bol) of painting an important piece in the city hall of Amsterdam [6], for which Vondel made the following inscription (written below by the famous pen and brush calligrapher Lieven Willemsz. van Coppenol).

The son of Fabius* orders his own father
To dismount for the city’s honour and
respectability.
He
recognizes no blood, and demands that he approach respectfully.
Thus
a man of state honours his appointed function.

This piece hangs in the burgomasters’ room over the chimneypiece.


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* The burgomaster Suesso commanded his own father, Quintus Fabius Maximus, sent to him as emissary by the Council of Rome, to dismount, since there was a law that no one sitting on horseback should approach a burgomaster to address him. The father obeyed this order with respect and showed his son the deference that he was owed as burgomaster.

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6
Jan Lievens
Quintus Fabius Maximus descends from his horse at the command of his son (Livius XXIV, 44,9 en Val.Max.II,2,4), dated 1656
canvas, oil paint 203 x 175 cm
Amsterdam, Koninklijk Paleis (Paleis op de Dam)


Page 299

His commendable art is also eternalized by the phoenix pen of the same Vondel. On page 340 of his Lofdichten op Schilderyen etc. you have one about the portrait of the burgomaster Lambert Reinst and on Mrs Alida Bicker van Swieten etc. And still another on a lion painted by him, being a discussion between painter and poet.

Poet.
What brings me now to a desert?
Here lies a lion, and not its appearance.
He burns for prey and human muscles.
Painter.
He has overcome his wild nature
Thus art tames the king of animals,
Which triumphs over everything.

He also had the honour of painting with his brush the portraits of Michiel de Ruyter [8], admiral, and Cornelis Tromp, vice admiral of Holland, about which Vondel expresses himself thus:

When Jurk, the British Turk, would yawn across the seas,
And swallow fleets in his insatiable
stomach,
Then he carries the broom as coat of arms on
his mast,
And threatens the
power of The Hague from new Algeria
How much longer?
Until the seaman Tromp, gone wild
Taunted by revenge for the blood of murdered prisoners.
A beautiful water colour, is painted after life,
Ignites for the father’s death in never extinguished glow,
He sweeps to the East and West with robbers broomstick
Both straits from this harbour violating scum,
And whips it until breast and loins bleed horribly,
In punishment for violence suffered by Christendom.

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8
Abraham Bloteling after Jan Lievens
Portrait of Michiel Adriaensz. de Ruyter (1607-1676)
paper, mezzotint, engraving, 2nd state 364 x 270 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-OB-17.010


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