Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 1, page 300-309


Page 300

Then one hears Askué, and Monken, and Barklaien,
Violators of the free and open sea,
Cry with last breath on the scaffold of the waves.
And pitifully lament over the rejection of peace.
He who would carry the broom gives Tromp the rod in hands
He carries out the
executions in view of two beaches.

And it appears from the following verse that, among others, he also painted a portrait of Jan Vos.

Thus Lievens paints me, to live after my death.
I try in vain to escape from death
with my quill.
The brush is empowered to give the paint a soul.
And he who triumphs
over death, has enormous power
I am
created immortal by Lievens’ hand.

Philips Angel II, who wrote the Lof der schilderkonst in 1642, mentions him with admiration for his knowledge of history and, amongst others, praises a piece in which he depicted naturally and artfully the interrupted sacrifice of Isaac according to description by Flavius Josephus, who said that: after God had prevented the intention of the patriarch, they embraced and kissed each other. Angel also admired the great spirit and ingenious ideas that he demonstrated with respect to the representation of Bathsheba, where he depicted everything in a manner most considered, and therefore as it probably took place at the time.

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Page 301

But here the writer gropes amiss, because he also praises an addition, namely a cupid (which he calls the child who moves the world) painted there in the air, with a flaming arrow instead of a sharp flash, in the thin smoke of which one sees the tender limbs sweetly hovering, seeing that this is certainly a symbolic reference to the fire of passion ignited in the King's heart, which never happens in the Biblical material. But it is generally the case as Junius says: That painters and poets, driven by the same spirit, often try to achieve something new. His portrait appears in Plate N, on the upper side of Palamedes. Follows

FERDINAND BOL. I have thought to place him appropriately after his fellow artist and contemporary (because I was not able to discover his year of birth). Dordrecht claims the honour of his birth, just as Amsterdam that of his education. He was two or three years old when he arrived in Amsterdam. When arrived at the age of reason and finding himself inclined to art, he practiced in it under the great Rembrandt. Both nature and fortune favoured him. Thus he acquired great fame and lots of money in the service of his old age, for he died at a good age in 1681.

Next to a great number of portraits, naturally and powerfully painted, one also sees a multitude of his praiseworthy artworks both in churches as elsewhere which will always support his fame in art.

The great Agrippian commemorates his artwork which, in his Poems in Praise of Paintings etc. he calls the most divine piece

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Page 302

by Ferdinand Bol painted for the august Admiralty Board of Amsterdam, in the travel yacht [1].

The great Sea Lord entreats the holy waters
And
the upper admiral who has entered her service,
That he may make seafaring safe for the land’s peace and freedom
And bless the construction and commerce of the cities.
To carry out that charge obediently the
admiral,
At once uses strength and caution to advantage.
Now no pirate, nor any storm dares
stir up trouble.
Thus trade grows for the growth of the state.

In addition to the largest of the mentioned large pieces one sees various artworks by him in the Amsterdam city hall, such as one in the council chamber above the chimneypiece in which is depicted the election of the elders of Israel to lead the people along with Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses [2-3]. And in the chamber of the aldermen, one in which Moses, having received the law on stone tablets on Sinai, brings them down and shows them to the people [4], to which this verse refers:

The Hebrew Moses has received the law from God,
With which he returns to the people from on high:
Who humbly greet him and welcome
him with longing.
The free
state prospers when people honour the laws.

One sees another example of his brushwork in the burgomaster’s room, for which oft-mentioned Vondel made this caption in explanation of the contents [5].

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1
Ferdinand Bol
Neptune enters the service of the Amsterdam Admiralty, 1661-1663
canvas, oil paint 114 x 158 cm
lower left : F. Bol fecit
Amsterdam, Amsterdam Museum, inv./cat.nr. A 3001


2
Ferdinand Bol
Moses chooses the judges over the people of Israel on the advice of Jethro (Exodus 18:24-25), c. 1655-1656
canvas, oil paint 81 x 66 cm
Saint Petersburg (Russia), Hermitage, inv./cat.nr. 8866

3
Jan van Bronchorst
Moses chooses the judges over the people of Israel on the advice of Jethro (Exodus 18:24-25), dated 1659
465 x 450 cm
Amsterdam, Koninklijk Paleis (Paleis op de Dam)


4
Ferdinand Bol
Moses comes down with the new tablets and is awaited by Aaron and the assembled people, who notice that 'his face is shining' (Exodus 32:15), c. 1660-1666
canvas, oil paint 423 x 284 cm
Amsterdam, Koninklijk Paleis (Paleis op de Dam)

5
Ferdinand Bol
Phyrrus shows his elephant to Fabricius, dated 1656
canvas, oil paint 485 x 350 cm
bottom left of the middle : f.Bol f.1656
Amsterdam, Koninklijk Paleis (Paleis op de Dam)


Page 303

Fabricius* holds his own in Pyrrhus’ army tent.
The gold does not sway him
with shameful craving,
Nor
the snorting of elephants, and fierce threats.
Thus no man of state
succumbs to gifts, nor presents.

Next to him appears

PALAMEDES PALAMEDESZ I. He is counted among the painters of Delft, even though he was born in London. His father was a Fleming and artful craftsman at making mugs, cups, vases, etc. from jasper, porphyry, agate and such precious stones. He lived in Delft when he was summoned in the name of his king, James of Scotland, and as he was detained at the court for ample time, his wife, whom he had taken along, became pregnant of this Palamedes. But he came with his parents back to Delft, where he was subsequently raised and continued to live all his life. He satisfactorily became a master without master, having practiced only by copying the artworks of the renowned Esaias van de Velde, by which, with time, he became used


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* After the battle at the River Liris, the Romans sent Cajus Fabricius as deputation to Achilles, full cousin of Pyrrhus and King of Iperus, who accepted his presence but sought to win him to his side, first by gifts, since he had heard that he was poor, and later by threats of death by a tremendous snorting elephant, but the Roman remained firm and implacable, not even when Achilles offered him a quarter of the empire would he want to stay with him, and showed that a noble Roman valued virtue and loyalty more than the world’s treasures. See Livy in his History of Rome.

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Page 304

not only to his handling but also to his way of composing, so that he was able to depict equestrian combats, active and stationary armies and other military events so well that he garnered fame with all art connoisseurs.

His portrait appears on the lower side of Jan Lievens in Plate N.

He had such great desire and longing to become greater in art that he always took as his devise: to begin as first. But his noble intention was thwarted forever by all-destroying death on the 26th of March 1638, still only 31 years old. He left behind an older brother named Anthonie Palamedesz., who was also a good painter, both of portraits as well as of companies. He joined the St. Luke’s guild in Delft in the year 1636 and he was for the last time head of mentioned guild in 1673.

Since we are about to begin with a changed stage and its apparatus requires a little time, we wish to entertain the reader with a short address, so that the waiting will not sadden him. It serves to supply additional information to what we have said on page 82 about the sacrifices of the heathens, along with their equipment and supplements that must be considered, to which a painter must pay heed when he wishes to depict some heathen sacrifices with what appertains, including the placement of the statue of the deity, for whom the sacrifice is performed, on an elevated pedestal or a hollow niche, be it nude or dressed, in which the art practitioner has freedom

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Page 305

since experience has us see that the Hebrew statues of gods, be they male or female, are depicted nude in their temples at the altars, sometimes also hung with veils, splendid clothes and other precious decorations. These lines from Statius Papinius serve to confirm the first of these claims.

The gray choir virgin feeds the hearth with the fire of vigilance,
No eye will observe the secret shame.

And as for the second, there are no witnesses lacking to confirm it. Trebellius Pollio relates that the tyrant Celsus was decorated with the purple veil of the goddess Celestia. And Vospiscus, that the tyrant Saturnius, when the soldiers proclaimed him emperor, took the purple robe of Venus, and that he was worshipped in the presence of the state servants while wearing a woman’s skirt. The church robber Dionysius tore the golden mantle from the shoulders of Jupiter Olympus on the pretence that it was too heavy for the summer and much too cold for the winter, and instead gave him one made of linen which could cover him in the summer and warm him in the winter.

The painter should also know when he paints the festivities of Mars and Venus that the servants of the idols celebrated them in changing clothing, namely that the women put on a man’s armour and set a helmet on the head, and the men dressed in a woman’s skirt. Especially the Assyrians did this according to the testimony of Julius Firmicus, and Herodotus did not fail

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Page 306

to record such things about the old Babylonians and Egyptians, which custom was subsequently passed on to the Greeks and then to the Romans. By this course of action they opened the door to wanton indecency. That is why Israel’s law giver sharply forbad such activities to the Hebrew people, who were inclined to the idolatry of neighbouring peoples, as may be seen from a multitude of proofs.

Some want the reason why the ancient heathens changed clothing for the mentioned religious observations to be that they assumed that they would be more agreeable to the godheads. But other intellects have decided on firm grounds that this practice originated out of pure ignorance and because they were uncertain whether the gods they served belonged to the male or female sex. This doubtful claim regarding such offerings was committed to book by Arnobius: Sive tu Deus es, sive Dea? That is: Be it that thou art a god or a goddess? Yes this mistake went so far that they even made sacrifices to statues or gods formed in the guise of both sexes. Of these one may reckon the Cyprian Venus as the first.

This goddess (according to the testimony of Macrobius) was depicted in women’s clothing and with a man’s beard, and was worshipped by men in women’s dress and by women in men’s clothing. In the same way blind heathendom of old also depicted Fortune (as depicted in the small book by Mister Jacob Spon from the altar of the unknown

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Page 307

Gods). One can see this image, based on the marble with Willem Goeree on page 579 of Part II of his Mosaïze historie der Hebreeuwse kerke [6], with this inscription.

FORTUNAE BARBATAE Etc.
THE BEARDED FORTUNE.

The painter therefore needs to pay attention to the specific appearance of the statues or idols of distinct ancient peoples, because Jupiter was depicted in an entirely different guise by the Lydians than by the Sicionians.

The latter depicted their Jupiter in the guise of a pyramid tapering from a wide square base to a turned peak, indicating by this that natural intellect (compare to the base) is not empowered to understand divine and heavenly things, since they can only be seen by clear-sighted and enlightened eyes (depicted by the rising peak). And when the priests wished to consult it they carried that statue with much pomp and following through the streets on their shoulders (in a gilded ship hung with silver drinking mugs), singing some holy songs.

The statue was seen differently in Lydia, to wit with a goat skin called diphthera on the inside of which one could write to indicate that Jupiter keeps all the acts of men in his memory (even as letters on parchment) so that he may reward the good in their turn and punish the evil with his lightning.

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6
Jan Goeree published by Willem Goeree
Seraphis a renowned Divinity of the Egyptians (in: Mosaize historie der Hebreeuwse kerke), 1700
paper, engraving ? x ? mm
bottom, in the middle : SERAPIS een Vermaarde Godheyd der Egiptenaaren.
Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, inv./cat.nr. 2" Bh 8110-2


Page 308

His statue was also shown without lightning in his fist but with an axe in the hand, for which Plutarch gives this reason: Hercules, having killed Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons, brought along an axe in addition to other weapons of that victory, which he then gave as a present to his beloved Omphale, who was of Lydian descent, and treated it as holy, just as the kings carried a copy of this axe down to the rule of Candaules, who had a servant carry it behind him. And thus the Lydians had two kinds of images of Jupiter, which is why they called him Jupiter Labradus, because in that language the axe was called Labroum, and with a sword on its side it was named Carius.

The Thebans and various African peoples depicted their Jupiter Ammon with ram’s horns on both sides of the head. And if we consult Servius, the great commentator on Virgil, for the reason for this strange head dress, he will tell us that Jupiter Ammon was depicted with ram’s horns because his answers or oracles had as many turns and twists as such horns. And (according to Eusebius) those of Crete honoured Jupiter in the fire stones and swore thus by him: If I knowingly cheat (I swear by this stone) my father must today cast me out of all my goods.

The image of Mercury was differently formed, sculpted of wood or stone, when he was honoured as the god of eloquence.

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Page 309

He was different when they served him as promoter of the free arts, and different again when they saw him as settler of disputes. Then one saw at his feet a white rod around which two snakes were wrapped in remembrance of when, seeing two fighting snakes, he had separated that struggle with the intervention of his rod. That is why of old the emissaries to the making of peace carried such a sign with them. For the same reason his image was placed next to a statue of Minerva in the galleries and disputation schools of the old philosophers, to which a painter may therefore help himself (as a necessary subsidiary ornament) when he wants to depict a company of ancient literary scholars and orators.

The heathens depicted Diana in a different way, since they honoured her as guardian goddess of the hunt and forests. She was otherwise taken for the moon and honoured as the bringer of light by night. She was then depicted with a burning torch in both hands, as one sees her image thus stamped on a medal of Faustina with the inscription DIANA LUCIFERA.

Her statue stood displayed in an entirely different guise with those people who took her for the feeder and producer of all living creatures. She was thus honoured by the Ephesians, which is why one sees her on the back of a medal of the Emperor Claudius, standing in a temple portal with the inscription DIAN. EPHE. Of which François Perrier shows us a clearly drawn copy in print (following

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