Houbraken Translated


Volume 1, page 110-119

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for her favour with reproduction, and to Ceres so that the fields would not be uprooted by their snouts.

No blood was offered to the border-god Terminus in early times because he is a peacemaker between the occupants of the land and the landowners, and the villagers were accustomed annually to wreathe his statue and to drench it with sacrificial cakes. Later on a suckling pig was offered to him. See chapter 15 of the 23rd [2nd] book of Ovid’s Almanac.

The Lampsaceners annually slaughtered a donkey to the garden god Priapus, and they offered the intestines to Vesta, on which feast day a donkey is hung with a decorated collar. The others get holy evening and are loosened from the treadmill as thankful remembrance of when the garden god intended quietly to creep up on Vesta in her sleep, the donkey of Silenus awoke her by his braying so that she could escape from this sweet-toothed one. See the 5th chapter of the 2nd book of Ovid’s Almanac. On the feast day of Saturn, a human being was slaughtered. This inhuman practice sprang from a misinterpretation of the oracle. Such an error (says Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa on p. 20 of his book about The Vanity of Arts and Sciences) befell the Greeks and Italians because of the ambiguity of the word Φῶς, which could mean a man and a light, by which the one-time organizers of the feasts of Saturn, misled by the ambiguity of the word, for years offered a human being to Saturn, though they could have satisfied him by lighting wax candles or some other light. This miscomprehension of the people at last having been understood through instruction by Hercules, they later became wiser,


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although (according the testimony of Curtius) the Carthaginians continued this annual inhuman slaughter of human beings for many years.

The vintners had the custom of sacrificing a ram or goat to Bacchus every year so that he would prevent damage to their vines. Juno, on the contrary, had an aversion to goats, although those of Sparta, since preceded by Hercules, sacrificed a goat annually on her feast day. Such particularities, now introduced obliquely, we will treat elsewhere and proceed to a further show of prints.

With the decoration of altars, of which we just spoke, we must also say that the heathens were wont to decorate the plinths between the upper frame, which supports the temple roof and the capitals (for which this marble chunk or Plate XII provides proof) and thus placed them in the interiors of their temples to generate attention to pious reflections, just as this stone, walled in above the gate of St. Justus near Lyons, may still be seen to keep the memory of this practice alive. Where, above the festoons with offerings, tied to two horned skulls may be seen a so-called Pater, being a sacrificial bowl or the basin in which people were accustomed to catch the blood of slaughtered animals. See Oudaan’s Roomsche mogentheid, p. 557. This bowl served to drink from during the sacrifice for (as Mister Ludolf Smids’ notes in this margin notation on Ovid’s work). Rarely were


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there offerings without banquets from which the exta or entrails of the slaughtered animals were gobbled up, boiled or fried by the cooks who were always present there. One sees the appearance of the pot or kettle, named olla, in XIII. Next to it in XIV. the incense chest named Acerra, from which the priest, as soon as the sacrificial meat was smouldering, took a part and tossed it in the fire to lessen the smell of the singed meat. XV. Shows a portable water jug, serving to cleanse the sacrifice, including XVI., the skin of a slaughtered animal. This at times served for the priests who spent the night in the temple to await divine answers from the gods on which they sought to rest, to which Virgil refers in the VIIth book when he says:

On skins spread out he sought sleep. For the gods (says Cicero) speak to those who sleep.

Next to this in XVII. is seen the head of a ram, which has the same meaning as we gave for the head of a bull. XVIII. shows the appearance of a sacrificial jug, with which the sacrificial servants carried the wine to the temple or wherever the sacrificial service was conducted, and XIX., two different cups to pour the sacrificial wine on the altar or to fill the drinking bowls (after they had been filled from the offering jug named praefericulum or sympulum).

XX. A small white earthenware jug with a narrow neck called Urceus, Urcelolus, or Guttus (Oudaan calls it a dripping jar) because the moisture came out in drops


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and was used to pour out water for cleansing or washing the hands or to pour oil on the sacrifice. In the year 1520 such a jug was found in the ground or inside the dismantled walls of the Huis te Britten, possibly founded by Emperor Caligula but now covered by seawater. We present a drawing of this small jug (in safe keeping with the Lord of Wassenaar along with other antiquities) entirely like one sees it on various coins of Emperor Antonius and others. Next to it is the divining rod. XXI. of which Joachim Oudaan says: The diviner, intended to receive some omens, held this rod in the hand and drew or stroked some sections of the heavens with it to observe the omens of what would come to pass without letting his eyes wander. Oudaan is also of the opinion that (since it was hollow) the diviner was able to blow on it and make a sound like a battle clarion. XXII. The sprinkler or the sprinkling brush dipped in the water with which the sacrificial torch was extinguished. It served along with a bay leaf or other green branch to sprinkle the sacrificers or the offering, which sprinkling the heathens held in great esteem, imagining thereby to be cleansed of criminal stains. Virgil, describing the funeral of Misenus says that Coryneus, having placed the bones in a copper vat, sprinkled those who were around with clean water, using an olive branch as brush.

Herewith we show XXIII., the holy-water font. This was placed at or in the entryway


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to the temples to spray those who entered. We here show a handsome specimen as imitated after a remnant. Finally XXIV., an illustration of the hollow saucer or blood pan called Discus. Oudaan calls it a flat tub, which was used to catch the blood of the sacrificial animals being slaughtered or to cleanse entrails in it. Artists should not fail to place some flutists or pipers next to the sacrifice, seeing that they always play a part in the funeral ceremonies and happy feasts. They play on a few flutes named Tibae and on double flutes which are handled from the right and left, the one playing a high or sharp tone and the other a low or dull tone. Of which we show the kinds A. B. C. from old commemorative stones in the just preceding print.

We will discuss other particulars in another place, when we will treat the feasts that were customary among the heathens, and particularly those that were accompanied with fierce playfulness, drunkenness and lewdness. We therefore wish to break off our digression here.

With the opening of this new stage appear David Teniers and Hendrik van der Borght, followed by their contemporaries.

An inexperienced helmsman may finally reach his harbour after much tossing about on the wild waves, but he who takes on an experienced pilot in time goes more surely.

In the beginning DAVID TENIERS the elder took his direction from that experienced pilot in art Peter Paul Rubens,


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under whom he progressed so far that he went to Rome to practice his art. He lived in Italy for ten years with the famous Adam van Frankfoort, nicknamed Elsheimer. He blended the different ways of painting of the one and the other into one and stuck to that manner both on large scale and small. He hailed from Antwerp , being born in the year 1582 and dying in 1649.

HENDRIK van der BORCHT the elder was born in Brussels in the year 1583. But in year 1586 he moved to Germany with his parents because of the troubles by which Brabant was shaken especially at that time, and was raised there. Having arrived at his years of understanding, his preference fell on the art of painting, which is why his parents placed him with the painter Gillis van Valkenborch. After separating from him he continued his art in Italy. Returned from there he settled in Frankenthal, living there until the year 1627, when he went to Frankfurt with his household.

He was also a great connoisseur of all sorts of rarities and antique medals, which especially endeared him to the Earl of Arundel. He died at a good old age, but where and when has remained unknown to me up to now.

Among the number of painters whom we find listed by Cornelis de Bie without any indication of their place of birth or time of death, or with whom they studied art, are mentioned

WENZEL COEBERGHER. He was Praefectus Generalis Montium Pietatis Bruxellis, Alberti Archiducis quondam Pector humenarum Figurarum.


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That is, painter of the Archduke Albrecht and general commander of the mountain of mercy in Brussels. Florent le Comte, sculptor and painter in Paris, wrote in his Het konst-cabinet that he was a student of Maerten de Vos, who died in the year 1604 at the age of 70. To which he adds the following story, that Coebergher, having been struck by love, fell in love with the daughter of Maerten de Vos and that to evade that passion he undertook a journey to Rome, thinking (as the proverb goes) out of sight, out of mind, as also happened.

When he had been in Rome for a while, he left for Naples, where he met a Brabanter named Jacques Franckaert I, one of the first and most famous painters of that time. He had not been there for long, but he fell in love (for Cupid followed him with his dart of love) with the daughter of Franckaert [= Suzanne Francart], so much so that he asked her hand in marriage, which, because he was a young man of good prospects and possessed great intellect, was granted him. He then remained in Italy for some time, eagerly and diligently continuing his art after the best models, but finally left for Brabant. In Antwerp, in the chapel of the archers in the church of Our Lady , he painted a Saint Sebastian larger than life [1], with some women in the background weeping over the martyr’s death of that saint, in whose features he showed the lines of death so naturally that all art lovers must have been amazed and astonished when they saw it. But it was his misfortune that the work


Wenzel Coebergher
The preparations for the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, 1598-1599
Nancy, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy, inv./cat.nr. 92

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did not hang in the church for long before the head of the saint was cut out with a knife and purloined (without knowing who had done it). He filled the gap back in with a piece of gessoed cloth and painted in another head, but it did not succeed as well as the first. After that he travelled from Antwerp to Brussels for Duke Albrecht, who kept him as his painter and especially loved him because he was so knowledgeable about medals. Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc came from France to see his cabinet. He showed it to him and pointed out many things to provide information about them. Coebergher also understood architecture, so much so that he was architect of the church of our Lady of Montaigu [2], which he made after the model of the St. Peter’s church in Rome, and also the Augustinian church in Brussels [= Antwerp]. He also made many fountains and decorations in the ducal palace in Fornure, otherwise known as Veurne, located between Nieuwpoort, Dunkerk and Diksmuide, the most endearing region of Flanders. From this circumstance one can calculate (even if one is no Oedipus) at what time he lived, to give him a place among the most commendable art practitioners. For the Archduke Albrecht, son of Emperor Ferdinand II, was born in 1560, married in the year 1599 and died in 1621. Thus (assuming nothing more precise turns up about it) we will place him in the year 1583.

One sees his portrait, following the painting by Anthony van Dyck [3], at the top of Plate F, next to that of Lucas van Uden.

In 1584 Leiden, fruitful in the production of artist, brought forth



Wenzel Coebergher
Basilica of Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel (Montaigu)
Photo: Wikimedia commons

Anthony van Dyck
Portrait of Wenzel Coebergher (1560-1634), c. 1630
Amsterdam, Amsterdam Museum, inv./cat.nr. A 10151

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JACOB VOSMAER, hailing from the old family of Vosmaers. He was at first a landscape painter but later turned entirely to the painting of flowers, with which he was most fortunate. In his springtime he visited Italy and in the year 1608 (then 24 years old) returned to his native city of Delft, where (although he was a major of the civic guard) he continued to practice to the satisfaction of art lovers until he died in the year 1641.

In that same year was born in the city of Leiden DAVID BAILLY, son of Pieter Bailly, who was an artful painter in his day. Seeing in him a natural passion for art from his youth on, his father let him draw after prints on his own for some time. Having by accident come to the shop of Jacques de Gheyn, he developed inclination to learn to handle the engraving stylus, which he practiced for a year and improved satisfactorily. But having greater desire for painting, his father placed him with Adriaen van der Burch to be instructed in art, although he kept himself amused with medicine at that time, until he left for Amsterdam in the year 1601 to continue art under the tutelage of Cornelis van der Voort, then deemed to be the best portraitist, with whom he remained for about six years. And as the latter owned many artful paintings by other artists, he found opportunity to copy one now and then. Among these was a temple by Hendrik van Steenwijck, which he copied so artfully that the mentioned Steenwijk had difficulty


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distinguishing one piece from the other.

Having returned from Amsterdam to Leiden, wanderlust milled around in his head. Thus, in the winter of 1608 he left for Hamburg, going from there to Germany, Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Augsburg and several other cities, through Tirol to Venice and from there to Rome to learn, where possible, the handling of Italian artists and to settle there for a long time. But after he had not been there for long a certain accident had him change his intention and return to Venice. He remained there only five months and from there travelled contentedly back to his fatherland by the same road that he had taken before. That was in the year 1610. Descending via Germany he visited various German courts, especially the court of Brunswick, where the Duke wished to grant him an annual salary if he were to enter his service for some years, which he declined. Finally, tired of travelling, he returned to Leiden in the year 1613, so as to practice his art in quiet after having come to rest.

People (the proverb says) live by change. That also appears from our David Bailly, for in the year 1623 he exchanged his bold brush for the finely cut pen and drew many detailed portraits in ink on parchment (which he then heightened with the brush) in which lovers of art took great pleasure.

Around this time (in his Korte beschryving van Lugdunum Batavorum nu Leyden) Simon van Leeuwen


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