Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 1, page 70-79


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since thanks to him many commendable masters in art sprang forth who copied his grandeur of composition and power of painting and used them in their own works. However, they had slight opportunity for this, especially not for large and profitable works during the lifetime of their master, since he had people of means on a string so that the work usually fell into his hands or flowed his way without effort. This appeared from various examples of commendable masters who were his students, especially Anthony van Dyck, who when he had made something for the monastery brothers, was so haggled down by them that the fire of painting was more extinguished than fed. To confirm this with an example, it happened that at a time that he was separated from his master, Anthony van Dyck painted a work which was to serve as an altarpiece for a church and the capped brothers wished to skimp so much that it was to be doubted that his fingers would turn blue from counting the money, because they behaved as if they wanted him to keep it. This especially grieved him because at this time he was, as the proverb says, no more overloaded with money than frogs with feathers. In consequence of the injustice done to him he headed outside the city, musing about what means could best be taken to hand in order to save himself in this matter. It happened at this time that Rubens had himself driven around the fields in his coach as relaxation for his spirit, where he encountered Van Dyck,

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from whose face he could see at first glance that there was something amiss. He therefore enquired after the reason for his lonely walking and sadness, which he confessed frankly to his former master, who alleviated his melancholy by saying to him that he would come to his home the next day to see the work and think up means to be of service to him. This happened, for he came to Van Dyck on another day, saw the work and paid him in cash the sum that he had asked for it and had it brought to his house. The monastic superiors, now understanding that Rubens had discovered their miserly behaviour, were ashamed, since he was held in such great respect and esteem, and were glad that they got the work out of his hands at the same price.

It would seem a great ingratitude if I were to say that Van Dyck and Rubens did not henceforth live in amiability and friendship, had I not discovered the secret reason for this, which I will reveal in the right place.

As I have repeatedly said, Rubens was then esteemed and liked by all the great on account of his birth, behaviour, honorary titles and art. Added to this, he had married as his second wife Hélène Fourment, who was a Helen in beauty, this being a handsome advantage for a painter wishing to save the cost of a model. In addition, she possessed great intellect and much money, commodities enough to suffice for three, and also had wealthy friends who

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could be of service to him. Moreover, all the benefits of the brush came for the most part easily to him. In addition, he had unusual competence in flattering all the great, and thus to enter their favour to his profit, so that the saying of Johan de Brune in his Banket-werk could be applied to him: That quick intellects know how to make arrows from all wood to shoot at their target.

He built a house for himself in Antwerp that must have cost him sixty thousand guilders, and in it a room along the lines of the Pantheon in Rome, into which the light descended from above through a single opening in the roof. He hung this room with Italian, French and Dutch masterpieces, and amongst these some by his own hand, which cabinet was renowned everywhere, so that the Duke of Buckingham [=George Villiers], who also wanted to decorate his palace with art, ordered Mister Michiel le Blon, lover and good connoisseur of art, to buy 60,000 guilders worth from there, as happened. This certainly must have made Rubens feel good, as his knife, as the saying goes, cut both ways, and he knew the road to making money on all sides. Thus he piled up an immense treasure, and the whole world had to know.

It was not long after this sale that a cunning lad planned an assault on that fat booty but found himself badly deceived in his plan. It was the famous alchemist Mr. Brendel from London. He attached himself to Rubens with many hopeful discourses and assurances of

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the certain outcome of his gold maker's art, offering him his services for half the profits, provided that Rubens would set up a laboratory and supply the essentials required for it. But Rubens, after patiently letting him speak his piece, answered him politely, sensibly and inventively as follows: Dear Sir, I thank you for the offer. But you come precisely 20 years too late, for since that time I have found the true Lapis Philosophorum in the brush. And thus dismissed him.

Now almost nothing more certainly results when someone is able to climb to the heights of honour by the special competence that he has above others in arts and sciences, so that Fame spreads the news everywhere, than that it at once causes a stimulus in others to a passion which, depending on the nature or humour, has two effects. The first is for evil, which one calls envy because it envies another’s prosperity and cannot abide his welfare, and one for the good, which we call emulation because it does not envy another’s welfare but wishes also to be in that state. That is not to be disapproved off, and that is even less the case if it serves them as stimulus to take the same path by which one is elevated to that honour and happiness that makes people excel above others.

Truly, experience has taught us that art has not flowered in centuries as it did in the time of Peter Paul Rubens, from whose torch many lit their candle,

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and who knows what further service he could have done for art if the sun of his life had not fogged over by an inescapable cloud of fate, which teaches us that

All that is born must once perish.

Two or three years before his death he had a tremor in his hands in the nature of a stroke, which is why he had to forego large works. However, he painted small pieces, mostly landscapes, on the easel so that he could make greater use of his maulstick.

He died in Antwerp on the 30th of May of the year 1640, and was buried with considerable and splendid funereal pomp, for the corpse was preceded by someone carrying a black velvet pillow, and on it a gilded crown, and the corpse was followed by a great train of those most important, both sacred and profane, and of artists. The corpse was carried to St. John’s church, where his grave may still be seen.

He left a daughter and a son, some say two sons, by his second marriage. The eldest, named Albertus has been secretary or confidential clerk of the States of Flanders.

We based his true likeness after the best of sketches at the top of Plate D so that we should commemorate the painter’s praiseworthy treatment of young artists and effort for the progress of art, and present him so much more pleasantly as if in a mirror.

Politeness and inclination to serve everyone causes a man to be esteemed and confers lustre on his art.

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It is hardly to be expected that all art practitioners should like each other equally. But differences between individuals should never be cause for contempt for respective works of art. Raphael of Urbino and Michelangelo Buonarote were not the best of friends but they still praised each other’s work. Raphael was familiar in his conduct, polite, loyal friend and inclined to be of service to everyone and to instruct those of acquisitive nature openly about art, which is why when he went for a walk he was usually accompanied by a lot of painters and students. It happened that Michelangelo thus met him in the street and said: ecco il Barigello con tutta la sua sbirreria, which means: see the magistrate accompanied by his host of servants. To which Raphael shot back at him: è tu caminate solo come la Boja, which means: and you walk alone like a headsman.

Michelangelo was of a glummer nature and was in the habit of saying what was on his mind, which is why he had few friends and was usually alone, so that it was only on account of his art that he was esteemed. It once happened that the Pope showed him his art and cabinet treasures (an honour that rarely happens to anyone). Because Michelangelo did not once show amazement, as others often did, the Pope said: We cannot say, as Peter once did: Gold or silver we do not have. That is true, Michelangelo answered, but that is why your holiness cannot say: stand up and walk.

Speaking openly has its time,
says Juvenal. Truth is praised, but most suffer cold. To always speak the truth is to always make enemies,

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and there is no more dangerous desert than to live without friends. To live without friends, says the Spanish proverb, is to die without witnesses.

The great multitude of artists that Rubens nurtured as his students also included PIETER SOUTMAN. Because we were not able to discover the time of his birth or death, we have not been able to place him more appropriately than after his master.

Samuel Ampzing calls him Pieter Claesz. Soutman and also commemorates him in the Beschrijving ende lof der stad Haarlem, where he was born and died, with this small verse.

How could the name of SOUTMAN have been omitted here,
Who earned his status
with his bold brush,
Achieved through his art
such honour and fame,
That he is the painter of his Prussian majesty.

He is judged to have been among the best that sprouted from that school. When he came to art, he was a youngster with much spirit and penetrating intellect which, ever further polished by good instruction, had him climb to the fame of a great master.

The samples of his art that he left show that he was not beloved and honoured at the Polish court through favouritism but by his accomplishments. He painted portraits and large compositions.

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CORNELIS SCHUT I, who sprang from the same school, was born in Antwerp. Mount Olympus favoured his spirit with poetic finds which showed up in his art and made him all the more beloved. He applied himself to showing bold and bustling subjects and, in addition to painting, also handled the engraver’s stylus, as may be seen from the multitude of prints that proceed from his hand, which though not in all respects equally polished and firm in outline, still testify to his quick spirit. Cornelis de Bie also alludes to his etching when he says:

The work shows the deed, what else need be said?
The printing press also points
to his art full of niceties.

The great Van Dyck painted his portrait on small scale out of love for his art and also as service to his fellow artists and plate cutters [1], and for the same reason we have placed his bust in Plate E, with Frans Snijders and Jan Brueghel I down below. Now follows

SAMUEL HOFMANN of Zurich. After Fame had carried the renown of Rubens’ work on her wings to that world centre, he descended to the Netherlands and joined the school of Rubens, where he raised himself by his lessons and observation of his handling to be a good master in art. He later settled in Amsterdam, where he made many commendable artworks, including portraits. He married in the year 1628 and then headed with his wife for Zurich, where he garnered great fame with his art

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1
Anthony van Dyck
Portrait of Cornelis Schut I (1597-1655), c. 1628-1636
paper, black chalk, brown wash 230 x 190 mm
Saint Petersburg (Russia), Hermitage


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and got the opportunity to make some artworks for the Duke of Milan. From there he went to Frankfurt on the Main, where he painted a great piece in the city hall [2]. Finally, the rôle of his life having run out, he died of the gout in the year 1640. After his death his wife and children, including a daughter who was a paintress [=Magdalena Hofmann], went back to Amsterdam.

JAN van den HOECKE of Antwerp had the good fortune that he was no less beloved than his master Rubens with kings and rulers for his large arrangements, powerful way of painting and flattering brush. In Rome he painted for various cardinals who greatly valued his work with the brush. Archduke Leopold Wilhelm also took him as nobleman to the Netherlands, where he died in the year 1650.

Before I proceed I must commemorate his commendable fellow townsman MARTEN PEPIJN, who like the eagle, defies all birds. Thus, also while in Italy, he outstripped his contemporaries and countrymen, so that he was renowned as a high-flyer and achieved great fame in Italy and Rome.

I was in doubt where I should place him until it appeared from a certain story, which will follow, that he had already died during the lifetime of Peter Paul Rubens.

It is considered to be a saying applicable to scholars, that they do not gladly see their light covered up by others. Rubens, who knew of Pepyn's rapid ascent in art, and heard that he was about to return

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2
Samuel Hofmann
Erichthonius, hidden in a basket, is handed over by Minerva to Aglauros and her sisters to be taken care of, 1645
canvas, oil paint 155 x 259 cm
Frankfurt am Main, Historisches Museum Frankfurt, inv./cat.nr. B224


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from Rome to Brabant, was upset by this. But when shortly thereafter the opposite was spread by rumour, namely that he had changed his intention and married a Roman wife, he let slip: Now Pepyn is married, I am not afraid that anyone will surpass me here, or reach above my head. Which confirms, that he was a great artist. On him follows

ABRAHAM JANSSENS. As no indication of his birth or time of death was found, whether with Sandrart or with De Bie, we thought it appropriate that he be placed after Rubens, not only because he was a contemporary of his but also because he played a part in the act of his life. He was born in Antwerp and was one of the most important painters of that time. Though he did not make many pieces, those we have by him are exceptionally artfully drawn and executed after life. His inclination turned to the painting of large histories with life-size figures, which is why all rulers and potentates desired his art to hang it in princely galleries, art galleries and churches. All things considered (as is witnessed) no one would have been his equal if he had continued diligently in this way. To all appearances the apotheosis of Rubens was the first cause of his fall. It is true that this ought to have spurred him on to strife with greater effort for the perfection of art and with indefatigable diligence of his brush to follow Rubens, who was ahead of him in the pursuit of advantages owing to which he had so many friends, instead of loosing heart

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