Houbraken Translated


Volume 2, page 10-19

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the four supervisors of the shooting range [1] who, painted by him on large scale hangs in the harquebusiers’ shooting range in the room above the chimney [2]. One also sees in Amsterdam and elsewhere many single portraits that are painted in detail and artfully.

Jan Vos speaks thus about the portrait of Miss. Constantia Reijnst, painted by BARTHOLOMEUS van der HELST.

Come, Dutch Apelles, come, appear with best of paints:
REIJNST expects you to live on the panel.
A spirited outline demands a
sure brush.
Nature shows in her woman, Venus and Minerva.
Thus one sees
radiance and spirit paired, which rarely happens.
How, is this life? No, for
REIJNST, most commendable in nature,
Is here shown
in paint, oh praiseworthy ability!
He who fools the eye with paint has deceived

At that time he lived in Amsterdam in the Doelestraat, made much money, loved to be in company, had no inclination to go to Italy and was pleased with his art and city (says Joachim von Sandrart), and having come to advanced years (who is at all times equally wise?) married a young woman with whom he gained a son, who also became a portrait painter and followed his father on the praiseworthy path but remained too far behind to have us commemorate him.

That our neighbouring cities located to the north received their share of commendable artists will now and later appear. Hoorn, one of the oldest


Bartholomeus van der Helst
Group portrait of four "overlieden" of the Handboog- or Saint Sebastiaandoelen, Amsterdam, dated 1653
Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv./cat.nr. 1332

Bartholomeus van der Helst
Group portrait of four overlieden of the Handboog- or Sint-Sebastiaandoelen Amsterdam, dated 1653
Amsterdam, Amsterdam Museum, inv./cat.nr. SA7329

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cities, produced from her lap the painter JACQUES WABEN. He was a good portrait and history painter, both life-sized and smaller. In Hoorn in the long-term boarding house one sees painted by him the history of Joseph in four pieces, artful and powerful for that time. The artful water colourist Johannes Bronckhorst had a piece dated 1602 by him in which the history of Jephthah was depicted [3]. I do not know when he died.

His companion in city, time and art, JAN ALBERTSZ. ROTIUS, was a famous painter of life-size portraits and progressed so far in these that many regard them equal in art to those of Bartholomeus van der Helst, to whom we just referred, but before I would agree with this, I would first have to put it to the test and compare them with each other, a task for which I have had great inclination but neither time nor opportunity.

He was a student of Pieter Lastman. In Hoorn, in the old and new shooting-ranges there are various companies of civic guardsman painted by him which are exceptionally praised, signed 1651 [4], 1652 [5] and 1655 [6], when he was around forty years old. He was a man of moral behaviour and exceptionally diligent in his practice, and left a son named Jacob Rotius. He was a student of the old Jan Davidsz. de Heem, whose way of painting he was able to imitate wonderfully well, so that he earned money and respect in his time. But he was possessed by a melancholy spirit, from which those who attach no faith to predestination decide that he shortened the thread of his life.


Jacques Waben
Jephthah's daughter dances with tambourines to meet her father on his return from the battle; Jephthah rends his clothes in despair (Judges 11:34), dated 1625
Hoorn (place, North Holland), Westfries Museum, inv./cat.nr. 12154

Jan Albertsz. Rotius
The company of captain Jan Vreericks Abbekerk, 1651, dated 1651
Hoorn (place, North Holland), Westfries Museum, inv./cat.nr. 01380

Jan Albertsz. Rotius
The company of captain Jan Simonsz. Jongemaets, dated 1652
Hoorn (place, North Holland), Westfries Museum, inv./cat.nr. 01381 / A72

Jan Albertsz. Rotius
The company of captain Claes Willemsz. Jager, dated 1655
Hoorn (place, North Holland), Westfries Museum, inv./cat.nr. 01383 / A 73

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He died around 1681, being fifty years old.

Just as among the poets, one has turned his pen to the trumpeting of heroic deeds and the other to serious events after the example of the Mantuan Virgil, others again to cheerful love songs and fable poetics like Ovid; some to Biblical material, others to farce; this one to merry weddings tunes and others by contrast to sad funereal and elegiac songs. And each is to be praised in his preferences and by so doing builds and contributes to the mountain of art and song. Even thus is the situation with respect to the art of painting and its practitioners (where there are no fewer changes with respect to the preference of subjects to be discerned).

BONAVENTURA PEETERS, born in Antwerp in the year given above, painted sea storms and ships in dire peril from all sorts of grievous maritime disasters. How Aeolus in bad spirits squeezes the clouds from the four quarters and compresses them, so that they burst out with a terrible howl of lightning and thunder, batter the sails, masts, bows and hulls of the sea hulks with blow upon blow and the splinters fly about the ears of the sailors who, in their distress, anticipate their fatal hour of death with clenched lips. Then again how irate Neptune stirs the brine against the lofty sea cliffs, and stirs up the immeasurable depths against them with his three-pronged fork, spattering the highest tops with his spume, and how ships that end up in that surf


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are buffeted back and forth and are finally smashed to pieces. People and goods are brought in danger of perishing, with crowds of people on some demolished wreck while others try to save their lives by swimming. Or, perhaps, how the shipwrecked relate their experiences with humped shoulders on some populated beach and pray for help etc. He was able to depict these and similar sad subjects, as well as air, water, reefs and beaches, so naturally that he was judged to be the best of his time in this way of painting. He died in 1652.

He is followed by his fellow in year and art, FRANS WOUTERS, who was totally different in preference, for just as Peeters took things sad as his subject, he, on the contrary, was fond of happy, pleasant and eye-pleasing objects. The essentials of his works are generally landscapes, or woods that create pleasant shade with their thick tops, in which sometimes a nude Venus with her sweet Adonis, or some dalliance of field nymphs with satyrs, or the flight of a Syrinx from the cloven-hoofed Pan, or other such subjects are featured. All of which he was able to paint with such charm and art that he was highly esteemed by Emperor Ferdinand II of Habsburg. In 1673 he was in England with the Emperor’s ambassador, so that he was able to show his commendable art on this occasion. Coming from there he was able to settle in Lier, his place of birth. But after a while he left for Antwerp, where


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he also died in 1659. He learned art with the famous Peter Paul Rubens.

DAVID RIJCKAERT III was born in Antwerp in 1615. He learned art with his father David Rijckaert II, about whom Cornelis de Bie says on page 100 of his Gulden Cabinet van de edele vry schilderkonst:

No less famous was Jan Wildens for trees:
DAVID RIJCKAERT II for mountains and fluid water streams,
So that everything that nature can give to mankind
(Especially in art) they did to satisfaction.

In the beginning DAVID RIJCKAERT III kept to those preferences and that manner of painting, but in his fiftieth year he changed both choice and way of painting and people saw him as a second Hell Brueghel painting all kinds of drolleries by fire and candlelight as well as strange appearances of ghosts, hellish prospects and, sometimes, a temptation of Saint Anthony, in which all the cleverly invented little devils flee head over heels before the cross of that saint (serving as his guardian angel) and are blown away like cobwebs before the wind. And no matter how frightening such subjects may be, he was still able to paint them so wittily and artfully that the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria and many other princes and great ones sought them out to decorate their art cabinets.

LUCAS FRANCHOYS II the Younger, born in Mechelen in 1615, was famous on account of his painting of histories and portraits. And from his handling of the brush and bold


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and powerful painting it can be seen that, in addition to his father’s Lucas Franchoys I lessons, he also had those of the famous Peter Paul Rubens. He was in France for a long time, where he had the opportunity to paint for various princes and princesses. He always remained single. In any case he was still unattached until his 45th year, in 1660.

We had wanted to commemorate FRANS MENTON, whose time of birth we do not know, on his year of death, which (following the indication of his gravestone behind the pulpit of the Great Church of Alkmaar) was in 1615, on the 24th of March. I know nothing further about him than what Karel van Mander I mentions on p. 161. B. in the life of Frans Floris: Francois Mention of Alkmaar, or living there, is a good master in all parts of art and also a good draughtsman and plate cutter etc.

Experience teaches us that when the passion for art originates in a family tree, it is not rare that shoots of like nature sprout forth, which is confirmed by the following biography of

MATTHIAS van den BERGH, born in the year 1615.

His father Jan van den Berg, born in Alkmaar and from early on inclined to art, was placed with Hendrick Goltzius to be instructed on firm ground, but his father, being a schoolmaster who had left for Brabant with his household, Jan as viceroy had to help govern the realm with the strap and exchange the brush for the pen. However, in his spare time he diligently kept up his exercises with the brush, all the more when he found


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opportunity to be with Peter Paul Rubens, who more and more fanned the fire of art in him. And he was able to rise so far in Rubens’ favour that he made him the treasurer and supervisor of his estates, in which capacity he mostly had to stay in Ypres, where our MATTHIAS van den BERGH was born. Still, he passed most of his life in his father’s place of birth.

MATTHIAS van den BERGH then also being by nature inclined to art found the opportunity via his father to study it with the renowned Peter Paul Rubens and turned out not to be the least of his students.

He was a firm draughtsman and incessantly busy even into his old age with drawing after life and the best paintings that he encountered.

But his mind spoiled by the constant emulation of others was an impediment to his undertaking something on his own or to making his own inventions. Indeed one encounters a surfeit of commendable copies but rarely anything of his invention.

During his practice time he often drew images of his father in all sorts of positions and clothing, of which some drawings are still with lovers of the art of drawing.

He joined the St. Luke’s guild in Alkmaar on the first of June 1646 and died there in 1687.

In 1616 the city of Haarlem, which of all Dutch cities can take pride in having produced the greatest number of painters, also saw appear within her walls the intelligent

THOMAS WIJCK, who may be ranked with the commendable painters of his time.


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I have admired with amusement many of his brushworks in which he depicted Italian sea harbours full of bustling little figures, commercial activities, ships, etc. as well as Roman markets in which a comical quack with all his gawkers, Italian acrobats, musicians or jugglers, fruit and vegetable stands, and behind them great buildings and palaces in the background, are to be seen, drawn by himself after life in Italy. He also knew how to depict beaches and with them women who carry fish or other things off to the market in baskets on their heads, and also laboratories or alchemists' shops, with their furnaces, beakers, pans, glasses and an unimaginable amount of equipment belonging to a distillery and other such objects, which are all so inventively thought up, skilfully arranged, firmly drawn, dabbed and glowingly painted, that this art deserves a higher price than it currently commands.

His love of art has left those who love prints some small samples of his intellect by his own way of etching in copper.

Our THOMAS WIJCK left a son named JAN WYCK, who was a commendable battle painter, whose blossoming his father could witness with joy since he reached seven times ten years before he came to die.

JAN WYCK, who spent the best of his life in England, also painted hunts on horseback, especially deer hunts. John Smith rendered one of them in print [7] , and Hendrik Carré [= Michiel Carrée] (who knew him in 1692 and 93


John Smith after Jan Wyck
Staghunt in a wooded landscape, c. 1687
London (England), The British Museum, inv./cat.nr. 1876,1111.20

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in England) has told me that he painted with renown the life-sized horse on which the portrait of Frederick Duke of Schomberg sits, with the plan of the battle in the distance (which was issued in print as artfully scraped by mentioned John Smith in the service of Godfrey Kneller (who painted only the portrait of the duke) [8].

He married in London and also died there.

Experience has taught us, as olden and more recent examples show, that people who are born to some noble pursuit show an inclination for it early on, during the rising of their springtime sun. Thus whenever the fire of this impulse could not be extinguished, people have concluded on sound grounds with the oracle of the Meuse* that they were only truly competent in those pursuits to which their affinity inclined.

The following example will confirm this more than sufficiently.

GOVERT FLINCK, born in Cleves in December of the year 1616, found himself inclined from his early youth to the art of drawing. His parents, who intended to make a merchant of him (as he was still too young to be placed in such a profession without their supervision), placed him in a prestigious silk fabric shop in Cleves. But it did not take long before his boss complained that he made more work of drawing small figures and animals on paper

* Erasmus.


John Smith after Gottfried Kneller and after Jan Wyck published by John Smith
Equestrian portrait of Frederick Herman de Schomberg, 1st Duke of Schomberg (1615-1690), dated 1689
London (England), The British Museum, inv./cat.nr. 1935,0413.145

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than of what concerned the store. So his father railed at him about this and treated him harshly, and strictly forbade such activity. But even though he was used to obeying his father respectfully in all commands, he still could not repress this inclination. On the contrary, it grew stronger, all the more because he had made the acquaintance of a glass painter, whom he visited in the artist's studio whenever he was granted the freedom to go out to watch him work and to do some drawing himself. This caused the love of art to increase and the love for what concerned his master's store to decrease, so that the boss finally sent him home, saying: one would do best to make a painter of him.

His father, who lived with modesty and refinement and was steward of that city, said: May God keep me from this, that I should raise my son to be a painter, when those people are almost all reprobates and live dissipated lives. So he once more earnestly forbade his son to ever draw again, with the promise to place him with a merchant in Amsterdam before long.

GOVERT FLINCK, who was being watched constantly with eagle eyes, nowhere found freedom except in his bedroom, and then only when the household was asleep. He bought drawing materials and a flint with his allowance and drew entire nights after prints that he had borrowed from the glass engraver, until his father, having once woken up in the night, noticed some light, got up, and surprised him in his activity, tore everything he could find to shreds, and then


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