Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 2, page 20-29


Page 20

sent him on off to bed with blows.

This unexpected discovery induced great despondency in him because he saw (as the saying goes) that the bottom had fallen out of the entire affair, and that he had no advocate other than the mentioned glass engraver, who could not help him anyway. But what happens in his favour after some time has passed? One Lambert Jacobsz., a Mennonite, or Anabaptist teacher from Leeuwarden in Friesland, comes to Cleves to preach and to visit his fellow believers in the area. Since he was renowned for his eloquence and modest life, the parents of GOVERT FLINCK went to hear him and were exceedingly edified by his sermons. And hearing that he was also a famous painter, were of an entirely different opinion than before, and decided to speak with the mentioned Lambert Jacobsz. at once. At the same time they agreed with him that their son would join him in Leeuwarden and should learn art in his house and under his supervision.

Mentioned GOVERT FLINCK has since then often told that he did not encounter happier or more pleasant tidings in all his life than when they brought him this message.

Arrived in Leeuwarden he found Jacob Adriaensz. Backer, a proper and diligent young man, as his room mate and colleague in art, who left with him for Amsterdam (after they had progressed so far as to be able to fly on their own wings), where GOVERT FLINCK, who had several prosperous relatives, for the first time found opportunity to give evidence of his art. But as at that time the style of Rembrandt

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was generally finding favour, so that everything had to be shaped according to that last if it were to please the world, he thought it advisable to go and study for a year with Rembrandt in order to master that treatment of paints and manner of painting, which he was able to imitate so well in a short time that various of his pieces were regarded and sold as genuine paintings by Rembrandt. But he later relinquished that style with great difficulty and much labour, after the eyes of the world had been opened even before the death of Rembrandt, with the import of Italian art by true connoisseurs, when the light manner of painting came back into vogue.

While his fame as an artist was spreading abroad, the desire to marry crept up on him, so his eye was caught by a damsel of ancient and noble lineage, whose father had been manager of the East India Company in Rotterdam and who was then living in Amsterdam with her mother, who was a widow. He received this girl, gifted by nature with intelligence, an attractive face, a well-shaped body, and also not deprived of financial means (charms that would suffice to supply four men), as his portion. But as there is nothing permanent on this earth, he was not for long the owner of this happy lot. Because (after she had brought a son into the world for him) she succumbed to the dropsy, from which she had already suffered before her wedding day, and died in the year 1649. This brought him much grief, as he learned the worth of his fortune through having to do without, and to which he had to resign himself like all others. Because

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Cruel Necessity listens to no groaning
Death knows no compassion
.

Shortly after his marriage he built a grand studio with high windows upon the upper ledge of which were placed busts of the emperors and also many handsome casts after esteemed antique marbles, and between these two it was hung with various kinds of unusual robes, costumes, harnesses, firearms and pointed weapons, as well old splendid velvet and other tapestries embroidered with gold which had come from the old court of the Duke of Cleves, since he especially enjoyed the favour of Friedrich Wilhelm Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Cleves, the grandfather of the present King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia, just as he also made several works for him (as well as his portrait [1] extraordinarily spirited and free, but elaborate and many times reworked) that so pleased the ruler that he awarded him with his portrait set in diamonds.

After that he also enjoyed much friendship from Prince Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen, Stadholder of Cleves and later Field Marshal of this Republic, who also often came to visit him when he was in Amsterdam or invited him in return. He also had the honour to be in the favour of many prominent gentlemen of Amsterdam, and among these the Lord Mayors Cornelis de Graeff and Andries de Graeff, the latter often coming to visit him at his house. And with the first mentioned he associated so casually that he would often in the evening, tired of painting, go visit him without invitation.

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1
Govert Flinck
Portrait of Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg (1620-1688), dated 1652
canvas, oil paint 94,7 x 72,7 cm
center right : G. Flinck / 1652
Berlin (Charlottenburg), Schloss Charlottenburg, inv./cat.nr. GK I 997


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Avoiding the kind of company where people drank immoderately, he also seldom went to the gathering place of the painters, and even then only so that it would not look as if he was disdainful of them, out of haughtiness.

Otherwise he had a cheerful manner, and even though he was satisfied to seek pleasure only in art, he was never averse to company but received with cordiality those who came to visit, mainly people of wisdom and knowledge, whom he gladly (even though he was unlettered) heard conversing.

On Sundays, after he had dutifully attended church, he devoted the rest of the day to visiting artists and lovers of art, and most importantly Mister Receiver Johannes Uytenbogaert and the aldermen Pieter Six and Jan Six, who later came to own many outstanding italian paintings and also exceptional art on paper, just as he himself collected a good number of paintings, drawings and prints by famous Italian and other masters, of which he observed the individual manner of handling many times over with a connoisseur's judgement, but also knew how to choose the most beautiful and apply it to his purpose. This art, when it was sold after his death, brought in all of about twelve thousand guilders.

In his widower's state he still painted two militia companies, of which one may still be seen in the great hall next to the fireplace of the musketeer’s shooting range in Amsterdam [2-3]. But his spirit inclined to greater ventures and urged on by the art of

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2
Govert Flinck
Het korporaalschap van kapitein Albert Bas en luitenant Lucas Conijn, dated 1645
canvas, oil paint 347 x 244 cm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. C 371

3
Govert Flinck
Civic Guardsmen of the Company of District 1 under the Command of Captain Joan Huydecoper and Lieutenant Frans van Waveren, dated 1648
canvas, oil paint 265 x 513 cm
lower left : Flinck f. 1648
Amsterdam, Amsterdam Museum, inv./cat.nr. SA 7318


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Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, which he had been to view with great attention in Antwerp, he subsequently sent those who wished to have him paint portraits through to Bartholomeus van der Helst, adding that he would be able to please them with his flattering brush as well as he could himself.

He subsequently made the piece for the chimney in the room of the Burgomasters, in which Manius Curius Dentatus disdains the gifts of the Samnites, taking satisfaction with a dish of turnips [4]. And after that he painted for the council chamber a great piece depicting Solomon, praying to God for wisdom [5]. Since then he also painted another with the same content but smaller and with fewer attributes, in which he paid homage to Cleves, his native city, for which the burgomasters, aldermen and councillors thanked him in a letter of the 29th of August 1659 [6]. In these works he not only demonstrated how well he understood the grandeur of composing but also the conjunction or arrangement of figures in front of and above each other, and that he knew how to introduce power to his paintings without resorting to any bright or hard colours.

Having gained great fame through these art works, all his thoughts now turned to the making of large works, which is why, in November of the mentioned year 1659, the Misters Burgomasters of the city of Amsterdam commissioned eight works to serve in eight corners of the gallery of the city hall [7], and still four others, a little smaller, to be placed in the arches. To this end he completed the models with great pleasure and diligence. In the eight large ones were to be depicted the wars

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4
Govert Flinck
Marcus Curius Dentatus refuses the gifts of the Samnites, dated 1656
canvas, oil paint 485 x 377 cm
lower left : G. Flick f. 1656
Amsterdam, Koninklijk Paleis (Paleis op de Dam)

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Govert Flinck
Solomon prays for wisdom (1 Kings 3), dated 1658
canvas, oil paint 465 x 450 cm
Amsterdam, Koninklijk Paleis (Paleis op de Dam)


6
Govert Flinck
Solomon prays for wisdom (1 Kings 3: 4-15), 1658/1659
canvas, oil paint 113,9 x 101,8 cm
Greenville (South Carolina), Bob Jones University Museum & Gallery

7
Govert Flinck and Jürgen Ovens and Jan Lievens and Jacques Jordaens and Giovanni Antonio de Groot and Rembrandt
Series of paintings for the galleries around the Burgerzaal in the former town hall of Amsterdam, 1697
? x ? cm
Amsterdam, Koninklijk Paleis (Paleis op de Dam)


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that the ancient Batavians under Claudius Civilus had waged against the Romans. And in the four other works he depicted the four heroes who carried out praiseworthy deeds to the advantage of their fatherland, namely David and Samson amongst the Hebrews and Marcus Curtius and Horatius Cocles amongst the Romans.

When his spirit was pregnant with the execution of these works, it pleased the Almighty to frustrate this plan by a fever which fell upon him, on which followed vomiting from which he passed from this world within the time of five days, on the 2nd of December 1660, barely 44 years old.

It is to this untimely death that the prince of Dutch poets (who was a friend of GOVERT FLINCK and often came to see him) alludes in the verse underneath the portrait cut by Abraham Bloteling [8].

Thus lived Apelles GOVERT FLINCK, too soon torn away from the city,
When he,
chartered by her noble authorities,
Would furbish the divine city
hall with histories.
As Tacitus expressed it as of old,
Who teaches
Romans to give way for the right of the Batavieren,
Crowns
the hero of painting with eternal laurels.

Which image in print we followed in Plate B. 1. The same poet has also celebrated several of his art works in verse, such as a depiction of the severe military judgment of Titus Manlius Torquatus in the new city hall of the Amsterdam admiralty [9].

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8
Abraham Bloteling most likely after Cornelis van Dalen (II) after Gerard Pietersz. van Zijl
Portrait of Govert Flinck (1615-1660)
paper, copper engraving, 1st state 291 x 215 mm
The Hague, RKD – Nederlands Instituut voor Kunstgeschiedenis (Collectie Iconografisch Bureau)

9
Ferdinand Bol
Consul Titus Manlius Torquatus Orders the Beheading of his Son, c. 1661-1663
canvas, oil paint 218 x 232 cm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. SK-A-613


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Severe MANLIUS orders his son put on trial,
Who against father’s orders has fought the enemy.
It is to no avail that the son remains the victor of the struggle,
The severe father considers neither son nor people’s prayers.
Even though the chance of victory is gone for the enemy,
That does not help a servant who
does not heed his master’s word.
Military justice knows no blood ties, nor listens to any begging.
Thus a servant learns precisely to follow the master’s orders.

He also wrote the following verse on that important art work by him in the council chamber above the chimney to the north, more often mentioned, depicting Soloman when he prays to God for wisdom etc.

Where Solomon’s prayers and sacrifice please God,
Wisdom is promised to him at night from heaven’s throne,
With riches, honour and
desired days
When wisdom
is consulted, the state comes out on top.

He left a son [= Nicolaes Anthoni Flinck] as heir, whom he kept with great effort from taking up the practice of the art of painting because it is so difficult to become a great master in an art in which one has to know and observe so much, but raised him to study and directed sent him to jurisprudence. However, the love of art was not extinguished in him. For this gentleman,

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having inherited that love from his father, has collected a room with excellent artworks by the old Italian masters, such as Tiziano, the old Jacopo Palma, Parmigianino, Annibale Carracci, Guido Reni, Nicolas Poussin, as well as Anthony van Dyck, Hans Rottenhammer, Paul Bril, the knight Adriaen van der Werff etc. And for greater splendour he placed between them several genuine marble antique statues having come from the art cabinets of the George Villiers 1st Duke of Buckingham, Misters Gerard and Jan Reynst and Burgomaster Jan Six. The viewing of which (now being about 70 years old) he finds to be his greatest diversion, as also in his diligently collected Italian drawings, and specifically the finest from the famous cabinets of Misters van Johan van der Does van Bergesteyn and Constantijn Huygens II, heer van Zuylichem. Mentioned Mister Nicolaas Antoni Flinck has repeatedly declared to his friends that when he has tired of activities involving matters of greater import, he is not refreshed by anything other than the perusal of one or another of his portfolios of drawings, after which he can resume his activities as if refreshed.

After him appears the handsome landscape painter PIETER PIETERSZ. NEDEK, his immediate contemporary. But I am not able to say anything about him other than that he was a student of Pieter Lastman and a native of Amsterdam, and that he died when about 70 years old (and still single).

NICOLAES LATOMBE was born in Amsterdam in 1616. He was overcome by wanderlust. He therefore travelled to Rome, where he spent ample time practicing art. He was given the nickname of Stoppertje [Little Stuffer] in the bent because

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the moment he came into the company of his countrymen he at once spoke of stuffing a pipe with tobacco.

He painted figures and companies, Italian mountain workers and such folk, with which he then included a handsome prospect, be it of the remains of Roman buildings, caves, graves, or the like. He died in 1676 (after having spent ample time in his native city). He also had a brother Pieter Latombe who was a lover of paintings and prints. That is why Rembrandt’s etchings include a small print known by the name of La Tombe’s print [10].

Now follows HANS JORDAENS IV, who was born in Delft in September of 1616.

I would have liked to be able to write something about him, seeing that he was a great master in art. He was so exceptionally adept at painting that it passed as a proverb in his time that he served up his pictures as if with a ladle. For this reason the Roman bent (with which he spent many years, so that there are few of his works to be seen in these parts) baptized him with the name Pollepel Ladle.

I do not know whether he employed such facile painting at the beginning or end of his life. But in Amsterdam there is a small painting by him in which one sees how Pharaoh with chariot and horses drowns in the Red Sea, painted entirely in the manner of Hans Rottenhammer. Its owner is the widow of the lawyer Nicolaas Muys van Holy. He died in Voorburg, but in what year I do not know.

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10
Rembrandt
Christ Preaching, c. 1657
paper, etching, drypoint, engraving 154 x 206 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-1962-35


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Some hold that the famous LUCA GIORDANO, who is called the Neapolitan and whose facility with the brush has not had its equal, was the son of our HANS JORDAENS, whom he is to have fathered in Naples, seeing that he apparently spent most of his time in Rome, Venice and Naples.

Mister Jan van Beuningen in Amsterdam had 9 pieces by LUCA GIORDANO, five feet high, 7 feet wide and full of a bustle of figures and commendably painted, depicting Moses who strikes the rock with his staff and also where he raises the copper snake, David and Abigail, Pharaoh drowning in the Red Sea, Jacob and Rebecca, the battle of Moses against the Amalekites, the judgement of Solomon, the battle of Joshua, and Ahasuerus and Esther. The art-loving Sieuwert van der Schelling selected and bought the best of these works. Mentioned Jan van Beuningen has assured me that he knows from impeccable sources that Giordano painted each of these pieces in two days. I pass it on at the price for which I received it, but is not believable, even though more examples of his exceptional facility are circulated, amongst others that having been attracted from Naples by the king of Spain [= Charles II of Spain] and having seen the king and queen for the first time, he painted both their portraits from memory and a day later (expecting to be knighted) sent them in advance to the King, to the great amazement of the royal household. It was therefore not unreasonable that in Italy they gave him the name of Luca va presta, that is Lucas walks quickly.

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