Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 2, page 40-49


Page 40

good arrangement of a tapestry only depends on a good cartoon, which must be painted with a brush ahead of time.

We conclude (enough about weaving) that we owe the memory of the Haarlem painters of olden days to no one less that Karel van Mander I, because everything the present writer has to observe about those days follows Karel van Mander’s Schilderboek word for word.

About GONZALES COQUES, born in Antwerp in 1618, I find the following written with the greatest praise.

What allows fleet fame thus to praise Apelles,
And call him alone the prince of all painters
Who
frustrated his enviers with his art*
And received the favour of ruler
Alexander as reward.


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* When Apelles arrived in Macedonia, the court painter of Alexander the Great opposed this and, fearing that his torch of art might extinguish his own, he though up a ruse to make Apelles hated by the ruler or to get him out of the way. He pretended to be one of the ruler’s servants and summoned Apelles to come dine with the ruler the next day. Apelles, not suspecting deceit, appeared at the court the next day, saying he had been invited to dine with the ruler. This was announced to Alexander, who was astonished that anyone should be so bold as to require something of him (which no one should do). He had him called and asked who had been so bold as to invite himself to the ruler’s table. Apelles, seeing that he had been deceived, begged the ruler for forgiveness of his crime and showed his innocence. Desirous of knowing who had played that trick, Alexander asked Apelles if he could not point out who had played that joke. Whereapon he asked for a piece of charcoal and drew the features on the wall, so that the culprit became known and fell into disfavour.

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Let also England freely boast of her Hans Holbein II,
And the Netherlands of
Anthony van Dyck, who seems truly
To outdo it all
on a large scale. But as for the small,
In that
GONZALES alone keeps the highest praise.
And why not?
Since his brush gave life
To all the creatures that he painted.

Enough praise. Yet I do not wish to deny the man’s fame, which he accrued by painting for Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria, for the Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg, for the English court and for the House of Orange,

When its Prince gave him a double golden chain.

However, we will believe that the writer wrote out of affection for his compatriot until we are convinced of the contrary, and we must further conclude that he did not know his equal in the art of portrait painting of small size.

Where and when he died I do not know, but I do know that he studied art with David Rijckaert II, whose daughter he later married.

Next to him appears on the stage the great PETER LELY. First England and later The Hague have wanted to appropriate the honour of his birth. Samuel van Hoogstraten calls him the Gelderschen Lely. Now there is no need to engage in a blind dispute as if about Homer, since I was finally helped by the diligence of the painter Mattheus Terwesten and discovered some of his family members, who were so kind

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(though domiciled far away) to inform me in the matter and sent me precise indications of his birth and death dates, from which we have seen that

PIETER vander FAES, named LELY, was born in Soest, in Westphalia, on the 14th of September 1618.

His father, Johan van der Faes, nicknamed Lely (of which we will indicate its origins) was an infantry man in the service of the States, but later in the service of the Elector of Brandenburg, and his mother, Abigael van Vliet, hailed from Utrecht from a distinguished and important family, so that many of her female line sat on the city council there.

It is doubtful that his father should have been quartered in Soest (seeing that people of such a profession are often moved around) and that our PETER LELY raised his head for the first time there. That is also why the preacher and poet Joannes Vollenhove (born in Zwolle at the border of Westphalia) calls him his countryman in one of his verses, which we will employ soon.

His father, seeing him from his youth on more inclined to the art of painting than to military practice and to handling the brush over the sword, placed him in Haarlem with the painter Frans Pietersz. de Grebber, where he lived for two successive years and improved so much through ambition and diligence that his master predicted that he would rise above him in art, as also happened. Because in his 25th year he had already climbed so high in art that the greatest of the land admired his brush work,

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and this is the proof. In 1643 [= 1641], when Willem II, Prince of Orange, went to England to marry the daughter of Charles I, he embarked with him. He painted his portraits so artfully that they pleased all of the courtiers and that the King soon appointed him as court painter.

Whether he remained at the court after the death of Charles I or during the reign of Oliver Cromwell, or whether he had returned to Holland by then I do not know, but I do know that as soon as Charles II had mounted the throne, he granted him 4,000 guilders annually and later made him a knight and nobleman of his bedchamber.

Several of those who knew our PETER LELY in England have told me that he lived in courtly fashion, that he got up late in the morning, that he did not begin painting before nine o'clock and that he had several servants and stewards, of which one kept a record of whose turn it was to come and sit, so that when a lady, or whoever it may be, did not come in her turn, she had to wait until the entire list had been finished before getting another turn. He painted from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon, when he went to sup. This was rarely without company as he always served for twelve people, since his friends or strangers with some business with him were allowed free entry, while, in another room, there was skilful playing and singing.

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He behaved grandly amidst the grand and familiarly with commoners, which gave many reason to praise him.

Among their numbers Joannes Vollenhove, who knew him well in England, must be reckoned, who also sang a eulogy in his honour, located in his Poëzy on pages 490 to 492, in which he expressed the power of Lely’s ability with the brush so wisely and completely that nothing remains to be said.

ANIMUM PICTURA PASCIT.

Oh LELY, London’s precious treasure
And honour of our land of birth,
Not unlike the pure lily,
Queen of flowers, easily as beautiful
As Solomon on Judea’s throne,
Treasured by God in the
Gospels:

How does my poem of thanks, owing to you
For all that splendour for the
sight!
How my spirit travelled with the eyes!
How my thoughts wandered
In such a meadow, full of sweet deception,
And beauty of your art jewels!

I saw no paints, nor canvas, oh no,
But skin and nerves, flesh and bone.
Were cattle*
or bird ever so cheated


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* Claudius Aelianus in Historical miscellany, II, 3, and Valerius Maximus, VIII, 11, makes mention of a stallion which snorts in the face of a painted mare, of dogs which are made to bark at a painted dog, and of a bull, who

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By art, or image and scene
Approached, your famous brush
Fools, like Parrhasius*, these human eyes.

How much art of
Holbein, Van Dyck
And
Rubens, or Italy, rich
Of spirit, which does
not yield to the ancients
Small
or life-sized hangs on display?
Or does
your hand stand out, used to
Compete with
those masters for the crown?


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develops appetite for a copper cow.
No less attention deserves the case that Samuel van Hoogstraten related on page 170 of his book on the Hooge Schoole der Schilderkonst:
It happened (he says) that my father Dirk van Hoogstraten painted a goat after life in a bacchanal which, still very young, I restrained for him with the aid of ropes and cords to keep it in appropriate position, which I kept up with great effort to the end. But the painted goat now being almost done, and my father setting the piece, which was rather large, at some distance to see it from far away, it happened that the goat also became aware of the painted one, at which she broke out as if in wrath, burst out, broke the ropes and throwing me to the ground, attacked the horns of her painted sister with such violence that she tore the canvas and ruined the painting, to the sorrow of he who had demonstrated his diligence so praiseworthily in it.
* In the painter’s combat between Zeuxis and Parrhasius, related by Pliny is his Natuurlyke Historie Natural History, XXXV, 10, the first produced painted grapes which attracted the birds, but the second a linen hanging, so naturally painted that Zeuxis took it for a curtain covering the painting, and noticing his mistake with shame, Parrhasius conceded the battle since he had cheated the birds but Zeuxis had fooled him.

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Were Protogenes† to be resurrected
With his
judicious eye
This treasure of
furbished rooms,
He would call out, ravished
By
LELY’s spirit and favour
This is truly Apelles’ art:
No other master could paint this.

Oh art, not deprived of life!
You taunt nature with image after image,
Ever more pleasant for connoisseurs.
So soft, so lively, so rounded.
Oh painter’s
spirit! Oh noble find!
Oh riches of a painter’s room!

There shines the Majesty of the court:
The face of warrior flames with praise:
Beauty, easily as strong, shoots sparks,
Competent to speak without language,
To rule, and with ray upon ray
Enflame a heart as cold as ice.

Did not heaven’s favour,
mild and noble
Guide the hand on the clever art brush,
In
the English realm, here never conquered


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Apelles, having travelled to Rhodes desiring to see the art of Protogenes but not finding him at home, painted a line on his scene so thin and artful that Protogenes, returned home, at once saw and said that it was the work of Apelles, since nothing that perfect could be expected of anyone else. He added a thinner line of another colour, by which Apelles, when he returned, might recognize his hand. But it was surpassed by a third line, again differing in colour, by Apelles. The scene, not encompassing anything other than these three masterful, barely visible lines, was preserved this way to the amazement of descendents. And Pliny XXV, 10 writes that he saw it himself before it perished by fire.

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By abysmal ruse, each called out, each swore,
From Whitehall to past the tower;
It is not painted, but conjured.
If poetry and painting go paired,*
As of old as sisters, one in nature,
Here
spoke my eulogy least wild,
And
painted a mute poetry
But here my tone fails me, and
thou
Hast also painted my poetry to silence.
In London in
October MDCLXXIV.

To indicate the origins of the nickname LELY (as we promised, and by which he is known only in England), the reader needs know that his father, who held this nickname before him, was born in The Hague in a house with a lily [lely] on its façade and was therefore commonly called Captain Lely. Just as the painter Abraham, the son of Lambert Jacobsz, was called Abraham van den Tempel because a temple stood in the front façade of the house in which he lived.

I have mentioned in the biography of Gottfried Kneller


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* In Plutarch’s writings about the practice of poets and the glory of the Atheneans one finds this saying attributed to Simonides and used by everyone, that poetry is speaking painting and painting mute poetry, while the poets, so he says, tell things as in the past whereas the painters relate them when they as current and express the same through figures and colours that the first mention with words, differing only in material and manner of emulation. But reasons for the correspondence beween these two noble arts is contributed by Franciscus Junius in his work on the De Schilder-konst der Oude, I, 4.

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how it grieved Lely that Kneller insinuated himself into the favour of the court from time to time, although he tried to disguise this. His physician, who (more out of love of art than out of concern for his ailment) was accustomed to come and visit him every morning before he commenced painting (which did Lely no disservice, as he often learned from him what Kneller was doing and what the courtiers said about it) came one morning while he was busy setting up his palette, a lady having made enquiries to come sit for him. As usual, the doctor felt his pulse but found it so unsettled that he advised him to take his rest and take medicines sooner than paint. But he replied not to have time for this. What happened? Hardly has the doctor left when Lely is overcome by a faint, which carried him from life before the doctor could be called back. The lady came at her appointed time and was amazed when the servant said to her that there was no occasion to be painted and even more upset when she was told that PETER LELY had died. This was in the year 1680.

Much the same happened to the painter Abraham Begeyn at the Prussian court. Augustinus Terwesten I, accompanied by two or three other artists, enters the room in which he sat painting, to invite him to a tavern, whom he answered that he had something left to do for which he would only need one hour, after which he would join them. Having completed this work he climbs down the scaffold, but feeling some dizziness or faintness,

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he clings to the stairs having come down and dies with the palette in his hand. One sees the portrait of PETER LELY in Plate B 2.

The commendable painter JURIAEN JACOBSZ next appears on the stage. He was born in Switzerland [= Hamburg] but learned his art with the famous hunt and animal painter Frans Snijders and then practiced art in the Netherlands. At first he followed in the footsteps of his master in that preference but later turned to the painting of figures and histories. Mister Steven Wolters, merchant in Amsterdam, a great lover of art, let him paint some pictures. Three of these are now in the hands of Mister Martinus du Pré. In one of the largest one sees depicted Adonis as he stands ready to set out on the hunt, caressed by Venus and beseeched not to hunt defenceless animals such as rabbits etc., as Virgil describes this fable. Adonis does not heed her plea and, too rash when hunting, is killed by a wild boar. It is easily seen, especially from the animals of the hunt, that he had the commendable Frans Snijders as his teacher.

He had encountered his Maecenas in the mentioned Wolters, so that the shining hope of becoming a happy man seemed within reach, but it happened as the saying goes: With need overcome, death arrives. For in the year 1664, the plague broom wiped him from the land of the living along with his entire family, to be buried in Amsterdam. This is what I have been told. But the painter Hendrik Carré I, who was a student of his,

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