Houbraken Translated


Volume 2, page 120-129

Page 120

Andries Pels* will say it:
........... If you want to know
how one paints the evil
Of lascivious glow,
playful and run wild,
voluptuous words and depicted embracing:
Just listen to Jempsar’s words to Joseph, and watch
Her gestures and the
equipment by the bed.
The strumming
of strings is to extinguish Joseph’s heat:
But I can’t believe
in that miracle for the spectator.

And a little lower, where he speaks of other plays.

It is to be feared that such loving, ogling, laughter
Sets the youth on fire, and therefore from the stage
Will take the
wrong track straight to the brothel

With still more reasons the Fathers of Early Christian church damned the theatre.

While no play was ever shown, or it was
Staged in honour of a playful goddess:
Or drunken god at their damnable sacrificial feasts;
Where all these wild ones,
like unreasonable beasts,
Acted out
their passion in all freedom with
Hired women at the voluptuous feast banquet.
To which end (oh fright) these whores sat
In front of the stage during the play,
randy and uninhibited
To auction their wares and sell them after the play.

It was therefore only reasonable that the magistrates of Haarlem cut off that irritating subject of whom we have just

* Gebruik én misbruik des toneels, pp. 22 and 23.


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spoken as a useless member of bourgeois society, so that he would not promote vice by his way of life and art. In addition noble art is brought into more disrepute by such irritating displays.

Certainly there is no one in whom reason resides and piety resides who will not have an aversion to this. And should it happen that it is praised by some, such praise conveys nothing but the corrupt nature of he who does the praising. In Rome there was a scandalous scene of Meleager and Atalanta by Parrhasius, but was it therefore praised by all? Certainly not. My Master Samuel van Hoogstraten said, I am ashamed to describe the same. In one word, such depictions, whether shown on the stage or in a painting, are grubbers, as they dig up the root of the herb of sin; which is why the mentioned Hoogstraten says on p. 176 in the fifth book of his Inleyding tot de Hooge Schoole der Schilderkonst, Thalia says. Hesitate, then, those of noble spirit to show the scandalous licentiousness of Tiberius on the Island of Capri in your paintings. Nor leave the patriarch Noah lying shamelessly naked, where Shem and Japheth turn their faces away. For those who are inclined to such shameful things, deserve the curse as much as did Ham.

I also remember that, while I was living with him to study art, The Lovers by Ovid, translated by Abraham Valentijn, had been printed, and that out of love of reading, I asked to borrow these, but got as answer, Such is not suitable; the poet was banished to Pontus for it, and the translator should therefore


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be forever banished to the workhouse, because there are things in it that were better kept secret, or obscured, than revealed, so that those who would never have known about these would never have been put to the test, to the ruin of lascivious and loose youth.

Finally may the youthful painter use such an exasperatingly lascivious life as Johannes Torrentius led as a mirror for revulsion, for such are the siren songs that flatter and stroke the youthful heart to its destruction. That is why the moralist Seneca said with an eye to these: Banish mainly the obscenities, carry a deathly hate against the same; for they are of that nature that the Egyptians called PHILETAS, that is, Kissers, who embrace to strangle.

In his book about Haarlem’s origins Theodorus Schrevelius commemorates various painters and paintresses who flowered in his days, such as Pieter de Grebber, the son of Frans Pietersz. de Grebber, whom Karel van Mander I mentions on page 213 of his book, and Johannes Cornelisz. Verspronck, the son of Cornelis Engelsz., whom Van Mander commemorates on page 107. Both sons surpassed his father in art.

Pieter de Grebber, who beside his father also had Hendrick Goltzius as teacher, was a commendable figure and portrait painter. In those days there were still various pieces by him to be seen, of which the most important was Jubalinus, in praise of music, made for burgomaster Cornelis Dircksz. Guldewagen, who was a lover of song and instrumental art.

Our Pieter de Grebber also had a sister named Maria de Grebber, who practiced art with great


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distinction and was also competent in architecture and perspective.

Johannes Cornelisz. Verspronck, who effortlessly leaped over his father in art (says the writer) painted various companies of militia men in his time, still to be seen in the shooting range, which praise the art of their maker.

On page 383 the writer also mentions one Hendrick Pot, who was beloved by all for his art and amiability. He had the honour in his days of painting the British king and his consort after life, as well as some of the great of that realm [1-2]. In the Prinsenhof in Haarlem hangs a large artwork by him which depicts the triumphal chariot of Prince William of Orange [3], and in the shooting gallery is a militia company [4], but the most worthy of the art of his brush to be seen at that time was a scene in which Judith and Holofernes were depicted. In it the master (the writer says) had shown his ultimate ability, and it was to be seen in the cabinet of Mister Zacharias Hooftman.

In addition one Cornelis Claesz. van Wieringen is mentioned. He was a lad who had long sailed the seas and was therefore knowledgeable about all the equipment belonging to a ship as well as of the way the sails are handled. That was of great help to him when, having said seafaring farewell, he quietly occupied himself with drawing it. With time he had advanced so far by his exceptional passion for art that he came close to Hendrik Vroom in the painting of the sea and ships. With this preference in painting there were also Cornelis Verbeeck


Hendrick Pot
Portrait of the family of King Charles I of England (1600-1649), 1632-1633
canvas, oil paint 47.3 x 59.7 cm
Great Britain, The Royal Collection

Hendrick Pot
Portrait of King Charles I of England (1600-1649), dated 1632
panel, oil paint 34 x 27 cm
lower right : H.P. 1632 fesit
Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv./cat.nr. 2525

Hendrick Pot
Glorification of William the Silent, dated 1620
canvas, oil paint 136 x 342.5 cm
Haarlem, Frans Halsmuseum, inv./cat.nr. OSI-284

attributed to Hendrick Pot
Officers and sub-alterns leaving the Calivermen's Headquarters in Haarlem, dated 1630
canvas, oil paint 214 x 276 cm
Haarlem, Frans Halsmuseum, inv./cat.nr. OS I-285

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and Hans Goderis. And amongst the landscapists our writer praises Cornelis Hendriksz. Vroom, the son of Hendrik Vroom, Jan Jacobsz. Guldewagen, who had been to Italy, Claes Suycker, Gerrit Claesz. Bleker, Salomon van Ruysdael, Reyer Claesz. Suycker etc.

If you are looking for a painter (says our writer) of all sort of fruit, you have Floris van Dijk, who could tempt and fool the keen women and even the birds, and in the same art, Willem Claesz. Heda.

He also mentions one Roeland van Laer, the brother of Pieter van Laer, whom he calls brothers of one bed, conceived and born in Haarlem and practiced in the art of painting from childhood on. They had the same way of painting and lived together in Italy for some years. Roelant, being the elder, died in Genoa in the flower of his life. Pieter returned home and stayed in Haarlem for a while but could not forget Italy, which was always the wetnurse of outstanding spirits. Accordingly he decided to go on the journey once more. He took leave of his friends so that they could never learn where he had gone, which Empedocles also intended, says our writer, which indicates clearly that the writer must have known about the outcome but hides it under the unusually stubborn intention.

Among the glass painters of that time he praises Pieter Holsteyn II and Jan Philipsz. van Bouckhorst, who painted the triumph of Dalmatia in the windows of the great room of the city council of Haarlem, about which Samuel Ampzing composed a tedious poem, which begins thus


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When Emperor Fredrick some hundred years ago
Assembled a
great and mighty army,
Against the unbelieving people, the Turk and Saracens,
Floris Holland’s Count
also pulls all his might together,
With Willem his son, exceptionally
Of our population and what may be
choice here,
The flower of our youth. Thus they set sail
And anchor at an open harbour in
They set foot on land and
overrun cities with
Hope and strength,
with violence and storming.
How many a Turk and Saracen
lies in the sand
Felled and killed by Haarlem’s hero’s hand?
And as the courageous army had obtained almost everything
Wished for in the Holy land, by God’s rich blessing,
re-embarks and floats with his fleet,
Where Dalmatia lies on the sea in Nilus’ lap

Let those who would know more of this old Haarlem heroic epic follow this rhyme as placed behind the description of Haarlem by Theodorus Schrevelius.

We have noted from findings that some of the greatest lights of art were extinguished by accident or otherwise. Without making a list here, the reader will meet examples to confirm my saying in their place, of which PAULUS POTTER, born in Enkhuizen in the year 1625 is not to be considered one of the least.

He originated on his mother’s side from the old noble family and House of Egmont, as became clear to me from written communications.

His grandfather [= father] Pieter Potter, treasurer


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or confidential clerk of Hooge en Lage Swaluwe, was married to the daughter of Paulus Pietersz Bartius, pensionary or salaried alderman of Enkhuizen, who had as wife Frederickje Meynertsdr. Semeyns, whose mother was Catharina van Egmont, true daughter of that family.

Pieter Potter begat by his spouse a son named Pieter Potter, who practiced the art of painting in Enkhuizen. He came to marry in Enkhuizen and from the marriage originated two sons, Pieter Potter II and Paulus Potter, as well as a daughter, Maria Potter.

Pieter Potter, father of the mentioned children, changing cities, came to live in Amsterdam, where he bought rights as a citizen on the 14th of October of 1631 and also died there in the year 1692 [= 1652].

Paulus Potter, the subject of our pen, was inclined to art by nature and instructed by his father (though only a common painter) and early showed sparks of the fire of art by his intelligent brush exercises. He moved from Amsterdam to The Hague and went to live on the Bierkaai, in the house now occupied by the solicitor Staal. Next door lived Claes Dircksz. van Balckeneynde, who was blessed with ten children, of which the eldest daughter caught his eye, so that he asked for her hand in marriage. But this did not at first proceed smoothly: for the old man said: that Paulus did not paint people, but animals, which displeased him. He consulted about this with people of status, and his friends, who contradicted him in this, each in particular declared that if Paulus had desired one of their daughters,



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they would not have refused her but considered themselves lucky. That is how much he had already made himself liked with his pleasant behaviour. The marriage to Adriana van Balckeneynde then took place in the year 1650.

Balckeneynde, who was a master carpenter and architect and as such had much contact with the most important people in The Hague, introduced his new son to everyone. His Highness Prince Johan Maurits and still other great ones often came to visit our Paulus Potter in his studio to see his commendable art. At that time he painted a fairly large piece [5], bustling and full of work for the old Princess Amalia van Solms-Braunfels, which was to be placed above a chimney at the old court, but one who had the ear of the princess said: that is was too filthy a subject for her highness to look at daily. This saying referred to a pissing cow which is depicted in it, for which the piece is known. Thus the work was rejected and fell into other hands.

Many years on end this work was in the family of Mister alderman Muçart, from where it fell into the hands of the art dealer Quirijn van Biesum. The art loving Jacob van Hoek bought if for 2,000 guilders from mentioned Van Biesum and placed it in his art cabinet opposite a famous art work by Gerard Dou in which a barber’s shop appears in the distance, this being the most important art work by Dou that is now known to be in Holland.

Next to these jewels of art, art lovers could feast their eyes


Paulus Potter
Landscape with a farmyard, dated 1649
panel, oil paint 81 x 115.5 cm
Sint-Petersburg (Russia), Hermitage, inv./cat.nr. 820

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viewing two art scenes painted by the outstanding Adriaen van de Velde, along with others, as by Philips Wouwerman, Adriaen van Ostade, Jan Steen, etc.

It is clear to me from several instances that have been related to me that our Potter early on had secret enviers who frustrated him from behind a mask of friendship. Is anyone puzzled by how this could have happened, as his art deserved praise and merited being paid for dearly and his behaviour embodied virtue and piety themselves? I answer, it happened for this reason. Prosperity, fame and virtue are the objects on which Envy whets her teeth. The moment Fortune seems to want to favour someone for his virtue, Envy at once beats her to it. Horace already sang it in his time:

Prosperity is always from askance
Viewed with an envious eye.

And another poet.

Ungrateful Envy follows prosperity on its heels,
a shadow follows a figure, wherever it twists and turns.

And as far as the commendable and pious life is concerned, one need only pay attention to the saying of Gnaeus Manlius, who says: Envy is blind; and therefore speaks calumny of virtue, and of Pieter Rabus:

This fate always pursues the commendable.


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But I will reward this harmful monster with a small print in my book of Emblems, to make it known. But passing by all this, Mister Burgomaster Nicolaes Tulp, who often being in The Hague, had got to know our Paulus Potter, whose praiseworthy behaviour and art pleased him singularly. Seeing that he was not rewarded according to the worth of his paintings, he lured him to Amsterdam to paint for him with guarantees of his favour, so that he and his family went to Amsterdam on the first of May 1652, where he painted various art works, both large and small for mentioned burgomaster Tulp, so that he came to own most of his work in his time. This is confirmed by Nicolaas van Reenen, living in The Hague, who was the issue of Paulus Potter’s widow, in a letter of December 1716: That he had often heard his mother say: That she never saw her husband idle; that even when he sacrificed an hour to take a walk with her outside, he always carried a notebook in his pocket to be able to sketch immediately anything that looked inventive to him and could suit his needs. He etched his copper plates (of which the prints are known and ever esteemed by lovers of prints) at night, by candlelight, so as not to take away from his painting time. People believe (not I) that he fell into consumption from painting too diligently, and died of it in January 1654, only 29 years old.

He lies buried in the great chapel in Amsterdam, leaving in addition to his fame as artist, a widow and a daughter who, when 3 ½ years old,


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