Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 2, page 140-149


Page 140

How widely artists can differ in their preferences can be clearly seen by a comparison of the preceding with the following biography. Van Kessel chose as his subject flowers which refresh the spirits with their pleasant and sweet smell and caress the eyes pleasingly with charming beauty.

JAN PEETERS I, his fellow townsman and contemporary, instead chose such subjects that upon viewing cause emotion, fright and fear, seeing that they involve all sorts of disasters and misery, namely daunting storms, thunder and bloody sea battles, and those so naturally and ingeniously rendered that he was deemed to be a high flyer in art. Here, for instance, one sees depicted by him how the waves are swept up to towering heights by the power of the winds and how the loaded ships are also carried to those heights to at once descend with the prow into a deep abyss. There one sees a sailor assaulted by an angry hurricane, looking up at the cloudy heavens with sad eyes from his mastless and bowless ship. Or, a fleet of ships equipped for bloodletting greeting its enemies from afar with fire-spouting metal mouths, so that the splinters fly about the ears of the sailors on board. Or there where by mutual wrath (as the Agrippan top poet says)

On water, clamped hull to hull,
Find their
pleasure in the destruction,

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Of oak ribs, mast and keels:
And human
bones mashed to dust.

PEETER BOEL, born in Antwerp in 1625, applied himself to the painting of all sorts of four-footed animals, birds and flowers, as may be seen from a eulogy made to the renown of his art, in which the poet sets out to compose a list of all the changes that he takes as subjects for his brush:

As Boel has us see in the painting of animals
Which
through art sway on canvas as in paradise,
Pleasing to the eye, and from which nothing in lacking:
For it appears that a second life hides in this art.

And lower . . . . . . . . . Be joyful all animals.
Your master gives our eye a
feeling of paradise.
What
was denied to Adam, we obtain from Boel.

Among his contemporaries is reckoned
JAN van den HECKE I, a handsome master in the painting of landscapes, figures, animals, flowers, fruit, gold, silver, crystal and porcelain.

Everything that the world contains in its circumference.
Is the result of painting in general:
And still the true life of everything in particular seems
Most inventively worked out, and grandly composed,
As much as the art brush and paints can give,
Well known in Rome, where he remained a long time.

He was born in Kwaremont, outside

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Oudenaarde, and was still alive in the year 1660, as were also the following

CASPER van EYCK, sea painter from Antwerp
JAN SIBERECHTS also from Antwerp, whose way of painting resembled Karel du Jardin and Nicolaes Berchem.
NICOLAAS van EYCK I painted all sorts of military action,

Like battles and such matters.
Advances, postal services, and as things go in the army.

PHILIP FRUYTIERS, as far as I can conclude from the rhyme of Cornelis de Bie, painted figures in miniature or water paints with amazing precision. De Bie further witnesses that everything he made was:

Most firmly drawn after life and well arranged,
Full of strange inventions, most inventively depicted.


Then also lived ANTON GOUBAU and FRANCISCUS de NEVE I, of whom it is said:

That Rome itself testifies that in times long gone
There was no one who by
effort and diligence
Approached nature so closely
when painting after life.

What JOANNES FIJT painted, will be announced by the following rhyme, which says this about his work:

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Page 143

Here one sees nothing appear other
Than
the hare, hound and rabbits,
Than the leopard, lion and bull,
Than the porcupine, badger and vulture;
Than the bracken,
rapid winds,
Than the deer, stag and does,
Than the peacock and
beautiful pheasant,
Who
sway there on all sides:
Not one
which flies through the clouds,
Nor dives in the whirlpools of the earth,
Or
they all comes together here
Just as
they appeared before Noah.

PETER THIJS was (as far as I can discern from the contents of a Brabant rhyme) a portrait painter and it seems to me that the sad fate that plagues portrait painters in general, namely criticism, came his way. Whether the following rhyme was composed to console him, or whether it is only intended to indicate the general fate of portrait painters, I do not know, but this I do know. Although it is a lame refrain, it tells the truth:

If someone's mind turns to the painting of portraits,
He hears a variety of opinions about his
art,
How pleasant and handsome, how pure, bold and
precise
That she bears and shows her features as if in life,
Thus people have quite a lot to add to the rubbish
Of those who least understand her hidden aspects,
For though
it is attuned to rule and measure,
Her nobility is nevertheless challenged.

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Page 144

ALEXANDER ADRIAENSSEN painted still lifes, fruit, fish etc. as did FRANS and JOHANNES YKENS. For though the latter was at first a handsome sculptor in wood, he was awakened by ambition to the painting of fruit and flowers. And these, which we pursued one after another on a list, are from Antwerp. On which we also have follow KAREL ŠKRÉTA of Prague. He lived for a long time in Italy with the famous Johann Wilhelm Baur, who painted handsomely and inventively in water colours. He painted portraits and was known in the Roman bent by the nickname of Broadsword.

And PETER van der BORCHT II of Brussels first painted figures and then landscapes. As well as JAN MIEL, figure painter of the Duke of Savoy, born in Flanders.

PETER DE WITTE III of Antwerp is praised thus in a rhyme by Cornelis de Bie:

If on a winter day the birds would see the pieces
Painted by de Wit, which represent
trees,
Art would fire up their nature with jolliness
As in the middle of the hot summer time.

GEERAERT van HOOCHSTADT, born in Brussels, began as a portrait painter, but aware of his ability in art, he took to the painting of histories, especially Passion pieces. Sundry altarpieces by him are still to be found in Brabant.

GYSBRECHT THIJS was born in Antwerp.

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Page 145

He had applied himself to the painting of portraits which he treated artfully and with a good likeness, yes so purely and nobly that they were taken in other countries for the brushwork of Anthony van Dyck. At that time there was also one NICHOLAS LOYER as well as GUILIAM GABRON II of Antwerp, famous for painting of gold, silver, porcelain, flowers and fruit. As well as one ARTUS WOLFFORT of Antwerp, who painted seascapes as well as bucolic scenes. And he is praised for his handsome arrangements and bold brush. With him may be placed his fellow citizen JUSTUS van EGMONT, a commendable portraitist and pupil of Anthony van Dyck. Also to be considered are the painters of companies ABRAHAM PARDANUS, VUURPIJL, WILLEM CORNELISZ. DUYSTER, HENDRICK HEERSCHOP, etc.

I cut this short, since this would look like a Brabant funeral register, at which one reads out the names of the living along with their honorary titles to accompany the deceased to their graves. The others (as the undertakers of the dead in Amsterdam are wont to say) can follow each other in good order.

After him appears the commendable painter JOHANNES LINGELBACH, born in Frankfurt am Main in 1625.

At what time or on which occasion he came to Holland with his household, or whom he had as teacher of art, I am not able to say, but I can say that spurred on by wanderlust, he went from Amsterdam to France in 1642, and after the passing of two years on to Rome, where he practiced his art with effort and diligence until 1650, when on the 8th of May,

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on a Sunday, he undertook his return journey though Germany and arrived in Amsterdam in good health in June.

Many large and smaller artworks, bustling and witty in invention, also pleasant by his artful and flattering brush handling may be seen in the Netherlands, especially in Amsterdam, which carry clear signs of the greatness of his intellect as proof that he had paid attention in Italy to what was to be found that was pleasing and picturesque, had made use of it and applied it in his brushworks.

Many of his art works depict one or another Italian sea port, where one sees either a grandly constructed city gate, decorated with sculpture in niches or something of the kind, which he was able to imitate very naturally with respect to their decrepitude and the variety of colours with which the decay of time paints them, grown over with moss and stubble, and display on his canvases. Or perhaps one may also see some erected statues, or cenotaphs on raised bases, from which one can also see (as is said above) the impressions left on them by the teeth of time, from which their antiquity may be deduced.

Thus in the rendering of his Roman markets (which he made often, though always with variations) he generally also employed a great monument, or cenotaph, be it a group of statues, a fountain, or a triumphal column, and then further populated the scene with all sorts of male and female figures, donkeys, horses etc. each doing its work,

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the one by carrying, the other by dragging. Here we see a vegetable woman, whose stand is supplied with all sorts of fruit, and there a soup kitchen beneath a covered tent in front of which a humpbacked beggar stands begging. Yonder is a group of figures who stand, listening to the preaching of a monk, and in still another corner they stand seriously gaping with open mouth at the drivel of a quack while their pockets are being picked. Just as especially in the depictions of his seaports (mentioned above), he also renders and differentiates the diverse national character of the merchants at the loading and unloading of sea ships and galleys, each in recognizable costume. He further adds a pleasant water view, blue horizon, and thinly clouded sky, giving strength to and bringing out the foreground.

His portrait, based on one painted by himself [1], appears at the bottom of Plate G below, next to and to the left of the depiction of Jan van Hoogstraten.

His contemporary and particularly good friend JAN WORST painted handsome Italian prospects and was in Rome at the same time as he. One rarely sees his paintings since he passed most of his time drawing on paper. These drawings are still valued by art lovers.

Now I arrive at WILLEM van DRIELENBURG, the first of three of my instructors in art.

Born in Utrecht of a distinguished family, he had studied with Abraham Bloemaert in his youth but later moved on to the painting of small

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1
Bernard Vaillant after Michael Sweerts published by Bernard Vaillant
Portrait of Johannes Lingelbach (1622-1674)
paper, mezzotint 240 x 175 mm
The Hague, RKD – Nederlands Instituut voor Kunstgeschiedenis (Collectie Iconografisch Bureau)


Page 148

landscapes which differed entirely in handling from those of his master. The arrangement or choice of his landscapes resembled those of Jan Both, but they were not as playful in their brushwork, nor as naturally coloured. He was (for as long as I have known him) unusually diligent, sometimes remaining at home a whole month without putting on his shoes, but when he did break out he could binge for three days and three nights on end. He and his household arrived in Dordrecht in 1668 or 1669, then being a man of 42 or 43 years. My late father met him in the year of troubles of 1672 and placed me with him to learn drawing. But the multitude of changing incidents that occurred daily caused too much hinder, for youths are inclined to stick their noses into things and Van Drielenburg was also keen to know what all was happening in the city and what the mails repeatedly brought. He often sent me out to learn what was new, for at that time the French rooster strode with big steps towards Holland while the interior disturbances increased so greatly that nothing but great mishaps were to be feared. One especially remains in my memory for a certain incident which I will relate here. The riots increased from day to day. One often saw a mass of people, mostly women and boys of the worst sort, approach with great noise and a banner in front. The shutting of doors and windows of the homes increased the noise, and I was told

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to hurry to my parents in all haste. Arriving at home I found the door shut and therefore went on. In the meantime that frenzied host had passed by that street, which I followed to the city hall, where the burgomaster [= Johan Hallincq], coming out to go home, was attacked and encircled by some leaders of the mutineers. And his work was cut out for him with pretty words to avoid the blow of the axe with which a certain barge shipper threatened him. That is how thoughtlessly the common people strove for the Prince of Orange. Now I arrive at what I always remember about this matter. The house of the burgomaster was plundered that same day, with everything destroyed and smashed to pieces, the hangings of the rooms torn to threads, or cut, the pieces of golden leather dragged here and there in the street. One individual who walked by the house of my parents with his arms full lost a piece which I greedily picked up, thinking that if I folded it double it could serve as a portfolio in which to keep my drawings. But the moment it was seen by my father I was forced, willing or unwilling, to put it back in the place where I had just picked it up. But no matter how greatly I pleaded for my good intentions, I got as answer that he wanted nothing of that scandalous booty touched by me, leave alone brought into his home.

To return now to my master Willem van Drielenburg, I must say in his praise that he was exceptionally diligent and that even in winter evenings he painted small landscapes in grisaille by candlelight, in

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