Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 2, page 150-159


Page 150

grey and also in brown, red and white, which looked like red bole. He was most jocular in his manner and often while teaching told one or another prank of his young years, among many how he and other students of Bloemaert had played a prank on a baker who lived next door. He squealed to their master and they paid him back in this way. The mentioned baker kept chickens and to realize their intention they collected the crusts of their early afternoon bread, which they broke into small chunks and knotted two by two with a long thread and tossed before the chickens, which they ate greedily (some more, others less), after which they stood opposite each other to the left and right with dug in legs and extended necks pulling away until the threads broke and they tumbled head over heels over each other after this farcical game had lasted some time. And he was able to relate this with such amusing gestures that it would have been impossible to refrain from laughing. I can believe that he was the chief instigator of this show because he appeared to have inherited this from his father, who was able to play the part of another currish Diogenes and to tell everyone off in a comical way. The reader must not rue that I have once stepped out of my design and related a sample or three.

Vincent van Drielenburg, father of our painter, was canon and a man of substance who in addition held some civic offices,

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but who meddled or mixed in the disputes between the Reformed and Remonstrants, which were running high. Some who pretended to be his friends advised him that he had best keep a low profile for a while and leave Utrecht until the fire of the dispute would have died down somewhat and that they would write for his return. But they neglected this so long that they (under the fraudulent pretence of not knowing where Drielenburg was, or if he would ever return to Utrecht) had become the possessors of those vacant offices. Finally, again returned to Utrecht, he at once discovered the deceit, being a man of sharp wits. But as this was water under the bridge and not to be reversed, he thought up other means of compensation and revenge, which he found readily at hand. He rented a wheelbarrow and pushed it as crookedly as he could back and forth across the square before the city hall. And when everyone had noticed this and asked him what this could mean, he pushed on, saying, the wagon won't go straight.

On another occasion, the court being assembled at the city hall, he went there and had the chamber servant request of the gentlemen whether he might be allowed to come inside because he had something to request, which was granted him. Arrived in the chamber, he was asked what he wanted. Whereupon he answered that he had heard that a police officer's place was vacant, and requested that he might be provided with it. The gentlemen were surprised at such a request, and looking at each other, asked him

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to stand outside so as to be able to deliberate, which he did. Rung back inside after a short wait, the president said to him that the gentlemen were greatly perplexed at such a request, first because he was not a needy man and secondly because it would be the greatest dishonour to his family and children, so that they were not able to believe that his request was in earnest. And as some gentlemen who were his friends, taking him aside, demanded to know what reason motivated him, he replied that he had no other reason than this one, that he knew the big thieves, and would imprison them first. To which he got a reply from which he clearly understood that they who have the longest swords can reach the farthest. Thus he no longer bothered henceforth, as before, to play the rôle of a new Diogenes amongst the populace. One more example, with which I shall end. It is known that in those days the youth, especially amongst people of means, began to despise the old Dutch simplicity and to follow the false goddess of fashion. This also was observed by him, as there was almost nothing that did not have to face the rod of his censure. Now, I had almost forgotten that he had become a widower in the meantime. What happens? He takes a lantern with lit candles and on a clear day took it through the city, which surprised everybody, who finally asked what he was seeking? Whom he answered: Bourgeois Daughters. And when they told him that there were plenty of those, he answered that they had all become

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damsels. With this we put our farcical painter to rest with his father.

JACOBUS LEVECK was born in Dordrecht (but in what year I have not been able to find out, since there is no one of his family left.) He was a bachelor and kept house with two maids because he had a half brother who was blind to look after. His parents left him a tidy fortune but as it seems to me (since he loved company more than painting) it had mostly melted away with his journey to France. He had studied art with Rembrandt but gave up on his handling during his journey and subsequently turned entirely to the painting of portraits, more or less resembling those of Jan de Baen. He still had a piece of painting of his early days in his house in which the handling of Rembrandt was so well observed that one could take it for a piece by Rembrandt. He came to my parental home (I don’t know on what occasion) at the time that I had left Van Drielenburg and was drawing on my own without instruction. He saw my work and judged that I should continue in art, to which my father at once attached his seal of approval and made an agreement to have me continue in art under his supervision, as happened. But misfortune had it that he came to die after about nine months, so that I was again without instruction. I was left a third of his print collection, but ignorance had me make a foolish choice. For instead of choosing handsome Italian or French prints for myself, my eye fell on prints by Lucas van Leyden and Albrecht Dürer,

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which could not be of any use to me. And it happened only by a certain accident that I also chose a French print as part of my selection, which has the best place in my art book, both because it serves in remembrance of my master as well as for its virtue and rare value, for I have never met a lover of prints who has seen and not praised it. It is composed by Charles Le Brun and cut by François de Poilly I. One sees Pallas on the clouds and Neptune addressing her from his shell chariot. In the distance one sees the muses and in the shadow of the clouds the arts etc. [1]. It was (when Leveck was in Paris) posted above a Thetis and had it fetched by a Swiss on a dark evening for a half pistole, who brought it undamaged to his lodgings.

I am able to say little about him or his way of painting because he was often sickly and painted little or nothing in the time that I lived with him. He was familiar with me and has told me that when he was in Sedan, in France , he had the opportunity to paint a portrait of an important old clergyman, and that this gentleman told him that another Dutchman had begun his portrait but that it had not pleased him and that it had therefore remained standing around unfinished. Curiosity compelled him to see it. It was then brought out by a servant, mouldy and mildewy, from a forgotten corner. He stood looking on with amazement because he saw at first sight that it was by the matchless Anthony van Dyck, but it worked out better for him

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1
François de Poilly (I) after Charles Le Brun and after François Chauveau
Minerva in contest with Neptune for Athens, 1661
paper, etching 472 x 574 mm
lower right : F. de Poilly. Sculp.
Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, inv./cat.nr. 801-66


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than he had thought, because he found the proverb confirmed, that not all lovers of art are connoisseurs.

He died, checking my memory, at the beginning of the year 1674, when I guess he was about 50 years old. He entered the Artist's Society in the year 1655.

If one should in emulation of the examples of ancient authors wish to make inextinguishable the remembrance of men who have done something above the ordinary during their lifetime and wish to chain them to the links of eternity by pen and printing press, the most deserving are those who developed something for the benefit of the commonwealth by weapons, art, or pen. Among the latter SAMUEL van HOOGSTRATEN, painter and writer of the book on painting entitled the Zichtbaere Werelt, may be counted. And if I am more expansive with his biography than with others, people should attribute it to the debt that I have carried in my heart since I had the honour of his instruction in art; from which I will now requite myself since I am not ashamed to say that he was my teacher and that I owe him the foundation of everything that I know about art.

He was born in Dordrecht in the year 1627. I do not know if he had teachers in his early days other than his father, but I do know that he also learned art with Rembrandt (since on p. 257 of his Hooge Schoole der Schilderkonst he called him his second master following on the death of his father Dirk). He kept his

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way of painting for some time but eventually gave it up and took up an entirely different way of painting and also turned to the painting of portraits, in which he made felicitous progress, both in The Hague, where he lived for some years, but also in Dordrecht. And just as Pictura caressed him with favour and advantage, so the goddess of poetry flattered him on the other side with glory. Both seemed to favour him equally affectionately, just as he loved the first in return and did not despise the second. The first he offered his best hours, the second his relaxation, as he clearly indicates via the censor in the prologue of his booklet entitled the Schoone ROSELIIN, printed in 1650. Here I bring Roselyn on stage, although it is dangerous to subject her beauty to everybody’s judgment. The great poet who polished his morning songs all day long did not go uncensored. How then would I, having served another goddess all day long and first thinking of Roselyn only while changing, be free? And a little lower: That is why I have devoted less time to it than may possibly satisfy the most exacting of you. Poetry is a sister of my goddess Pictura. Accordingly I have introduced changes in treatment but not in understanding, weighing and considering the various actions and passions of people.

Driven by a particularly envious impulse, he set himself against other artists, not as it commonly transpires (which is foul) against their person and their glittering fortune, but out of envy

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and because he could not bear to have anyone overtake him on the running track of art leading to the laurels of honour. As such there was no aspect of art in which others would seem to pull ahead, or he instantly followed at their heels. Buildings, landscapes, tempestuous seas, calm waters, animals, flowers, fruit, and still life (which he painted so naturally that many were fooled) or whatever it happened to be, he was able to apply himself to it and master it. I have seen remnants of this still at his house: there an apple, pear or lemon in a rack for saucers; further on a slipper or a shoe painted on a carved board and placed in the corner of a room or under a chair, along with dried salted flounders, painted onto a filled canvas and cut out, and hung on a nail somewhere behind a door, so that one could easily be mistaken and see it as actual dried plaice. To confirm my claim I must tell the reader how he made himself famous with the emperor and the entire court by painting something of the kind with his brush. When on the 6th of August 1651 he showed samples of his art at the Viennese court, the Emperor Ferdinand III, the Empress Eleonora Gonzaga, the King of Hungary, and the Archbishop were present. This art consisted of three pieces. The first was a portrait of a nobleman, the second the Crowning with Thorns of Christ; which they all praised to the skies. But especially when the third piece (being a still life) [2] was shown, the Emperor showed himself to be infatuated with it.

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2
Samuel van Hoogstraten
Trompe L'oeil still life of a letter rack with a rosary and playing cards, 1651-1654
canvas, oil paint 49 x 51,5 cm
center : S. Sam / Hoog
Prague, Prague Castle Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. O 108


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He looked at the same for a long time but found himself fooled, and said: This is the first painter to have fooled me. And then had him told: That as punishment for that deceit he would not get that piece back, but that he wished to keep it forever, and value it according to its worth. And though the painting of such things brought great profit at that time, he had too great a spirit to be detained by them, but mainly devoted his work to portraits, histories and perspectives in rooms (for which he then made a hole in the wall outside the room to view them). I have seen several of them which painted in a small room, showed an entire palace, with vaulted arches and galleries supported by marble columns. He had a praiseworthy handling of his portraits and was fortunate in his capturing of a recognizable likeness, as is especially apparent from the last piece of the minters of Dordrecht [3], which was painted at the time that I studied with him, all of whom I knew and of which some are still alive. In addition he had a way of painting rich in the paint, a way of proceeding whereby the pieces long keep their complete power and colour. As far as his histories are concerned, these are usually praiseworthy, graceful and harmonious, and the art lovers never had anything to complain about but that the colours, especially of the clothes, are used too isolated and unmixed and that in the last years of his life, to court favour unwisely, he sometimes introduced things to his pieces which he censored in his book about the

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3
Samuel van Hoogstraten
Group portrait of mint masters and wardens of the Mint of Holland in Dordrecht in 1674 (with Samuel van Hoogstraten himself in the foreground), dated 1674 and 1677
canvas, oil paint 135,8 x 166 cm
Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum, inv./cat.nr. DM/103/464


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foundations of painting. Who is without failings? Yes, the most famous masters, even among the first Italians, had their failings. But our pen has already trotted too far ahead of us. First we must accompany our Batavier (such was his Bent- name) with our pen to Rome, and see him returned to his fatherland from Vienna with an imperial gift to the lustre of his art before we tie up the strands of his biography. He who turns half way (goes the saying) does not wander.

The world consists of steady changes, and we are driven by the same impulse. Yes, experience has taught us that most people draw life and pleasure from change. This humour also crept up on our Batavian; thus he decided to undertake a journey to Rome. People say that he had been struck by love, and that he obeyed his wanderlust to suppress this passion. Whatever may be the case he prepared himself and commenced the journey from Dordrecht on the 16th of May of 1651. His poet’s pen had described the day’s events in Vienna in Austria in verses. However, we only want to accompany him in rhyme until outside the Bishopric Utrecht, so as not to range too far from our home base. Whom it pleases to go further can follow the rhyme on page 201 of “Thalia” or fifth book of his Zichtbaere Werelt. This is how he begins:

Just as the crane in the flower of time,
Follows the sun and
stirs its rapid feathers.
So I
did: I left my city to
Reside far from
shore and land with strangers.
I mounted my horse, harnessed with courage

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