Houbraken Translated


Volume 2, page 180-189

Page 180

Carthage’s flowering, so follow with me the rhymes of the great Vondel, who on page 150 of his translation of Virgil describes the contents of the painted walls of Dido’s temple, and how Aeneas (while he awaits the queen there) views his own portrait and that of other Greek heroes as part of their actions, recognizes them by their features, as if sprinkled and blood and dust, and is therefore all the more moved with pity over their misfortune, at last breaks out in tears.

While in the meantime he awaits the queen,
In this great church overloaded with riches;
Stands amazed
at the welfare of the newly built city,
Appreciates the art of artists with great
And so much work, here hung
in abundance;
He observes the battle of Troy, after and before
The war, already resounded around the wide world
He observes here the son of Atreus after life,
King Priam and Achilles both together
Bitten and disturbed. He remained standing attentively,
And cried, and spoke: Achaet, what place is not burdened,
What land of the world
does not now know about our misery!
See Priam there. Here bravery in the old is
Crowned with honour and price. Here our sorrow is lamented,
And one finds no one who does not bear sorrow about this.
Let go of all your fear: this knowledge will finally,
(when all know about our misfortune)
serve us best.
Thus he speaks and
blends his sorrow with the sadness of the air
noble paintings, and releases sigh upon sigh,
Whereupon the tears
descend down his cheeks:


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Because he observed the youth, on this side of the walls,
How the Greeks, who stand in the field before Troy,
Come fall around the neck, and drive them to the army:
Of the other side how Achilles with plumes on his helmet
Teaches the
Phrygians to clear the field in his chariot.
Not far from here he observes, crying and depressed
The white tent of Resus, who wrapped in
taken by surprise and plundered, and beaten,
By Diomedes, son of Tydeus, who drives the
And heated horse towards the army, that it cracks

And lower:

Aeneas sighed from all
His heart, as soon as he came to view the war
The wagon and the corpse of his closest friend,
And Priam, who depressed and helpless, in front of the city,
Beseeched the proud enemy with folded hands.
also found himself amongst all those Greek men,
And among the soldiers that came to defend Troy
From the East, and saw here Agamemnon,
the Ethiopian,
With all his standards.

Spurred on by these praiseworthy examples, we have in the service of art practitioners introduced the opposite print depiction with heads of old philosophers and numismatic portraits of world rulers (treated in the best known way).*

* Best known. The printed medals that one still sees in books are still not depicted in accordance with their true nature, according to art. Usually one sees them only in a single contour, as if sketched, as with Joachim Oudaan


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At the top, on the left side, is shown the portrait of Antiochus Epiphanes, the oppressor of the Maccabees.

Opposite him we see Philip of Macedonia with a laurel wreath on his head. It was minted to commemorate that his chariot had won a race, which is why it is depicted on the reverse and his bust is wrapped in laurels, since it was normal practice thus to laureate the winners. Below it, on a cord, hangs the portrait of Alexander the Great.

Opposite it hangs a coin with an image of Democritus, and on the bottom of the niche is a marble head of Heraclitus. Above it, in the middle of the niche is a minted image.

and many others, sometimes also filled in with shadow, so that it looks more like a print illustration than a medal illustration because one even sees depth depicted, against the nature of medals, which in the nature of relief do not show their stamping by recession. The Imperial coins which one sees in the numismatic cabinet of Mister Simon Schijnvoet are very similar to those we show; and the French, too, have now approached correct depiction much more closely than before, but no one (nor I, intentionally) has depicted them as they ought to be depicted. But what constitutes the correct illustration, and what manner of treatment needs be used with respect to them, will remain unspoken until I have the opportunity to manage a large publication, when I shall be able to argue clearly that no one has ever considered what should be observed for the correct depiction of medals.

A bird catcher (says Baltasar Gracián) tosses no more seed than is needed to catch his bird.



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of Socrates and below, in front of the niche, a marble bust of Diogenes, as he is seen amongst other antiquities in the Vatican in Rome. We have depicted a barking dog next to it (an emblem of its biting nature for which he became known by the nickname Cynicus the Dog. Finally there are the portraits on coins of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony.

The writers of the biographies of Philip and Alexander give us many remarkable instances that give a painter material for depictions, be it that he has the world ruler appear before the tent of Darius or when he encounters Diogenes in his barrel at the market of Athens. Because of the latter event, which is often depicted, we have included the bust of the philosopher in this scene.

Should the painter desire to depict the reprehensible meeting of Socrates with his angry Xanthippe, which he suffered with forbearance,* one treats him free of emotion, while water is poured on him from above out of a window, looking up and with his own features, by which he is known amongst numismatists.

Or does he desire tragic material and wish, for example,

* Forbearance. It consisted of his only saying to her in return, without any anger or cursing: I had expected that a shower would follow on a storm of abuse. And if anyone, surprised by this, asked him how he could possibly bear this? He answered: can you prevent the cackling of the fowl that cross the yard?


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to depict the martyrdom of the Maccabean woman with her seven sons,† he has this cruel man look on this bloody tragedy and helps himself to the features stamped on the medal.

Or does the art practitioner wish to take moralizing subjects as his aim and play the part of instructor of reason, let him depict Reason¶ in the guise of a woman in Amazon’s dress and have her make the youth view the world attentively in a mirror of caution to learn truly to understand the value of it and apply it. And the busts of Democritus and Heraclites in a niche or otherwise, placed in the background, serve as examples of the two antipodes of passion between which Reason approves the middle way as the best. Or they served as examples to learn that the nature of worldly things, with respect to appropriation, depends on understanding,

† Maccabees Chapter 7.
¶ Reason. We have shown this in our Stichtelyke zinnebeelden etc. with a coat of mail and military cloak and with a spear in the one hand and in the other a shield with the head of Medusa, and a helmet plumed with a flame of fire on the head. We found reason to apply the fire, an emblem of purification and tribulation, to Reason, seeing that it is not true Reason unless it is thriven of prejudices and error. Breast plate and spear, emblems of bravery and power, have been applied to her because she is able to control not only the passions of others but also her own. The head of Medusa on the steel shield means that just as by its display the enemies of Perseus were petrified, so everything that runs counter to Reason is silenced or after a little resistance, flees and concedes the battle.


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or that things have different effects according to the state of the mind.

It is true that such a way of reflection requires a more advanced intellect than other depictions, but it is at once also the case that by showing them, artists also deserves greater praise than others because one can say of them (as Cebes the Theban said in another context): such masters of morality lead people, even as one does with oxen, by the muzzle to water.

The double coin portraits of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra can serve a painter when he wants to depict her sitting under a splendid ship’s pavilion, stitched with slik and gold, anchored off the coast of Sicily, where Anthony welcomes her in the evening hour, or when sitting at the table, she drinks down that precious pearl (an example of drunken waste) in honour of her beloved Anthony.

We could show a multitude of portraits from medals and old marble commemorative pieces if that were our intention, but we have only indicated the path by which each artist can seek out what is of use to him (in case our leads should please him). And why the portrait of Marc Anthony here, and of Alexander Lysimachus and others, wearing ram’s horns are shown on their coinage we will explain in our presentation concerning the feast of Bacchus.

This is enough said, and we wish to close our digression with Mister David van Hoogstraten, who in his


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Aenmerkingen over de geslachten der zelfstandige naemwoorden expresses himself thus: I know that pushy and stupid individuals will insist on being right and frown their foreheads. Nor will they allow anything to be forced on them to which they do not wish to be tied etc. Everyone can stick to his opinion who believes that we are seeking out non-existent problems and wish to introduce a fearful precision that is of no value.

The reader must not be offended that I have again exploded in this digression, without permission and against my promise. I am not bound by this (the matter requiring it) like the Scottish monk Paternus of Abdinghof, who let himself be burned in the monastery in Paderborn because the Prior had not given him leave to go out.

MATTHIAS WITHOOS, of whom we are now going to speak, was born in Amersfoort in the year 1627. The products of his inclination showed early on that he was born to become a painter. Jacob van Campen, architect of the city hall of Amsterdam, who was a friend of his father and associated with him, often went to visit him when he was in his home at Randenbroek near Amersfoort and on those occasions saw the products of Matthias’ intellect. He offered his service to the youth out of his fondness for art, taught him the fundaments of art and brought him so far by his teaching in a time of six years that he could proceed on his own wings. Some young lads who got wanderlust in their heads, of which Otto Marseus van Schrieck was one, encouraged others, including our Matthias and Hendrik Graauw,


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his fellow student with Van Campen, to undertake a journey to Rome. This play proceeded with six of them, of whom one died on the way, some remained in Italy, and Otto and Matthias returned in the year 1650, after they had been there for two years.

Matthias Withoos, whose way of painting stood out markedly in purity of brushwork from those who had a similar preference with respect to the subjects of art, thereby came into the favour of the Cardinal de' Medici [= Leopoldo de' Medici], for whom he painted most often as long as he was in Rome. But even though he had it wonder well there, his passion for his fatherland drove him back, so that he chose Amersfoort instead of the world city as his residence, where he remained until the year 1672, when (to escape the malice of the French, who were then penetrating to Utrecht and surroundings) he and his household left for Hoorn in North Holland, all the more because he had four daughters and did not want to expose them to danger. He was a man tempered in his passion and good natured, and his daughter, who told me this story, declared that she often cried over his chilled bones when she recalled with what tender love he adored his children. He rarely went to an inn or into company but, when healthy, was busy and diligent at his profession day and night, for the gout plagued him so tremendously that he was often unable to do anything in the way of art for two, three, or more months per year when, as Jan Pietersz. Zomer, broker in art in Amsterdam, who knew him to the last of his life,


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told me, the fingers were bent like eagles' claws on his hands with the gout. In the flower of his life he commanded three, four, five, even six hundred guilders for a large piece, but then it was painted accordingly. I have seen one with the heirs of Mister de Moor, burgomaster of Hoorn, in which were depicted, in all detail, thistles, water plants and such sorts of herbs, filled out with reed grass, grain stalks, cornflowers, poppies, with the ground decorated with creepers, mushrooms, plantain and other small plants. Here is a frog, there a brightly coloured lizard, yonder a snake hiding in the shadows of the foliage, or possibly a mouse which is gnawing away at some herb or another, in such detail that one would have been able to count its hairs. Moreover, the herbs were interspersed with all sorts of creatures, slugs, butterflies, or sometimes a spider in its web. Everything, including even the art, was worked out naturally and with great effort and patience.

He had three sons who also handled art, and four daughters, of which Alida Withoos, the second, also painted flowers, fruit and animals in oils and water colours, and is still alive.

Johannes Withoos, the eldest, had been in Rome for a long time. He painted landscapes in water colours and brought with him from Italy a store of sketches and drawings with entertaining views, both landscapes and pleasure gardens, with the intention of passing his life in Holland. But a certain incident tempted him to the court of the ruler of Sachsen-Lauenburg [= Julius Franz Duke of Sachsen-Lauenburg], where he died in the year 1685.


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Pieter Withoos, the second son, died in Amsterdam in 1693. He painted flowers and all sorts of small animals with water colours, just as his father had done in his day. They were, each individually on a sheet, gathered into a book which is still esteemed and saved in the hands of lovers of art on paper.

Frans Withoos, the youngest, also painted flowers and animals in water colours, but not as well as Pieter. He sailed to the Indies, which did him a great service because it introduced him to the favour of his Eminence General Johannes Camphuys, who released him from work, raised his wages and had him draw for him. Returned home he died in Hoorn in the year 1705, two years after his father’s death, because the latter died in the year 1703, 76 years old, after he had been afflicted with great pain for six years on end.

HENDRIK GRAAUW was born in Hoorn from commendable parents, but I was not able to trace the year of his birth. But since he was later a student of Jacob van Campen together with Matthias Withoos, who was also his travel companion, I found reason to bring him on stage next to Graauw in the year 1627.

His first teacher of art was Pieter de Grebber of Haarlem. He then went to Jacob van Campen, architect of the city hall of Amsterdam, with whom he remained for fully eight years, doing nothing during that time but draw and arrange all sorts of subjects until Prince Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen having returned from the West Indies,


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