Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 2, page 190-199


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charged the mentioned Van Campen with painting four large compartments of the vault of the famous hall of the princely Huis ten Bosch, where Graauw was appointed in addition to his old master De Grebber [1-3] and two others.

In the year 1648 he developed an urge to see Rome, about which he did not long equivocate, for he found opportunity to head by water for Livorno. Arrived in Rome he practiced with unusual effort and diligence, first by drawing after famous marble statues, later in painting after the best models, and made such progress that Nicolas Poussin, upon seeing one of his works, laid his hand on his head, saying in Italian that he had never met a Dutchman for whom he had greater expectations.

He had been in Rome for three consecutive years when he packed up all his commendable drawings and models and headed back to Holland, where he stayed at times in Amsterdam and at times in Utrecht until 1672, when the French had come to the Netherlands and when he, afraid and fainthearted, headed for Hoorn.

The more often mentioned Johannes Bronckhorst has told me that he had him make some drawings on grounded paper heightened in crayon, such as the education of Bacchus, the triumph of Julius Caesar and others, 7 to 8 large sheets of paper long, in which he showed his competence at composition, ability at the nude, richness of spirit and way of handling. Beyond that he had nothing to make himself liked or pleasant to the world, for he was especially bland and quiet unless he was with lovers

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1
Pieter de Grebber
Part of the Triumphal Procession, with Standard-Bearers and Spoils of War, dated 1648
canvas, oil paint 383 x 203,5 cm
The Hague, Paleis Huis ten Bosch (Oranjezaal)

2
Pieter de Grebber
Part of the Triumphal Procession, with Sacrificial Bull, dated 1650
canvas, oil paint 384 x 244 cm
The Hague, Paleis Huis ten Bosch (Oranjezaal)


3
Pieter de Grebber
The Apotheosis of Frederik Hendrik, dated 1650
panel, oil paint 440 x 760 cm
The Hague, Paleis Huis ten Bosch (Oranjezaal)


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of art and found opportunity to speak about the beautiful, the soul of art.

He died in Alkmaar, single, after he had lived there and painted little for ten years.

In that same year, 1627, was born in Haarlem PIETER van ROESTRAETEN. He learned art with Frans Hals I, whose daughter [= Adriaentje Hals] he also later married. She was the one who when still young shat on the farcical Adriaen Brouwer and who was shat on by Brouwer in turn. Michiel Carrée, who lived in England in 1695 and commonly associated with them has told me that he heard it thus, for the sake of the farce, from both their mouths. That the wife of Frans Hals [= Lysbeth Reyniersdr.], having something else to do, charged Brouwer, who was then still young and learning art with Frans Hals, to carry the child so that it would not cry in the meantime. Brouwer went about this as best he could and carried her now on his arm, now on his shoulders to quiet her and bounced her so long that she finally dirtied him from top to bottom. Thus treated, Brouwer laid the child on the floor, dropped his trousers, and paid it back in the same currency. The wife, coming in and seeing this burlesque scene, asked what he was doing? He answered: We are beshitting on one another.

Roestraten was a commendable painter of portraits and still lifes, especially, silver objects, saucers, vases, bowls etc., which he was able to imitate so naturally with the brush that it seem to be actual silver. At the last

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he mainly occupied himself with the latter, seeing that Peter Lely, who could do nothing other than paint portraits and tried to make his fortune with them, discouraged him from painting them so that they would not get in each other’s way, with the promise that he would be of service to him in some other way, as also happened, for he was often paid forty or fifty pounds sterling for one piece.

He hurt his hip during the fire of London, so that he later became cripple.

After the death of his first wife he married a younger one, but it was not worth his while that, with so little grain as he had left to grind, he erected a new mill. For he died in the year 1698.

Trees and flowers are the ornament of the earthly realm. Gentle and mild nature brings these forth in due time. The application of a diligent and assiduous gardener adds to their beauty and splendour. Thus it is with mankind as well. The arts and sciences are its ornaments. Nature created mankind's intellect and inclination. Practice brings the intellect to perfection. Horace confirmed this where he said:

Nature may create man's mind
But the rest must be done by
art

And the present subject shall provide proof.

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HENDRICK VERSCHURING, born in Gorkom in the year 1672 [= 1627], was the son of a captain in the service of the Dutch Republic. He had tender concern for his child, all the more because he was weaker and more tender in the early spring of his youth than others, so that he was greatly worried, not knowing what to do with him or where to guide him, since the boy did not seem to be born for the profession of arms. But it did not take long before the means to his bread winning was discovered in his inclination, which tended to the art of drawing. Observing this, the father at once placed him, having reached the age of eight years, with a certain Dirck Govertsz., a portrait painter, to be instructed in the fundaments of drawing, with whom he remained to his thirteenth year, after which he was placed with the famous Jan Both in Utrecht, where he remained for another successive six years, industriously and diligently practicing drawing and painting. Then wanderlust crept up on him so that he went to Rome where, to continue his art, he steadily occupied himself with drawing after the artful marble statues and the nudes of the renowned Roman school of drawing. But because his spirit led him more and more to the painting of horses, hunts, robberies, battles, etc. as well as to the drawing of old ruins and wrecked buildings and memorials, he left Rome to search out here and there all sorts of subjects to which he was drawn by his inclination. He also drew what was most remarkable about the most important cities in which he lived, such as Rome, Florence and Venice, and even many of the new buildings and palaces, by which he

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became knowledgeable about architecture, as various examples of his brushwork later demonstrated. The art of his brush was particularly popular in Venice, where he was beloved by all the great because of that art and his pleasant behaviour. After he had thus spent a period of ten years in Italy according to Roger de Piles (but his Son, Mister Willem Verschuring mentions five years in a letter to me) he returned to his fatherland but did not realize his intention then, for during the journey through Switzerland to France he met the son [= Joan Huydecoper II] of Mister burgomaster Joan Huydecoper I heer van Maarsseveen, who was about to undertake a pleasure journey to Italy. The latter distracted him (without much trouble) from his plans so as to have him accompany him to Italy, as he did. He remained there for three years and finally, in the year 1662 [= 1652], he arrived in his native city of Gorkom, healthy and full of the fire of art (to show all art lovers the progress he had made) with the intention of taking it easy there.

Without waiting for long he set to practicing his art, for which he soon found admirers, which fanned his lust more and more, and he therefore lost no time to search out the unusual subjects on which his passion for art concentrated. Thus he passed back and forth between the encampments where skirmishes (including between cavalry) took place, of which he then made sketches in a little book that he always had with him to this end. In particular, he found good opportunities at hand in the years 1671 and 1672, paying heed to the way of camping, order in fighting, marching, fleeing, and plundering of the dead and wounded after

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battle, including all the equipment and commotion that belong to an army. These sketched subjects he later employed and then worked out after life for the most prominent figures and horses. I discovered this from a great piece bustling with activity and ingeniously painted, depicting the rustling of cattle, people. The background shows a beach and ships at a landing to which a whole slew of animals for slaughter and plundered goods are transported. In the foreground a gentleman is being violently seized, who, dragging his heels against the abduction, looks about for relief while his wife, on bended knees, offers the head of the band, calmly seated on his horse, all kinds of silverware to this purpose. This is all so naturally painted and firmly drawn that it may be counted amongst the most excellent art of our Netherlandish Masters. Today Mister Gijsbert van Aalst in Dordrecht is its owner.

By his birth, understanding and praiseworthy behaviour, for which he was beloved by all, he was charged with the magistracy of his native city, which he held with great acclaim. However, he did not cease daily to practice art, which brought him good advantage, so that he lived cheerfully and happily.

To take a small journey (who can foresee his fate?) he took sail, when a strong thunder storm caused him to come to grief, being two hours from Dordrecht, on the 26th of April 1690 at the age of 63 years.

F. G. Westhovius, principle of the Latin schools

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of Gorinchem, sent me the following caption for the Verschuring’s portrait (placed in Plate H 1.), rhymed by himself in a letter.

Verschuring’s portrait is depicted in this picture.
The pearl in the crown of Gorinchem’s banners;
Upright offspring as if produced by Parrhasius,
Which traces his features with inimitable flourishes.
Does anyone want clearer light than from this picture or verse?
Seek it in the eulogies for the best of artists.

The same artist’s son, WILLEM VERSCHURING, also practiced painting for some consecutive years, first in his youth with his father, later with Jan Verkolje I in Delft. His inclination fell on the painting of companies, figures and sometimes portraits. What he has achieved with his brush has clearly demonstrated to us and has us conclude that had he proceeded with zeal, he would have clambered up to the top of Parnassus with his practice of art, but he desisted from continuing and has now given up on the brush for some years, prevented by profitable ventures which he has at hand.

He was beloved and esteemed by everyone in Gorinchem, like his father, who was in his time ruling burgomaster, just as before him the famous painter, his contemporary and fellow townsman JACOB van der ULFT, was raised to the dignity of the office of burgomaster. With whom mentioned Van der Ulft studied art I do not know, but it is known to all that he made a name for himself with his art

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and that a place is reserved for his brush work in the most commendable cabinets.

He mainly painted Roman or Italian views, markets or squares, and in them, in the distance, columns, obelisks, triumphal arches, ornamental statues, or some ancient signs of triumph, and that in such a way (though he never went to Rome) that those who had travelled to Italy recognized them with the first blink of their eye. And no one should think this miraculous, seeing that most of the remains of ancient Rome, known from prints or sketches, are easy to come by. But what is astonishing is when one sees how naturally and artfully he observed the decrepitude, cracks and crevices, and the breaking down of the same, and even more when one sees how inventively he usually could embellish his paintings with a crowd of small figures which, firmly drawn and artfully arranged, are handsomely combined. Yes, he sometimes was also able to embellish actual heathen histories. A small work of art that hangs in the Amsterdam city hall [4], showing the daily activity of all sorts of people in their own and recognizable clothing, is enough by itself to commemorate the art of his brush for centuries. In addition he was probably the most important glass painter of that century, so that many church windows around Gorinchem and in Gelderland display his brush work. He went to great trouble to discover the strength, beauty and transparency of glass colours, just as Dirck Crabeth and Wouter Crabeth I (who painted the windows in the church in Gouda) used them. But this was in vain, for that art

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4
Jacob van der Ulft
View of the Dam in Amsterdam, dated 1667
canvas, oil paint 65 x 84 cm
lower left : Jacobus van der Ulft C. Gorchomiensis fecit 1667
New York City, City of New York


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has been buried too long along with the masters to determine anything even insecurely. Nor are the entryways to the Elysian Fields now known. Otherwise one could ask the shades of the dead, as that is versified in olden days by the Roman top poet Ovid.

We now need to talk about JAN THEUNISZ. BLANKERHOFF, born in Alkmaar (where his mother was city midwife) on Copper Monday of the year 1628.*

His first teacher of art was Arendt Samuëlsz. Teerling, nicknamed Sincere. We find him booked in 1632 on the list of names of Alkmaar artists, but I guess that he must have been one of the least of brothers in those days, seeing he turned to the dauber’s pot, perhaps because fortune may not have favoured his brush practice.


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* The copper day was as of old a Bacchus and Ceres day, in which all excess and lasciviousness was enacted and as if everything were permitted as with Caracalla, who abused his own mother-in-law, to which the dim-witted sow then said: if you want to, it is permitted to you because you are Emperor. Those of the papacy are wont to walk through Thailand with copper kettles, to play on the rommelpot and perform all exess, and were therefore taken for assiduous papists. But this practice was from time to time curtailed by the Christian government. See Abraham Magyrus on page 31 of his Historie van de Almanachs Heiligen.
Our painter who appears to have inherited a little from his birthday, was loose, uncontrolled in life, turbulent and given to changes, which is why he also joined the last fleet sailed for the relief of Candia [= Krete] under the command of the Count of Waldeck [= Josias II, Count of Waldeck]. This was in the spring of the year 1669, when in October of that same year it was captured by the Venetians after a Turkish siege lasting twenty years. See the Hollandtsche Mercurius for the year 1669.

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Be that as it may, he was the teacher of our Blankerhoff and of Johannes Bulot. Later on Blankerhoff ended up with Pieter van Schaeyenborgh, and from there continued to practice art with Caesar van Everdingen and Gerrit Pietersz. de Jong until, stimulated by wanderlust, he went to Rome, where he was twice (others say thrice) at different times.

In the bent of painters his true name was changed to Jan Maat. We will henceforth also call him that, since he kept it from then on and is best known by it.

The first subjects of his brush were landscapes and interior shore and water views, which he was able to paint skilfully smoothly and with animation, which has one suspect that his travels gave him reason to paint seascapes. The most esteemed pieces are those in which he depicted Italian beaches and harbours, with their strange ships.

He was loose in life and loose in painting, which is why his nature, which was tempestuous, inclined his brush to vigorous painting. And the connoisseurs have observed that when he showed a little more patience, so as to give his works a more detailed and polished appearance, they lacked that spirited freedom and praiseworthy vigour, although I know (this not withstanding) that the precisely polished paintings are now most in demand. With the painter Gerrit van der Steur hangs a beach view which may be counted among his best works, artfully and naturally depicted. In it the swaying or tumbling of the receding and

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