Houbraken Translated


Volume 2, page 220-229

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At the same time the maid of Dordrecht, Holland's oldest city, produced a beautiful flower of art in the winter season, whereupon the grey Merwede raised her head from her frozen chill out of joy, and the Rhine, her neighbouring stream, winked at her with a happy face. But this growth, sprouting up out of season, perished before its most beautiful time of flowering.

CORNELIS BISSCHOP or BISKOP,* who was born on the 12th of February of 1630, had Ferdinand Bol as teacher of art. After which he made great progress in art by diligent and steady practice.

He was the first, if not the best, who most naturally painted and wittily created all sorts of figures in wood with lively colours and carved, serving to be placed somewhere in a corner or entryway. I have seen some which, placed in their location fooled the eye, so that one might greet them like living figures. He also painted some lit and coloured in the manner of candlelight, which, in the dark, with a sconce with burning candle in the hand, made a natural show. Yes, people tell that such a statue as a prank of a certain gentleman, when he had received guests, was placed at the door or exit of the room so that some of the guests, who took her for a housemaid, tried to give her a tip for the service but stubbed their hand and were fooled, which therefore gave cause for laughter.

* According to the spelling of Ludolf Smids.


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Philostratus the Younger calls such temptations of art a pleasant and harmless deceit. But that time has long passed and people now see such things as junk, invented by bunglers and dunces or ineptly copied after the aforementioned handsome figure paintings. No one should think that I try to tarnish the commendable art of my townsman, for I am forced to say of him, as did Franciscus Junius of the old Pyrcicus: That he had ample competence to tackle the most important aspects of art, but that he did this inferior work for the profit that it brought. Yes, Pliny does not avoid saying of the great artist Protogenes, that he painted ships to his fiftieth year.

Our Bisschop did not remain content with such activities, however, but readied himself all the while for bigger enterprises. A Noble mind (says a certain Spanish writer) will sooner be mediocre in an elevated occupation than outstanding in a mediocre one; for he who takes satisfaction with being mediocre in a slight occupation proves that he knows no nobility. One must have art and spirit, and then application lays the last hand. Which is indeed what happened to Bisschop, as can be seen from many a skilful portrait in Holland, Zeeland, Brabant and elsewhere. In addition he has made several history pieces that will keep his fame, cast in everlasting cement, from perishing. One of these (consisting of two or three figures by candlelight and sold in France for a great sum of money) still graces the cabinet of King Louis XIV. He was


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sought out as court painter by the King of Denmark [= Christian V], but death intervening, he died in the prime of his life and art in the year 1674, being 44 years old and leaving eleven children. We therefore have reason to apply the handsome saying of Baltasar Gracián which says: All those that we need to live long will often die young, and those who are good for nothing live long.

Among the children were three sons of which two, as well as three daughters set out to practice art.

JACOBUS BISSCHOP, the eldest, had already embarked on art during his father’s lifetime and got so far that he was able to take up figure painting (of which we have spoken), with which he was able to be of great service to the household. But when his younger brother, who had also been raised to that work, had reached the level of competence that he could master it with the help of his sisters, the oldest quit it for a while to practice worthier options and turned to the instruction of the commendable room and ceiling painter Augustinus Terwesten I, since which time he also took up the painting of ceilings, rooms, and what goes with that.

ABRAHAM BUSSCHOP, the youngest, did not have the opportunity that his brother found, but had to settle for figure painting (a certain source of income for the family). But this still did not prevent him from following the directions of his natural impulse at the slightest opportunity that he found. He turned to the painting of all sorts of birds, including chickens, in which, thanks to his unusual


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diligence and steady practising after life, he has now progressed so far that he may be ranked with the ablest in that practice. This much may be achieved by natural inclination and tireless effort. Which is why Aristotle was already able to say: To become an outstanding man in any practice, whatever it may be, three things must come together, nature, diligence and practice. He has already created various large pieces to grace large rooms, both in Zeeland and elsewhere, in which he introduced all sorts of birds, each in its kind so naturally and boldly coloured, and thinly and clearly painted that it amazed me. I speak frankly and know how to judge it better (though that is not my habit) than the Bishop of Mechelen did for the art of poetry, of whom I am told that when Joost van den Vondel dedicated his inimitable altar secrets to him, he wrote to him that if he were to continue rhyming he might become a second Jacob Cats.

Just as Greece was once, and later Italy, famed as the mother of art, so we may also praise Brabant for the production of so great a body of artist who helped advance and sustain the progress of art. Among these may also be counted PEETER van BREDAEL, born in Antwerp in 1630. He was a commendable landscape painter and knew, moreover, how to grace landscapes with Roman buildings, amusing courts, bowers, fountains, and small figures and animals.


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I do not know the man’s work but Cornelis de Bie says about it that it is

So nobly pure, precise, and perfectly lifelike,
That even nature
itself can provide no greater perfection.

Herewith appears the commendable painter CORNELIS JONSON van CEULEN I, whose time of birth I do not know, but in 1630 he lived at the court at Whitehall. He had already been at the court before Anthony van Dyck, and King Charles I of England esteemed him. He lived (not withstanding that he was also a portrait painter) with Van Dyck, and Van Dyck with him, in good friendship. It once happened that Van Dyck went to visit him and finding him very sad, asked him for the reason, to which he answered that he was painting a lady whom he was not able to please and who, no matter how much effort he applied, scolded him as a botcher and bungler, so that he was tired of life because of this. Whereupon Van Dyck comforted him, saying that he should pay no attention to such utterances. That this had also happened to him and that he had overcome it with patience. When Charles I came into conflict with parliament and the unrest increased daily, Jonson van Ceulen left with his parents for Holland where he remained after that until he came to die in Amsterdam in the year 1665. Others would have it that after he had made himself famous at various courts, he still spent most of his life in London (where he was born from Dutch parents) and later on lived in Utrecht, where he died


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and where there are still various of his outstanding portraits to be seen.

At this time there also lived in London the famous portrait painter GERARD PIETERSZ. van ZIJL (best known by his common name Gerards).

It seems to me that he followed the path of Anthony van Dyck as guide for his passion for art. After all people think that was the reason why he went to live in England and even above Van Dyck’s door in Westminster. He was a great friend of Van Dyck and had the honour of often seeing him paint, from which people believe that he copied his handling from him (like Joos van Craesbeeck from Adriaen Brouwer). For if one calculates the time one will find that he laid the foundation for his art then. And that was just in time, seeing that Van Dyck came to die in 1641, being when Gerards sailed for his native city of Amsterdam.

From the years 1655 to 58 he lived in a backroom in the Hartestraat, practicing his art by himself in all silence. And those who knew him tell me that he was then a young man of about forty years. His artful brush handling earned him the nickname of the small Van Dyck.

Most of the paintings by him that one sees are merry companies of damsels and gentlemen dressed according to the times, with everything painted after life and mostly after virtuous life. Especially the hands of the women stand out in the art of painting as well as in tenderness and beautiful outline, even as I said of Van Dyck.


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Among the best of his art works is counted the one in which he depicted the prodigal son taking leave of his father, in whose features one discerns the anxiety and care while he wishes his son on horseback farewell. This piece is artfully drawn, naturally glowing and clearly painted and contrary to his habit, handsomely dressed. I knew it for many years and often looked at it with pleasure, but in whose cabinet it now is I do not know.

Some say he was from Amsterdam. Others would have it that he was born in Leiden, where his father was a frame maker named Pieter Gerretsz.

Jan Vos had made this verse on the depiction of Mister Willem Pauw by Gerard van Zijl;

Thus one sees Pauw, who with his keel, defying the waves
Came cruising straight through the equator to the east.
He never feared for the
frenzy of the opposing hosts.
He who would seek honour and advantage defies all disaster.
Thus he carried out his duty to the satisfaction of his oaths.
He who takes care of his masters deserves their gratitude.

That is all I am able to say about this commendable painter because of a lack of further news. When there are no ancestors left for some painters, or acquaintances who have memories of their life’s story, we have to be satisfied with what we have and blame it on the passage


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of time. But I occasionally meet people to whom it appears to be all the same whether or not one commits anything about their ancestors or friends to paper and are therefore reserved, or not forthcoming, concerning affairs that might be useful for me to know. Still others who, out of a rigid and stubborn inflexibility are not only reticent but also displeased when one makes mention in public writing of their progenitors amongst the line of painters of the past. Believe me, when I made requests of people who project above the common in financial means or posts of honour but whose ancestors practised art, it was as if I was knocking on a deaf man's door. It appears that they wished to tell me nothing concerning this, so that there might remain no remembrance of that for which, out of a mistaken notion, they appear to be ashamed.

In olden days and later times rulers of the world, people of the first rank and clergymen practiced the art of painting and passed on the memory to the glory of their family. Among the ancient Greeks there was even a law (as Pliny witnesses) which commanded that no one was allowed to learn the art of painting unless he was of noble birth and such a high fee was charged from those who desired to learn it that common people could forget it. We would give more samples of that kind from the store of antiquities if we had not done so elsewhere.

Tabius Pictor of an old Roman family practiced the art of painting in the four hundred and fiftieth year of the foundation of Rome and painted the inside of the temple of Fortune, which burned down at the time of


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Emperor Claudius, adding his name to this work, and from that time that family was famous for great honorary functions and victories, and kept the name of Pictor, painter.

Quintus Pedius, the son of Quintus Pedius, who was a triumphant burgomaster as well as heir of Julius Caesar along with Augustus, also practiced the art of painting until his death.

In addition to geometry, geography, astronomy, instrumental arts, poetry, sculpture and casting, Hadrian, the fifteenth Roman Emperor, also practiced painting, as testified by Karel van Mander I. And Cornelis de Bie mentions several clerical persons, such as Cardinal Francis of Verona and his brother Hieronymus, who was a Franciscan monk. Innocentius of Imola and Don Bartolomeus, abbot of San Clemente of Arezzo, practiced the art of painting with much renown. Thus Pater Abraham a Sancta Clara on page 380 of his book Iets voor allen mentions one Johannes de Friesoe of the Dominican order who practiced the art of painting and lived around the time of Michelangelo, who often said: That John climbed to heaven and painted the portraits of the saints. But it is without foundation that Pater Abraham also counts the Lord Christ among the painters, for this reason: When the blessed saviour of Capernica went to Jerusalem and preached along the way, a painter named Ananias of the King Abagarus of Edessa was sent to imitate a true likeness with the brush, but he was not at all able to achieve this because of the glow


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radiated by the holy being. Thus the Lord Christ had him called, took a cloth and pressed the complete depiction of his being on it so that no painter’s brush could have better captured it, and sent it to the mentioned King. This sounds more like mockery, although he said: that this same cloth is still preserved in the church of San Salvatore in Rome. That Pater pawns off more worthless coinage on the world. This no longer works as it used to. Like today’s Israelites most people will not have coinage pressed into the hand unless it is of good alloy and well stamped.

Philip II Duke of Orleans, now Regent of France, learned the art of painting in his youth with the commendable painter Antoine Coypel and pursued the same with diligence and passion so far that he painted several pieces for himself in one of the galleries of his palace, which are talked about with praise.

Before she ascended to the throne, Queen Mary Stuart II (in addition to creating artfully with the embroidery needle) also painted in water colours, to which end she had reserved certain hours daily, which she kept diligently. The painter Mathijs Wulfraet has told me that he has seen various figures and small landscapes, worked out in detail by her hand which could withstand inspection by a fastidious eye. She had as teacher master Richard Gibson, who though old, was so short that he could barely look down on a table.

The Prince of Wales [= James Francis Edward Stuart], son of King James II of England,


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