Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 2, page 270-279


Page 270

I have seen two, the depiction of which is strange and inventive and shows 1. a hollowed-out cliff as a portal in which (so people say) the apostle Paul is to have slept after his shipwreck. In 1624 an entryway to a subterranean chapel or burying place was found, because they discovered skeletons and skulls. 2. The elevated place in which the apostle is to have preached the gospel to the Melitians, where a memorial has been raised. 3. The remains of St. Paul’s church. Built by the first Christians in the place where the emissary of the cross flung the adder from his hand into the fire. A small church was founded next to it in 1616 by Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt, whose artfully painted portrait is seen in the scene in which Paul is depicted warming himself by the fire after he had escaped from the sea along with a group of women and men dressed according to old Maltese fashion, and below it is this Latin inscription:

Vipera ignis acta calore frustra Pauli manum invadit:
is insulae benedicens anguibus & herbis adimit
omne virus.

That is:

An adder activated by the warmth grasps the
hand of Paul, who blessing the island deprives
snakes and herbs of all their poison.

In Loreto he looked closely at everything and kept drawings of them, but

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nothing comes to our mind other than what he saw in the apothecary, being 300 both large and small vases or pots, artfully painted with biblical and Roman histories by Raphael of Urbino. Queen Christina of Sweden, being on pilgrimage there, took great pleasure in them and therefore insisted with the pope so that she received one. People said that each was valued at 700 Scudi. It is sooner to be believed that these pots were painted by Raphael than that Mary is to have been born and lived in that wooden house, the most important evidence being that many want Raphael’s father to have been a pot and saucer painter and that he helped him with this in his youth. Mister Jan van Beuningen had a painted saucer of which it was said that it had been painted by Raphael. With respect to drawing and composition it is very similar to his biblical scenes that have come out in print.

In Venice he let himself be guided in company to S. Giorgio [Maggiore], being a precious convent of the Benedictine Order, looking more royal than spiritual. Here he greatly praises two pieces in the choir, painted by Tintoretto, The last Supper of Christ [1] and The gathering of Manna in the Desert [2], and also a Martyrdom of Cosmo and Damian [3], a Stoning of Stephen [4], an Ascension of Mary and other pieces by Jacopo Bassano. Also a Holy Night [5] and a Martyrdom of St. Lucia [6]. And in the library five pieces, allegories, by a student of Pietro da Cortona. He also praises the

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1
Tintoretto
The Last Supper, between 1590-1592
canvas, oil paint 365 x 568 cm
Venetië, San Giorgio Maggiore

2
Tintoretto
The gathering of manna (Exodus 16:17), between 1590-1592
canvas, oil paint 377 x 576 cm
Venetië, San Giorgio Maggiore


3
Domenico Robusti Tintoretto (Il)
The Martyrdom of SS. Cosmas and Damian
canvas, oil paint ? x ? cm
Venetië, San Giorgio Maggiore

4
Tintoretto and Domenico Robusti Tintoretto (Il)
The Martyrdom of St. Stephen the Protomartyr (Acts 6:8-7:60), 1593
canvas, oil paint ? x ? cm
Venetië, San Giorgio Maggiore

5
Jacopo Bassano
The nativity and the sheperds worship, 1582
canvas, oil paint 421 x 219 cm
Venetië, San Giorgio Maggiore

6
Leandro Bassano
The martyrdom of Saint Lucy, 1596
canvas, oil paint ? x ? cm
Venetië, San Giorgio Maggiore


Page 272

palace, the art chambers and great dining room of the Doge for the sublime art of Tintoretto, Francesco Bassano II and others, as well as the marvellously skilled work by Titian depicting the History of Peter Martyr, in S. Salvatore. This church is also decorated with splendid tombs of men who fought for the Republic, such as Marcantonio Bragadin, who on Cypress in 1570, being besieged by the Turks, answered to the attackers of the city that he would sooner be flayed, which is also what happened to him. When he fell into their hands he was given the choice of denying his faith or being skinned alive. He chose the latter and as no Turk wanted to do this, they used a Jew for it, but he died when the skin had been stripped off half way. He filled his travel accounts with a host of such strange occurrences. But they are not our specialty. We therefore wish to follow him rapidly from Venice to Padua, by way of Verona, Mantua, Trento and Munich, where he describes all the rooms of the palace of the Duke of Bavaria, with artful paintings and marble statues, which we will skip since we will find opportunity to discuss them elsewhere. We therefore hurry with our painter through Augsburg, Regensburg, Nuremberg, Hanau, Frankfurt, Worms, Frankenthal, Heidelberg, Speyer, Strasburg, Breisach, Basel, Zurich, Baden, Bern, Mainz, Cologne, Mülheim, Dusseldorf, Cleves, Nijmegen and Utrecht, from where he arrived in his native city of Amsterdam on the 23rd of August 1665, then being 31 years old. This became apparent to us from a signed attest to his health after examination by the College of

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Physicians in Messina in 1664, in his 30th year, to be shown in Naples. Consequently we have placed him with his fellow artists and contemporaries in the year 1631 [= 1623].

As far as his art of painting is concerned, he was a famous master in it, and the art of his brush was deemed worthy of hanging in the best art cabinets. The art-loving Mister Jonas Witsen II, when alive, had an important work by him, which often caught my eye because of the handsome drawing, elegance and harmony that were skilfully observed in it. The subject was the embarkation of Charles II on the Dutch shore, to sail for England with the fleet, which was located in the distance [7]. Here there were hundreds of figures distributed on the dunes and beach in groups, and numerous carriages to be seen, each individually and skilfully drawn and painted. His way of painting resembled that of Karel du Jardin in colour, and the deep prospects, as if covered by a blue veil, closely resembled the handling of Johannes Lingelbach, but usually more detailed. Elsewhere I have seen a piece by him with horses and figures that was very similar to Philips Wouwerman, so that he may be ranked with the most commendable painters of The Netherlands.

He died in Amsterdam on the 11th of October 1678 and his brother Daniël Schellinks, who was a commendable landscape painter, on the 18th of September 1701.

NICOLAES MAES, born in Dordrecht in the year 1632, learned drawing in his youth with a common master and painting with

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7
Willem Schellinks
The departure of Charles II for England in 1660, after 1660
canvas, oil paint 63,8 x 98,1 cm
lower right : Wschellinks ...
Koller (Zürich) 2017-03-30 - 2017-04-01, nr. 3031


Page 274

Rembrandt, but he soon left that way of painting, all the more because he turned to the painting of portraits and saw that especially the young ladies took more pleasure in white than in brown.

He had a facile and flattering brush that served him wondrously well in the painting of portraits, to which he devoted himself entirely and at which he succeeded so well that I do not know if there has been one painter before or after him who was more fortunate in capturing the likeness of human beings.

While I speak of likenesses, it comes to mind that the clownish Cornelis van Ryssen made an epigram punning on this, in which he compares such portraitists with grave diggers. Do not believe, reader, that I raise this to denigrate that branch of art, but for the witticism and because one can't say anything about the most outstanding portraits, as one can with histories, regarding fitting arrangement, division of groups, harmony, etc., but that one can only say that they are artfully painted and a good likeness, to which the poet alludes.

He who observes the doings of grave diggers and painters
Can see how the one undermines the other.
The one seeks his money through life, the other through
death
But
about this they are agreed, they both liked LYKEN [= likeness or corpses].

Maes went with his household from Dordrecht to Amsterdam in the year 1678, where he also died

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in December of the year 1693, 61 years old.

Having settled in Amsterdam with his family, he got his hands so full of work that it was taken as a favour when one was granted a place before another to sit for his portrait, and this continued on to the end of his life, which is why he left behind a large number of incomplete portraits.

As far as his way of life was concerned, it was quiet, polite, sober, contented, and happy except for his last years, when he was badly plagued by the gout. He was exceptionally diligent in the pursuit of his art, spent little or no time in company and had a peculiar dislike of inns and those who waste themselves in them. Sometimes, however (when he had worked away for a long time without a break), he would take a trip to refresh his spirits a little. Thus he once undertook a pleasure trip to Antwerp to see the sublime brushwork of Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck and other highflyers, as well as to visit the artists. This is something that I deliberately mention, because something remarkable occurred on that journey. In point of fact, having arrived in Antwerp, he went to visit this and that painter, including the renowned Jacob Jordaens I. Having arrived at the house, he was let in by a boy who had him go to a side room in which much art by outstanding masters hung on the wall.

While he was awaiting the arrival of Jordaens, he let his eye fall on this or that

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and sometimes remained in front of what pleased him most. This was peeked at by Jordaens through a crack in the door. Having at last entered, he said that he had already discerned that Maes must be a painter, or at least a connoisseur, seeing that he had at once fixed his eye on the worthiest items in his cabinet, and then asked who he was and whence he came. After they had talked back and forth with each other about art for a considerable time, and Jordaens had also shown him his art works, he at last asked him: and what do you make? Maes already humbled somewhat, seeing that his Light of Art was just a night candle compared to the torches of art that were being presented to him, answered with a weak voice, that he was a portrait painter. Upon which Jodaens clasped his hands together, and said, Brother I take pity on you, are you one of those martyrs? In view of those depressing criticisms and slavish submission to every preference with which such painters often have to content themselves. Maes had already encountered this in his own time. A certain lady (whose name I will not mention here) who was far from the most beautiful, had her portrait painted by him, which he drew just as it was, with all the pox scars and wrinkles. Getting up she looked as unpleasant as could be, saying to him: What the devil, Maes, what kind of monstrous head have you painted for me! I do not want to have it as is. The dogs would certainly bay at it if it were to be carried down the street. Maes, who quickly realized what had to be done, said: Madame, it is

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not quite finished yet, and asked her to sit down again, took a fine brush and smoothed out the pock-marks, put a blush on the cheeks and said, madam, it is now finished, would you please have a look at it now. Having looked at it she said: Yes, that is how it should be. She was satisfied with it when it did not resemble her.

There once was a farcical painter, when he was presented with such a subject to be completed, he painted it with a cloth over the eyes and asked for the reason why he did this said:

I paint the love of self with a blindfold over her eyes,
Why? Because she always fooled herself first.

In addition we say:

That one who is granted beauty by Nature,
And sees that everyone looks on her with amazement
Takes pride in that, can be
excused or accepted:
But that an ugly mug, black, cripple and humpbacked
Believes herself to be
a beauty, blinds herself that she can always please,
And wishes
that everyone believe the same, is intolerable.

JOHANN HEINRICH ROOS, born in Frankfurt, whose portrait is seen opposite at the top of Plate K, studied art in Amsterdam with Barend Graat, where he especially practiced painting sheep, goats etc. in which he improved so much in a few years that in 1673 he became painter to Karl I Ludwig von der Pfalz, for whom he made many artworks deserving of fame.

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Later on he went to live with his family in Frankfurt, where he made a multitude of portraits which pleased everybody because he used either a graceful landscape or animals in the background, just as he often employed various portraits in a history, whether from the Bible or from ancient history, in which animals or landscapes were required. He thereby made a lot of money but also put a lot away, and therefore showed a living example to his sons (whom he all raised in art), so that the old saying: Saving is a good treasure, spoke truth.

However, he behaved as befits a commendable man, and kept the company of the most commendable and eminent people of that city. But (who can avoid his fate?) he lost everything that he had saved in one hour to a fierce fire at the close of the year 1685. This fire was started through carelessness in the civic warehouses, or possibly at first in the bakery of the Civic Guard, which adjoined the back of his house, and spread from there and set a great section of the city in flames. He, thinking in that emergency to save some of his property, flew through the flames to carry away what he found undamaged, including a porcelain vase with a gold lid. But as he came bursting out in all haste with this and other items, the bottle slipped and broke. Not knowing in amazement what he was doing, he stoops for it to get back the lid, but is overcome by the steam and heavy smoke in the process, and collapses. Some people, seeing this, crowded in and dragged him as best they could down the steps and clear of the fire, but to his misfortune

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with his head lower. Whether this awkward carrying or the fright was the cause of death, we don't know, but he died that same morning, leaving behind four sons and a daughter. They all became commendable painters, but not one followed in his father’s footsteps in way of life.

I have only received information about PHILIPP PETER ROOS, the second son of Johann Heinrich Roos, called Mercury by his bent brothers, both with respect to his commendable brush work as his behaviour in life, where a thing or two happened which will give the reader, whose heart contracted by the sad incident of his father will now be given material for laughter.

Born in Frankfurt in the year 1655 he was possessed with exceptional artistic sprit by the goddesses of Parnassus, due to which, even as his father still lived, he was enticed to the court of Landgrave Karl I of Hessen-Kassel, who took great pleasure in his art, so that (seeing his great spirit shine through) he gave him a goodly sum of money to continue practicing in Rome after praiseworthy models. In the meantime the ruler expected to see him again to take pleasure in reflecting on his works of art, and nothing less than that. It went with him as the saying goes, generosity is first to be forgotten. Of which we will see proof before the end.

He was a well-built and handsome youth, fleet of thought and adept with the brush, so much so that Jakob Christof Le Blon, who knew him in Rome, has told me that he

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