Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 2, page 340-349


Page 340

as much as one wants; but it is like threshing straw. Therefore, quite rightly, the saying:

Send an ass to Rome,
He will return as an ass
,
may be applied to them.

I therefore believe I have answered this proposition clearly enough and close with a saying from before mentioned Baltasar Gracián: Natural inclination and complete diligence, and I add to this good instruction, are the three surest ways by which one arrives at knowledge. Obstructions may delay it along the way for a while. Zeal spurred on by inclination will close the gap with wide steps.

Aristotle agrees with this when he says: Three things are needed to arrive at knowledge: nature, instruction and practice, and unless practice joins nature and instruction no fruit is to be expected.

Finally (nothing ventured, nothing gained) I must refer the cowardly spirits to the donkey and apply these lines to them.

Youths, who live thoughtlessly;
And never
crave wisdom;
Nor feel
their spirit raised,
To imitate nobler spirits:
Observe
its image in painting;
So that shame may stimulate
you.

It is better
(was the saying of the orator Antisthenes) that one comes to learning late than never. Because it is shameful (says Joseph Hall*)


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* In the preface to his De Schoole der Wereld.

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Page 341

for a human being that with so many teachers he has so little learning.

Herewith we close our digression, as the curtain of the theatre is already being raised and one of the artists is ready to go on stage.

We find reason to praise the poets of that time because their pen sometimes gives us reason to commemorate artists whom we might otherwise have overlooked, such as, amongst many, CORNELIS BRISÉ. He painted unusually artfully and naturally harnesses and all kinds of still-life, especially letters and papers, to be seen at the treasury of the city hall in Amsterdam [1], for which the matchless Joost van den Vondel made the following inscription:

People called out, the arts of printing and writing will go wild.
Now Holland forbids us the use of French paper
Be rid of this worry, said Amstel’s treasurer:
Brisé
orders paper, when he puts himself to painting
Look at the picture; what do you see there up high?
Papers,
certificate and letter, or appearance fools the eye.

Painted no less artful and naturally are the intertwined musical instruments that grace the small organ in the Oude Kerk [2-3], as well as the harnasses and still life in two large pieces in the old men’s home in Amsterdam, in one of which is depicted,

Impoverished Old Age, who while drawn on by Envy, is abandoned by Fortune

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1
Cornelis Brisé
Documenten betreffende de Thesaurie van de Stad Amsterdam, dated 1656
canvas, oil paint 192 x 247 cm
Amsterdam, Amsterdam Museum, inv./cat.nr. A 3024


2
Cornelis Brisé
Left shutter of the small organ in the Oude Kerk (old Church), Amsterdam, dated 1663
panel, oil paint ? x ? cm
center right : C. Brizè F
Amsterdam, Oude Kerk (Amsterdam)

3
Cornelis Brisé
Right shutter of the small organ in the Oude Kerk (old Church), Amsterdam, dated 1663
panel, oil paint ? x ? cm
Amsterdam, Oude Kerk (Amsterdam)


Page 342

etc. The figures are painted by Antonie de Grebber and the harnesses and other still lifes by Cornelis Brisé, about which Jan Vos composed this poem.

Here one sees Old Age, impoverished by adversity:
She shows her power in vain, now that fortune evades her.
Who is not heard
moans fruitlessly.
Envy, which consumes all where
its scythe strikes,
Attempts to smother her in a deep grave, the realm of the dead.
He who ends up poor in old age has lost all hope.

In the other, one sees where Old Age arrived in Amsterdam, accompanied by Plenty, by the same poet.

Here they come to Amsterdam, out of need to beg for assistance:
For each finds her lap cared for by plenty.
He who’s need is discovered by ‘t Y, will not lack for hearth
or food.
Her
disposition mild in nature, which meets everyone with aid,
Will be treated
most mildly by heaven.
Who helps the old and poor will in return be blessed by God.

Here follows DIRCK BLEKER, artful figure painter of Haarlem. The high-flying eagle of poetry, Joost van den Vondel, commemorates two of his artworks: the Triumph of Venus for his Highness Willem II, the Prince of Orange: and his Danaë, painted for Mister van Halteren, bailiff of

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Page 343

Kennemerland [= Lodewijck van Alteren] , about the latter of which he said:
This nude can charm a god,
And the divine gold her heart and eye.
How she lights up from the gold, that from on high
Through the copper ceiling of her father’s tower
Comes dripping into her lap!
Why do blind people
So blindly wish for beautiful children!
Beauty is a
burden and need.
What does not a golden key open?
The
sweet tooth fears no close watch,
Metal gate, nor deep moat.
He
comes in dripping from above,
But finds nothing but paint and canvas,
And she
the appearance of red discs:
Thus
let the virgin ply her trade,
Thus art is too alert for
a God.

After him follows FRANS POST, contemporary of the commendable landscape painter Pieter de Molijn, who was also from Haarlem by birth.

His father Jan Jansz. Post, born in 1614, carried on with glass painting until the year 1639.

Frans had a brother [= Pieter Post] who was a famous architect, through whom he became acquainted with Prince Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen who, later had the house on The Hague’s Vijverberg built. In the year 1647 [= 1637] he enticed him to go along to the West Indies, where he remained several years, practising drawing and painting those landscapes after life. Having returned with this Prince, he used these drawings and painted several of them in the year 1688 in the Huis Rijksdorp outside Wassenaar.

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Page 344

Besides a multitude of West Indian land prospects, which he painted to great praise for various persons, there is still a large piece by him to be seen in the House in Honselaardijk. He was buried in Haarlem in the Great Church on the 17th of February 1680.

Delft, which was also fertile in the production of artist, also brought forth from Dirck Isnoutsz. van Nes and Catharina Verburch,

JOHAN van NES. Because of the great passion that he had for art he was placed by his parents with the famous Michiel van Mierevelt, by whose instruction he advanced so far in little time that he was able to travel on his own art, so that having been in France and Italy for some years and returned to his native city, he painted many commendable portraits as well as compositions and died on the 26th of April 1650.

In that same year the painter JAN van den HOECKE died in Antwerp. He had learned art with Peter Paul Rubens and copied the handling of his master, habituating himself to it, so that being in Italy, he was held in high esteem by various cardinals for his art. But as people are often inclined to change, he left Italy with the intention of returning to his native city, but was detained at the court of Vienna and well-received by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, in whose service he also died in the spring of his life.

In his time lived Abraham Staphorstius, the son of Reverend Casparus Staphorst, a diligent, commendable and pious teacher, who for

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Page 345

many years edified the Reformed Church of Dordrecht with doctrine and example. He was a good portrait painter but a scatterbrain, who in his behaviour was less like his father than anyone else. It never took long with him, when sitting in a pub, before he took a piece of chalk or a piece of charcoal and drew a pulpit on the wall, and in it a little man with a long beard, and then said to his drinking companions; would you like to see my father? JACOB van HASSEL also lived at this time. He painted handsome landscapes and dilapidated Roman ruins. In addition there were BAREND BISPINCK, a disciple of Jan Both, DIRK DUYVELANT, and ABRAHAM van DIJCK, who painted modern compositions and spent most of his life in England. There was also CHRISTIAEN STRIEP, who painted thistles and herbs in the manner of Otto Marseus van Schrieck, and CORNELIS van SLINGELAND, called Sea Rooster, also from Dordrecht. He got this bent name because he twice undertook the journey to Rome by sea. He was both painter and cook, and lived in Dordrecht next to the Groothoofdspoort, above the Ossenhoofd, where he also died.

After him follows PIETER FRIS, alias Good Natured. This bent name, which was conferred on him in Rome, being only 17 years old, arose on the occasion of a certain emblematic apparatus at his induction or consecration into the society. His bent brothers had (as they are usually accustomed to show something that is strange, or farcical) pasted coloured paper together in tube like fashion, a little wider at the front and therefore narrowing at the end, so that bent in a circle it resembled a snake

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Page 346

and illustrated eternity according to the depictions of the ancient Egyptians. They had filled this paper snake, naturally coloured and painted with stripes, on the inside with firecrackers, which they lit all at once with a string brushed with gunpowder after they had placed him in the middle of this snake circle. And as he waited out the blows and flame of the gunpowder so unperturbed and good natured, without taking flight, they baptized him Good Natured. This further appears from the following verse pronounced at the dedication with general agreement.

Welcome, welcome, fellow artist:
Newly in famous Rome
Which nurtures art in its lap
Come from your fatherland;
And first present yourself
To the
bent (which fame shall mount
Unfailing
to the world’s end.)
The society of artist will not refuse
To receive you in their midst.
Will you then help build art,
To
common fame, and in
Our
bent keep quiet
You have
Good- naturedly survived
Our
bent initiation without fear
On your
face there was
Not even
the least to be read
What looked like any fear.
Which showed your great heart
Thus praised by one and all,
And
are now greeted as brother,
By your
bent-name, which shall be
And also remain,
Good Natured.

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Page 347

His manner of painting was, like his preferences, different from others, for I have seen moralizing work by him and also ghosts that were clever and strangely invented. After he had returned from Rome he stayed mainly in Delft, where he also died. Later, while he still painted, he wasted his time with the painting and print trades, to which he seemed unusually well suited since he was of the opinion that this trade need not be plied as honestly as other kinds of commerce.

Now that we have seen a good many outstanding painters who were members of the Roman bent depart from our theatre (having played their rôle), and see again by this present example how they amused each other with inventive ceremonies and other merriment, it pleases us to paint a sketch of the total panache of this bent life.

The bent (says Samuel van Hoogstraten) was dedicated in the time of our ancestors to the refreshment of sleepy spirits. There they receive the green arrivals with inventive apparatus and honour them with new names of powerful meaning. There care and condescending folly are washed away with sweet wine, and they cradle anew those who were not well treated in their infancy etc.

Bonaventura van Overbeek has had Askaan [= Domenicus van Wijnen] depict the initiation in the bent, the comical proceedings and the Bent life in various pieces, which have been engraved by Matthijs Pool. From these one can see the entire panache of the Roman bent life and

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Page 348

what happens during the activities when a newcomer is initiated, the bent oath is taken and they head for the bent meal, and when sometimes, to give the vapours of stomach and head more air, the gathering goes on to a procession or walk outside [4-6]. To end our second volume with a farce, we have described all this in verses, insofar as the meanings of the bent names provided us with material and direction. That is why we have not arranged the names according to the proceedings but the proceedings after the names, so that they might be located according to their natural meaning. We therefore also needed to invent a sham battle so as not to separate some names from their meaning or introduce them where they do not belong.

What we will show did not happen in one hour, it transpired at different times, and we have followed the example of the stage poets who combine in one act distinct matters that lead to the same goal.

Blonde (1) Phoebus greatly clad,
Had gilded the (2) Horizon


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(1) Franciscus de Wit, history painter from Ghent. He was usually called Apol because he was also a poet, but poor in both. Jan Vos (who comes to mind) made the following epigram about a poor painting with a cripple rhyme attached:

This rhyme and painting have the same nature:
Little is good about the painting and the rhyme is also worthless.
Why did
Jan not have the piece give way to the rhyme?
Because the rhyme and the piece would have looked like each other.

(2) Jan Frans van Bloemen, landscape painter from Antwerp.

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4
Matthijs Pool after Domenicus van Wijnen
Inauguration of a member at the Schildersbent in Rome, before 1708
paper, etching and engraving 652 x 518 mm
lower left : D:W: Aescanius Pinx:
London (England), British Museum, inv./cat.nr. 1922,0410.267


5
Matthijs Pool after Domenicus van Wijnen
Inauguration of a member of the Bentvueghels or Bamboccianti, the Flemish-Dutch painting meeting in Rome in a tavern in Rome, before 1708
paper, etching and engraving 495 x 556 mm
lower left : D:W: Aescanius Pinx:
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-OB-10.701

6
Matthijs Pool after Domenicus van Wijnen
Initiation of a member at the Schildersbent in a tavern in Rome, before 1708
paper, etching and engraving 493 x 551 mm
lower left : D:W: Aescanius Pinx:
London (England), British Museum, inv./cat.nr. 1922,0410.266


Page 349

And covered the sky with glow
Mirrored itself in the creeks
Sources and streaming crystal
Of the grey Tiber,
And its sparkling rays
Nurture hills and dales:
Has the renowned (3) Tuberose
Butter
, (4) Sun and (5) Thistle flowers,
Open up with great lustre,
And the (6) Lily smells sweetly:
Where the (7) Meadow Man and his friend
(8) Coridon find (9) Amusement
(10) Snip, Partridge and Gold Finch stir
(On which the Birders prey)
Their small wings while singing
While the throaty caressing
Of the (11) Lark while singing
Seems to penetrate the clouds,
Courageously with his singing voice. But
(12) Magpie and (13) Stork


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(3) Jacob van der Spijck II, The Hague portrait painter. (4) Pieter van der Hult, herb painter from Dordrecht (5) Carel de Vogelaer, bird painter from Maastricht, after him Andreas Verhoeven from Antwerp. (6) Johannes Zierneels. (7) Jacques Blondeau, otherwise known as Hans (8) Engel van der Kabel. (9) Giovanni Antonio de Groot from Antwerp. (10) Augustinus Terwesten I, The Hague history and soldier painter. (11) Jacques Vaillant. (12) Daniël Mijtens II, commendable painter from The Hague, Cornelis van Ryssen, who was in Rome for his baptismal meal, composed this verse about it.

Facades grace buildings.
Beautiful banners grace ships,
Head decoration
beautifies women
The pink blush graces the lips,
And the cheeks, the clothes as well
Are made handsome by their colours,
Thus you become to your honour
Our brightly coloured
MAGPIE.

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