Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 2, page 70-79


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painters could not be uncovered (no matter how many enquiries we made). This is also true of their portraits, no matter how much we would have like to see them side by side with their biographies in our book. This would also have happened with the great Haarlem painter

PHILIPS WOUWERMAN, if his funeral announcement stamped 1668 had not fallen into my hands, on which the old Vincent Laurensz. van der Vinne I wrote at that time that Wouwerman died in his 48th year.

His father, named Paulus Wouwerman, was a history painter, though of the lesser sort, and lived in Haarlem, as I have been told by old residents of Haarlem. It is doubtful that PHILIPS (who was the oldest of his brothers) learned the rudiments of art with him, but that he had at least inherited the desire for art with his birth. That may be as it may, it is clear to us in every way that from his beginnings he met patrons who lifted him so high above Envy that she could not dig her claws into him. He may therefore be counted amongst the fortunate painters.

No one should suspect me of wanting to claim that the success of painters depends entirely on their benefactors or blind chance, not at all; the works must be solid in order to support the master because then the fame is permanent which would otherwise be short-lived and vanish like smoke. But I call such painters fortunate who, during their lifetime encounter patrons who honour and reward their art works according to their worth and, by contrast, those

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unfortunate who never meet benefactors nor are paid the worth of their work during their lifetime. Of them we have already met many whose work was not paid for according to its worth until after they had died, from which they profited no more than dead swine when their hams are purchased at a high price. Passing over all this, our WOUWERMAN was fortunate and he deserved this for his art, in which he surpassed all his contemporaries. It is true that the art of his brush mounted to a much higher price after his death, when the dauphin of France and the elector of Bavaria (who also encouraged other courts) had it bought up all over Holland. But that does not challenge our claim that he was fortunate during his lifetime because he already gathered fruits of his work during his life, as appears from this, that I have been told as truth that he gave his daughter [Luduwina Philipsdr. Wouwerman], who married the painter Henri de Fromantiou, 2,000 guilders as dowry.

But passing over all this, everyone who knows and sees his art must be amazed with respect to the manifold changes in subjects, such as depictions of hunts, road houses, riding tracks, highway robberies, battles, plundering etc., each in particular often rendered by him on panels and still so varied that the one shows no similarity or correspondences to the other, as also with distinguished and less distinguished displays or even with landscapes or terrain, as proof of his rich spirit and intellect in the invention of so many handsome changes

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in his brushworks. In addition he has known how to depict everything so individually and naturally, or depict it in its natural nature, so that the figures, no matter how small sometimes indicate at a first glance what they are doing. Even in the depiction of unusual instances he observed things that are hardly conceivable but for those who were present at those events.

I have seen depictions of pillaging and plundering of villages and hamlets by him in which the malice of the soldiers and the fright and timidity of the vanquished were observed so naturally in their facial features that the same seemed to speak, proof that he achieved everything through close observation. And that he had his brush as much at the ready as his inventiveness is clear from the enormous number of artworks that all the famous cabinets and galleries, both domestic and foreign, display.

If one sees battles depicted by him, one sees the fire flashing from the eyes of horse and rider, the fear of the fleeing, the pain of the mutilated, and the pallor of death on the lips of those mowed down.

In addition he also gave particular evidence of his art and judgment in the comfortable arrangement of his works and in the artful division of light objects against brown ones and again with brown against white, not with spread-out flashes which attract the eye of the spectator here and there, but in broad sections by which the eye remains fixed on what is most important. And as far as his brush handling it concerned, it is melting, fat and dabbed. And thus

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relieved of melancholy and excessive precision, his scenes look as if painted playfully. Finally he was able to pay exceptionally close attention to the recession of his terrain.

It does not rarely happen that reports of things which transpired in the lives of painters are altogether different. About some, one can hardly uncover anything, of others so much is told that it is quite a task to know what should be included, especially if one does not know the precise grounds on what is told is based. So it was with our PHILIPS WOUWERMAN. Some say that he had a son who practiced art and who he feared would become a layabout after his own death, when he would be in the possession of all his models and drawings. He therefore decided to burn them, so that his son would need to strive on his own. Others say that he lived on poor footing with his brother Pieter Wouwerman II and that he therefore begrudged him that he should enjoy the profit from the sweat of his brow. Still others tell that they were not his drawings but those by other masters that he burned before his death. That is likely the truth, but it needs to be polished to discover the reason (otherwise it looks like a mad man’s work). That will occur with the following notification, by which the true nature of the unhappy end of Pieter van Laer is revealed.

About Van Laer we said in his biography that he received more money for his brushwork here than in Italy, but we have discovered from subsequent information that things did not go all that well for him, for in his

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day the art of WOUWERMAN was beloved by all for its lovely touch and pleasant subjects. This slowed down the sale of his own pieces (which sometimes looked a little sad and dark). But this alone would not have done it, since the art of WOUWERMAN, especially at that time, could not come close to his. But to this was added: 1 That he was not frugal when he did have money. 2 That he was not willing to part with his work for a lower price than he was used to getting for it in Rome. 3 That he had few advocates. 4 That he did not want to paint for cutthroats (I mean art dealers) or allow them any profit, who as a consequence abandoned him. This made him sad, and despondent, but he remained resolutely stubborn without making concessions to anyone, by which he reduced himself to poverty, so that he had to exact pocket money from his landlord and close relative, a baker with whom he lodged, who refused to give it to him saying: that 200 guilders were being offered for his works, why did he not let one go and help himself? He bottled this up along with the rest. But what affected him most deeply was that the old Jacob de Wet I, painter and art buyer, who had offered him the mentioned sum of money, made him pay for refusing. WOUWERMAN, who had often inspected the mentioned work with great care, was requested by de Wet to make a work of the same size and content, which he then carried out after the fixed mental image that he had of it. This being done, the mentioned de Wet brought all sorts of

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art lovers to WOUWERMAN to see the work, and he had Bamboots snubbed, saying (under the pretext of Bamboots having seen and copied his work): People always want it from such as have been in Rome etc. It appears he could not deal with this spite, which brought him to despair and finally to a shameful death.

No sooner did de Wet hear about this but he secured for WOUWERMAN Bamboots’ suitcase with models, drawings and sketches before anyone else got a look at them. WOUWERMAN was able to make good use of this priceless collection (one man’s death is another’s bread) without anyone knowing how he came by it. These were the drawings of which I have mentioned that he burned them before his eyes while lying on his deathbed, so that the world might not learn after his death with whose calves he had plowed.

This is the way the painter Pieter van Roestraeten, who knew Bamboots, Jacob de Wet, and WOUWERMAN and kept company with them, told it to Michiel Carrée (being in England). And I again pass it on unadulterated, for the same price at which I received it, without adding or taking away anything.

PHILIPS WOUWERMAN also had two brothers, Pieter Wouwerman II and Jan Wouwerman, who practiced art in addition to him.

PIETER WOUWERMAN II often depicted stables, watering places, including falcon hunts on horseback with damsels, which is pleasant and pleasing for everyone. The horses and figures are well-drawn and painted with sufficient detail and precision, but not as forceful, loose, and sketchy in touch.

It goes with art as with travellers who

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have a goal; some will go by the high road while others will take side paths and thus move ahead of their friends to reach their destination first.

It is doubtful that PIETER will have invested all his effort and diligence, spurred on by his brother, who ran ahead of him in art, but he still always remained behind. We must say, however, that he was a handsome painter in that part of art that he chose for himself.

JAN WOUWERMAN, their youngest brother, was a landscape painter and practised that art in Haarlem as well. But one sees little of his brushwork because he died young, namely in the year 1666, two years before his oldest brother Philip, whose life ended on the 19th of May 1668. With Laurens Vincentsz. van der Vinne in Haarlem I saw one of his brushworks which depicted a mountainous landscape. In front was a brown foreground, planted with wild and unpruned trees against which the distance revealed itself, lit up light and clear, as if in a low valley. The foreground was especially inventive, crumbly and in its proper colour, as one also sees with Philip in his early period, when he painted the terrain a little more monochromatically than later on.

What fame the school of learning of Athens had, so in later days Rome was deemed to be the nursery school of the art of painting. How she was able with her beautiful objects to attract students from all over, who said farewell to their fatherland with great passion

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and headed for there to satisfy their yearning and inclination, we have already indicated more than once before and is about to be further confirmed by the example of the important painter.

JAN BAPTIST WEENIX, nicknamed the Rattle*, who was born in Amsterdam in the year 1621.

His father, Jan Weeninx was a renowned and artful architect, which is why he was usually called artful Jan. Since he was torn away from this father too soon, when he was only one year old, he came under the governance of his mother [= Grietge Heremans] and guardians who, because he loved to read, placed him with a book seller to gain understanding of the book trade. But when his master could not get on with him because he drew on all the paper he could get his hands on instead of minding the store, she placed him in a draper's store. But it was the same story, whereupon his mother, because he wanted to do nothing else and she loved him dearly, placed him, to please him, to learn the fundamentals of drawing with one Jan Micker, a common painter, and later with the famous Abraham Bloemaert in Utrecht. There he improved in art in little time and spent even his spare time drawing after life both old, dilapidated barns, houses, and other things that seemed picturesque to him. Finally he studied around two years with Claes Moeyaert, whose handling


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* He received this nickname in the Roman bent because he spoke a little hastily and haltingly, which he had as leftover of a kind of stroke.

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he was able to imitate so closely that people could see no distinction between his and his master's works. After that he continued to practice art on his own and painted many handsome pieces at that time.

When he was 18 years old he married the daughter of the landscape painter Gillis de Hondecoeter, the grandfather of Melchior d’ Hondecoeter, who excelled at the painting of all kinds of birds.

The urge to travel, which had preoccupied his thoughts since his boyhood and from which he had been prevented first by his mother and then by marriage, grew so strong that (despite having been married for four years and having a son of 14 months, who still lives) he decided to leave in complete silence, without informing anyone, not even his own wife. Which he proceeded to do.

His wife, who missed him and could not find him any place where she enquired after him, became suspicious, because he had often shown a strong desire to see Rome. She therefore put several of his friends up to searching for him in the cities of Holland, who finally found him in Rotterdam and convinced him to ship back to Amsterdam with them under the condition that he would take proper leave.

This piece proceeded under the further condition that he would not stay away for more than four months, and very reluctantly and to the great sadness of his mother and his spouse. But these four months changed into four years, seeing that he was

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very much beloved all about Rome for his great intellect and excellent art and received more work than he could handle. So that after the passing of two years (driven by love for his wife) he repeatedly requested Cardinal Camillo Pamphilj (in whose service he was at the time) to be allowed to undertake a journey to Holland to see the wife and son that he had left there. But all this was of no avail with the cardinal, who was most fond of him and to frustrate him in his intentions, introduced him to the service of Pope Innocent X, for whom he made a great work, for which he also had several others assisting him [1-5]. The one and the other, sensing his inclination, proposed to him that he summon his wife to Rome. He set about this with several letters and with declarations of great longing and with assurances that she would be welcome there and that the Pope and the Cardinal had promised to be of service to his son and to grant him a living. The one and the other made her decide to write to her husband that she intended to travel to Rouen at some time with a certain skipper, and to continue her journey from there to Rome.

As soon as these glad tidings arrived, the Nuncios and Governors of all the cities by which she would have to travel were written to grant her safe conduct without expense. But in vain, for her friends had in the meantime talked her out of the venture, frustrated her intention and scared her out of it by saying that once there, they would put her in a nunnery, that there were women enough,

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1
Jan Baptist Weenix and Pasquale Chiesa
Landscape with Good Samaritan
canvas, oil paint 214 x 317 cm
Rome, Galleria Doria Pamphilj, inv./cat.nr. FC 482

2
Jan Baptist Weenix and Pasquale Chiesa
Landscape with the Walk to Emmaus
canvas, oil paint 191 x 294 cm
Rome, Galleria Doria Pamphilj, inv./cat.nr. FC 572


3
Jan Baptist Weenix and Pasquale Chiesa
Landscape with Noah leading the Animals to the Ark
canvas, oil paint 191 x 294 cm
Rome, Galleria Doria Pamphilj, inv./cat.nr. FC 76

4
Jan Baptist Weenix and Pasquale Chiesa
Coastal Landscape with riders
canvas, oil paint 191 x 294 cm
Rome, Galleria Doria Pamphilj, inv./cat.nr. FC 52


5
Jan Baptist Weenix and Pasquale Chiesa
Fantasy Landscape of an Oriental Seaport, with Rider on a horse, c. 1645-1646
canvas, oil paint 220,5 x 302 cm
Rome, Galleria Doria Pamphilj, inv./cat.nr. FC 581


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