Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 2, page 80-89


Page 80

and other such predictions, for her friends, who were all Reformed or Mennonite, were prejudiced against papists. Then, riled up by her friends, she sent a letter with entirely different contents to Rome, to wit that she had changed her mind and did not want to go to such a land, etc. What counsel? his love forced him to fetch her himself, so that when he was not able to obtain leave for it, he left Rome in all secrecy and left an open letter at his departure in which he indicated that he intended to return within a period of three months .

Arrived home he was requested and beseeched by everyone to make something. Not even the greatest lovers of art left him in peace, so that it was not possible for him to depart again so hastily, even though letters from the Cardinal Camillo Pamphilj and others continually arrived.

He went to visit his wife’s brother [= Gijsbert de Hondecoeter], who lived in Utrecht and continued to live there because of the healthy air. But he still wanted to return to Italy every year. But that did not happen, for his wife and good friends, which included people of the first rank, repeatedly forbad him and foiled his intention, so that it did not come to pass later on.

At that time he made many important art works and would have made even more if he had not had so many commendable people in his train who steadily distracted him from his work for his eloquence and intellect in both spiritual and worldly matters.

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But when he finally considered the loss of his valuable time by the intrusion of all that company, he went to live two hours above Utrecht in the village of De Haar, at the old noble Huis ter Mey, so as to practice his art with less distraction there, where in the third year he came to die at the age of 39 years. He left two sons [Jan and Gillis Weenix] , of which the elder, being 16 years old, still lives and practices art.

What must be said to the glory of his name is that there was no one before him who understood art in general as well as he did. And that is why he is highly esteemed by all connoisseurs, because he did not understand just one part of art but all parts to perfection. Be it whether he did figures, animals, landscape, seascape, still water with ships, etc., each was equally natural and artful, so that he challenged all artists for the crown, yes even competed with Willem van Aelst, famous for dead birds, and Emanuel de Witte, renowned for his mastery of perspective.

The firm understanding that he had of various subjects and the bright conception that he had of distinct treatments had him undertake everything, even painting with thumb and fingers, following in this Cornelis Ketel, whom Karel van Mander I mentions on page 195 of his book. To this end he took as subject one Hans Horions II, supervisor of the cathedral tower and servant of the chapter, who was a lover of art who occasionally also handled the brush. This portrait was a good likeness and looked as lively from a little distance

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as if it had been painted with a brush. He was also particularly accomplished working in large scale, so that his son, who himself informed me of this orally, saw him painting several times in one day a canvas of 6 to 7 feet wide, which featured buildings, sea and ships, or a bull and various dogs painted after life, with a landscape and other addenda. Painting three life-sized, half-figure portraits with addenda on one summery day was child's play for him. Even so he understood miniature painting masterfully, but there was no greater burden for him than painting small and in detail, which he always cursed. That is why one sees it only rarely.

The art work depicting a merry company, some say the prodigal son but best known by the name of pissing boy, now represented in detail in a lithograph by Nicolaas Verkolje, is witty in invention, artful in its combinations and painted roughly and thickly [1]. It now resides in the cabinet of the art-loving David Amourij.

But the only and most elaborate art work that is known in Holland (the remainder has been bought up and shipped to foreign courts) is with the heirs of Mister Wiltschut in Amsterdam, which is painted in such detail that it does not have to yield to the art of Gerard Dou or Frans van Mieris I. Nevertheless people often heard him say that it saddened and hurt him that he could not execute with both his hands

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1
Nicolaas Verkolje after Jan Weenix
Merry Company on a Terrace, c. 1700-1720
paper, mezzotint 251 x 350 mm
bottom, in the middle : Gio. Bat: Wenix Oinx. N: Verkoje Fecit.
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-OB-17.589

2
Arnold Houbraken after Bartholomeus van der Helst
Portrait of Jan Baptist Weenix (1621-1659), before or in 1718
blue paper, black chalk, brush in grey, heightened in white 201 x 128 mm
Utrecht, Centraal Museum, inv./cat.nr. 11266


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what he understood with his intellect. His portrait, painted by Bartholomeus van der Helst and followed by us [2] is seen in Plate C. 1.

If any one city in Holland may pride itself on having provided the cradles for outstanding men, it must be Delft, because in addition to other intellects it also produced from her lap

DAVID BECK, bent-named the Golden Sceptre, famous all over the world. Born on the 25th of May of the year 1621, he was named after his father’s brother, who was a commendable poet in his time and who died in Arnhem in Gelderland.

Beside others, he also had the famous Anthony van Dyck, knight and painter of the King of England, as teacher. His excellent brush and lifestyle made him admired by most of the great of Europe, just as he became a favourite of King Charles I, whose son Charles II, the dukes of York and Gloucester, as well as Prince Ruprecht van de Palts, he instructed in drawing in their youth. Then he entered the service of the King of France, also of Denmark, and finally of Queen Christina of Sweden, who loved him above all others, gave him various presents and made him her First Chamberlain. Women (the saying goes) love Men, and they know why.

At that time he decided to make a journey to Holland while her Majesty was planning a pleasure journey to France and the pass some time in Paris. To this end he took leave from her with the pretence of wanting to visit his friends,

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which he had not seen for some years and which he longed for. But it is said that she thought this excuse supect and believed that he intended to go away and never to return. This also happened, for on the 20th of December 1656 he came to die in The Hague (not without suspicion of having imbibed poison).

Being in the service of his Queen, he visited Italy, Spain, France, England, Denmark and all the courts of Germany to portray all the potentates and famous persons for her, whom, wanting the glory of being famous, she then presented with her portrait as painted by our DAVID BECK. About which the great Joost van den Vondel made this verse.

The love of art springs forth with greater hope
Of honour and
reward now DAVID BECK recreates the rulers of Europe,
With his art at the charge of the Queen,
And honours Christina
for them with her immortal portrait.
Thus Gustav’s blood is borne from court to court.
Who complains that
paint and change are lost by this?

Far from doing him any harm this procedure, as the saying goes, brought him sparkling advantage. His friends witness that through this profitable opportunity he had received nine golden chains and medallions as gifts from kings and rulers, amongst these one from his queen. Indeed, this great woman did much to secure renown. See here reader (vulgar art is on occasion as tasteful as the most precious) a slight example. In the city of Sankt Goar, in the Earldom of Hessen,

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it had been the custom of old (and sometimes is still) that they put a copper collar, given by Emperor Charles for the purpose, around the neck of strangers when they are led to the waterfront, where the collar is anchored, and are then asked: if they wish to be baptized in water or in wine? Those who desire water unexpectedly get a pailful over the head. But those who ask for wine are given a coin. Queen Christina, staying there, added to this custom an artfully chased silver bowl or beaker, by which her charity is mentioned as long as the custom survives.

But let us return to our DAVID BECK (whose portrait appears in Plate C.2)

It is told of him that he was so exceptionally facile in painting that the King of England, above mentioned, once said to him: Beck, I believe that you could paint on horseback.

In the year 1653, being in Rome, he was paid great homage by the Bentvueghels [= Birds of a Feather] (I would prefer to call them snatchers because he himself was the Bentvueghel that they fleeced), which appears from the tail end of the verse which they chanted at his baptismal meal. Add to this that his Bent name was signed by sixty hands, you can figure out what this delicious meal must have cost him. See here a copy of the verse:

Your friendly countenance and polite speech
Clearly point out that
thou art the person
Who often portrayed the
Queen of Sweden,
With your famous brush, so
valued by the crown.

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What is left for us to do? That we will recognize you,
In the Roman
bent, with a new name,
Which shall reach
the entire world as if on wings;
This is the unanimous decision: We call out together.
Long live the
Golden Sceptre.

The 7th of December 1653. He was a handsome and well-built person but not stout.

On page 333 of the first volume I mentioned that the farcical Adriaen Brouwer was buried twice. But of DAVID BECK it was told that he died twice, and do you want to know how? Travelling through Germany he was overcome by an unforeseen illness which left him so faint for a long while that there was no other conclusion to be drawn but that he had died. As a result, as usually happens, he was pulled up and laid out stretched on his bed. What happens? There are two servants sitting in the same room, washing the heaviness from their hearts with a glass of wine. While drinking back and forth one of them, possibly a little diverting and playful by nature, proposes that they should also offer some to their master, who liked it so much during his lifetime. He gets up at once and pushes the wine goblet to his mouth. Having come to himself a little (to all appearances) from the scent of the wine, he opens his lips and slurps up a little. Seeing this the servant is not distracted but says to his mate, look our master also loves wine after his death, and holds the glass to his mouth once more, from which he

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he took a goodly draft and recovered that same moment and lived on for years after that time.

I would not so easily accept this rare incident for truth, had not something of the kind happened in my family line. My grandfather on my mother's side, after whom I have also been named, living in Utrecht on the Steenweg in the Blaau Rokje, came to die (so it seemed to everyone who was present there) at the age of 17 years. He was subsequently undressed, laid on straw, with the spinsters in the neighbourhood called in (according to the custom of the time) to prepare the corpse with palm, laurel, and flowers. And they were already busy braiding a wreath around his head when they heard the straw rustle, and saw him whom they believed to be dead slide open the curtains, at which they all fell over with fright. At once the flowers were gone and having administered him warm wine, they laid him in a warmed bed, by which he recovered; just as later on he was married and saw the birth of seven sons and three daughters.

After the death of David Beck the Londoner ALEXANDER COOPER (after he had stayed in Amsterdam for a while) came to the court of Sweden and then into the service of Queen Christina. He was in his time taken for the best portrait painter in water colours, having learned the art with one Peter Oliver, an Englishman who had painted many large histories in water colours for King James VI and I and Charles I of England, which, placed in a gallery, kept their status for a long time.

Around that time Joachim von Sandrart I also mentions an

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Englishman named GEORG GELDORP, who was active at that time and made many portraits in England. But he could not draw, which is why he was forced to have someone else draw the circumference of the likeness on paper, which he then transferred to his panel by pouncing through pinpricks. We meet this kind more often now and then. But we have not sharpened our pen for bunglers and dunces.

Bremen has also seen memorable artists spring forth from its lap. Amongst these is counted a commendable history painter usually called JOHAN QUANDT. In the year 1620 he painted the ceiling of the so-called gilded room of the city hall as well as various large art works which may still be seen in the oldest family homes of Bremen. There was also a SIMON PETER TILMAN, nicknamed Schenk, a commendable landscape painter who practiced for many years in Italy. But he later turned to the painting of portraits, in which he became so outstanding that he may be compared to the best of his times, so that he also had the honour of painting the portrait of Emperor Ferdinand II in Vienna [3].

He also had a daughter [= Clara Tilman] who practiced art. I have seen landscapes, figures and especially flowers by her which were painted in detail after life in water colours.

His portrait, engraved by Christiaan Hagen in 1668 [4], when he was 67 years old, has come out in print, below which it says,

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3
Crispijn de Passe (I)
Ferdinand III Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, ca. 1627-1637
paper, copper engraving 411 x 281 mm
Kassel (Hessen), Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, inv./cat.nr. GS 20344, fol. 32

4
Christiaan Hagen after Simon Peter Tilman
Portrait of Simon Peter Tilman (1601-1668), dated 1668
paper, copper engraving 190 x 128 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-1910-1787


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This is TILMAN’s portrait, who prided himself neither on family
Nor fame: but on the honour of God: the rest
not considered.
Which we have used in Plate C. 3.

Hendrik Bokelmann, merchant of Amsterdam, is his daughter’s son.

This biography ought to have been placed earlier on. But lack of timely information is the reason that (through no fault of ours) there is sometimes a break in the manner of arrangement of the work of our pen. We must also give that as our excuse with respect to the commendable Rotterdam painter HENDRICK MARTENSZ. SORGH, nicknamed SORGH. This nickname [zorg = care] was given to his father (who, according to that simple age was called Maarten Klaasz. Rokes) because, being a market skipper between Rotterdam and Dordrecht, he always looked after and took such good care of the loads of deliveries that people, when anyone had something of consequence to deliver, said out of habit: give it to ZORG to take with him, just as it is said to his renown that he once accepted a sack with 1,000 guilders which no one later claimed. He announced to everyone and after a long time discharged himself of it by giving it to the providers of the poor of the Reformed church on the understanding that if the owner were to turn up, they would be responsible and have to give account of themselves.

This good old man having died, the market shipper business fell to our HENDRICK MARTENSZ. SORGH, which did not keep him from painting

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