Houbraken Translated


Volume 3, page 120-129

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god Jupiter. Next to her stands an olive tree, or olive branch, the emblem of peace, placed with this goddess with reason because the arts and sciences flower in peace time and the olive tree gives her useful fruit, just as the flaming lamplight of the human intellect is fed and maintained by the oil of wisdom. Next to her stands her shield intertwined by a snake as a sign that she protects herself from her opponents more with caution than violence.

The female figure that sits in front and ought to hold* the harp or lyre of Apollo in the hand is crowned with a laurel wreath and represents Soothing Poetry in the scene. On her graceful chair hangs a mask† to specifically mean the theatre, for which all the particular means of poetry are used or belong.

Behind her stands Rhetoric showing off her snake staff, signifying the power of speech and eloquence, seeing that they said that Mercury ruled the human emotions as if by a powerful sceptre. She

* Ought to hold etc., for instead of the harp it is an embroidery frame. It appears that the patron of the house wanted it thus so that it would be applicable to his factory, or weaving mill of silk fabrics.
† Mask. The earliest known inventor of the same and also of changes of actors and scenery is Aeschylus of Athens, a contempory of Pindar. See Basil Kennett, Griekse digteren, p. 38. Aeschylus

..... built a firm place
On light beams, and was the inventor of stages
Of Gryns, and cloating ....
Says Andries Pels in his Gebruik én misbruik des toneels.


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embraces Literature with a lovable face. On the other side stand Astronomy, holding an astrolabe or sundial in her hand.

Behind poetry one sees Mathematics, with two cherubs, one of which holds up a writing tablet with some number to which the other points, and on the right side of Pallas stand Song and Geometry, with a compass and globe or world sphere.

The small niche above it shows the mountain of song, Apollo and the nine muses in a shaded bower and Fame flying forward to spread the praise of the sciences and arts.

The second scene on the right side of the wall depicts the glory or honour of the world, bravery, victory, fame and immortality.

One sees here placed on a highly elevated seat the image of Honour. In her left hand she holds a world sphere and in the right hand a statue of Victory (as one see on the old Imperial coinage) which is obtained by bravery and virtue, which is more closely indicated by the child that stands next to her carrying the lion skin and club of Hercules on his shoulders.

The two young maidens who have flowers in their lap and laurel wreaths in the hands and offer and sacrifice them to honour, are intended to indicate how by a pleasant durability Honour, obtained by virtue and bravery is eternalized. The same is also indicated by the Jerusalem feather, or palm branch (which is raised by an infant), for which in our Emblemata, a small work that


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is about to come out, we have made an emblem with the inscription:

The more the Easter palm is crushed,
Stepped on and torn down.
The more lavishly she waxes and grows.
Just as Virtue blossoms more beautifully,
The more she is kicked and trodden on,
As also Truth, fiercely attacked,
By church tyrants ..........

In the background of the niche one sees a cenotaph raised in remembrance of those who have trod the path of virtue, honour and bravery, who spread their fame around the world.

In the small scene above this piece is depicted a palm tree, from which hang two torches and shields, being ancient signs of victory obtained, as above, by virtue, honour and bravery. One also sees depicted a lion, horse, and reclining camel to express more closely that victory must be obtained by strength, courage and patience. To which we allude in the above-mentioned book with the depiction of a patient, burdened and kneeling camel, with this application:

Patience and silent forbearance,
They support those who bear the weight of the cross.
Learn from this beast of burden (which for carrying
Offers its back and lies down)
How everyone must adjust to his fate,
With tough patience, and satisfaction.


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The first scene, painted on the daylight side of the left wall, shows the Goddess of Riches, or rather the demi-god who bewitches the entire world with her shining coinage.

She sits of an elevated throne or seat with armrests sculpted with eagle’s heads to indicate her great power and esteem. On her lap she has a casket with stones and in her right hand an apple. Before her throne stand various gracefully wrought dishes, jugs and vases, and a horn of plenty full of gold and silver coins and other precious things which delight desire, bewitch the senses and have all the world bend down before her to be in her favour and to be favoured by her stepdaughter Fortune. And just as a magnet attracts iron to itself by a hidden power, so she also attracts by a hidden power of shining gold the greedy hearts of men to her person, though they do not enjoy the handling of the same, as may be seen by the two cherubs who lustily and happily grub about an open vase full of gold and silver coins, and are greedily and assiduously stirring that pot of savings to rid the discs of mould. And so it goes. For

Those who gape at shining gold,
And seek their rest in money,
that care constantly torments them:
Both in the greedily scraping together,
As in the possession of their wish;
And though it yields neither satisfaction,
Nor rest, but
produces restlessness after the labour,
It still remains the
goal of mankind.


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Thus it was in olden days, and is till today.
God of Coins is ever worshipped.

Next to the cherubs one sees depicted a crocodile, an animal that lives in the Nile, Ganges and especially the Indian streams (where stones of pearls and gold can be found).

Next to riches stands a female figure which holds a statue of Pluto in her hand, and behind her two figures next to a fruit tree, as well as an infant that picks the fruit. This or that has its meaning, such as the apple that she has in her hand being a depiction of the golden apples that the poets embellish and that Hercules brought with him from the gardens of Hesperides, which according to the old poets of fable meant no more than that, returned from the African wars, he brought a rich booty with him. It also indicates that riches come from fertile land and cattle farming, especially sheep raising, of which the milk and meat for feeding and the wool essential to clothing men, provide great advantages, which is also why in the times of old fables they versified that Jason obtained the golden fleece on the advice and with the aid of Medea meaning he robbed rich booty that was worth gold.

The small scene above this piece depicts how Jason has captured the golden fleece after he had killed the guardian dragon who had tried to prevents this, which applied morally teaches how with help and assistance from the heavens the dragon of evil passions and


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inclinations, which prevents or frustrates admission to the golden fleece of piety and sincere virtue, must first be conquered and killed.

The second section, on the left side of the wall depicts charity, prosperity, youthful health, and weak or poor old age.

Charity stands in the middle of the niche, holding a horn of plenty in her right arm, from which money flows out in all directions, signifying charity, or liberality. To her right kneels prosperity, who offers her a precious bejewelled necklace. One would wish that this always happened and that prosperity flowed to the charitable, considering that they have winged* and open hands§ to do good and to share with the needy. Just as we see impoverished Old Age at Charity's feet, represented by a worn-out old woman lying on the ground in poverty (which can be seen from her poor clothes and belongings), having with her a crutch or stick, leaning on a world globe, as well a young child standing next to her lap,

* Winged. This means being skilled at charity, so that it does not happen as is told about a ruler who, aware that his philosopher friend was sick and needy, held back with charity until it was in vain, for when his servants brought him food, he had already died of deprivation.
§ Open hands. This means ready generosity. One reads in the old histories that when emissaries of Bearn had received orders to elect one of the sons of Mr. Willem van Moncade as their ruler, they welcomed him with open hands as he came to be greeted, because they took that for a sure sign of generosity.


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to whom Charity hands a few coins, by which it is gladdened, which clearly announces that the virtue of charity is a consolation for orphans, and provides support to those worn-out, whenever they are doubly unlucky, that is, poor and old.

She has a gentle appearance and face, showing that piety dwells in her heart, which is why our genius also placed behind her chair an elephant† as an emblem of piety.

One also sees behind Charity an eagle flying upwards to the throne of Jupiter, which indicates that the virtue of charity flies from the earth upwards to heaven, from whence it expects its reward. And a little lower Youthful Health, slender in face and frame, wreathed in flowers woven into a wreath with living green foliage, signifies youth. In her right hand she holds the staff of Asclepius,* and at her side the rudder of a ship, things which signify health and the fortunate condition of prosperity.

The small picture above this piece depicts

† They say that elephants pay homage to the rising sun and that when the new moon appears, they will go wash in the river and bow before the reflection of the moon in the water.
* Asclepius, the god of medicine or healing, crushed Hypolitus by the running of his horses between the cliffs and later gathered the torn off body parts and healed them by his miraculous art of healing. See Ludolph Smids’ margin notes to the letter of Cydippe to Akontius. The top of his staff is overgrown by the healing herbs which were conveniently pointed out to him by a snake. He put it to the first test on the dead Glaukus


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Marcus Curtius, when the representatives of the Samnites entreat him with gifts and he, content with a bowl of turnips, peacefully and above treason, rejects the ambassadors and their gifts. This display requires no explanation.

If I am a little expansive in some biographies, this happens so that those who are still inexperienced will be able to practise their conceptions by reflecting on greater intellects and sharpen their minds with worthy models. It is no glittering trimming, nor are these trivialities which normally irritate a sensible reader, but it is the essence, the soul and the life of art, which have the art work speak.

In that same house of Flines, now occupied by Mister Adriaen Rutgers, there is also a painted room by our De Lairesse to be seen.

But as we have expanded out of our bounds with the explication of the preceding work, we will say nothing more about the present one other than that it was artful in conception, well-drawn, naturally coloured, inventively gotten up and broadly and fluidly painted. But that would not be the only reason. But as I discovered that De Lairesse explained and described several of his scenes in his book of painting, and no one knows better than the maker himself what he intended to depict, I have deemed it needless to expand any further.

It would have been preferable if he had reflected more thoughtfully on the figure of poverty (painted by him) and had instead adopted the emblem of frugality


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for emulation and observance, as this would have given him great comfort and support in 1690, when the blindness overtook him that remained with him until his death. He often attested that being blind he saw more than when he could see, for then he saw what he had never thought about before, namely that he ought to have saved more, but too late, even as someone that Jan de Brune the younger tells about on page 5 of his Jok en Ernst. Having wasted his income, he went into a painter's studio with one of his friends, who bought several pieces there. Seeing a picture that was painted artistically, depicting the Judgement but expensive, and having no money to buy it, he expressed how much this hurt him as follows: What a Judgement I am losing, all because I have no money! To which his friend replied: You might better say: What a lot of money I am losing, all because I have no Judgement! Yet it seems to me that due to his forbearing nature, this poverty hurt De Lairesse less than it would have others! For those who used to associate with him witness that he conducted himself contentedly in his misery and amused himself by playing a tune on the flute or the violin, at which he was marvellously accomplished.

He was especially knowledgeable concerning iconology, or the representation of concepts, and what was used in history, or in ancient times, with respect to feasts, decorations, pomp, religion and burial ceremony, with their apparatus and appropriate accessories, and with respect to this he consulted the poet


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Andries Pels, who was expert in antiquities, and who often came to visit him.

The desire for, and the inclination to art stayed with him, although blind, until the end of his life, and various amateurs, painters and engravers came to his house weekly, along with others, to hear his lessons or discourses about this or that aspect of art, which he, after forming a concept of it, wrote down as best he could.

The reader will likely ask how this was possible, given he was blind? But he did it as follows: He had two blackened gessoed cloths upon which he wrote by touch (as they say) with a piece of white chalk. When the one was full of writing, he continued on the other. In the meanwhile the first was copied down on paper by one of his sons, and then erased, to be empty when the second cloth would in turn be full of writing. Finally these texts could be assembled, and arranged into two books by the Society for the Arts, and interspersed throughout with prints that illustrate the subjects to which he refers in his discourses. The first serves as introduction to the second and deals with the art of drawing, just as the second does with the art of painting, along with everything that belongs to it.

He died in Amsterdam in the year 1711 and was interred by the Society for the Arts in the Leiden cemetery on the 28th of July.

The art-loving Arnoud van Halen, who has great respect for his art, seeing after long waiting that none of the Amsterdam poets had commemorated the man’s passing with an epigraph


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