Houbraken Translated


Volume 3, page 180-189

Page 180

for the collecting of tax on beer in Dordrecht.

Spurred on to art early on by the example of his father, Govert soon trotted past his father in practice with the brush, so that he became famous early on. He, who understood the meaning of the saying that no sand is elevated in its own land, went to Amsterdam, where he came to marry the sister of the painter David van der Plas. But this did not prevent his wanderlust nor urge him to early homecoming, for he let himself be detained for 14 consecutive years -- four in Lyon and Paris, two at the court of Savoy, one year in Rome and seven years in Naples -- before he returned, when he showed satisfactorily with several examples that he had practiced after the artful models by such as Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione and Johann Heinrich Roos. He also imitated the latter’s facility. I have seen a herd of oxen, sheep and donkeys by him that were marvellously lively and loosely brushed. But since our natural character is more addicted to what is detailed, he was not able to demand as much for his art as he was used to. He therefore decided to commence another journey to Rome and Naples, for which reason he left Amsterdam for Dordrecht to visit his mother before his departure. But death awaited him there unexpectedly and tore him away on the 3rd of July 1688. He was a well built man, turbulent of spirit and well spoken, by which he was able to insinuate himself into everyone’s favour and pursue his happiness. His brother and fellow artist


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Pieter van der Leeuw, on the contrary, was of a silent nature and bourgeois behaviour. He was not skilled at presenting himself or making himself beloved by or known to one and all. That is why (though he understood his art well) he exacted only a common price for his brushwork. He had a flattering brush, and the small oxen, cows, sheep, figures and landscapes entirely resembled the handling of Adriaen van den Velde, by whom he had a piece of painting which always stood next to him on the easel to thus get used to that way of painting. According to my calculations he must have been younger than his brother. Nor do I know in what year he was born. But he entered the artists’ society in Dordrecht in 1669 and (when I let myself be registered in the brotherhood in 1678) was the regent who recorded my name.

He left a son who was an artful signet and stamp cutter.

ABRAHAM van CALRAET, who was born in Dordrecht on the 7th of October of the year 1643, learned the basics of the art of drawing with Aemelius and Samuel Huppe or Hup, famous stone sculptors. The decoration and sculptures of the Groothooftspoort in Dordrecht were made by them of which the part sculpted in relief and embedded in the fixed gate of the wall, both in front and behind, may still be seen. But the two figures, Mars and Pallas, which graced the view of the Meuse, were cracked by the blast of a canon on the nearby bulwark, and finally fell down. I still remember that I saw the lower body of Mars in its place


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at the time that I had already started off on art, and the red bole model for the Pallas statue is still preserved by me.

After that time Abraham, through effort and diligence turned to the brush and practiced on statues and fruit. And since his father [= Pieter Jansz. Kalraet], who was a wood sculptor dropped out from old age, he also handled the chisel. He is now still alive and practices the arts of painting and sculpture.

In and around this time there was also one [Morten van] Steenwinckel (I do not know his baptismal name) in full flower. He painted all sorts of four-footed animals, life size, especially horses. In the year 1640 he came to Copenhagen, and was especially beloved and his work praised by Christian IV, King of Denmark, as by the entire royal household (for which a single event had laid the foundation). And this was because he painted a horse so naturally and artfully that a live horse brought to it, whinnied and jumped. Whether this encouraged our artist, I don’t know. But I do know that such stories were as old taken as invented and the pride of the artist scoffed at. An example that makes the point is told to us by Franciscus Junius about Zeuxis. This artist had painted a boy with a bunch of grapes in his hand, and placed the scene in the open air. The birds, fooled by that display, flew back and forth at that scene, and when Zeuxis took pride in this, others who were present there, hastened to tell him that the birds had shown bad judgment, as the boy would otherwise have scared them off.

There was also at that time one


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JAN van AKEN, also a horse painter but on small scale. But what countryman he was, and whether one should relate his origins to those of Hans von Aachen, whose biography Van Mander had described, I do not know. But he was a handsome master in that art. Six prints with horses, the size of the smallest ones etched by Pieter van Laer, have also come out in print etched by himself [1-6]. But they have become scarce, and those who have them appreciate them.

Kind with kind arranges best, goes the Dutch saying. Thus the artful animal painter PIETER MOLIJN [= PIETER MULIER II], bent-named Tempest walks on stage.

He was from Haarlem, son of Pieter Molijn the Elder [= Pieter Mulier I] and born around this time, because in the year 1697, when Isaac de Moucheron was in Rome, he was a man of fully 50 years. I do not know if any of his art is here in this country, since he left early for Italy and elsewhere.

His brush accommodated itself to depicting anything, but he especially excelled at painting of wild boar hunts in the manner of Frans Snijders. He spent the best part of his life in Genoa, both in luxury and in confinement. I say confinement because he was put in prison for life on the suspicion of having murdered his own wife.* There his fellow townsman and contemporary Jan [= Dirk] Visscher, otherwise known as Slempop,

*Others say that she was his mistress whom, having tired of her, he had murdered by three airheads who were bought with money to that end.


Jan van Aken published by Jochem Bormeester
A horse eating leaves from a tree in a landscape
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-1891-A-16301

Jan van Aken published by Jochem Bormeester
A horse in a landscape with a rider in the background
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-1891-A-16302

Jan van Aken published by Jochem Bormeester
Saddled horse in a landscape
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-1891-A-16303

Jan van Aken published by Jochem Bormeester
A horse and a reclining man with hat in a landscape
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-1891-A-16304

Jan van Aken published by Jochem Bormeester
A horse standing in a landscape, another horse and a farm in the background
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-1891-A-16305

Jan van Aken published by Jochem Bormeester
A pissing horse in a landscape
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-1891-A-16306

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landscape painter and student of Hendrick Mommers, often went to visit him. But in 1684, when the French bombarded the city and he had spent 16 years in prison, he was granted freedom to leave his cell (one man’s pressure is another’s happiness). He left for Piacenza in the territory of Parma, where he spent the rest of his life. The love of art practice remained with him into his old age, and when he began to lose his sight with old age and he could not see any more through glasses, he put two on top of each other on his nose when he painted.

He was (according to the testimony of those who knew him) a great lover of art and at the same time of Venus.

THEODORUS also known as DIRCK FRERES was born in Enkhuizen in 1643. He was a great master in the painting of histories and nudes. Various large works of his worthy of comparison are still to be seen in many a gallery in the house at Honselaersdijk, and various large pieces is the city hall of Enkhuizen of which some remained incomplete because death surprised him [7-8]. For he sailed by ship from Amsterdam to Enkhuizen feeling a little nauseous, because he thought he would be more comfortable there and better looked after by his friends. But the illness increased so severely that he was already dead before the ship could reach the harbour. This occurred in the year 1693, when he was 50 years old. In Amsterdam on the Herengracht, in the house of Mister Roeters [= Jacob Roeters], is a room with paintings by him which are spoken about with praise.


Dirck Ferreris
Eight-part ceiling decoration with allegory of the Truth, 1688-1690
Enkhuizen, City of Enkhuizen

and after Romeyn de Hooghe and Dirck Ferreris and Theodoor van Thulden Anoniem Anonymous
Mayor's room with wall and ceiling paintings, 1688-1710
Enkhuizen, City of Enkhuizen

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He also made various splendid ceiling works, with artful decoration in the corners. But in general it is witnessed that he was a greater draughtsman than colourist. That is why his drawings of nude figures continue to be valued by connoisseurs.

He had practised his art for many years after esteemed models in Italy, and one can tell from his brushwork that he breathed the air of Rome. While there, however, he did not keep company with those who are usually called bentvogels, who are generally out to waste money. On the contrary, he tried to find out with how little money one can get through a year if one lives with sobriety. Thus he discovered the truth in the saying of Seneca: That our nature is of an amenable sort, and is satisfied with little. Even so this behaviour was of his own volition, without necessity; for he came from an old and esteemed family and had money of his own to be able to exist on apart from his art practice. That is why he only kept company and associated with people of importance and honour. Johannes Voorhout, who drew after life with him in a practice school (after he had returned from Rome to Amsterdam), has told me that he would ask the company to guess how much money they thought he had consumed in that meagre year. But no matter how little anyone guessed, it was even less, because it came to 39 guilders. From which one may surmise that he can have eaten few grilled capons or drunk much Florentine wine.

Here as well appears his contemporary fellow artist,


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who was with him in Italy in the year 1666,

ADRIAEN BACKER, born in Amsterdam, a great history and portrait painter. Among his important art works is counted the piece in the city hall of Amsterdam, placed against the vault above the entry to the plea room, depicting the Last Judgment [9], in which appear artfully drawn nudes for which he is praised more than for his way of painting. He was a nephew of Jacob Adriensz. Backer, whom we mentioned in the year 1609 and who died (as I have been told) in Amsterdam in the year 1686.

I don’t know what countryman HORATIUS PAULIJN was, but he always remained in Holland and specifically in Amsterdam. It would appear that he was a man who loved piety but sometimes painted objects that did not look that way. Johannes Voorhout has told me that he once saw a small piece that was so filthy and vain in its display that he felt ashamed for its maker, but it was strongly and elaborately painted. The art dealer Gerrit Uylenburgh had a piece by him that he valued at least 200 ducats.

Horatius departed in the company of Jan Rote [= Johannes Rothé] (who raved about a procession to the Holy Land), first to England and from there to Hamburg, to recruit supporters. But this did not transpire all that smoothly, as they encountered opposition now and then and were robbed of their chests filled with ancestral banners and standards, with which they were to enter the Holy Land.


Jacob van Campen
Christ as judge during the Last Judgement, c. 1650-1655
Amersfoort, Museum Flehite

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In any case, nothing much was lost there, seeing that the leader of the holy band discovered while under way that he had made a mistake of a hundred years in his prophetic calculations. Hence they all returned to their old roosts with drooping wings. I have in my time known a baker’s wife who had gathered as much as she could scrape together of silver, gold and ready cash and, without her husband’s knowledge, was taken in by this pious company and had returned home stripped and plundered, where she was not all that welcome. Where Horatius has gone, has not been heard since.

The same Voorhout has also told me that in Hamburg around this time he knew one Jacob Bellevois, a commendable sea and still water painter, and that he also knew Matthias Scheits in Hamburg. He came from Hamburg but had learned art in Haarlem with Philips Wouwerman, which preferences he stuck to for some years, but he later fell to painting companies of farmers (in which he followed the handling of David Teniers) and finally, when mentioned Voorhout knew him, turned to the painting of histories. How far he had advanced in the painting of histories appears from the print depictions of the Old and New Testament, cut in copper and printed in his name [10-11].

The saying of the orator Antisthenes, that one is never too old to learn and that the school accepts student of all ages, is known.


Melchior Küsel (I) after Matthias Scheits
The sacrifice of Isaac, c. 1672
Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, inv./cat.nr. 59209

after Matthias Scheits
David and Goliath, c. 1672
Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, inv./cat.nr. 59238

Page 188

Among those who are reckoned to have come to art late belongs GIJSBERT VERHOEK, born in Bodegraven in the year 1644. He had received impetus to art because his brother, Pieter Verhoek, who was eleven years older, had learned the art of glass painting in Gorkum with Jacob van der Ulft, who, when that art fell entirely into disuse, advised him to go to Amsterdam to take up marble painting like the Van Nerven brothers [= Cornelis van Nerven and his son Michiel], who made lots of money with it. That is what he did and he kept to it to the end of his life, He died, the thread of his life having come to an end, on 29 September of the year 1702. Pieter was exceptionally inclined to poetry and made many handsome verses on numerous subjects as relaxation, notably the Tragedy of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Count of Holland, Zeeland etc.

He favoured civil and polite behaviour, and further the study of books, as did his brother, of whom we have begun to say that he came to art late, that is in his twentieth year, but then entirely surrendered himself to it under the supervision of Adam Pijnacker, who was a particularly good friend of his brother.

At first he copied some pictures by mentioned Pijnacker, but his spirit inclined more to the painting of horses and subsequently to battles and army marches etc. and was unusually taken by the handling of Louis Rouhier, otherwise called the Burgundian, whom he


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set out to follow completely, as in several pieces that I have seen. And how great a determination he had to continue his art appears from a multitude of finished drawings, completely suited to that use. With amazement I have observed a multitude of changes, be it of horses, figures or various objects produced by the man’s intellect. But three reasons have prevented the realization of his intention.

1. That he met no well-intentioned Maecenas who encouraged him in the wrestling field of art and sweetened his sweat with reward so that he did not need to complain that art brought him sorrow.

The second was that evil harpy called Podagra [= gout], who chased him to his quarters, where Willem Kalf and Zacharias Webber (who was also plagued by gout) often came to visit him.

The third impediment was death, which cut off his entire plan along with the thread of his life in his 45th year, on the 6th of January 1690.

He left a son [= Johannes Verhoek] who after the death of his father was raised by his uncle in marble painting, which he now carries on with fame inside Amsterdam.

On him we have follow two brothers from Haarlem, JOB and GERRIT BERCKHEYDE, contemporaries and particularly good friends of the afore-mentioned Pieter Verhoek.

Job, who was the oldest, was intended by his father for book binding, but it did not take


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