Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 3, page 220-229


Page 220

From there he left for Vienna, where he practised his art for some years. From Vienna he went to Prague and finally to Breslau, where he died in the year 1703. His brushwork consisted of the painting of handsome landscapes and sea harbours. His Bent name was Mirtillus.

Our Johannes Glauber also had a sister named Diana Glauber, who practiced the art of the brush and painted handsome figures and portraits. But sad accidents robbed her eyes of sight (to the disadvantage of her art). She is still alive and lives in Hamburg.

Experience, which more certainly decides the outcome of matters than anything else, has often shown us that the uncontrollable passions, lusts and inclinations of pregnant women are transferred to the fruit or are shared with the being that they carry. We will see this saying clearly confirmed by

MARIA SYBILLE MERIAN, daughter of the famous engraver Matthäus Merian, born in Frankfurt on the 2nd of April of 1647. Inclined to art from her eleventh year, she favoured the brush more than domestic activities, about which she was often scolded by her mother. After all it was entirely against her wishes, which is why Maria felt compelled to inhibit her inclination with pretences. This inclination flashed up all the stronger when her mother was away from home. Nor did she take her mother's displeasure seriously later on because she had a spokesman in her stepfather, who often reminded her mother of what she had told earlier,

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to wit, that while she was pregnant with this daughter she had inclined more than formerly to art and rarities, yes that though she was normally indifferent to such things she had even undertaken to study insects, mounted butterflies, and arranged all sorts of bloodless animals, including slugs, shells, and sea plants in their order in cabinet drawers, and had inspected the depictions with amusement. As a consequence she was the cause of her daughter's congenital passion. Her father-in-law, Jacob Marrel, succeeded so far that she was permitted to follow her inclination which, as mentioned, she had already commenced secretly from her eleventh year on, and in those early days had made use of instruction from Abraham Mignon, her stepfather's student.

Her inclination to art grew up with her with the passing of the years, and all the stronger as the renown of her art increased.

In the year 1665, on the 16th of May, she entered the marital state with Johann Andreas Graff of Nuremberg. Despite this, she had herself named after her father, because the name of Merian was more famous. The latter was a good painter, especially experienced in architecture, as may be seen in the precise drawing of St. Peter's Church in Rome, engraved by Johann Ulrich Kraus in the year 1696, consisting of nine large sheets of paper [1].

Despite this her love for art continued to grow even during her childbearing and domestic cares.

It was not enough for her to imitate nature with respect

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1
Johann Ulrich Kraus after Johann Andreas Graff published by Johann Ulrich Kraus
The interior of Saint Peter's in Rome, dated 1696
Amsterdam, art dealer Inter-Antiquariaat Mefferdt & De Jonge


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to its multitude of animals in her own lively colours on parchment, but she also developed a passion to discover the transformation of animals and the marvellous metamorphosis of caterpillars into winged olit moths, cabbage butterflies, etc. as well as the manifold differences in the nature and method of propulsion and searching out the food on which they exist, so that people could learn to perceive and see the wonderful wisdom and power of God in the least of His creatures through the study of these marvels. And so that the world might more easily partake in her skilful drawings and assiduous research, she decided to have them engraved in copper and published in print, along with additions of her precise observations, so that, as a consequence, she published the first piece in Nuremberg in the year 1679 with this title:

The beginnings, sustenance, and wondrous changes of caterpillars. In which the origins, nourishment, and metamorphosis; as well as the time, place, and characteristics of Caterpillars, Worms, Butterflies, Olit Moths, Flies, and other such bloodless animals are displayed.

In the year 1683 followed the second volume, which was of the same nature.

This passion for research (to fathom the true nature of metamorphosis, and to refute the incorrect fables of misinformation concerning this) was so great in her that she therefore decided (not fearing the dangers of the sea) to undertake a journey to the West Indies. This she then did in the year 1698 and remained about 2 years in Suriname, entirely to draw after life or locate in the soil everything that

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served her purposes. The usefulness of her diligence for the curious is confirmed by those who have seen her great work, which she published in the year 1705, entitled,

Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium

or

the Metamorphoses of Suriname Insects, Caterpillars, Worms etc.

all based on the plants, flowers and fruit on which they were found. In addition the reproduction of frogs, marvellous toads, lizards, snakes, spiders and ants is shown and described, all of it painted after life in America. Those who have leafed through the book and read it speak of it with great praise.

She further published in print several works of lesser importance, to which her daughter added a small book with fifty plates (the drawings for which lay ready), for death cut off her life's thread on the 13th of January 1717.

We have placed her portrait, well worthy of remembrance in following times, in Plate I 21, about which, as also about her art and behaviour, the following verses were made:

This is the portrait of Maria Merian
Whose
volume the art brush was able to decorate so praiseworthily

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In the imitation of flowers and all kinds of animals
With thin water paints
on parchment leaves:

Not even what nature discovers on remote shores:
For which
she did not fail to sail across the sea,
Quite content
amidst threatening danger and disasters,
Ever letting
the management rest with God’s providence.

What gave her the ambition, what her
investigative passion?
She found amusement in art, and in reflection
On
the origins of creature and the nature of all things.
Her name lives, though death has snuffed out her lamp.

She left two daughters whom she instructed in flower painting. Johanna Helena Herolt born on the 10th of January 1668, and Dorothea Maria Henrietta Gsell, born on the 13th of February 1678. The latter accompanied her mother on the journey to Suriname and, aside from the practice of art, is proficient in the Hebrew language.

Now follows
JOHANNES VOORHOUT, born in Uithoorn outside Amsterdam on the 11th of October of the year 1647. Seeing that he was inclined to the art of drawing, his father, who was a watchmaker, placed him in Gouda with one Constantijn Verhout, who was a handsome painter of modern histories, under whose supervision and instruction he practiced art for six years from the rudiments on. Having outgrown the first school, he climbed up to a higher one under the direction of the famous Jan van Noordt, history and portrait painter in Amsterdam, under whom he continued to practice art for five years

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and got so far that he needed nothing more than real life as subject. He married in the year 1670, and since the year of trouble followed on it and it looked as if the French wilfulness would flood all these lands, with the Dutch lion’s heart seemingly altered to that of a hare and the cities crowded with refugees, he decided to evade the threatening danger with his wife to await beyond fear what would finally come of it or what direction the fate of war would take, with the intention to return to the fatherland if things should turn out for the better (as happened).

In the year 1672 they undertook the journey to Frederikstad, where the wife had many commendable and well-to-do friends and where they were most welcome. He was not there for long before it became known that he was a painter. Thus he got to know Jürgen Ovens (who had found his fortune as portrait painter in that place, so that he also left much money) who subsequently brought him to his home where he showed him a great room with art by the most esteemed masters, with which he traded in art at the courts, and also enquired if he would paint for him. But when he noticed that our Voorhout was not interested, he advised him to go to Hamburg with the assurance that his art, of which he had brought a sample that he had shown to him, might do well there. This also happened, because he was appreciated there and asked much money for his work.

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yes (after his things already stood packed ready to leave) he was asked by several of the great to remain there but (who, goes the saying, is at all times equally wise?) he had let himself be charmed by letters from his friends in Holland to return to his fatherland, which he did, after having lived abroad for three years.

By his indefatigable effort and matchless diligence he made many scenes from year to year from which art lovers could take their pick. But who does not know that the world treats such ready commodities altogether wrongly? And that it pursues that which is scarce and loathes that which is easily obtained, though there is no difference in the value of things. Baltasar Gracián has an amusing tale about something of the kind. An Indian (he says) who had many precious stones, showed one of these to a crafty jeweller to have it evaluated. He estimated it very high. The Indian then showed him another stone which was much better than the first, but this one he estimated as worth much less, as also the third and fourth, so that the Asian was greatly amazed and enquired after the reason. He got as answer: That that the increase brought contempt, seeing that when the rarity of a thing ends, the esteem disappears. I do not need to draw the conclusion; the intelligent already understand what I wish to indicate.

The reason, therefore, why our Voorhout did not pursue such outstanding profits from his art as others did do, is the surfeit of his works on the one hand and his righteous

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dealings, no matter how commendable these were, on the other. For the world has degenerated so far from the old simplicity that people make mock of piety and call trickery wisdom. Sincere claims merit no credence. Deception has to sell the wares, and those who have honed those skills, walk off with the profits.

As of old, people have used ruses to have things hold their value. Poppea, the wicked playmate of Emperor Nero was able to sell her beauty at a high price through artful tricks because there was always still more to be seen than she displayed. Sometimes she showed her eyes and forehead a little. At another time it was her mouth and cheeks. The rest she kept covered with her veil. As long as she played that sly role, she was sought after and bid for by everyone. But as soon as she gave herself entirely to Nero, she became an outcast. Those who have not understood what I want to say with my first example will understand it so much the better with the second.

But to skip over all this and end things I must say in conclusion that he usually selected subjects for his brush that are worth having art and effort spent on, which is why Mister Ludolf Smids issued the following caption in print for the dying Sophonisba [2].

Here dies the daughter of the severe Asdrubal
The widow of Syphax: thus
embittered Rome saw her
Imprisoned: and Voorhout
therefore paints her greatest fall.

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2
Johannes Voorhout (I)
Sohponisba receives the cup of poison
art dealer art dealer


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And has the blanching poison appear in the dying face.
Massanis sent the poison so as not to see Sophonisba*
Chained before the victor’s ceremonial chariot:
She took it, without
sign of sadness or sorrow,
And without asking after the heart of this sin.
Even in death she appeared full of nobility,
So that even the enemy laments her sad fate.

MATTHIJS NAIVEU, born in Leiden in the year 1647, first learned the art of drawing from Abraham Toorenvliet and later on the art of painting with Gerard Dou. He now lives in Amsterdam where he (although a syndic of the brewers guild and having reached a good old age) still daily practices art with great appetite and diligence. The subjects of his art are usually pleasing to the eye, seeing that he mostly shows merry companies, damsels and dandies who drink tea, play cards or otherwise entertain each other, and occasionally also delivery rooms and other such displays.


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* Sofonisba was the daughter of Asdrubal, commander of the Carthaginians and wife of Syphax, who thrust Massanissa, son of Gala King of Numidia from the throne whe he decared himself as ally of the Romans. Later on Massanissa, strenthend by the forces of Cornelius Scipio, besieges Cirta, a city in Numidia and forces her to surrender. No sooner does Massanissa see Sofonisba or he is seduced by her beauty and offers her his love and aid. Scipio is opposed to this and wants to surrender her as prisoner to the Roman Council. This grieved Massanissa so greatly that he decided to have her die instead of witnessing this without being able to prevent it. He then sends her a cup with poison, which she nobly drinks at his request. Livy 30 B.

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The most important test piece of his art that I have seen consists of a great bustle of figures and addenda depicting the seven works of charity, which is painted in great detail and with power in its colours [3].

His contemporary and a student of Erasmus Quellinus II,
JACOB DENYS II, was born in Antwerp. In the three years that he spent in Rome and Venice painting after the best statues and drawings and by painting after the art works of Raphael and Giulio Romano, he improved so much in art that he could not only please the Duke of Mantua [= Ferdinando Carlo Gonzaga] but also Grand Duke of Florence [= Cosimo III de’ Medici], whom he painted with his court entourage and by whom he was given a medal and golden chain over and above his negotiated fee.

Returned to Mantua he painted history pieces in various rooms at the court, and after he had passed fourteen years outside his fatherland, he again went to live in his native city, where he was received with joy.

DAVID van der PLAS (whose portrait is to be seen in Plate I), born in Amsterdam the 11th of December of 1647, made himself a famous name with the painting of portraits.

He had adopted an unusual way of painting by which the images, placed at a small distance, showed with exceptional power and life, since he let the colours of the flesh placed next to each other melt on their own, without blending them much, with which

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3
Matthijs Naiveu
The seven acts of Mercy, dated 170[5]
Munich, private collection Osk. Doleh


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