Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 3, page 280-289


Page 280

Just as sweet spring had put on a beautiful field dress
To welcome
attractive May full of joy to Flora’s flower bower,
Where the West wind plays softly through the trees
There appeared in the forest a procession of shepherdesses
Which
frolicking in the green, glad and in good spirits
Braided festoons to decorate the field altar of the
Flower goddess, whose feast they wished to celebrate while dancing
The nymphs jump, together gladdened, through the youthful
herbs
To the cheering feast music of
tympanum and flute
So that they somewhat fatigued in the shadow of the
linden tree
Set themselves down to find a little rest,
Where they discover a flower wreath in the grass,
Like those woven by Glicera*
in olden days.
So sensitively art was able to arrange the flowers;
Lady Venus might freely dedicate them to her Adonis
Each grasps this flower jewel with pure fingers
The flower goddess herself remained standing as if
excited
Come, a nymph calls out, let us give this to the garden god,
Another, let us commemorate the
courtly youth with this
It is worth it, but lady Venus disapproves of this
The gift to Priapus I would in no way
tolerate:
So says she, the offering flame would singe the fresh flowers
And if I give it to the youth, I fear her
inattentiveness


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* Glicera, Housewife, or lover of Pausanias.

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They would mistreat it which would then be lamented fruitlessly
The safest
is that we dedicate it to the ghosts of painters
Those who eternalize my beauty at all times.
Which godhead is there who pays me greater homage?
Though all that has breath celebrates and prizes my beauty
Even when the
winter frost holds the earthly kingdom frozen
I see the flowers and herbs still blush as youthfully
On the precious art panel, so that all who see it are amazed
So lively that even the bee
pursues it.
This you will agree with my choice and reasonable opinion
I give them to the noble art, but to avoid
All
displeasure about who will receive them, leave that to
Those who understand the truest treasure of the art of painting
Who then know
how best to follow nature in her appearance and elegance
May decorate his head with this wreath.

The Year 1650, more fruitful in the production of artists than all other years, will yield material for all tastes for our theatre through changes in the ingredients, which make the same diet tasty all over again. Thus, where we previously had two or three painters appear more or less on the year of their birth, we now want to change our method, and accompany them with a good number of their contemporaries whose birth we were not able to determine, brought to the stage together and appearing in different acts.

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We have a multitude of examples from olden days on of how accidents often laid the foundation or, to say it better, gave direction to art and sciences. In particular we read with Van Mander how the blacksmith Quinten Massijs fell in love with a young girl who had a painter as lover at the time, but she declared that if Quinten were a painter instead of a dusty smith, she would like him better and would prefer him. But there seemed to be no remedy for this, seeing that he had learned that trade and that in addition he had an old mother for whom he had to be the breadwinner. Thus he became depressed and finally ill. Lying in tedious illness and being needy, he was advised when he began to improve that he could from his bed take the printed pictures of saints (which Catholics hand out to children who are diligently learning their prayers and church confessional) and set them off with colours and gold, which he did. Later he sometimes undertook to copy one after another by hand, and finally climbed from those slight beginnings to the heights of a renowned artist.

We meet a similar case, though of other origins, in the biography of the painter JAN VERKOLJE , born in Amsterdam on the 9th of February of the year 1650. His father was a locksmith named Benjamin. Johannes was 10 years old or thereabouts when with other boys he played at darts, being a small wooden block from which a needle sticks out in the front and bird feathers from the rear,

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called a prikje because they try to prick a set-up target at a certain distance. What happened? One of these tossed very carelessly by a boy, wounds his heel, or ankle. He paid no attention to this until the pain increased and after 15 or 16 weeks, the problem or accident caused by the prick of the needle was discovered, and that with sufficient danger of worsening that his parents thought best to bring him to one Cornelis, renowned healer in Jisp, so that he was bedridden for some years with this ailment. Amongst all the toys that they gave him to drive away the pain and pass the time there were penny prints, which, glued in place like the cards children play with to this day, pleased him most given that his inclination extended to drawing copies of them. Then, at the instigation of a certain Bronkhorst, he set himself to copying a better kind of print and by steady effort advanced so far on his own wings from those modest beginnings that I have seen with astonishment a drawing by him, outlined with the pen and shaded with East India ink, after the Bacchus of Mantegna, so close to the print that even the expression in it had been carefully observed. It is therefore still saved by his son, Nicolaas Verkolje, in his memory.

Spurred on by the same passion he completely mastered the basics of perspective in the course of a month.

Then he undertook to paint in oils on his own, taking great pleasure in the brush art of Gerard Pietersz. van Zijl, otherwise known as Gerards, after which he practised and eventually got so

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far that his handling of the brush was taken for that of Gerards, as will appear from the result.

After half a year he finally went for instruction with Jan Andrea Lievens. Seeing that his handling resembled that of Gerards, he had him complete the incomplete pieces by that master (which he had bought after his death). In the meantime he also painted a piece that Jan Andrea Lievens liked so much that he said to him: give me that. I will give you a present in return. This happened. He then requested that some lovers of art come see it, ordering Verkolje to place that piece on the easel. In the meantime Lievens was called away to someone who had to speak to him. Having looked closely at this piece they said to each other, what is this? Jan cannot make this as good and Gerards is dead, how did he come by this? Verkolje paid attention to this saying and learned from it not only his own ability and its value, but it also served him as spur to continue to trot on the art track.

In the same way Wallerant Vaillant and Abraham Bloteling looked on with amazement when he revealed his lithographs (with which he had advanced thus far by his own invention). I did not want to skip over this as example for the painting youth (as sample of unusual intellect and diligence).

In the year 1672 he married in Delft and remained living there from that time on, applying himself to the painting of portraits, with which he was greatly involved and received much money and behaved in such a way in his conduct that he was

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liked by both great and slight. That is why he was with unanimous voices (rarely so) assigned the position of dean of poor relief.

Famous among his art works is a Venus and Adonis, which has also been issued as a print [1]. The piece in which a trumpet player arrives is painted with wonderful naturalness [2]. And there is still another work that is placed at the court.

Among his important portraits these are included; the ones in which he depicted the children of Mister Van der Heul and the children of burgomasters Pieter Teding van Berkhout [3], and Vredenburg, as also the portraits of lawyer De Bries and his wife, preacher Geeraert Brandt and also of his son Johannes Brandt and his housewife, and especially that of lawyer Bogaart, of the year 1685.

He ended his life with great fame and died in Delft in the year 1693, 43 years old, leaving behind his wife and 5 children, 3 daughters and 2 sons, of which only the oldest, named Nicolaas and born in 1673, devoted himself entirely to art and took an eagle’s flight, which we will discuss in the mentioned year, 1673.

Having just started painting, he painted people who lived in his neighbourhood and some men of the watch in a piece so naturally that one of these people, seeing the piece much later, recognized all of the features of the subjects and could call them all by name. He was equally inventive and handy in making and arranging all other things.

Amongst the students who have become masters in art are included

Thomas van der Wilt, portrait painter of Delft,

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1
Jan Verkolje (I) published by Gerard Valck (1652)
Venus and Adonis
paper, mezzotint 383 x 298 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-OB-4628

2
Jan Verkolje (I)
The messenger, dated 1674
canvas, oil paint 59 x 53,3 cm
The Hague, Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen Mauritshuis, inv./cat.nr. 865


3
Jan Verkolje (I)
Portrait of Paulus (1676-1757), Jacoba en Lucretia Teding van Berkhout, dated 167[.]
canvas, oil paint 59 x 70 cm
lower right : I.VERKOLJE 167[.]
Private collection


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Joan van der Spriet, who was raised to art out of the orphanage of Delft. He also became a good portrait painter and went to England, where he married and has remained since.
Albertus van der Burch, also from Delft, painted portraits and compositions.
Hendrik Steenwinkel. He was able wonderfully to copy everything by other painters that came before him, as well as
Willem Verschuring Hendriksz. from Gorinchem, whom we will mention later.

Acht this time there also lived one UGAART DELVENAAR, a handsome landscape painter, as well as one JACOB CONING, a disciple of Adriaen van den Velde. First copying the handling of his master, he painted handsome landscapes and animals and later figures and histories, and he improved so happily in this that he became most beloved in Copenhagen, at the court of Denmark. It was him who lent our Verkolje (seeing in him an ambition to search out everything concerning art) the books on perspective (which we have mentioned), in which he progressed so greatly that he surpassed Coning in little time.

With this epilogue it also comes to mind (what we might otherwise have easily forgotten) how, and by whom, he was finally cured of the defect to his leg.

His parents received news of his excellence Burry [= Francesco Giuseppe Borri]. This was a famous chemist, and adept in the art of healing, who, to escape the scourge of the faithful, stayed for a while in the Netherlands. He was seen by some

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as another Aesculapius, by others as a second Paracelsus, and by still others taken for a magician. Not such a magician as previously the bewitched world used to believe there were, ones who could change themselves into dogs, werewolves, etc. and perform all sorts of spookiness, but one who practiced a way of healing above the ordinary, which (seeing the good results) had people amazed. Just as he totally healed our Verkolje, for many years rubbed and patched up in vain, by using 99 powders. These were marked 1.2.3.4. and so forth, and precisely how much he ought to take every day, which he followed punctiliously, noticing no changes in the state of his health, until with the ingestion of the final powder, when he so thoroughly excreted slime and filth from top and bottom that there were hardly enough pots in the house to catch it all, after which they did nothing to the leg but clean it every day with fresh dressings.

It is conceivable that the mentioned Borri will have discerned that the spoiled saps which were released by the opening of this infirmity were preventing the healing and made the wound fistulous, and thus initially worked primarily on the internal bad condition by means of his powders, so that the healing of the wound would be an all the more certain outcome.

As far as his harmful sentiments and understanding in matters of religion are concerned (for which reason he chose the Netherlands as refuge), I know no particulars but that he advanced a Four in One, and added the

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Virgin Mary to the Trinity and developed a following. Whatever may be the case, this I know, that he left for Vienna because of some infirmity or accident that overcame the Roman Emperor, but that after he had stayed there for some time, he was seized, sent to Rome and put in the castle St. Angelo, where, incarcerated and without being allowed to speak to anyone, he finally died.

Some want that the native city of NICOLAES DROOCHSLOOT be identified as Gorinchem and others as Dordrecht.

He did live most of his life (that much is known) in Dordrecht, and most of his art is also distributed there among the burghers. Almost everything he made depicts farmer fairs, where one sees cake stalls, with the houses of the village neighbourhood to both sides and the kitchen in the distance. And as far as the figures are concerned, of them one can say:

That they all seem to be cast in the same mould.

JOHANNES van der BENT was born in Amsterdam, but I don’t know precisely in what year, but he was about 40 years old when he died. We therefore place him in the year 1650. He was a student of Philips Wouwerman and Adriaen van de Velde, whom his brushwork most resembled both in choice as in treatment of painting. He remained single and lived with strangers, where he had a room of his own. It happened that he had amassed a goodly sum of money (some say 4,000 guilders), whether by inheritance or how else, I do not know. This hoard was lifted sometime when he had gone out, which upset him more than a little. He had no proof, but always suspected

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his landlord. The goldfinch had flown on him, and it was unthinkable that it would return to its cage. He progressed from despondency to consumption, and his will to live melted away until he finally died in the year 1690.

He who lives with cripples learns to go lame without a crutch.

A certain painter who understood the world knew a good trick for getting back his stolen money when something of the kind happened to him. His student, who alone knew where his master had buried the money (which he did not trust in his cash box out of fear that it might be stolen), was charmed by greed to filch it away. The painter, who sometimes in secret and on dark evenings examined if the loot was still there (for

Where the treasure is,
The heart will
certainly be.)

at last discovered the spot empty. It did trouble his sleep the following night, but he wanted to deliberate with care. Delay allows decisions to ripen, whereas haste always brings forth miscarriages. And Baltasar Gracián says: To sleep on business that one has to do, is better than to be kept awake by business that is done.

The next day he still pretended to know nothing and went out for a walk, but having come home towards evening, he said to his student (without letting any change in himself show), that he had received a hundred ducats

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and that he would have to get up early with him the next morning to bury this gold with the remainder in the courtyard. The youth, worried on the one hand that the theft would become public and blamed on him, charmed on the other hand by the glitter of the gold, and joyous that the loot was thus increased, so that he would soon be able to lift up it all, decided to get up in the still of the night to return the stolen money to the same place, as happened. But he found himself thoroughly deceived in his intention, for the master who had risen early with him that morning, found the money, took the hidden loot away (instead of adding the mentioned gold to it) and later gave no notice to his student where he put it, having learned thereby

That whoever divulges secrets,
Is always
accompanied by care.

PIETER van RUYVEN was born in that same year. His art deserves to be mentioned. He was a student of Jacob Jordaens and advanced very far through diligence. He was occupied by large work, such as ceilings and rooms. In The Hague he painted the festive arches when William III, King of England, was welcomed there. People discerned much art and beauty in them, which attracted the eyes of various artists. In Het Loo, the royal palace, he also made the most handsome work that is there. His pieces deserve all the greater admiration because he was so deft, so that it can hardly be understood how such outstanding art works could be executed in so

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