Houbraken Translated


Volume 3, page 290-299

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little time. He died at the end of the year 1718.

MATTHEUS WIJTMANS, born in Gorkum in the 1650, painted most elaborately and artfully in small works. His preferences in subjects were companies like those of Caspar Netscher, except that he painted the views of landscapes in his backgrounds with exceptional detail and naturally. But he probably excelled most in flowers and fruit, to which he turned last. He had as teacher first Hendrik Verschuring, later Jan van Bijlert in Utrecht, who was pleased to see him so far advanced in art. But the fate of death did not allow him to climb a higher peak and had him descend into the grave in the year 1689.

His contemporary, fellow townsman and colleague, AERT JANSZ. MARIENHOF, followed the handling of Rubens in small size so artfully that he was praised by connoisseurs. He went from Utrecht to live in Brussels. He married early and died early.

Also counted amongst the Utrecht painters (though he was born in Schoonhoven) is JOHANNES van der MEER, because he lived there for most of his life. I do not know where or with whom he studied art, but I do know that he journeyed to Rome in the company of Lieve Verschuier and spent several years there in the practice of art. He painted life size figures and character heads in the grand manner, since he associated with Willem Drost and Johann Carl Loth in Rome, where he improved considerably. In addition he was fortunate in that he did not have to paint for cutthroat dealers but


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was able to practice and develop his art without hindrance and without aiming for profit, because he had a grandfather who had a lot of money and was very fond of our Van der Meer, saying to the youth: Jantje, if there must be a gentleman in our family, then you are it as no other. To that end he always saw to it that his grandson had a full purse in Rome.

Having returned from Rome to Utrecht, Van der Meer was afforded the opportunity to marry a rich widow who owned a white lead works. First, this woman became pregnant, which was a great stroke of luck, as she had no children by her first husband and therefore loved Van der Meer all the more and kept a horse stabled for him so that he might divert himself from time to time. But this kermes did not last long because his wife came to die and the soldiers burned down his home, white lead manufacture and everything he owned. On which occasion something remarkable happened that we have mentioned in the life of Jan Davidsz. de Heem as an example of how worldly affairs can turn.

And it is surprising, given that he turned to art so late (for his parents had cradled him for linguistics) that he got so far in aspects of it.

BARENT van KALRAET, who was born on the 28th of August of the year 1650, had his brother Abraham as his instructor in the art of drawing from his 12th to his 15th year. His father then placed him with Aelbert Cuyp, the son of Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp, whom we mentioned above. He imitated Albert Cuyp who probably best understood the painting of horses in


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small size, but just as men (as the proverb says) live by changes, so he later applied himself to the painting of Rhine prospects in the manner of Herman Saftleven, whose footsteps he was soon able to follow quite closely. He still practices art daily, although (being under a sail makes for good rowing, as the proverb says) he has another means of breadwinning at hand.

In addition we introduce to the stage JOANNA KOERTEN, wife of Mister Adriaan Blok, born in Amsterdam in the year 1650, on the 17th of November. This damsel was inclined from her youth on to learning the arts and sciences, as appears from her excellent embroidery, distinguished lace- and thimble work, sublime needlework, fine wax casts, manly writings, skilful music singing and handsome engraving with a diamond of aphorisms, birds, or flowers on drinking glasses. She was also marvellously accomplished in the decoration of flowers and gems, largely woven and worked in silk, and in painting with water paints, of which odds and ends may still be seen with Mister Blok.

Had she totally committed herself to painting, she would undoubtedly have gone far in that art. Led beyond this by richness of intellect, she put herself to the cutting of all sorts of objects from paper with scissors. And she succeeded so well in this that she made an eternal name for herself.

That is why I think there is reason enough to commemorate our Johanna Koerten amongst artists and women artists, as I did with the outstanding draughtsman Jan de Bisschop and others who never wielded a brush with paint.


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In his laudatory poem Mister Burgomaster Jan Six addressed her fame quite graciously:

Lady Blok, jewel and renown of Het Y,
Makes without paint a painting,
Her excellent name
will certainly live on,
As long as art continues to be honoured.

If the before-mentioned woman equalled others of her time with respect to drawing, she never met her equal, let alone her superior, in the art of cutting. That is why she was always the object of admiration by all art lovers, who saw before their very eyes that through her own intellect and unimaginable patience and diligence she worked out with scissors everything in the human realm that an experienced hand can achieve by drawing.

She also made seas, landscapes, beasts, birds, flowers, and large and small images cut with masterful strokes, all with parallel hatching, almost as Claude Mellan did in many of his prints.

This practice gained such renown that all strangers having come to Amsterdam desiring to see her ingenious work, observed and praised her cuttings with amazement. Consequently many potentates, rulers and great gentlemen, yes even Tsar Peter the Great, have come to see her work and, to her honour, added their signatures to her genealogical register. The Elector Palatine Johann Wilhelm even offered her a thousand guilders for three pieces of her cuttings. But



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she was not inclined to do without them, having invested so much work in them. For the spouse of the Emperor Leopold she made a sublime work consisting of flowers, arms, eagles, crowns, decorated in foliage, of woven silk in a rustic manner [in manier als campanen], for which more than four thousand guilders were given. She also wrought such gems for Mary, Queen of England and other women rulers. All of this she achieved by her own invention, without studying with anyone. The likeness of the mentioned Emperor cut out by her scissors was sent to his majesty and still hangs in Vienna in his art cabinet. Below it, skilfully cut out, is this verse by Professor Petrus Francius:

Caesarus haec facies Leopoldi: dextera ferrum,
Laeva globum terrae, quam regit, orbis habet.
Marmora Lysippi cedant, & Mentoris aera:
Cedat Apelleus, Parrhasiusque, labor
Majus opus tenui in charta (mirabile visu)
Exhibet artifici forfice docta manus.

Thus translated by Arnold Moonen.

This is the Emperor Leopold; his left fist guards
The orb of the world, which he governs, his right
the sword.
Yield Mentor's copper, yield
also the marble of Lysippus,
The labour of Apelles and Parrhasius,
commendablely elegant.
A trained hand and art-scissors vigorous in cutting,
Work greater miracles before our visage with thin paper.


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In addition this was composed by the ingenious Joan van Broekhuizen on the features of Mister David van Hoogstraten M.D.

Doctum victuro condire Poëmata cantu,
Et non unius pectinis artificem,
Hoogstratanum acri formavit Curtia ferro,
Ut stet in aeternis Mnemosynae tabulis.

This means, according to the translation by Joannes Vollenhove.

Joanna Koerten’s scissors hardly allow life to perish
of Hoogstraten's image, which in poems, immune to death,
Transcends, renowned by all the
arts of song and tone,
Thus remains preserved forever in Mnemosyne's paper.

A series of learned men, and the most excellent poets, have also praised her scissor art in Latin and German verses and assigned immortality to her name. In addition to those whose names have already been mentioned, there were Caspar and Johannes Brandt, the Feitamas, Jan Baptist Wellekens, Abraham Bogaert, Claas Bruin, professor Adriaan Reeland and too many others to name.

But Gesine Brit composed a wonderfully handsome pastoral song in remembrance of this paper-cutting art. We have accepted only this finest poem (not to fatigue the reader with all the others) for our use (because it flowed from a woman's pen and because it mentions the most important of her works of art). Thus we let it follow here.


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On the paper cutting art





The fertile spring sun had risen above the horizon,
And gave, in the happy season, a lovelier aspect
To the pining earthly realm, dismayed by the winter cold;
The trees blossomed, the deathly pale field,
And sad acres received livelier paints:
When shepherd Coridon, famous with Gysbrecht’s heirs, 1)
In the fertile lion’s valley, 2) which braves all storms,
Drove his eager flock into the grass and out of the sheepfold;
And seated in good spirits at a silver spring,

1) Dwellers of Amsterdam, 2) Holland.


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Let his poet’s flute be heard, like the first field poets.
He sang to mountain and valley, in Syracuse’s way, 1)
On Amstel’s shore in praise of the shrewd art-heroine,
Who, above Pallas’ choir, driven by a nobler spirit,
Seems to strive in the field of art against nature,
When her sharp scissors with indefatigable diligence,
Cut another world out of lifeless leaves. 2)
Come Amstel nymphs, now braid palms and laurels,
To decorate shrewd Galatea generously.
How did she make Bosman’s row 3) so greatly indebted?
The liberated people, 4) who yield to oppression slowly,
And loosened the iron yoke 5) of the cruel one’s 6) great power,
See here the dike reeves 7) who with more than Argus-eyes,
Guarded the free field, those fathers of the people,
By brutes, 8) in the green, 9) tortured and crushed:
Just as one saw Orpheus, who calmed the animals,
Foolishly perish by Bacchus’ playful hosts,

1) They say that the earliest pastoral songs are to be found in Syracuse.
2) Paper
3) The dwellers of The Hague
4) The Dutch people.
5) The rule of Spain.
6) King Philip the Second.
7) Jan and Cornelis de Wit
8) The Hague rabble
9) Het Groene Zoodje


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By Amstel’s heroine of art, from white tree bark 1)
While cutting recreated to family offspring’s 2) joy and honour;
He who for his heroic virtue and wisdom is worthy of praise
Now the Landsraad’s brotherhood 3) with the very finest cuts 4)
So splendidly shown that appearances plead for reality,
And mislead a grey pious man, filled with doubt.
Come, Amstel nymphs, now braid palms and laurels
To generously decorate Galatea.
Her noble scissors conquer the chisel and the brush,
And show the British 5) renown, who the resentful Forest row 6)
Like a Hercules, magnanimously curtailed;
And chased the Woods boar 7) from Veneryk’s bowers
She has that brave hero, in spite of Saturn’s fame,
Dedicated to eternity in her carved leaves 8)
With the great hegemony 9) that teaches Rhine and Danube streams,.
With other streams, be fearful for the noble family house; 10)

1) White paper.
2) The son of Jan de Wit.
3) The brothers De Wit.
4) Cut paper.
5) William the Third, King of England.
6) The war.
7) Restraint of conscience.
8) Cut paper.
9) Leopold, Roman Emperor.
10) The house of Austria.


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