Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 3, page 310-319


Page 310

At that time also lived CORNELIS van der MEULEN, portrait painter and student of Samuel van Hoogstraten, JACOB van de ROER, also portraitist, who first learned art with Cornelis Bisschop and later with Jan de Baen, and PIETER van der LEEUW BASTIAANSZ, who was a handsome painter of oxen, cows and sheep in the same way as his master Adriaen van den Velde.

Just as the change of scenery and persons continually attracts the eye of the spectators, who prick up their ears in anticipation of something new, so change engenders fresh desire for reading in the reader. Thus, for the first time, we bring two men of Groningen on the stage together. They were both painters and lovers of poetry. But the one appears to have been born under a lucky planet, the other under a disastrous one. The one had fortune as sweet girlfriend, the other as stepmother.

JOHAN STARRENBERG was a good painter; but more to be praised for his ingenious and witty inventions than for his way of handling of the brush, seeing this was rough and best seen in large chambers and galleries, softened to the eye by the long distances.

He had a flattering and eloquent tongue and unequalled impudence, by which he was able to insinuate himself into the favour of the Prince of Friesland [= Hendrik Casimir II van Oranje-Dietz] and most of the courtiers. Baltasar Gracián calls this natural quality climbing because such folks use this to procure another's favour, and they are as if by magic perfected through their wit, says the mentioned Gracián, who further

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describes it as follows, as if he were thinking of our Starrenberg: those who are granted this advantage by nature, find that everything works out for them. This quality makes everything easy for them, so that they are hindered in nothing and emerge from everything with praise. Mediocre art has often passed as outstanding because it was aided by society. And should on occasion others be found who have greater knowledge and even virtue than themselves, they will not desist from appropriating them to their own advantage. I find among the verses of Ludolf Smids one about Stratonica, depicted in the room of her lover Antiochus by Johan Starrenberg. The art of painting speaks to the spectator.

It is Stratonice† whom I display on this panel.
Come, do not remain
lingering with the ruler, or with his son,
But notice the emotion of this queen.
Pride struggles on her jaws with love:
See the picture, with the skin, a terrible
tide:
The red disappears and also
mounts in the painting
By turns; the frightening white
stupefies, and is stupefied:
While the beating heart secretly
engages herself
To Prince Antiochus,*
who is torn by these quarrels.


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† Stratonice was the daughter of Demetrius Poliorcetes. King of Macedonia.
* Antiochus, the son of Seleucus, the 1st King of Syria, being in love with his father’s bride Stratonice, and concealing that passion, fell into a deathly illness. This was discovered by his medicine master who noticed that his spirits revived when Stratonicr came to visit him at his bedside and his illness, once she

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Stepmother, who does love: but does not aim at some villainy
Like Phaedra,*
I see the struggle settled, and the blood settle down,
You, with that
commendable son, paired to the father’s rest.

His contemporary, fellow townsman, colleague and best friend JACOB de WOLF had an entirely different nature and tried to make himself esteemed instead of flattering with his art, found himself mistaken.

We read about Pomponius Atticus who, having become saddened by misfortune, brought his life to an end by starving himself to death.

Having tried in every way to break down the doors of the prison in which he was shut up, Appius Claudius, determined to break free, broke his body to give freedom to his soul.

Kleomenes and Mithridates, oppressed by the same disaster,


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was gone, worsened. He informed the king about this, who out of love of his son and to keep him gave him his bride. Thus attests Plutarch in his life of Demetrius.
* Phaedra. Lukas Rotgans says about her in a handsome way of rhyming:

It was Phaedra who once charmed and made love to her
Sister’s groom, and fled with her Theseus,
Where Ariadne, alone on the shore of Naxos sighed,
And called out: my sister linger. Ach! Theseus turn back!
But no invocation answered her prayers:
The one had betrayed nature; the other broke his vows.

It was Phaedra who fell from one sin into another,
Falsely accused the stepson who spurned her lust,
And by deceit compelled Theseus to infanticide.
Thus died Hippolitus, but with a pure soul.
And she, as murderess, possessed by insanity,
Carried out the verdict of conscience with her hand.

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call on the assistance of death and concluding from their repeated calling that he must be deaf, give him a sign to draw nigh, the one with a glass of poison and the other with a poker.

So it also happened to our painter. He was aware of his abilities as artist, but what good did that do him? He was compelled to see how others, who were lesser in art, were picked out by fortune while he was left sighing. This hurt him and consulting with his frustration instead of with reason, he decided to avenge the injustice that the Goddess of Fate did him by removing the object of it from her, and carried out this sinful decision. He placed his sword in the corner of his room, angled with the point upwards, and let himself fall on it, and thus brought an end to his life. That was in the year 1685.

Mister Ludolf Smids, who lived in Groningen until the year 1684, knew him and often visited him and also made inscriptions for some of his art works, as may be seen with his depiction of Alcestis, who is returned to her husband Admetus.

Here Alcestis* is restored by Alcides’ strength;
Alcestis, model of righteous spouses,


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* Admetus, King of Fereers in Thessalia, had received from Apollo as reward (for a service that he performed for his son Esculapius) that when he became ill and someone of his family wished to die for him, he would keep on living. It happed that be became sick, he begged this from his worn out father and ancient mother, but in vain.

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Who love their husbands even into the grave:
Alcestis, defier of death and her violence.
Admetus doubts whether it is truth or lies.
He withdraws his hand. O ruler!
It is she herself.
Alcides has from the subterranean vault
Brought her back to day. Believe your own eyes.
It is she herself who became a corpse with such resignation,
When
all were asked to die for you,
And father, mother, friend, each denied you his life,
Go show her to your court, and to your kingdom.
It will not allow Alcestis
to die again,
As long as
there is copper, and marble, and paints.

And another poem on the depiction of Cassandra, murdered by Egysthus, and Clytemnestra.

Your priestess, Apollo, is in danger!
Egysthus, and the daughter of Tyndaar,
Are already prepared, with drawn swords.
Descend!
Descend, and lift her up from the earth.

Oh Pallas help! Cassandra*
is done for.


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Alcestis, the daughter of Pelias, his housewife, still in her youthful years and moved by his begging, offers herself out of love for him, and dies. Hercules meets her in his journey through hell and brings her back to her husband. See Ludolf Smids in his Keurstoffe etc., and Joannes Vollenhove in his Heidense dapperheid.
* Cassandra , part of the booty from defeated Troy, fallen by fate to the Greek King Agamemnon, was taken to Mycenea. His wife Clytemnestra, imagining that this maid was caressed by her husband,

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Where is your fire? Your lightning to strike?
Here she steps forward sad, surprised, and
erect
Her flowing robe reveals her brown locks,
And pale back, while its folds descend;
Although
Pallas does not shower lightening on this court;
Apollo shuts his merciless eyes;
We human beings, Madam, sympathize with you!

You are made immortal, and Kathryn:*
Whose paint will be your blood, whose poetry your sea:
Thus people will ever see, and hear Cassandra,
As if never killed, or reborn with greater distinction
.

We bring WILLEM van INGEN, otherwise known as the First, onstage after the year 1650. We are about to discover the reason for this bent name.

He was born in Utrecht in the year 1651 and being inclined to art from his youth on, he learned its rudiments in his native city and further had himself instructed by the painter Antonie de Grebber. When he could coast on his own wings (as the proverb says) he became desirous to see Rome to continue to practice after artful and renowned models. A favourable opportunity came his way in the year 1670, when the eminent Mister Johannes van Neercassel, Bisschop of Castorien and Vicar of the Netherlands, that is over the Catholic churches of the Netherlands, travelled there and took him in his following from Utrecht


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prejudiced her brother Egystus against her. Later they conspire together and murder her in the temple of Diana. See Seneca and Eschylus in their tragedies and Pader d’Assezan in his Kassandra, treurspel.
* Katharina Lescaille.

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to Rome. By his recommendation he entered the favour of the painter Carlo Maratta, which whom he practiced painting for a year and after that made several great art works in churches and elsewhere.

In the meantime he applied to the so-called Roman bent. But the specified time for his initiation, which was usually accompanied with joy, was disturbed. For some German painters who had been rejected by the bent from her company, were able though an incorrect report to fill the Cardinal Inquisitor with suspicion that such gatherings of the Netherlanders tended to the nurturing of a strange manner of religion opposed to the Catholic church, and also that they attracted many to their community with Anabaptism. Thereupon the servants of the Inquisition, strengthened with body guards, were sent by the Pope to disturb that nest and take the people into custody, as happened. David de Coninck was one of that company. They asked him for his name (as they did for one after another) to which he answered in the Italian language, Il re Davide. Whereupon the servants of the Inquisition (thinking that he was the king of the group) said: You in particular we must have, and took all of them to prison. But the next day, called up for investigation, it soon appeared that they were not guilty of what they had been accused, and as a consequence were set free.

With this dark cloud of persecution blown over, our Van Ingen joined the bent and received the bent name (because he was the first after the persecution) The first.

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From Rome he headed for Venice, where he went to practice with Valentin Lefèbvre (who has introduced the most important art works of Paolo Veronese and others to copper). From there he came to Naples and finally again to Amsterdam, where (after he had made many handsome brushworks) he also died.

GERARD SEGHERS was born in Antwerp, as may be concluded from the rhyme by Cornelis de Bie. Because after he has said that:

Italy admits to his high worth
Which his art of painting spreads around the world.

He continues:

So that Antwerp boasts that Seghers was born there.

He mostly painted in life size. What made him particularly famous is the natural depiction of suffering emotion that he was able to render in his Passion pieces of Jesus Christ and scenes of martyred Roman saints in such a way that the tears were squeezed out of the spectator's eyes. I do not know when he was born, but he died in Antwerp on the 18th of March of the year 1651. We have therefore placed him in the year of his death. Joachim von Sandrart, who knew him and associated with him, witnesses that he avoided bright yellow, blue and other load colours but painted his figures so powerfully that all the other paintings that hung next to them looked as if made with water paints. His best works are in Spain, for which he was not only well paid

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but received large gifts in addition.

When Rubens had died and Van Dyck had settled in England, he took up the manner that was in favour and painted his works with more colour, so that when (says Sandrart) I saw some of the same in the year 1645, I would not have taken them for his own work if it had not been told to me. But he added that the world craved such work and that he only painted it for the money. He left a son [= Jan Baptist Seghers] who, being in Italy, laid the foundation for becoming a good painter.

NICOLAES de VREE, born I know not where, painted landscapes, flowers, thistles and herb. I find that his art works are better known amongst art lovers than his person, seeing that he avoided association with people, especially in the last years of his life, when he associated with no one other than Jan Luyken, who also adhered to the notions of Jacob Böhme. He finally left with his household (since he loved quiet) from Amsterdam to Alkmaar, where he also died in the year 1702, between 50 and 60 years old.

Among his contemporaries and fellow artists who appear together with him on the stage is also ABRAHAM HONDIUS. Amongst his most important known pieces is a depiction of the burning of Troy which shows a great bustle of figures that are well-drawn, artfully arranged and naturally lit by flames and torchlight. I have also seen a candlelight scene by him that was exceptionally natural and in which the figures were commendably painted [1]. Otherwise he painted

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1
Abraham Hondius
Adoration of the shephards, dated 1664
canvas, oil paint 304 x 196 cm
lower left : Abraham Hondiis [...]it 1664
Utrecht, Museum Catharijneconvent, inv./cat.nr. BMH s3982

2
John Smith after Abraham Hondius
Portrait of Abraham Hondius (ca. 1631-1691), 1689
paper, mezzotint 241 x 189 mm
lower left : Ipse pinx
London (England), National Portrait Gallery


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mainly falcon hunts, deer hunts and the like in which he employed not only a multitude of figures but also horses and dogs, which he was able to paint artfully, as with the landscape, especially in the morning hours.

He spent most of his life in England and was still alive in 1665. One sees his portrait, scraped by John Smith, appear in print [2], which we have followed in Plate M.

FRANCOYS DANCX otherwise known as TURTLE, who was a townsman of Amsterdam, painted small-sized histories. In the year 1676 he made the model for the statue to Time on the Herengracht in Amsterdam, after which it was carved in stone with the inscription: My hourglass runs rapidly.

To which the farcical Cornelis van Ryssen alludes in the following barbed verse:

As quickly as his glass was filled with a taste,
Or it was, as soon as he got, again emptied by him.
So that when he was then asked why he was so greedy,
He said, a fine saying steadily sparks my heart.
I found it on the Herengracht, where it said, Myn glas loopt ras.

That he also painted portraits appears from this eulogy by Johannes Koenerding on the portrait of Catharina Questiers.

Thus Danks painted a hand of the shrewd Catharina,
With paint and with brush, which was not distinct from life,
In glow and blush of beauty, but that is but
appearance
Of her whom he could not depict naturally
With fruitfully ripe intellect, with which she
calmly taunts
Eirene’s and Myron’s’ art which lustre
and name ended

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