Houbraken Translated


Volume 3, page 350-359

Page 350

when the opportunity presented itself, to buy some pieces by famous masters. Shortly thereafter the duke undertook a journey to Vienna and took his painter along, which gave him an opportunity to paint the Emperor Leopold, the Empress Eleonora as well as various greats of the court, which pleased the Emperor so much that he gave him a gold chain with medal as gift.

While he again continued his art and other activities for the Duke in Düsseldorf, Philip Wilhelm (with the death of Elector Karl of the Pfaltz without heirs) became Elector in his place and relocated his court from Neuburg to Heidelberg when the princess Maria Sophia was appointed as queen of Portugal, where our painter was summoned. After completing his work he was given a gold medal. He then left for Vienna at the command of the Emperor since the Emperor wanted to keep him as his court painter. But it did not take long until there was another opportunity to practice his brush. The third Princess Palatine was elected as Queen of Spain. Thus our painter had to paint her portrait before her departure. He would again have left for Vienna and remained in the service of the Emperor had the air there been as beneficial for his health as elsewhere. He therefore left Düsseldorf with the Elector Johann Wilhelm.

Some time later the Prince Elector lost his spouse Maria Anna to the universal lot of death, as also his father, the Elector Philip Wilhelm, by which Douven’s great Maecenas became Elector and married


Page 351

Maria Anna Lucia [= Luisa] Princess of Tuscany. This was another fresh subject for the brush of our painter [1]. Some years later, at the order of the Emperor he went to Copenhagen to paint Charlotte Princess of Denmark (whom they intended to elect as wife of Josephus, King of the Romans). He did that and at the same time painted the king and queen, for which, when he was to leave (as proof that he had given satisfaction with his brush) he was given a large gold medal and a purse with gold. But this wedding was not carried out, so that in the winter time of the year 1697, ordered by the Emperor, Douven was sent to Italy, to the court of the Duke of Modena to paint the portrait of Princess Amelia of Hanover.

The discomforts and dangers of the journey were sweetened when he could feast his eyes on so much excellent art, especially that of Correggio, to be seen at the court. There he painted the mentioned princess in three distinct versions life-sized down to their feet, which pieces were sent to Vienna once completed. A little later that princess became Princess of the Romans and the marriage to Josephus enacted.

In the meantime our painter undertook another journey to Florence to paint the portrait of the Grand Duke [2]. He was charged with this task by the Electress Palatine, who longed to have a portrait of her father. There he could let his art-loving eye graze in cabinets filled with the choicest art or with artful


Jan Frans van Douven after Adriaen van der Werff
Portrait of Anna Maria Luisa de Medici, electress of the Palatine, after 1700
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, inv./cat.nr. 4341

Jan Frans van Douven
Portrait of Cosimo III de' Medici, grand duke of Tuscany, 1697
Warsaw, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie, inv./cat.nr. M.Ob.793

Page 352

antique statues which are there in great numbers, or on all the portraits of the most famous painters of the last three hundred years, amongst which the prince of painters, Raphael of Urbino, is seen. In addition the Grand Duke did him great honour by showing everything that stands out in the way of art in his territory and before his departure (after he required him to place his portraits with the others [3]) gave him a golden chain and medal.

A few years later, when Charles II, King of Spain came to die, and the Archduke Carl of Austria in Vienna was proclaimed King of Spain, the latter was painted by him after life as he travelled via Düsseldorf, and later he painted the princess Elizabeth, daughter of the Duke of Brunswick, who later, in the year 1709, was elevated to the Imperial throne. So that Douven had the honour of painting 3 Emperors, 3 Empresses, 5 Kings, 5 Queens, and a large number of rulers and princes after life, by which his fame was spread and his golden harvest gathered. It certainly contributes much to a man's happiness when he has mastered art and also knows how to make himself beloved by everyone.

It now pleases us to show the reader a list of the names of artists and women artists who served the Palatine court as well as present a sketch of the art cabinets of the art-loving Elector Palatine, whose art-loving desire encouraged by our painter grew with time, so that had not the Omnipotent begrudged him a longer life, one would have seen Düsseldorf transformed into another Rome.


Jan Frans van Douven
Self portrait with double portrait of the elecoral couple Johann Wilhelm and Anna Maria Luisa of the Palatine, probably c. 1717
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, inv./cat.nr. 1873

Page 353

Certainly art practitioners never had more reason than then to validate the saying of Baltasar Gracián: Those whom we need to live will often die early, and the ones who are good for nothing will live a long time.

In addition to Douven, the Elector had the universally famous Adriaen van der Werff in his service. Also esteemed by him was the famous painter of Venice, Antonio Bellucci, the almost unbelievably deft painter Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini, also a Venetian, Domenico Zanetti, an Italian painter of large histories, the famous Jan Weenix, figure and animal painter of Amsterdam, the famous history painter Anton Schoonjans of Antwerp, the painter of detailed small landscapes, Eglon van der Neer, and the artful flower and fruit paintress Rachel Ruysch, both of Amsterdam. There were also Gerhard Joseph Karsch of Münster and two further painters in enamel, who were highly esteemed.

To these we can add Peter Boy and Johann Friedrich Ardin, four more painters in miniature, three painters in fresco and distemper to paint blazons and settings for the opera. One of these was the artful Antonio Maria Bernardi of Bologna, who served four Palatine rulers.

The sculptors included the famous Chevalier de Grupello, under whose supervision work in marble and metal was done. He made the Elector’s show statue, life-sized and on horseback, placed in the market of Düsseldorf [4].

To this were added two who worked elaborately and artfully in ivory, Antonio Leoni, an Italian, and Ignaz Elhafen,


Gabriël Grupello
Elector Johann Wilhelm monument, 1711
Düsseldorf, City of Düsseldorf

Page 354

a German, though one who had lived in Rome for a long time. There was another Italian who was especially specialized in casting statues from plaster. The Elector supplied all of the above-mentioned artists (in proportion to the art of each) an ample sum of money, beyond gifts when some art work had been completed to his satisfaction.

SIMON GERMYN was born in Dordrecht in the same year and on the same day that Prince William III, later King of England, was born, namely on 14 November of the year 1656 [= 1650]. He was a disciple of Godefridus Schalcken, later of Ludowijk Smits, nicknamed Hartkamp [= Caspar Smits], with whom he learned the new way of treatment concerning fruit painting which I mentioned in his biography, which gave him great profit in the beginning, but like the work, it was of short duration. Since that time he has applied himself to the painting of landscapes in summer homes and to other domestic embellishment. He has now abandoned the brush and sticks entirely to the art trade.

If we did not have a multitude of examples for those who were not in the least encouraged by their upbringing to learn the sciences and arts but were still driven to them by nature, we would have needed to be surprised by the painter WILLEM BEURS, whose father was a shoemaker in Dordrecht. He was born in the year 1656 and intended from his prime youth to become a tailor, but the passion for art drove him from the needle to the brush. He arrived in the years 1671 and 1672


Page 355

with Willem van Drielenburg and progressed so far in that time that he could already make a sweet landscape (resembling the style of his master’s work).

Afterwards he took to painting portraits and left Dordrecht for Amsterdam and came to marry the daughter of a silversmith there. He would certainly have gone far had he not, having changed in nature, developed greater inclination for company and inns than for the pursuit of art. He finally went to Grol [= Groenlo], where he turned to flower painting and to teaching the youth, to which end in the year 1692 he wrote a small book entitled De groote waereld in ‘t kleen geschildert, treating the mixing and handling of oil paints. But it is so grotesque that I have taken the trouble to copy a page just where I open it on page 153, where he discusses cabbages [knollen] (a word that rhymes very well with pranks [grollen]). And says: But we hurry to say a little more about healthy KNOLLEN, which, when they are dry and sweet like the ones from Nijmegen, can save on a doctor, most of whose medicines are not found to be as good and certain.

These must be painted in daytime in white, light ochre and black; and in its shadow one must diminish the light a little. The greenish
aspect of knollen is obtained in daytime with ash, shit yellow and white, and with black, indigo and shit yellow in the shadows, and the reflection demands some more shit yellow.

Now if anyone should be
puzzled about what he


Page 356

should sometimes eat or compose with respect to earth and legumes for the kitchen plants, he will do well to choose a sensible and experienced painter and have a painting made in which most fruits, and the ones that come together in one season are seen. If he is then puzzled, he need only check this register and remember it, and arouse his taste as should be.

This year 1656 also reminds us of the commendable portrait painter JOHN CLOSTERMAN. He was born in Hanover and spent most of his life in England, where he also found his grave. The goddess of fortune favoured him in his undertakings, and that his art was in demand at the British court garnered him much money and fame. Summoned to Spain in the year 1696, he painted the king and queen [5-6] and returned with a purse stretched with gold. But it was not long thereafter (only strong legs can support luxury) that he threw himself away on a Venus wench whom he took into his house. She, being more interested in money than in fidelity or love, grasped her opportunity, robbed his gold, silver, jewels, and other valuables, and took off with them quietly, without him being able to retrieve her, which he took to heart so much that it affected his sanity and died of it.

That reminds me of the saying which says: That one mistake committed can make a man unhappy for the rest of his life. Beyond that he was a man who was beloved by all, who also, which is rare, treated all artists well.


John Closterman
Portrait of King Carlos II of Spain (1661-1700), 1698-1699
Private collection

John Closterman
Portrait of Maria Anna of Neuburg (1667-1740), Queen of Spain, 1698-1699
Private collection

Page 357

Several of the artfully painted portraits have been rendered in copper, including Mister Grinling Gibbons and his wife, by John Smith [7].

Just as passionate love can scarcely be deflected but manages to invent unimaginable ways to arrive at its goal, so it is also the case with passion for art. One may frustrate it in all possible ways, as one may wish, but it finally arrives at her end and goal. One sees this confirmed by JAN GRIFFIER I, born in Amsterdam in the year 1656. His father intended to make a carpenter out of him, but the master sent him home almost at once, saying that he had no use for him, seeing that he also noticed full well that the boy had no inclination to the trade and was better at handling a drawing pen than a hammer. They proposed this or that profession for him, but he was not prepared to listen, so his father decided to keep him at the writing school a little longer while he planned something. But what did he do? He pretended to obey his father but had in the meantime come to know boys who worked in a tile-baking works, with whom he daily went to work to help them paint and came home at his fixed hour to eat as if he were going to school, until the cat was out of the bag and his father saw that, as the saying goes, it is difficult to catch hares with unwilling hounds. That is why he decided to have him learn art. In the meantime, thanks to his passion for art, he had outstripped all the other lads in the store in tile painting, so that the


John Smith after John Closterman published by John Smith
Double portrait of Grinling Gibbons (1648-1720) and his wife Elizabeth Gibbons, 1691
London (England), National Portrait Gallery, inv./cat.nr. NPG D8230

Page 358

master said to his father that if he would let him remain there for only one more year, he would turn him into foreman of the works and give him a good wage. But his thoughts (now that the reins had been loosened) tended to worthier pursuits. His father therefore placed him with a flower painter. But he was a drunkard, and instead of Jan being able to practise art, he was fully occupied with searching for him in seedy bars and pubs and getting him home safely. He therefore developed an aversion to his boss and went to Roelant Roghman, where he remained for a considerable time. He made himself beloved by all by his unusual effort and diligence for art, so that he sometimes gained admission to see the works of the most commendable masters of his time, such as Johannes Lingelbach, Adriaen van de Velde, Jacob van Ruisdael and Rembrandt, with whom he had much wanted to study. But Rembrandt refused this, saying: that he was too good a friend of Roghman to tempt his students away from him. He understood early on that clarity, especially in landscapes, is praiseworthy and was able to imitate the manner of Lingelbach and Van den Velde so closely that his master, who usually painted somewhat burned, sometimes said to him: I can see where you have been.

Subsequently he went to the painter Jan Looten in England, by which he eventually got so far that he could fly on his own wings. He settled down there, married, and made much money with the painting of Italian ruins and later with views of the Rhine, full of activity of figures and ships. Personally he had a strong inclination to boating on the water,


Page 359

which is why he bought a yacht for 3,000 guilders, went to live in it with his family, collected a treasure of art by himself and other masters and decided to cross to Holland with all this. The play was on. He hired an experienced helmsman and sailors, as many as he needed, and headed out to sea, but on the way he encountered a severe sea storm so that after losing mast and topmast, they finally ran aground on a sandbank before the Vlie, where their lives were barely saved by fishermen. For the rest, all was gone, except that his daughter still had some money in a belt around her loins, which they were able to use in this misfortune. This was in the year 1695.

He settled down in Rotterdam, where he first met one Van Dulken, who sold him a dilapidated vessel on credit, which he made do for the use of his family and for himself to paint on. He moved himself from one city to another, and remained there for as long as it suited him. He was then for a long while in Amsterdam, moored on the embankment of the Heren, Keizers, or Leidsegracht, practising his art. In between (he was easily inclined to changes). He sailed now and then with his vessel to Hoorn or Enkhuizen and also once to Dordrecht, where, not knowing the shallows, he ran aground on a sandbank on which he stayed stuck for more than eight days (until a high flood cleared the keel). And what was the emergency? He travelled like a turtle, taking his household with him, which he supplied with sustenance. That is why he was


Cookies disclaimer

While surfing the internet, your preferences are remembered by cookies. Cookies are small text files placed on a pc, tablet or cell phone each time you open a webpage. Cookies are used to improve your user experience by anonymously monitoring web visits. By browsing this website, you agree to the placement of cookies.
I agree