Houbraken Translated

RKD STUDIES

Volume 3, page 370-379


Page 370

on land and wishing to put on his cloak against the cold, it was so full of holes from the grating on the ice that it looked like a torn-up beggar's cloak, so that he was obliged to have a new one made. That much this free shipping cost him.

The multitude of drawings and sketches, whether for histories, fables or emblems that he has left attest to his indefatigable application and diligence. And if he ever took some relaxation, it was with string playing, especially on the hand violin, at which he was accomplished. Aside from this, one never found him unoccupied, but always, outside of his painting hours, with a book or drawing pen in hand. In addition he was commendablely upright and pious in conduct, which he also recommended to his children with great seriousness on his sickbed. He died (after he had been tortured by a great pain in his side for 7 to 8 days) on the 9th of June 1705, leaving in addition to his fame as artist, the honour of an impeccable life and the remains of his profits for the use of his wife and children.

So that things do not always certainly proceed as a modern poet† (alluding to such a subject) says:

Not everyone who follows your steps can be happy
And if you ask me why? You are an honest man.

Modest profits assembled by thrift have a man live much more reassured and happier than those who have a great fortune and


--------
Hermanus van den Burg, Mengelpoëzy, p. 104.

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shamefully waste their property. Not only would it not be fitting to urge the learning youth on to such a way of life as if Fortune only walked together with such and turned her back on the pious.

Examples have also shown us the reverse. Now one who behaved badly is about to come onstage. But what can I say? That is how it goes in the word. The harmful weeds always grow back with the good grain, and the scrofulous sheep mix themselves amongst the clean flock. Honour and dishonour, pious and impious, were mirrors for the observant youth, the one to spur on to what is good and the other to develop an aversion to evil.

One bends the fruit tree shoots in time:
And the twig while it is still flexible;
And pinch it with a tough
twine:
But
propelled in its generous growth,
It easily escapes
that cuff and bond
And raises its
tough crown upward.
Thus one can for a while extinguish
The passionate fire of the heart, but if
Nature exerts her strength,
no bonds
Confine the progress of the impious.

ERNST STUVEN will confirm this saying as an example, and his biography will show us this saying instead of a print depiction.

He was born in Hamburg and commenced to learn art there with one Hins [= Georg Hinz], who had taken him into his home because he sensed an inquisitive nature in him. There he had learned to handle the brush alertly and deftly.

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In the year 1675, then 18 years old, he arrived in Amsterdam, wanting to learn to paint portraits, with which much money was to be made then. Possibly he was spurred on by the shining advantages that the commendable portrait painter Jürgen Ovens had gathered. He presented himself to Johannes Voorhout, whom he had known in Hamburg and also because he seemed to be of a good disposition. But he was only with him for a short while. Because his handling of the brush leaned more to flower painting, he went to the famous Willem van Aelst, and after he had been there for a while, to the commendable flower painter Abraham Mignon, where he improved so much in a short while that his art became renowned and as a consequence he was able to continue art on his own. This worked out exceptionally well, seeing that fortune favoured him. He came to marry and had various children but could have lived amply off his art if he had not turned to gatherings in liquor stores and other excesses.

It is reputed of Claudius Nero that as long as he lived under the supervision of his guardian Seneca and subjected himself to his teaching, he appeared to have a good character, but that as soon as he had become ruler, he erupted into every dissolution and villainy.

This is also what Johannes Voorhout testifies, who knew Stuven in his youth, that he conducted himself politely, meekly, and was eager to learn in his youth as long as he was under the supervision of his masters. But hardly had he outgrown those reins or he burst out into all

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dissoluteness, mulishness, and unequalled bad and indelicate activities.

An exceptional sample of his unsurpassed vicious and evil actions occurred in the year 1697, when Willem Grasdorp came to live with him to learn art. This Grasdorp had been placed with Stuven by his mother and stepfather for a period of three consecutive years. A contract was drawn up with respect to this which insisted pointedly that the boy was to fill this time to Stuven's profit. In the meantime he tried to persecute the boy in all sorts of ways so that he might leave, and thus find a means, on account of the contract, to make a case against his parents (for his lack of cooperation) so as to get hold of money when the contract was to be bought off. He then accused his pupil of theft on account of a small portrait which was found later on. The boy nevertheless had to suffer much maltreatment. In addition he was prevented from writing to his parents. Nor could he go out or run off since his clothes, right down to his shoes, had been taken away and brought to the pawnshop. Thus he cried out his predicament, and that he suffered hunger and deprivation, to the neighbours from a window, which did him little good, seeing that the neighbours knew the viciousness of Stuven and as a consequence hesitated to get involved.

Necessity is the mother of invention, the saying goes. Grasdorp seized an opportunity, wrote a letter to his mother and gave this in all silence to a weaver who sometimes visited Stuven to

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learn to draw flowers and foliage competently for his craftwork. Then his mother, who lived in Zwolle, came over and sent her husband's brother to speak to her son, with which Stuven took issue and treated the man first with curses and then with blows, so that they fought wrestling in front of the door. And since the street pavers were busy relocating the street, he helped himself, picked up a stone and bashed two holes in the man's head, who at once went with bloody head to the chief officer, who immediately sent a bailiff along to investigate the situation. But he returned damaged in the same way, with the message that it seemed to be a madman who hit and cursed all who came before him. They included real estate agent Loot (who had previously claimed a debt against him, and who had won) who came by at that time to discuss the matter, called him a scoundrel and said that he was the cause of his ruin, so that he had work enough pulling himself together and getting away alive. Then the bailiff sent two more of his officers, with the order that the boy be released. But he did not care to do this and cursed and slandered the authorities. His wife did the same, and she even had the nerve to go to the officer herself to complain about the injustice done to her, but managed with her bold tongue and cursing to get herself put in the stocks. When he got news of that Stuven became all the more crazy, had his son buy gunpowder and bullets, loaded

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some pistols and prepared himself for an attack, even though he could have realized that he would have to obey orders whether he wanted to or not. In addition he had his son carry a big pile of stones to an upper room and secured the doors as well as he could.

The evening having come, he covered his face and hands with red paint, stood before the window and called out to the crowd, which was gathering from all sides (to see how it would all end), that God had appointed him judge, that the Lords of Amsterdam had put innocent men to death. This claim referred to the persons who had been seized in the riots of the year 1696 and hanged before the weighing house, by which, and also with the assistance of armed citizens, the riots were squelched and the magistrates protected from further disaster. That is why all those who took up arms at that time were gifted by the Misters burgomasters of Amsterdam with a silver medal, on which Neptune, pulled along in his shell carriage by two sea horses through a wild sea, stirred up by opposing winds, is depicted, with the inscription,

Motos praestat componere fluctus.

That is:

It is best to subjugate the anger of the floods.

As he would eventually also have to do. He then turned to Grasdorp, saying that he had to prepare himself for death, who then did not know

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where to creep for fear. That mood having blown over a little, he forced Grasdorp to lie next to him on the bed (since he had a bared sword lying next to him. But the fright and fear (thus Grasdorp told me himself) kept sleep from his eyes. But Stuven slept such a long time that he snored. When he then woke at the crack of dawn, at three o'clock, he took Grasdorp by an arm in full fury and tore him off the bed, saying, don't you see the light? Now your verdict is reached; say your last prayer; you must die. Which brought the young man the deathly fear that this might truly be the end. After which he again lay down on the bed while Grasdorp was snooping around in the dark to see if there was an opportunity anywhere for escape. But it was in vain, for doors and windows were tightly shut and barred, and stumbling about was not advisable. But as soon as it was day he set himself to painting a work that had to be completed, so as not to give any occasion for displeasure. But how he kept his head is anyone’s guess. Stuven, having got up from his bed, attacks him like an enraged dragon, grabs him by the hair and drags him over the ground, pulls his palette and brushes out of the hand and sticks the brush handle through his lip so that the blood gushed down his chin, which set him screaming. But the mad dog almost stopped him from doing this by holding his throat so tightly that he was almost garrotted. Several hours later the neighbours called to Stuven from the back and lured him to the back courtyard and begged him to make less noise

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and so on. They managed to distract him long enough with talking that Grasdorp found opportunity in the meantime to escape barelegged by a window.

Meanwhile the magistrates of the City had conferred that day about all this. And as they had a quarrel with him from the past, namely that he had mixed in the riots of 1696 and had been spotted in the house of Mister Boreel [= Jacob Boreel] when it was being plundered, the lower guard was charged with delivering him dead or alive. At dusk, reinforced with city policemen and some of the night watch, attacked the house (he lived on the Bloemgracht at the time). But they were bonked on their skulls with the stones that he had carried upstairs for the purpose, so that their appetite for storming passed. Instead they rammed the downstairs door into kindling, from which one of the night watch who wished to crawl in pulled back with a bloody head. They decided (since there was no chance of capturing him by that route without danger) to climb into the next house by way of the roof, by which route they reached the attic; but no one dared to be the first to go down the stairs, as he stood on guard there with sword in his fist and swore by all that was ugly to impale the first to come down. What now? They had the planks of the ceiling above the room in which he had shut himself pried open to snag him with a grappling hook. For the longest time he evaded and deflected the blows of the hook. Once they caught him by his Japanese gown, but he twisted loose. But the second time

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the hook snagged in his jawbone, on which they held him so tightly that he could hardly move, so that he finally gave up and threw away his sword. However, they hung on to him long enough for some to be able to climb down and bind him with rope so that he could not escape his retribution. And thus they took him on a small sled (for he did not want to go) and gagged to the stocks.

After he was examined by the aldermen he was banished to the workhouse for 12 successive years and his wife to the spinning house. But by promises never to do it again and recommendation of some who still loved his art, he got 6 years reduction of his sentence. After which he got out under the proviso that he leave the city. But he did not obey the order and could not restrain his tongue from slandering the magistrate. Thus he was again picked up and put in the workhouse a second time, where he painted various flower pieces for this one or another. When he finally got out again, he went to Haarlem with Romeijn de Hooghe. From there he went to Rotterdam, where he painted for Mister De Beer, who paid him with board, drink and a ducat a day, and later for other art lovers until he finally ended his despicable life there.

ELIAS van den BROECK, born in Antwerp, was one of his first and best students, but a man (of which there have been more) who saw fortune only from behind.

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He painted all sort of flowers, herbs, snakes, lizards etc. loosely and inventively. And it was to be seen from his handling that he had also studied with Jan Davidsz. de Heem. He lived outside the Utrecht gate of Amsterdam on the Molenpad, where he had a flower court next to his house for his use and died in the year 1711.

LAURENS VINCENTSZ. van der VINNE, for whom it was almost as indifferent what he made as it was for his father, stands out with his art mostly by his flower pieces. He had no teacher other than his father [= Vincent Laurensz. van der Vinne I]. He spent most of his time painting flowers for florists, both in oils and in water paints, especially for Mister Philips de Flines, who had brought over all the strangest and rare plants from the East and West Indies for him to paint. Now he most occupies himself by drawing cartoons for the manufacturers. He was born in Haarlem on the 24th of March 1658.

PAULUS van HILLEGAERT II and PIETER des RUELLES have died, to the loss of the art school of Amsterdam. I don’t know what they painted. I only know that their names have survived thanks to poetry. They were both praised for their art and Hillegaert who died in February of 1658, is thus lamented.

Alas! That commendable soul has left us too soon,
In the rise of his time, in the flowering of his
spring.
His name will, in spite of death, live eternally in
Amsterdam,
As long as god Phoebus’ chariot
traverses the ship-rich Y
Satisfy your last duty, Apelles’
babes,
Encircle his worthy head with laurel wreaths,

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