Houbraken Translated


Volume 3, page 390-399

Page 390

it was taken for a work by Van Mieris by various enthusiasts in Leiden.

All those of whom something great in the way of learning, sciences or art was to be expected, gave early signs of that, even as the red sign on the Eastern morning horizon predicts a beautiful day. It pleases us to adduce one or two remarkable examples of those who in their spring years showed rays of their intellect and, having reached maturity, lit up the world with their learning.

Geeraert Brandt reports that Hugo Grotius was early on so far advanced in the Latin language that in his twelfth year he was taken to the University in Leiden, where in three years, having completed everything to which he was predisposed, such as Jurisprudence, Theology, Mathematics and Astronomy, being barely fifteen years old, he joined the entourage of Mister Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, departing with a diplomatic mission to Henry the Great, King of France [= Henri IV]. Having received his law degree there, he was granted not only a golden chain by the King, but also, because of his outstanding learning in these years, the King's portrait.

His flattering song goddess inserted the fire of poetry in the bosom of Geeraert Brandt in the spring of his youth. This may be seen in his plea for the publication of the play De Veinzende Torquatus, which Caspar van Baerle honoured with the following verse:


Page 391

It used to be men’s work. Now comes tender youth
And blasts onto the stage, and defies the grey hairs
Lamented in tragedy, yes the years yet free of snow
Displace time and art. Wisdom
is altogether delighted
And does not know if it is learned or inherited

And lower.. ....

Thus the young Brandt dissimulates, and has us all wonder
That youth can
dissimulate, he hides a still greater light,
And if Torquatus
dissimulates, so also dissimulates his poem,
It is
lightning as a test. After that he will thunder.

In the same way our Van der Werff also showed a sample of his spry genius and skill with the brush (by the claw, goes the saying, one knows the lion) in his early years, through the close copying of the piece by Frans van Mieris, which was a man's job. But what should I say? The goddess of art favoured him, and his natural zeal served him as schoolmistress. Yes, he had assimilated that commendable manner of brushwork so firmly through his special powers of observation that he applied it from then on, so that his master later employed him for the painting of clothing in his works.

Then his father drew up a new contract with his master, for a period of one and one-half years, and exacted half of what he painted for him during this time.

Van der Neer, who was fond of him, took him


Page 392

along to Leiden and Amsterdam, where he sometimes went to paint, by which our young artist found occasion to see all sorts of painted works by outstanding masters in which he eagerly let his eyes be initiated so as to reap profit from them.

Just like a bee with her diligent nature
Knows how to extract from the blooms,
Her honey; so temperate
Observation knows; from scholarly books,
To suck the seed of wisdom, and
The artist-painter to pillage,
The most beautiful and noble from pictures,
Painted with pigments and drawing pen.

Toward the end of this apprenticeship, having made a piece for himself which has recently sold for 800 guilders, he unexpectedly gave it to his father, to use the proceeds to pay for a half-year's tuition, since he did not want to be a burden to his father from then on, though he was well-off as befit his status.

Having now reached the age of seventeen, he painted his own picture on a playing card, which is still kept in remembrance of him, and then left his master to further practice his art on his own.

Cornelis Brouwer, a lover of art who had also been a student of Rembrandt before and often went to visit his former master, so that Adriaen got to know him, was kindly disposed towards him and often came by his father's house, where he was now painting, always talking about


Page 393

art and things that ought to be observed with respect to its harmony, which his father did not mind at all and therefore always received him graciously. This Brouwer asked for the mentioned portrait and showed it to various connoisseurs in Rotterdam, who were astounded that a boy of those years had progressed so far in art.

At the same time he made a small piece in 10 days, being a half-length figure of one of his younger brothers. With this he went to his former master on a Saturday evening to show it to him, who took such pleasure in it that he bought it from him for 9 ducats. Having come home his father asked about the piece, to whom he replied, that his old master had bought it from him for 9 ducats, which his father could hardly believe, repeating several times: what boy, 9 ducats, 9 ducats! going on to say: go to the Church in Kralingen tomorrow, and give one of them to the poor, and ordering him to be diligent from thence on, and not to sell his pieces for money, but if he needed money, to ask him for it.

The showing of the aforementioned portrait by Cornelis Brouwer brought him so much esteem that he rented a room in Rotterdam, where he began to make portraits now and then and also other pieces. He then also had the good fortune to meet Mister Adriaen Paets, receiver of the Admiralty of the Meuse. For him he made a piece with childeren, and Paets paid him 350 guilders for it. He also made a similar piece for Philip Steen, merchant in East Indian wares in


Page 394

Amsterdam, which marked the beginning of his luck, as the reader will learn from what follows. For the Elector Palatine, coming to Amsterdam incognito, bought it from mentioned Steen [1], and thus he was greatly respected for his work from then on.

The learned Johann Balthasar Schupp had said not badly (which is here applicable): Art contributes much to a man’s happiness if accompanied by fortune, and Baltasar Gracián says: The wise know that earnings must walk via a long detour when they are not helped by the favour of Fortune.

Then he also got to know Mister Nicolaes Anthoni Flinck, son of the renowned painter Govert Flinck, to whom he had been introduced by more often mentioned Brouwer, who sometimes came to see him and developed great pleasure in his art. This friendship grew from the year 1687, when he came to marry Margaretha Rees, from an old family and related to the mentioned regents of the city of Rotterdam, as well as to the mentioned Mister Flinck, who for that reason, in addition to others, had been her guardian. This gentleman owns much splendid and genuine old Italian, French and Netherlandish brushwork and art on paper, which he has bought from time to time with his discerning eye out of the most important art cabinets.

He could now entertain himself on occasion with all these beautiful objects, but he could not at first take pleasure in old Italian prints, nor in those of Raphael. But developing more and more clear insight he got such an appetite for them that he arranged the entire range of his


Adriaen van der Werff
Children playing in front of a statue of Hercules, dated 1687
panel (oak), oil paint 46.8 x 35 cm
left center : Adriaen / vander. Werff fec. / Rotterdam. / an.° 1687
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 250

Page 395

preferences and dress of figures after them. That is also the case with his nudes after the best casts of the antiques in plaster, and by printed prints, corrected or improved, by which he stands out far above other excellent masters who have stood out above others in the noble handling of their brush.

In the year 1692, travelling to Amsterdam with Mister Flinck, they visited Mister Burgomaster Jan Six, Lord of Wimmenum, who owned various genuine statues and Italian paintings. They also visited Mister Philips de Flines, where there were many important artworks, ceiling pieces, chimney pieces and grisailles by Gerard de Lairesse to be seen. With that great spirit he could only be amazed, no less than with the Italian artworks, so that he sometimes stood looking like a statue without speaking, with elevated thoughts to give himself a fixed impression of the beautiful for his use.

The aforementioned Mister Six, who had previously come to Rotterdam and been guided by Mister Flinck through his home, said: Mister Flinck, I recommend Van der Werff to you because you and only one other man in Holland know rightly to judge in matters of art. Mister Flinck heeded this and visited Mister van der Werff daily, and judged his work with sincere friendship.

Shortly hereafter (to show that his brush could set about anything) he painted for Mister Flinck a ceiling piece in his side salon depicting Fame with two cherubs in the centre [2]. The outer sections are grisaille medallions depicting painting,


Adriaen van der Werff
Fame, 1692
canvas, oil paint 193 x 161 cm
Rotterdam, Museum Rotterdam, inv./cat.nr. 73260

Adriaen van der Werff
Self-portrait of the artist with a double portrait of his wife Margaretha van Rees (1669-1732) and their daughter Maria (1692-1731), dated 1697
canvas, oil paint 89 x 73 cm
location unknown : Adr.ⁿ vandr Werff fec. An° 1697
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, inv./cat.nr. 971

Page 396

architecture, fruit and flower goddess with their attributes, green leaves and festoons with lively flowers etc., everything painted so boldly, clearly and powerfully that one would not be able to find their equal.

In the year 1696, Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine, along with the Elector Consort, his mother-in-law and many of their retinue having come to Holland, and subsequently to Rotterdam, paid Van der Werff the honour of coming to his house, saying: I know your artwork; for I bought that piece, that had been in Amsterdam (this was the piece that was mentioned on page 393) further commissioning the making of his own portrait, to be sent to the Duke of Tuscany [3], along with another piece depicting Solomon's first judgement [4], the preliminary sketch [5] for which he showed to the Elector before his departure from Amsterdam. He further ordered him to bring the pieces, when completed, to Düsseldorf in person, just as it came to pass in the following year, 1697. This gave such delight to the art-loving Elector that he took him into his service, this being for six months a year, on a contract for 4,000 guilders in Dutch currency. In addition he paid him 3,000 guilders for the aforementioned piece of Solomon's judgement and for the portrait, in addition to a valuable gift of silverware.

At the same time he started the portraits of the Elector and his Consort in full-length, on a canvas 30 inches high [6-7], and further completed it in Rotterdam.

In the year 1698, having made an Ecce homo [8], 2 ells high, and having brought the same to Düsseldorf,


Adriaen van der Werff
Solomon gives verdict; he commands a soldier to divide the living child in two; the true mother objects to Solomon's verdict (1 Kings 3:25-27, dated 1697
panel, oil paint 70.5 x 53 cm
on the back : Adriano Vander Verff di Rotterdam 1697
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, inv./cat.nr. 1777

Adriaen van der Werff
Solomon gives verdict: Solomon gives verdict; he commands a soldier to divide the living child in two; the true mother objects to Solomon's verdict (1 Kings 3:25-27), c. 1697
panel, oil paint 61.3 x 51.2 cm
Bayreuth, Staatsgalerie im Neuen Schloss Bayreuth, inv./cat.nr. 1179

Adriaen van der Werff
Portrait of Johann Wilhelm, elector of the Palatine, dated 1700
canvas, oil paint 76 x 54 cm
lower left : Adrn vr werff fec an 1700
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 210

Adriaen van der Werff
Portrait of Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici, electress of the Palatine, dated 1700
canvas, oil paint 77 x 53 cm
lower right : Adrn vr werff fec an 1700
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 209

Adriaen van der Werff
Ecce Homo, dated 1698
canvas, oil paint 131.2 x 109.8 cm
lower right : Adrⁿ. vandr Werff. fec. / an° 1698 a rotterd.
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 222

Page 397

the Elector presented him with a golden chain and a medallion with the electoral portrait.

In the years 1701 and 1702 he sent various art works, but in the year 1703 he left for Düsseldorf in person with an important piece representing the Entombment of Christ [9], in which the ruler took such delight that he requested 15 pieces from him, two and a half feet high and 21 inches wide, in which he was to show the 15 Mysteries of the Roman Church, a project whose completion would demand much time. So the King took him into his service for nine months a year (because Adriaen wanted to preserve some freedom for himself), raising his pension to 6,000 guilders. Over and above this Van der Werff and his descendants were raised to the Knighthood, and ennobled in both lines. To this end he gave him his diploma or certificate on parchment in a silver basket, supplementing his coat of arms with a quarter of the Electoral coat of arms, a helmet on the front, and a laurel crown above it. Besides all of this, he was presented with the Elector's picture, set in diamonds of great value.

Now the new Knight eagerly set about to paint. Surely these are pathways that carry a spirit above its powers, to create wonders as proof of gratitude. The first of these 15 pieces was The Annunciation to Mary [10]. Next came The Visitation of Elizabeth [11], The Birth of Christ by Candlelight [12], Simeon in the Temple [13], Christ among the Doctors [14], Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane [15], The Flagellation of


Adriaen van der Werff
The burial of Christ, dated 1703
panel (oak), oil paint 81.9 x 53.9 cm
lower left : Adrn. vr. Werff. fec. / An° 1703
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 224

Adriaen van der Werff
The Annunciation, dated 1706
panel, oil paint 81 x 58 cm
lower left : Chevr vr Werff. fe. an° 1706
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 252

Adriaen van der Werff
The visitation, dated 1708
panel, oil paint 81.5 x 57.6 cm
lower left : Chevalr vr Werff. fec. / an° 1708
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 253

Adriaen van der Werff
The adoration of the sheperds (Luke 2:8-20), dated 1706
panel, oil paint 81.3 x 57.5 cm
below, right of the middle : Chevalier / vandr Werff fe. / anº 1706
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 254

Adriaen van der Werff
Simeon singing in the Temple, dated 1705
panel, oil paint 81.6 x 57.5 cm
location unknown : Chevr. vr Werff. fec. / anº 1705
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 235

Adriaen van der Werff
The twelve year old Jesus in the temple among the doctors, dated 1708
panel, oil paint 81.6 x 57.5 cm
lower left : Chevallr vr Werff. / fec. 1708
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 236

Adriaen van der Werff
Christ's agony in the garden at Gethsemane, dated 1711
canvas, oil paint 131.2 x 109.8 cm
lower right : Cevr vr / Werff. fec. / an° 171(1)
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 237

Page 398

Christ [16], The Mocking of Christ [17], The Carrying of the Cross [18], The Crucifixion [19]: the Resurrection [20], The Ascension [21], The Feast of Pentecost [22], The Ascension of Mary [23] and The Coronation of the Virgin [24]. Amongst these the Simeon in the Temple, Christ among the Doctors, The Mocking of Christ, The Carrying of the Cross and The Crucifixion outshone the others as art. The Ruler saw all of these pieces assembled before his death, to his great delight, for which reason he also presented the wife and daughter of our Knight with a costly gift.

Afterwards a title piece was added to this series, depicting the seven liberal arts which show their gratitude and submission to the images of the Elector and his Consort, hung on a pyramid by small angels and crowned by Piety [25]. In the foreground sits the Art of Painting, displaying the portrait of Sir van der Werff in an oval.

How enamoured of art the Elector was, and how mad he was about the elevated painting of our Knight, especially of his later period, is shown by this: that King August of Poland, when he came to visit our Knight in Rotterdam in the year 1710 and he showed him his life-sized self portrait and in addition a small painting in which his wife and daughter are painted, which also passes for the most skilful work wrought by his brush, took great pleasure in it, and requested it for himself. But he refused this for good reason. Whereupon the King asked him to make 2 pieces for him, which Van der Werff could not positively guarantee him, seeing that the Elector had paid for his time. Whereupon the King said: I shall ask the Elector for this much time.


Adriaen van der Werff
The flagellation of Christ, dated 1710
panel, oil paint 81 x 57.5 cm
lower right : Chevr. vr. / Werff. fec / an° 1710
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 238

Adriaen van der Werff
The mocking and crowning with thorns of Christ, dated 1710
panel, oil paint 81.7 x 57.4 cm
lower right : Chevr v. Werff. fe / an° 1710
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 239

Adriaen van der Werff
The carrying of the cross with Christ collapsing, dated 1712
panel, oil paint 81.7 x 57.4 cm
lower left : Chvallr vr. / Werff fec / an° 1712
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 240

Adriaen van der Werff
Christ on the cross with Mary, swooning at his feet, dated 1708
panel, oil paint 81.4 x 57.6 cm
lower right : Chevalr vr. / Werff fec / 1708
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 223

Adriaen van der Werff
The resurrection of Christ, dated 1713
panel, oil paint 81.7 x 57.7 cm
lower right : Chevr vr / Werff fec / an° 1713
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 225

Adriaen van der Werff
The ascension of Christ, dated 1710
panel, oil paint 81.3 x 57.4 cm
lower right : Chevr vr werff. fec. 1710
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 226

Adriaen van der Werff
The descending of the Holy Ghost, dated 1711
panel, oil paint 81.7 x 57.6 cm
lower left : Chev vr Werff fec / an° 1711
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 227

Adriaen van der Werff
The assumption of the Virgin Mary, dated 1714
panel, oil paint 81.5 x 57.7 cm
lower left : Chevr vr. / Werff. fe. / an.° 1714
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 228

Adriaen van der Werff
Angels crown the Virgin in heaven, dated 1713
panel, oil paint 81.6 x 57.7 cm
lower left : evr. vr. Werff / ... 1713
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. N 82

Adriaen van der Werff
The honouring of the arts with the portraits of Johann Wilhelm of the Palatine (1658-1716), Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici (1667-1743) and Adriaen van der Werff (1659-1722), dated 1716
panel, oil paint 81.3 x 57.3 cm
center : Adrianus van der Werff
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./cat.nr. 260

Page 399

But the Elector, instead of conceding this to him, honoured the King of Poland with 2 painted works by Van der Werff that had been painted earlier on. Here is another indication. When he had completed with eagerness and diligence in his own time the Bath of Diana and Callisto [26], in which he had rendered 8 female figures 1.5 feet tall in homage to his wife, there were many who approached her concerning it. Yet she was not willing to put a price on it.

No sooner had the Elector received word of the excellence of this piece, both with regard to its drawing and its painting, and that it was prized as the most worthy of his paintings by all discriminating connoisseurs, than he reserved it for himself, should the artist’s wife ever want to part with it. Both of them decided to offer this work of art to their noble benefactor, as came to pass when they arrived in Düsseldorf in the year 1712.

The gratitude with which the King accepted this piece is evident from his arranging to pay our Knight 6,000 guilders in gold ducats, which he had struck when, after the death of Emperor Joseph I, he became Vicar of the Holy Roman Empire along with Elector of Saxony. He also said: I shall have your wife return home well satisfied, and had a set of toiletries, or the silver belonging to a night table, consisting of 32 items, besides 2 additional large rinsing basins, delivered to her.

With this worthy present we also want to remember that Anton Ulrich, Duke of Wolfenbüttel, came to Rotterdam in the year 1709


Adriaen van der Werff
Diana discovers the pregnancy of Callisto, dated 1704
panel, oil paint 47 x 38 cm
lower left : Chevr v.d. Werff / An° 1704
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv./cat.nr. 2535

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