Oud Holland

Oct 2019: New issue Oud Holland 132-2/3

New issue: Oud Holland 132-2/3

5 November 2019

The latest double issue of Oud Holland includes seven articles, among which an analysis of the rotunda motif in Roelandt Savery's work, a hidden satire on Oliver Cromwell, an unknown letter regarding sketches by Rubens and a new interpretation of De Lairesse's paintings for the Court of Appeal. See below for the summaries of each article.

Štepán Vácha – The picturesque motif of the rotunda in the work of Roelandt Savery – pp. 51-64


There is general agreement among art historians that Roelandt Savery’s (1576-1639) activities for Rudolf II were of key importance for his later work. The cultivated context of the imperial court in Prague provided him a powerful artistic impulse. Although Savery already painted landscapes and rural scenes in the Netherlands, it was only in Bohemia that he developed his talent as a close observer of nature, landscapes, cities, and people. This article examines the peculiar motif of the Romanesque rotunda, a simple building with a circular ground plan, in the artist’s oeuvre of drawings and landscape paintings. So far, scholars have only paid marginal attention to the occurrence of Romanesque rotundas in Savery’s oeuvre. In fact, some of the drawn examples can be identified very accurately as particular churches in Prague, and their presence in his paintings seems not random, but rather systematic. If this motif did not appear in Savery’s landscapes until after his return to the Netherlands, then it seems to be in line with the historical imagination constantly present in Netherlandish painting.
Due to the insufficiently developed historical awareness at that time, rotundas in Bohemia were interpreted ambiguously: either as monuments of early Christianity in an area with links to Roman civilization or as pagan temples from a pre-Christian era. In his paintings, Savery used the motif of Romanesque rotundas deliberately, due to contemporary aesthetics of the bizarre and the picturesque, presenting them as an unique alternative to the otherwise popular ruins of ancient temples. Consequently, their appearance is substantially modified: the sacred function is suppressed, the proportions of the architecture are altered considerably, the windows are enlarged and multiplied. In his landscapes, the rotundas function as visually attractive elements. They evoke the temporary impact of mankind.


Michiel van Groesen – Abraham Willaerts: Marine painter of Dutch Brazil and the Atlantic world – pp. 65-78


In 2017, Het Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam purchased a marine painting of Dutch Brazil, made by the Utrecht artist Abraham Willaerts (ca. 1613-1669). The modest panel, signed A.W. and dated 1640, sheds new light on the global dimensions of art in the Dutch Golden Age in general, and the history of Dutch Brazil in particular. It is well known that Count Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen (1604-1679) invited the artists Frans Post (1612-1680) and Albert Eckhout (ca. 1610-ca. 1666) to his court in Recife between 1637 and 1644. He later claimed to have had as many as six artists in his retinue, yet the search among art historians for colleagues of Post and Eckhout has long proved elusive. The discovery of View of Recife provides strong evidence that Abraham Willaerts should be mentioned in the same breath as Post and Eckhout. Based on an array of textual and visual evidence – some of it new, some reinterpreted – the author argues that Willaerts spent more than two years in Dutch Brazil and the Atlantic world, from the fall of 1639 to the spring or summer of 1642.
In a re-evaluation of Willaerts’ oeuvre in the light of these conclusions, this article suggests that a large canvas in the collection of the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen should be regarded as a representation of the successful Dutch attack on São Paulo de Luanda in Angola in May 1641. Taking into account the monumental size of the painting, and substantiated by documentary sources such as archival records, it is highly likely that Johan Maurits himself ordered the work directly from Willaerts after the artist’s return to Brazil. Ultimately, this essay demonstrates the value of combining different types of historical and art historical sources, to gain a better understanding of early modern Europe’s rapidly expanding world.


Leen Kelchtermans & Katharina Van Cauteren – Business partner in The Hague: New archival document about Jacques Jordaens – pp. 79-86


The focus of this article is a discovered notary deed in the city archive of The Hague, which sheds new light on the connections of the Antwerp master Jacques Jordaens with the Northern Netherlands. On 23 November 1648, the Antwerp merchant and Jordaens’ brother-in-law Martinus van Noort collected the total amount of 3011 guilders (disregarding the pennies), on behalf of the painter. The deed mentions three transactions, of which the two highest were meant for supplied merchandise. The smallest amount, 300 guilders, Van Noort received from Martinus van Langenhoven for the purchase of an unspecified painting.
The concerning document illustrates how much private and professional relationships were intertwined in the seventeenth century. Through their cooperation, the two brothers-in-law were able to expand their commercial activities and perspectives outside of Antwerp. The deed also distinctly allows for indicating The Hague as a major anchor point in Jordaens’ international business network. No less than five business partners can be located there. Besides Martinus van Noort, the Swedish agent Johannes Philippus Silvercroon and Henricus Hondius – who Jordaens had contact with in connection with a commission of 35 ceiling pieces for Christina of Sweden – resided in that city. Fourthly, Martinus van Langenhoven, who due to this contribution can be identified as castellan in the court city, and finally the previously unknown commercial partner Hendrick Coesvert. The deed even exposes Jordaens’ commercial contacts in Germany, through the merchant Ja[nne]s Orlencoep. In short, the document reveals important information about Jordaens’ strategy on the international art market.


Ineke Wolf – From fox to donkey: A hidden political satire on Oliver Cromwell by Cornelis Saftleven – pp. 87-100


The enigmatic painting by Cornelis Saftleven made in 1653 contains changes made to the paint – as shown by infrared reflectography – which makes it clear that it was initially a political satire on Oliver Cromwell. In the original depiction, the prominent donkey was a fox, with a prideful posture, his cape decorated with peacock feathers and one peacock feather in his hand. The fox had a bushy tail from which coins fall. On the centrally depicted flag with the year 1653, was initially the text “pride comes before a fall” (“hooch.moet komt.voor den.val”).
In the year 1653 the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652-1654) was raging. In Dutch war propaganda the English were referred to as devils and tail-men. Cromwell was frequently depicted in cartoons of the time. He was held responsible by the Dutch for the execution of Charles I. Cartoons were therefore brought into circulation in which Cromwell was portrayed as proud, cruel and striving for absolute power. A cartoon print of Cromwell as the ‘horrible tailman’ from 1652 also shows him with a long tail from which coins fall. This tail, the proud posture and his extravagant hat have similarities with the figure of the fox in Saftleven’s original painting. Furthermore, in cartoons Cromwell was regularly depicted with a fox behind him. Such an addition would have been used to indicate a personality trait, in this case Cromwell’s evil cunning. In texts accompanying prints and poems, Cromwell was also referred to as a cunning fox. In the work by a follower of Jan Breughel II Cromwell the fox explicitly holds a bloody axe, standing by a painting showing the beheading of Charles I.
Saftleven made radical changes to the painting when, at the end of 1653, peace negotiations between England and the Netherlands were taking place. He removed the negative references to Cromwell by changing the fox into a donkey, and added a Dutch Lion and two lances topped with liberty caps, indicating impending peace. The date 1653 was also placed on the flag. An initial political satire on Cromwell was therefore adapted by the painter to the topicality of the time.


Paul Begheyn S.J. – An unknown letter of Daniel Seghers from 1660 regarding sketches by Peter Paul Rubens – pp. 101-108


Until now only four letters of the Flemish flower painter and Jesuit brother Daniel Seghers (1590-1661) were known. Recently an unknown fifth letter has been discovered in the archives of the Flemish Jesuits. It was written in 1660 from Ghent to Jesuit Louis de Camargo in Antwerp. Twenty years after the death of Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Seghers estimated an unspecified number of sketches by Rubens for 200 silver coins a piece, and supposed that their price will raise when they get older.
Daniel Seghers’ writing is in particular important for research on Rubens, because it is an early testimony to the appreciation of his oil sketches. Rubens himself regarded his oil sketches exclusively as preparatory works for his paintings and as a workshop fund. A contract of 1620 for 39 ceiling paintings for the Antwerp Jesuit church states that the regarding works should be executed after Rubens’ own designs. However, it is certain that Rubens also handed over the sketches submitted for approval to the Jesuits. It is these paintings that Daniel Seghers refers to in his letter.


Tim Lubbers – Art for the Court: A new interpretation of Gerard de Lairesse’s paintings for the Court of Appeal of Holland (1688-1689) – pp. 109-134


In 1688-1689, the Netherlandish painter Gerard de Lairesse (1640-1711) produced a remarkable set of paintings for the council chamber of the Court of Appeal of Holland at the Binnenhof in The Hague. Counting among his most prestigious works, the paintings show episodes from Roman republican history and are still in situ, but have been virtually forgotten. Although they were produced around the Glorious Revolution, the author argues, against the prevailing view, that the paintings do not glorify Stadholder William III of Orange, as the chamber was used exclusively for the Court’s deliberations and was not accessible to either litigants or the public. The prince himself, although the official president of the Court, only entered the chamber on the occasion of his installation as stadholder, never to appear again. His empty seat, however, remained in the room, becoming the subject of metaphors including the traditional ‘seat of justice’. Nevertheless, multiple iconographical mismatches mean that this metaphorical language with regard to the stadholder cannot be linked to the paintings. The author therefore proposes a different reading of the paintings, which pays more attention to their specifically legal context, supported by numerous classical ‘exempla’ of justice and iconographical details of the cycle. He claims that the episodes selected by the Court connect to virtues and principles that were highly esteemed by early modern lawyers and by the Court in particular.
The central message of the cycle lies in the unique iconography of the Allegory of justice. Her traditional sword and scales lie cast away on the ground; instead she holds a spear and a libation bowl. De Lairesse took these attributes from the Roman depiction of Justice on imperial coins. He thus expresses the great value the Court attached to Roman law, which was sometimes even prioritised over local Dutch customary law. The meaning of the Roman attributes is however twofold, as evinced by the many references to the praetor. This Roman magistrate was entitled to make alterations to the existing civil law on the basis of natural equity. By claiming a similar position and connecting to Roman legal culture, the Court is legitimizing and propagating its sovereign judicial competences. This propagandist aim culminates in the painting Aeneas fleeing Troy, which shows Aeneas with the rarely depicted palladium, the statue of Pallas Athena that guarded the fate of Troy and, later, of Rome. A similar concept was used in the Court’s ceremonies, where its judicial competence was deemed ‘the pillar of the State’. As such, the Court uses the palladium as a metaphor of its own importance to the Province of Holland, and presents itself as a ‘seat of justice’ in a more general sense.


Tijana Žakula – Gerard de Lairesse in Portuguese: The Groot schilderboek in Lisbon and Rio – pp. 135-147


Through the adoption and endorsement of the ‘antique’, that was “followed by the most polite nations”, Gerard de Lairesse (1641-1711) aspired to reach out beyond the borders of the Northern Netherlands. His success with the grand and important elsewhere would eventually put contemporary Dutch art on the artistic map of Europe – or so he hoped. In that respect, the Groot schilderboek (1707) had an important role to play, and it was to do so marvelously well.
It is little known, though, that De Lairesse’s encyclopedic treatise on art was translated into Portuguese in 1801. This job was entrusted to the Brazilian friar and botanist José Mariano da Conceição Veloso, who was at the time the director of the Arco do Cego – the most important printing center to introduce new techniques to the Portuguese printing scene, that could accommodate ever-growing print runs. De Lairesse’s writings, however, not only contributed to the modernisation of printing industry in Portugal. In 1808 the Grande livro dos pintores crossed the ocean and landed in Brazil, where it played a significant role in (re)starting the printing industry.
This article will trace the fascinating journey of the Groot schilderboek from Portugal to Brazil and assess its place in the modernisation of printing business in these two countries. In order to demonstrate the significance of De Lairesse’s musings in this process, the author will briefly scrutinise the Portuguese printing scene of the long eighteenth century (1683-1808), discuss the printing enthusiasts who stood behind the translation and various Portuguese editions of the Groot schilderboek, as well as the role of De Lairesse’s treatise in the training programme of aspiring print makers associated with the Arco do Cego. I will ultimately follow its crossing to Brazil, all in hope of shedding additional light on the purely practical side of the Groot schilderboek that has oftentimes gone unnoticed.