Oud Holland

Dec 2022: Winter issue with many Amersfoort hands

New issue: Oud Holland 135 (2022) 4

21 Dec 2022

The current winter issue of Oud Holland presents five articles spanning 160 years of art. Oskar Rojewski opens with an analysis of newly found archival documents regarding the artistic activities of Michel Sittow at the court of Isabella of Castile around 1500. He provides insights into the fickle financial administration of the Spanish court and its serious consequences for artists of the time.

Ryan Gregg reconstructs the different phases of creation of Anton van den Wyngaerde’s extraordinary compilation of the island of Walcheren. The work was drawn over a period of several decades during the sixteenth century and measures more than ten meters. In the third article, Jørgen Wadum re-evaluates former technical examinations of the Brazilian still lifes and figures by Albert Eckhout. With new research, Wadum surprisingly argues that there must have been multiple hands completing this famous series in Amersfoort in the early 1640’s.

Michiel Roscam Abbing discusses previously unnoted writings on art and artists from the Harderwijk collector Ernst Brinck. Among many other details, it is now known that Rembrandt van Rijn himself sold his famous Hundred guilder print in 1648 or 1649 for – indeed – that very same amount. In the final article of this issue, Elizabeth den Hartog shows that the building in a painting by Pieter de Hooch (1661) resembles the Eva van Hoogeveenshofje in Leiden. She also identifies the portrait on one of the shutters as Emperor Charles V and argues that this motif could have been a critique on Dutch almshouses, which were not as poor as was generally believed.

Oud Holland wishes you happy holidays and a positive start to 2023.

Oskar J. Rojewski – The debts owed by the Castilian court to an emigrant painter: Michel Sittow's sojourns in Castile (1492-1502/1504) – pp. 157-171


This article focuses on two recently discovered documents from Spanish archives in Simancas and Zaragoza, which show a record of the relationship between the painter Michel Sittow (c. 1468-1525/6) and several members of the court of Isabella of Castile between 1492 and 1502. Further, it puts into context several formerly published documents that indicate significant debts were owed to the painter and give us clues about his artworks from 1494, as well as a visit he took to Zaragoza in 1498: one on Michel Sittow's stay in Castile; an account of Fernando Gomes de Éçija from 1494; a notarial deed from Zaragoza dating from 1498; a list of court salaries, also from 1498; and an alphabetical list of court debts from 1497-1498.
Additionally, reconsideration is given to the period Sittow spent at the court of the Spanish king as both an artist and a courtier. Apparently, he had left the court because the full salary he was due was not transferred. Based on the newly discovered documents, the artist may have left in 1502, electing to serve Philip the Fair between 1502 and 1504. It is also now possible to identify 1494 as the year when the painter worked on the Santiago altarpiece in Toledo.
Only in 1515 did Sittow return to the Iberian Peninsula to collect the remaining sum, authorised by Charles V's treasurer, Alonso de Arguello. The required amount was paid to him over the course of a year. Despite several uncertainties regarding his life and artistic practice, Michel Sittow's career provides a significant insight into royal commissioning practices and the impact of fickle financial administration.


Ryan E. Gregg – Anton van den Wyngaerde’s threefold project of the Panorama of Walcheren (c. 1547-1570) – pp. 172-187


Anton van den Wyngaerde's (c. 1490-1571) Panorama of Walcheren in the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp depicts the mid-sixteenth-century island of Walcheren and the North Sea across ten meters of paper. Its length and extensive geographic coverage make it unique amongst the artist’s extant oeuvre. Primarily known for his depictions of Spanish and Netherlandish cities drawn for King Philip II, Van den Wyngaerde did paint a similar prospect in 1564 for the king’s El Pardo palace. The present panorama (also known as Zeelandia descriptio) owes its origins in part to that project.
Though often mined for illustrations of a c. 1550 Walcheren, the drawings themselves have not been studied since 1956, when Jules van Beylen proposed a series of unspecified dates for the entirety's manufacture. The present study clarifies the timeline for the current Panorama’s generation over several decades. Through examination of the object, its depicted environments, and archival material, at least three discrete working periods and three distinct panoramic sections are proposed.
The artist initially travelled across the island sketching its locations sometime between 1547 and 1552. After arriving in Spain in 1562 at Philip II's request, Van den Wyngaerde compiled his earlier sketches into an overall draft. The first third of the present Panorama belongs to this preparatory stage for a second project. He then produced a more finished, colored drawing from the draft, in which he updated and corrected visual information. The middle section remains from this second stage. The c. 1564 El Pardo painting likely replicated the colored presentation drawing. The third project, undertaken between c. 1567 and c. 1570, copied at least a portion of the painting if not the entire prospect, and remains extant in the right section. The remainders from these projects were then combined at an indeterminate time to form the Panorama as it exists today.


Jørgen Wadum – Many Amersfoort hands: Revisiting the making of Albert Eckhout’s Brazilian paintings (1641-1643) – pp. 188-203


Albert Eckhout's twenty-one paintings, signed and dated 1641-1643, kept at the National Museum of Denmark, has stirred much speculation as to their making, meaning, and function. Eight impressive larger-than-life depictions of native Brazilian inhabitants and a huge dancing scene of the Tarairiu Indians were presented as gifts to the Danish King Frederik III (1609-1670) in 1654, together with twelve almost square still lifes of exotic fruits and vegetables from Brazil. The present was from the initiator of the paintings, Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen (1604-1679), the governor of the Dutch possessions in north-eastern Brazil.
Following on the archival, historical and technical reports that have been presented over the years, a re-evaluation of the technical examinations combined with new comparative research points to a more complex genesis of the paintings. The canvases and ground layers suggest that the tall single-figure pieces were made in one batch, while the large dancing scene and the still-lifes were prepared in a small number of separate batches. Infrared imaging visualises different approaches in paint handling within the group of nine figure pieces. The working up of the final paint layer in the faces of the figures has been approached in two different ways, either opaquely or with semi-transparent layers in the shadow areas. Idiosyncratic manners of rendering the eyes complement these findings and reveal details hardly studied so far.
The article concludes that the Tupi man, the Black man, and the Mulatto man are painted in a different and more transparent technique. Further, the manner of mixing black paint with white to render a nuanced whiteness of the eyes of the three figures, is not found in any of the other six paintings. These tall figures were painted by another hand than Eckhout, and most probably someone active in Jacob van Campen's large Randenbroek workshop in Amersfoort. Here, together with the still anonymous painter, Eckhout completed the impressive series of large Brazilian figures and twelve still lifes around 1647-1650. This research exemplifies the seventeenth-century collaborative practice of working on larger commissions, yet all the works continue to demonstrate Eckhout's legacy and how studies from his Brazilian sojourn were used by a larger community of artists in the Netherlands to satisfy the need for exotic images of the time.


Michiel Roscam Abbing – Some notes by Ernst Brinck (1582-1649) on painters, collectors and exceptional art – pp. 204-224


This article focuses on the Harderwijk regent Ernst Brinck (1582-1649) who owned an extensive cabinet of curiosities and a library full of valuable books. His exceptionally wide range of interests is also evident from surviving notebooks of his in the Harderwijk archives. The entries they contain show that Brinck visited other collectors and viewed their cabinets. It goes without saying that interesting information was exchanged during these encounters, which Brinck noted in his booklets. It can be found scattered there among all kinds of other topics.
Around 1645, Brinck classified some of these notes under the heading 'De picturis eximiis, et [rebus] quae concernunt picturas' (Of exceptional paintings and [all manner of things] that concern the art of painting) and 'Van eenige treflicke Conststucken' (Of several excellent works of art). Twenty-two previously unpublished anecdotal statements can be found in these categories. Examples include the average cost of the civic guard portraits in the Great Hall of the Arquebusiers Company (Doelenzaal) in Amsterdam (no. 6); the wealthy collector Pieter Spiering and his art books (no. 12): the obscene paintings of Torrentius (no. 7); Rubens' earnings for the cycle of paintings on the life of Marie de' Medici, queen of France, in Paris (no. 8); the Brazilian paintings commissioned by John Maurice of Nassau and painted by Jacob van Campen, which Brinck saw at the artist's estate near Amersfoort (no. 5); and the wooden prayer nut, now in the Abegg-Stiftung, Switzerland (no. 19).
In one of the booklets, hidden among other notes, Brinck penned an entry on Rembrandt's Hundred guilder print that would have fitted very well in his list on exceptional art, but is absent there. Brinck wrote that Rembrandt had sold a print with the subject 'Let the children come to me' (Matthew 19: 13-15) for a hundred guilders. The note establishes that Rembrandt himself sold the print for that amount, in 1648 or 1649.


Elizabeth den Hartog – Pieter de Hooch's window shutter with the Habsburg Emperor Charles V (1661) – pp. 225-236


This article deals with Pieter de Hooch's enigmatic painting Woman holding a basket with beans in a garden of 1661 (Kunstmuseum, Basel), and, more specifically, with the identity of the man depicted on the window shutter of the building in the foreground of the painting. The author argues that this portrait, which was hidden behind a layer of paint for a long time and only uncovered sometime between 1913-1927, represents the Emperor Charles V, whose portrait still decorates many buildings in the Netherlands. It is also argued that the building in the background of the painting can be typified as a 'hofje' or almshouse, and that its architecture resembles that of the Leiden Eva van Hoogeveenshofje, built by the architect Arent van 's-Gravesande in the 1650s. This suggests that De Hooch did not only paint locations in Delft and Amsterdam, but also in Leiden.
The Dutch Republic's seventeenth-century 'hofjes' were renowned, eliciting praise from foreign visitors, not only because of the way the Dutch Calvinist elite took care of the needy but also because of their superb architecture that enhanced the beauty of the Republic's cities. Interestingly, De Hooch painted a servant girl in the garden of the almshouse, which at first may seem incongruous with an institution intended for the poor. However, as will be shown, residents of almshouses in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic were not as poor as is generally thought. Some were even quite well-off and did indeed keep servants. In fact, some contemporaries even likened the Dutch almshouses to palaces. The portrait of the emperor on the window shutter may thus have criticised this type of 'poor relief' and could well have been intended to bring out the resemblance between the 'hofje' and an emperor’s palace. The word 'hofje' after all means 'small court'.
As such an overt criticism is unique in De Hooch's oeuvre, it may have been the artist himself who blotted the emperor's portrait out, thus changing the image into a straightforward genre scene. It was precisely this type of scene that was to bring De Hooch some success following his move to Amsterdam in 1660.