Oud Holland

Review of: 'The birth of modern advertising' (2020)

December 2020

Review of: Arthur der Weduwen and Andrew Pettegree, The Dutch Republic and the birth of modern advertising, Leiden [Brill] 2020 | Arthur der Weduwen and Andrew Pettegree, News, business and public information: Advertisements and announcements in Dutch and Flemish newspapers, 1620-1675, Leiden [Brill] 2020

In 2017, Arthur der Weduwen published his two-volume book Dutch and Flemish newspapers of the seventeenth century, 1618-1700, edited by Andrew Pettegree in the series Library of the written word (volume 58). This much-needed reference book offers significant contextual information on newspapers that appeared in the seventeenth-century Low Countries, and provides an extensive list of all known copies of the newspapers with basic information about the origin of the news and the number of advertisements included. The same authors have now published a qualitative analysis of the content of the commercial sections of such newspapers with two additional books (in the same series): The Dutch Republic and the birth of modern advertising (volume 77), and News, business and public information: Advertisements and announcements in Dutch and Flemish newspapers, 1620-1675 (volume 78).1

Volume 78, on News, business and public information, functions as an extended appendix to volume 77 and offers an impressive survey of circa 6,000 advertisements and announcements published in Dutch newspapers (1621-1675) and Flemish newspapers (1620-1675), treating these two areas of the Low Countries separately (an outdated habit to which I shall later return). The authors have added some helpful indexes: one which lists the printers, publishers and booksellers; a second that lists the authors, engravers, editors and translators; indexes of the book auctions, the auctioneers and distributors of the catalogues (alphabetically ordered per city); as well as indexes of relevance to the art market, including the collections for sale, the auctioneers, sellers and artists mentioned in the advertisements. Finally, there is a long index with products, consumables, and professional services. Each index comes with additional tables and further statistical information. In short, this volume provides an abundance of data for future quantitative research.

Left: Cover of The Dutch Republic and the birth of modern advertising

Middle left: Cover of News, business and public information: Advertisements and announcements in Dutch and Flemish newspapers, 1620-1675

Middle right: fig. 1. Willem Claesz. Heda, Still life with a gilt cup, 1635, oil on panel, 88 x 113 cm., Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, inv. SK-A-4830

Right: fig. 2 Cornelis Dusart, Country kermis, c. 1680-1704, oil on panel, 36.5 x. 32.5 cm., Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, inv. SK-A-99

The preface of volume 77 states that the book offers a comprehensive history of the origins of newspaper advertising in the seventeenth-century Dutch press.2 This can certainly be confirmed: the monograph is an elaborate and extensive reference on the early modern world of advertisements. It is richly contextualized, reads well and brings to the fore a treasure trove of knowledge. The authors acknowledge former research on specific themes in this field, such as advertisements for the sale of maps, atlases and globes, and for services performed by quacks and doctors.Dudok van Heel’s analyses of 250 advertisements for art sales in the Amsterdamse Courant has not been included by the authors, but they bear mentioning.4 The first two chapters in volume 77 function as an introduction to the world of seventeenth-century newspapers, the rise of advertising in the Netherlands, and the dominant role of the book industry within this commercial context. Apparently, psalm books and almanacs were among the most advertised books. The authors show that the latter hardly survived but remarkably, the pages sometimes reappear as pepper cones in still life painting (fig. 1), and thus became silent memories of a prominent industry of disposable literature.5 Something similar happened to the ephemeral sector of posters for public sales, which can be reconstructed thanks in part to genre paintings (fig. 2).6 The third chapter deals with the entrepreneurs behind the advertisements and their networks and, interestingly, the notable absence of international companies like the Blaeus and the Commelins, who considered newspapers to be too domestic.Chapter 4 analyses the development of advertisements, beginning with the dominance of the book market, and the introduction of professional services from the 1650s. Chapter 5 looks at fascinating examples of fraud and illegal activities exposed through the newspapers, and Chapter 6 presents the role of advertising during the turbulent year of 1672. In the final two chapters, the authors reflect upon the former topics, the limitations of the chosen methods, and the scope of the research in the larger context of the evolution of advertising – both locally and internationally. In what follows in this review, both volumes will be examined from an art-historical perspective.

First, I would like to note that it is insightful to make a comparison between the art market and the book world in terms of scale and impact. This is an evident concern of the authors, which can in particular be seen in their discussion of commerce and public information.8 They are right to conclude that advertisements had less impact on the sales volume of art sellers (with one advertisement for art, to every ten for book sales). Indeed, the art market seems to have been less organised than the book market, although this may only be the case for the years of focus for the author’s analyses – which ends with 1675.9 The last quarter of the seventeenth century, in fact, shows a steady increase of advertisements for art auctions and art-related shops, which confirms a professionalisation of the art market, including the production and distribution of art catalogues and posters to reach as many potential buyers as possible.10 Interestingly, Der Weduwen and Pettegree propose a separate development for libraries in the seventeenth century, which would have evolved independently from art collections. The book world, in their words, “had largely emancipated itself from dependence upon the collecting mania of the rich and powerful, the requirement to own beautiful and curious things as the props of an opulent life.” They even call it, “a significant coming of age in the history of western culture.”11 But is this bold statement based on the reality of owning books and collecting art (and luxury goods) as two distinct worlds, or does the evidence instead show the practice of separate commercial markets? The fact that (parts) of libraries were often (but not always) sold separately in shops or at auctions – and advertised as such in newspapers – does not mean that we are dealing with mere book owners.12 De wereld binnen handbereik (1992) effectively showed how libraries played a substantial and inseparable role in early modern art collections.13 It was even common practice to split art collections, advertise, and sell the paintings and works on paper on different days.14 A telling example in this regard is the collection of the artist Pieter Saenredam: his paintings were sold on 3 April 1669, the prints on 9 April 1669, and the drawings on 10 April 1669 – while his books had been auctioned two years earlier.15

Such artists’ libraries were uncommon, but also not entirely unusual. For the learned artist (pictor doctus) in particular, the study of written sources played a fundamental part in the invention of new artistic themes. Peter Paul Rubens is a noteworthy example, but Jan de Bisschop, Cornelis Dusart, Gerard van Honthorst, Pieter Lastman and Jacob van Ruisdael were likewise artists who used their own books in service of their art practice.16 In this context, Der Weduwen and Pettegree mention, besides Saenredam, only the painter and draftsman Adriaen van de Venne, whose books together with his paintings, prints, drawings, statues and many rarities were sold after his death (all at once) in The Hague on 11 June 1663.17 The advertisement of the sale, published in the Tydinge uyt verscheyde Quartieren a month before, points to a fascinating – but probably common – aspect of selling art. We don’t know why, but apparently “a few pieces” (from the artist himself, Hans Holbein and others) were available to be purchased from the heirs directly rather than be sold at auction in the other lots. This case also shows the disadvantages of the authors’ decision to paraphrase and shorten all advertisements before translation (for reasons of space), since the original Dutch text offers more details. Not only was the auction organised on multiple days (on 11 June “and following days”), which gives us an idea of the volume of the sale, but it also explicitly mentions “three or four pieces that are extraordinary.”18 In another example, three years earlier on Langestraat in Alkmaar, various paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck had been auctioned, as well as many sketches and copies on 23 March 1660.19 The authors leave out the mention of, “original copies and sketches”, which gives an important clue concerning the practice of attribution.20 It seems that copies made in the studios of both Antwerp masters had been treated and published differently: not as original (autonomous) works by Rubens and Van Dyck, and not as copies made afterwards and elsewhere, but by assistants under the supervision of the masters. These are not dramatic omissions, especially for quantitative analyses of big data, but they can be meaningful for (art) historians who focus on content.

It is more problematic when there is a misinterpretation or incorrect translation (which is understandable for such a huge corpus). In May 1674, for instance, two paintings by Jan van Huchtenburg went missing. According to the authors, the advertisement states that the works should be delivered, if found, to the artist’s house in Amsterdam.21 However, Van Huchtenburg lived in Haarlem at the time.22 The announcement in the Oprechte Haarlemse courant instead mentions the addresses of the fencing school in Amsterdam and the weighing master in Leiden. These two addresses for return are unique. It is possible that both works were originally part of the decoration of the fencing school, and after the building began to serve a new purpose they found a new home in Leiden. During the transport the works went missing (likely having been stolen).23 In another case, the paintings and drawings from the late Leonaert Bramer (sold in the Guild of Saint Luke in Delft, on 7 May 1674) were specified in the advertisement as soo op paneel, doeck als kopere platen. This is translated as “panel, cloth and engravings” but it refers to the medium of the works: on panel, canvas and copper plates.24 Another illustrative example: the drawings from Duytse meesters and the books in Duyts offered by Pieter de la Tombe in his Amsterdam shop in 1670 should not be translated as Dutch but as German.25 Neder-duyts was the common term for Dutch (the language), but it also applied to art made both in the Northern and the Southern Netherlands – a telling fact for seventeenth-century perceptions.26 Given such oversights, it is recommendable that historians consult the original Dutch advertisements for further research.27 As a follow up to these volumes one can imagine a multidisciplinary research project about advertisements and announcements in the seventeenth century and onwards, which aims at a fully transcribed, translated and annotated online database, with references for the recorded books, catalogues and art works, but also the mentioned authors, artists, owners and sellers.28

In returning to the aforementioned distinction between Flemish and Dutch advertisements, the separate overview of Flemish ads and announcements in volume 78 counts only eight pages in length (roughly 1.5% of the total amount). It therefore makes sense that the authors focus mainly on the Dutch Republic in volume 77. Remarkably, based on advertisements on art they conclude that, “the most collectible of the moderns were the great artists of the Southern Netherlands, especially Rubens and Van Dyck”, and in the case that artists were mentioned in advertisements, “these were seldom contemporary Dutch artists.”29 By pointing to an early sale of paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck (together with several Renaissance artists) in the Vijzelstraat in Amsterdam on 23 October 1657, they state that there was, “no room for Rembrandt or Frans Hals in this sort of company.”30 Elsewhere they “can make far less of the fact that Rembrandt is never mentioned among the most distinguished artists whose works are offered for sale.”31 However, we can hardly speak of contemporary artists in this context, since the particular ad was published respectively 16 and 17 years after the deaths of Van Dyck and Rubens. The first time that Rembrandt’s work appears in a newspaper advertisement is when notary Magnus Neurenburg offered a large number of paintings for sale at his house in the Boeckhorststraat, in The Hague on 21 May 1697: 28 years after the artist’s death.32 This shows that the scope of research, in order to make valid claims on such matters, must be extended through 1700 (at least). Another example from the North: it is 21 years after Johannes Vermeer’s death that his work first appears in the newspaper (in 1696).33 These instances demonstrate that there is likely a tendency for artists to be advertised with a delay of circa 15-30 years, no matter if you reside in the north or the south. Nota bene, an exception was the illustrious Frans Hals who was already mentioned during his lifetime in an advertisement in 1650.34

In sum, Der Weduwen and Pettegree provide a thoroughgoing look into the world of advertisements of books and art in the Low Countries. Both volumes provide ample food for thought, but consulting the original advertisements is still necessary for closer analyses. The authors wrote an excellent introduction to the logistics behind these advertisements, and offer insight into the networks of courantiers, publishers and bookshop owners, as well as the authors, artists, collectors and potential buyers. Every single advertisement is a doorway to new stories, from heartbroken announcements of people gone missing and stolen goods, to entrepreneurial endeavours to market the latest best-selling books and refined paintings. The world they open up makes these two volumes an indispensable resource, for (art) historians and casual readers alike.

Menno Jonker
Art historian

1 See also: the preface of vol. 78, p. vii.

2 Vol. 77, p. ix.

3 Vol. 77, p. ix: P. C. J. van der Krogt, Advertenties voor kaarten, atlassen, globes e.d., in Amsterdamse kranten: 1621-1811, Utrecht 1985. D. Kranen, Advertenties van kwakzalvers en meesters in de Oprechte Haerlemse Courant uit de periode 1656-1733, Ede 2008.

4 S. A. C. Dudok van Heel, 'Honderdvijftig advertenties van kunstverkopingen uit veertig jaargangen van de Amsterdamsche Courant 1672-1711', Jaarboek Amstelodamum 67 (1975), pp. 149-173. S. A. C. Dudok van Heel, ‘Ruim honderd advertenties van kunstverkopingen uit de Amsterdamsche Courant 1712-1725’, Jaarboek Amstelodamum 69 (1977), pp. 107-122.

5 Vol. 77, pp. 41, 53. About the number of book ads in relation to other goods and services, see: Vol. 77, p. 230.

6 Vol. 77, p. 233.

7 Vol. 77, p. 80.

8 Vol. 77, Chapter 4.

9 Circa 700 ads for books, versus fewer than 50 for art: Vol. 77, p. 229. “[The art market] seems to have been far less systematically organised than the carefully structured and highly regulated book market.” Vol. 77, p. 138. However, this seems to contradict with, “the market for paintings, prints and drawings was highly developed in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic.” Vol 77, p. 141.

10 See: M. Jonker, ‘Drawing attention to works on paper in the Haarlem newspaper, 1660-99’, Master drawings 57 (2019), pp. 325-348, spec. table 1, p. 327.

11 Vol. 77, pp. 140-141.

12 About the combination of libraries and master drawings, see: Jonker 2019, p. 335.

13 J. van der Waals, ‘Met boek en plaat: Het boeken- en atlassenbezit van verzamelaars’, in: E. Bergvelt (et al.), De wereld binnen handbereik: Nederlandse kunst- en rariteitenverzamelingen, 1585-1735, Zwolle 1992, pp. 205-231. See, also: Appendix 1, pp. 313-334.

14 Jonker 2019, p. 335.

15 Respectively advertised in Oprechte Haarlemse Courant 19-03-1669; 23-03-1669; 30-03-1669; 09-04-1669; and 16-04-1667.

16 M. de Schepper, Een hart voor boeken: Rubens en zijn bibliotheek, Antwerp 2004. V. Manuth (et. al.), Wisdom, knowledge and magic: The image of the scholar in seventeenth-century Dutch art, Kingston 1996. S. Anderson, ‘The library of Cornelis Dusart: Between artist and gentleman’, Oud Holland 123 (2010), pp. 133-165. L. Kattenberg and R. Baars, ‘‘Het leezen van goede boeken, ... is al te noodigen zaek’: Boekenbezit van Amsterdamse kunstenaars, 1650-1700’, Amstelodamum 101 no. 3 (2014), pp. 134-150.

17 See: Vol. 77, p. 140; vol. 78, p. 215.

18 Tydinge uyt verscheyde Quartieren 05-05-1663; See https://resolver.kb.nl/resolve?urn=ddd:010900383:mpeg21:p002.

19 See: Vol. 78, p. 183.

20 Oprechte Haarlemse Courant 16-03-1660; See https://resolver.kb.nl/resolve?urn=ddd:010680263:mpeg21:p002.

21 Vol. 78, p. 533.

22 http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/3920.

23 Extraordinaire Haarlemse Courant 15-11-1674. See: https://resolver.kb.nl/resolve?urn=ddd:010927404:mpeg21:p002. See, also: M. Jonker, ‘Kunstroof anno 1674: De vermissing van twee Van Huchtenburgs’, Vind no. 21 (2016), pp. 44-47.

24 Oprechte Haarlemse Courant 03-05-1674. See Haarlem, Noord-Hollands Archief (formerly owned by Museum Enschedé).

25 Vol. 78, pp. 376-377. Oprechte Haarlemse Courant 29-03-1670; See: https://resolver.kb.nl/resolve?urn=ddd:010926941:mpeg21:p002.

26 See: Jonker 2019, p. 337.

27 There are also some small errors in the artist’s index in volume 78: Ottemerselus – the name of the artist as listed in the advertisement (Extraordinaire Haarlemse Courant 02-04-1671) – is in fact Otto Marseus van Schrieck. Johannes Borsman (Haagsche Weekelycke Mercurius 19 s.d., likely 1651) is indexed as Johannes Borman, but that is another artist. See, respectively: https://rkd.nl/nl/explore/artists/204451 and https://rkd.nl/nl/explore/artists/10805.

28 Compare, Montias database: https://research.frick.org/montias; or The art world in Britain: https://artworld.york.ac.uk/artworld/.

29 Vol. 77, p. 139.

30 Vol. 77, p. 139. Considering Courante uyt Italien, Duytslandt, &c 20-10-1657; vol. 78, p. 166.

31 Vol. 77, p. 229.

32 Oprechte Haarlemse Courant 14-05-1697: “Op Dingsdag, den 21 Mey, 1697 en vervolgens sal men in 's Gravenhage ten Huyse van den Notaris en Clercq Magnus Neurenburg, wonende aen de Westzijde van de Boeckhorst Straet naest de 3 Haver-Sacken, verkopen veelderhande konstige Schilderyen van veele en verscheyde voorname Meesters; als van Anthony van Dijck, Helschen Breugel, Francken, Philips Wouwerman, Adr. van Oostade, David Teniers, Rembrants, Roeland Savery, ter Burg, Abr. Bloemert, Andries Both, Potter, ter Bruggen, Wielings, Kreerings, Percellis en meer andere; gelijck mede een goede Partye rare Porceleyen, en voorts veel seer kostelijck en schoon Lywaet van alderhande Soorten, en voornamentlijck van Slaeplakens, Servetten en Tafellakens van een ongemeene fijnte en grootte. Alle welcke Goederen ten voorsz. Huyse Saturdags en Maendags voor de Verkopinge by een yder sullen konnen werden gesien.”

33 Oprechte Haarlemse Courant 14-04-1696: “Woensdag, den 16 Mey, sal men tot Amsterdam in 't oude Heeren Logement verkopen eenige uytstekende konstige Schilderyen, daer onder 21 Stucks uytnemende krachtig en heerlijck geschildert door wijlen J. Vermeer van Delft; verbeeldende verscheyde brave Ordonannantien en de beste, die hy oyt gemaeckt heeft; nevens noch eenige andere van de voornaemste Meesters, gelijck met Biljetten en Catalogen sal bekent gemaeckt werden.”

34 Courante uyt Italien, Duytslandt, &c 11-06-1650. See: https://resolver.kb.nl/resolve?urn=ddd:010901185:mpeg21:p002, and vol. 78, pp. 135-136.

M. Jonker, 'Review of: The birth of modern advertising', Oud Holland Reviews, December 2020.