Oud Holland

Review of: ‘Karel van Mander’/’Karel van Mander III’ (2020)

March 2023


Review of: Juliette Roding, Thomas Lyngby, Stefan Pajung and Jakob Ørnbjerg (eds.), Karel van Mander. A dynasty of artists (Studier fra Det Nationalhistoriske Museum på Frederiksborg 3), and Karel van Mander III. Library and oeuvre (Studier fra Det Nationalhistoriske Museum på Frederiksborg 4), Hillerød [The Museum of National History at Frederiksborg], 2020

If scholars have heard of the artist Karel van Mander III (1609-1670), it is more than likely because of Juliette Roding’s work. The lesser-known grandson of painter and author Karel van Mander I (1548-1606) was for nearly his entire career active in Denmark. The two volumes under review here are – again – the brainchildren of Roding. Karel van Mander. A dynasty of artists is a collection of seven articles, most of which stem from papers given at an international symposium on Karel van Mander III, organised by Roding at the University of Leiden in 2012. Karel van Mander III. Library and oeuvre, published simultaneously, is described as ‘a supplement’ to this volume, although it needs to be purchased separately and there are no cross-references between the two books. Both books are published in the series ‘Studies from The Museum of National History at Frederiksborg’, and both are preceded by a compact foreword by Thomas Lyngby, who is the museum’s head of research.1

The title Karel van Mander. A dynasty of artists is rather misleading: five out of seven articles have only Van Mander III as a subject, while none of the articles discuss the artistic relationship between the family members, and no central introduction or concluding chapter ties the different articles together with respect to dynastic issues (or otherwise). Both volumes are firmly about Karel van Mander III. Karel van Mander III. Library and oeuvre offers a reconstruction by Juliette Roding of the books he owned when he died and of his artistic oeuvre.

Karel van Mander: A dynasty of artists
Karel van Mander. A dynasty of artists begins with an article by the late Hessel Miedema that provides an introduction to the life and work of Karel van Mander I (pp. 11-36). Miedema sketches Van Mander’s life from the biography that was published in the second edition of the Schilder-boeck (1618), and supplements it with archival research.2 Similar to many Flemish artists living during the time of revolt against Spanish rule, Van Mander’s story demonstrates how an individual’s fortune was linked to their religious beliefs and network. This is seen, for example, when his first apprenticeship with the Ghent painter and poet Lucas de Heere (1543-1584) was cut short when De Heere was banned and had to flee to London, and when Van Mander I, his wife and their children escaped the turmoil in their native country and settled in the Northern Netherlands. Van Mander I is mainly known as a poet, painter and print designer, but he also produced many designs for the Delft tapestry maker François Spiering (1551-1630), an activity that his son, Karel II (c. 1579-1623), would continue.3 A cross-reference to the following article by Mette Skougaard on Karel II’s tapestries would have helped the reader to make the connection (especially p. 44). Miedema continues with a presentation and explanation of Van Mander’s didactic poem Den grondt der edel vry schilder-const. He provides a summary per chapter and explains the rhyme structure. Although useful for newbies, its relevance in the context of this book, however, remains unclear.4

Cover of: Karel van Mander. A dynasty of artists (Studier fra Det Nationalhistoriske Museum på Frederiksborg 3)

Cover of: Karel van Mander III. Library and oeuvre (Studier fra Det Nationalhistoriske Museum på Frederiksborg 4)

Middle right: fig 1. Karel van Mander III, St. Peter repentant, c. 1624-70, oil on canvas, 169.5 x 66.7 cm., Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, KMSsp797

Right: fig 2. Karel van Mander III, Aron as high priest, c. 1624-70, oil on canvas, 135.5 x 126 cm., Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, KMS7985

The book continues with Mette Skougaard’s contribution on the 22 tapestries that Christian IV commissioned with Karel van Mander II for the Great Hall at Frederiksborg Castle. Karel II, after having worked 11 years for the above-mentioned tapestry weaver Spiering, started his own tapestry factory in Delft in 1615. In his first year, he managed to land Christian IV’s important commission. Here the author missed relevant literature and fails to ask a number of relevant questions.5 For example, more is known about the ways in which Christian IV and Van Mander II came into contact. For in the next essay, Roding herself explains how Karel II knew François Spiering was in contact with Christian IV about this series of tapestries, and how he traveled to Denmark to persuade the king to give the commission to him instead, offering a better price and a higher quality. Also lacking, is an argument about the king’s motivation for approaching Dutch cartoonists and a Dutch tapestry factory in the first place, instead of commissioning them locally – as seems to have been usual up until this moment.6 Unfortunately, the series is not properly contextualised. It is not discussed in relation to the earlier Kronborg Tapestries by Hans Knieper (completed 1586) or the Riddersalen tapestries, designed by Johan van Wijck (1609) for example, nor is it connected to other tapestry series by Van Mander II. Van Mander’s Frederiksborg tapestries have not survived, and Skougaard’s analysis of their iconography, and a suggestion for their hanging in the Great Hall, is based on drawings made by the Danish artist F. C. Lund (1826-1901) in 1858, as well as archival documents. Other tapestries designed by Van Mander, however, have survived, and it would have been interesting if Skougaard had compared the drawings with, for example, the Alexander the Great series that he produced for Christian IV in 1619.7

Roding’s well-researched and highly informative contribution to the volume, on the life and work of Karel van Mander III (pp. 75-152), was previously published as a monograph in Dutch in 2014.8 Fundamentally unaltered, the long text is a rather awkward fit in a volume of otherwise relatively short contributions. It begins with Karel II and his tapestry factory in Delft. Roding argues Van Mander II supplied a vast number of tapestries to the Danish king, based on an inventory of the business from 21 July 1621, which includes several series sold to Christian IV already on view in Denmark. Still, there remains a wealth of evidence for the export of tapestries and other artworks to Denmark in archives yet to be explored. For instance, I recently found a letter stating 21 pieces of tapestry by Van Mander II were ready for delivery to the Danish king in October 1621.9 A few years after Van Mander II’s widow moved to Copenhagen with her children, the 20-year-old Karel III received his first portrait commission from Christian IV. Either the professional relationship of Karel II to the Danish king was beneficial to his son’s career at court, or the king still owed a large sum of money to Karel II when the artist died. Roding next discusses Karel III’s artistic development in relation to his trips to Amsterdam,10 and Italy, his network of Dutch artists in Denmark, and his longstanding court appointment. The primary court painter and portraitist in Denmark from 1640 to 1670, his art reached a wider Danish audience as well. His paintings could be found in public buildings and churches throughout the country, and his portraits of the royal family and other important figures were copied in engravings. Particularly in this section, the reader misses any cross-references with the paintings listed in the volume, Karel van Mander III. Library and oeuvre.

Louis Sicking’s ‘Dutch admirals portrayed in Denmark’, is an account of the portraits Karel III made of five flag officers of the Dutch navy in 1656: Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam (1610-1665), Witte Corneliszoon de With (1599-1658), Michiel de Ruyter (1607-1676), Pieter Floriszoon Blom (1602 or 1606-1658) and Cornelis Tromp (1629-1691). They were invited to Copenhagen by Christian IV after their successful operation to lift the Swedish blockade of Danzig, which led to the Treaty of Elbing. Their portraits were commissioned to be added to the so-called ‘ambassadors’ series’ of a total of 24 portraits of high-ranking diplomats that were installed at Frederiksborg Castle.11 The five portraits of naval officers are the only ones that survived.12 Sicking is a maritime historian, and his contribution focuses on the intervention of the Dutch navy in the Baltic region and the careers of the portrayed, instead of on Karel van Mander III and these iconographical interesting portraits. In the present volume, an art historical account of this series would have been a better fit.

Religious works of Karel van Mander III’ (pp. 179-193), by the late Hugo Johannsen attempts to reconstruct Van Mander III’s oeuvre of biblical history paintings in Denmark, of which very few have survived due to church fires. Some are known through archival sources and early copies. As a court painter, Van Mander also provided work for the royal chapels and for the Kunstkammer (The Royal Chamber of Curiosities). Again, almost none have survived. Remarkable are the large St. Peter repentant and The high priest Aaron. The single figure and the Rembrandtesque chiaroscuro testify to the importance of court painters like Van Mander for the dispersal of artistic and stylistic innovations throughout Europe. Again, this section could have benefitted from cross-references to its companion volume (inv.no. 166-187). An untapped source for biblical history paintings by the artist is the auction catalogue of Van Mander’s estate listing 112 paintings, including among others The adoration of the Kings, The resurrection of Christ and “En Altar Taffle” [an altarpiece].13 The painter’s names are not mentioned, and many of these works may have been painted by Van Mander himself.

Thomas Lyngby’s short and descriptive contribution ‘Karel van Mander III’s House in Østergarde, Copenhagen’ (pp. 195-200), provides little to no new information about Van Mander’s residence, to what was previously published by Juliette Roding.14 Van Mander and his wife were regularly requested by the king to receive and accommodate ambassadors and other prominent persons in his residence in Copenhagen, including the already mentioned naval officer Van Wassenaer Obdam and ambassador Godard Adriaan Baron van Reede van Amerongen (1621-1691). This occasionally led to portrait commissions by the King. The all-round tasks and qualities of the early modern court artist that Lyngby describes continue to astound: besides painting and accommodating high-ranking ambassadors and envoys, Van Mander aided in the defense of the city, mediated in diplomatic matters and helped arrange, restore and keep the royal collections.15

Just as with his grandfather, Karel van Mander III was also active as a poet. Vibeke Winge discusses his literary production and explains how there was an audience for these Dutch poems in Denmark in the last article in this volume, entitled ‘The Dutch and the Dutch language in Denmark. Karel van Mander III’s literary work’ (pp. 203-219). Winge points at the many Dutch immigrants in Denmark, and how they were able to communicate with the Danes, being used to Low German, because of the similarities between these languages. Dutch was one of the international languages that was used by the Danish upper class: Dutch poems were written and printed in Copenhagen and theatre companies performed in Dutch, in numerous Danish towns. Most attention is given to his best-known work Lauwercrantz. Voor alle Liefhebbers des Loffwaerden Snuyfftoebacks als oock Haer Ghebbort, en hooghe Hercomst (1665); a humorous homage to snuff tobacco, which inspired Danish poets to publish poems on this theme as well. His witty poems and his many interests give the impression of a man who was perfectly able to entertain the high-ranking guests he was often requested to lodge.

Karel van Mander III: Library and oeuvre
The other volume Karel van Mander III. Library and oeuvre, starts with a transcription and identification of the books in the auction catalogue of Van Mander’s estate from 1672 (pp. 9-57). It is clear that Roding, in collaboration with Leny van Lieshout devoted much time and energy, to sort out Van Mander’s library and identify each book and edition he owned at the time of his death. What is dearly missed, however, is a summary of Roding’s own article from 2006, The “Kunst und Wunderkammer”. The library and collection of paintings of Karel van Mander III (c. 1610-1670) in Copenhagen, to introduce, contextualise and analyse the collection.16

The second part is an illustrated catalogue of Van Mander’s painted and drawn oeuvre (pp. 60-232), followed by lists of unidentified works mentioned on Hofstede de Groot index cards (pp. 233-234) and in archival documents (pp. 235-236), a list of the three books published by Van Mander (p. 237) and the miniature portrait of Van Mander attributed to Alexander Cooper (1609-1660) (p. 238). The works are organised by subject and range from portraits of the Danish royal family and other portraits to history painting, genre paintings, allegories and anatomical studies. Signed paintings and drawings, accepted attributions, unsure attributions, workshop products and copies are included and mixed together. The information for every entry is limited to title, dating, support, measurements, location and sometimes their provenance. All can be also found in the RKD images database, with virtually the same or even more information, provided and added by Roding herself. Currently, the database provides an overview of the literature and shows artistic relations with other works. In the present volume, one would have expected a more detailed argumentation for or against certain attributions, especially since this is what the RKD database does not give its users.17 Not all attributions to Van Mander are convincing and it’s regrettable the catalogue doesn’t detail reasons for inclusion. For example, there are five portraits of Christian IV on horseback, from c. 1643 (inv.nos 9-13). The portraits follow the same model, though the strong differences in painting technique and the proportion and rendering of the king’s body and the horse suggest that at least three (11-13) are copies.18 It is known from archival sources that Christian IV had a prototype portrait of himself, painted by Van Mander, copied in a number of versions by a different, less expensive artist.19 Could something similar have occurred here? Roding has previously attributed the horse in two of these portraits to Morten Steenwinckel (1595-1646), but surprisingly, this is omitted in the catalogue (inv.nos. 9-10).20 The same black horse in the same pose in Equestrian portrait with the royal family and servants collecting the sheep, however, is attributed to Steenwinckel (inv.no. 32).

Another example is the small painting Loth and his daughters, listed in the catalogue as by Van Mander, without reservation. The attribution to Van Mander is puzzling however, as this modello differs in composition and manner from his other paintings. This is one of many cases where the reader needs the argumentation of the author. The painting was first attributed to Van Mander in the 1988 catalogue of the exhibition Christian IV and Europe.21 This suggestion was solely based on an engraving of the design, in reverse, by the royal engraver Albert Haelwegh (1620-1673), who cut many of Van Mander’s designs into copper, and the listing of a plate with ‘the history of Loth’ in Van Mander’s estate (Library and oeuvre, p. 21). However, this is not conclusive, as the engraving by Haelwegh does not include an inscription identifying the inventor, while all his other prints after Van Mander do. Haelwegh did not work exclusively with Van Mander, though did work extensively with his brother-in-law, court painter Abraham Wuchters (1608-1682).

Conclusion: Van Mander III in the spotlight
It is valuable that these books spotlight the life and work of a rather unknown artist who had an impressive and longstanding career at the Danish court. Van Mander III was one of the defining forces in art production in early modern Denmark, and it is important that with these publications, his oeuvre was finally thoroughly researched. Roding’s article is a must-read for anyone who wishes to learn more about the artist but who cannot read Dutch. Winge’s contribution provides new insights into Van Mander III as a poet. Unfortunately, the other articles in Karel van Mander: A dynasty of artists, tend to lack a substantive presentation of new research and insights. An introduction or concluding chapter that syntheses the information and highlights new insights is dearly missed. Family ties were important and career-defining in the period, as is demonstrated by other families from the early modern period, as the Saverys, Franckens, Breughels, De Bray’s, Van de Veldes and the Ruisdael/Ruysdaels. Social networks seem to be key, and this is also true for the Van Manders, although the present volume does not do enough to describe and clarify this. Karel van Mander III: Library and oeuvre provides basic data and small images of each artwork – and unfortunately, lacks the reasoning of the author for the attributions. It is a pity the two volumes are not more closely interlinked, because this would have given volume two an added value compared to the information that is now, thanks to the efforts of Roding, also present in the RKDimages database. 

Angela Jager
Curator of Dutch and Flemish Old Masters
RKD, The Hague


1 The previous volumes were published in Danish under the series title: Studier fra Det Nationalhistoriske Museum på Frederiksborg.

2 K. van Mander, Het Schilderboeck waerin voor eerst de leerlustighe jeught den gront der edele vrye schilderkonst in versceyden deelen wort voorgedragen. Daerna in dry deelen t'leven der vermaerde doorluchtighe schilders des ouden ende nieuwen tydts. Eyndlyck d'uytlegghinghe op den metamorphoseon ... [etc.], Amsterdam 1618. The biography was published in English by Miedema: K. van Mander, transl. and annotated by H. Miedema, The lives of the illustrious Netherlandish and German painters, from the first edition of the Schilder-boeck (1603-1604); preceded by the lineage, circumstances and place of birth, life and works of Karel van Mander, painter and poet and likewise his death and burial, from the second edition of the Schilder-boeck (1616-1618), vol. 1, Doornspijk 1994, pp. 7-33.

3 See for example: The story of Niobe's pride, The story of Latona and the Lycian peasants, The story of Cephalus and Procris, woven by Spiering, and the design attributed to Karel van Mander I, see: E. Hartkamp-Jonxis and H. Smit, European tapestries in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 2004, cat. no. 52a-c.

4 H. Miedema, Theorie en praktijk. Teksten over schilderkunst in de Gouden Eeuw van de Noordelijke Nederlanden, Hilversum 2017.

5 A. Bredius, ‘De tapijtfabriek van Karel van Mander de Jonge te Delft, 1616-1623’, Oud Holland 3 (1885), pp. 1-22; G. T. Ysselstein, Geschiedenis der tapijtweverijen in de Noordelijke Nederlanden, bijdrage tot de geschiedenis der kunstnijverheid, Leiden 1936, pp. 83-86; E. Hartkamp-Jonxis, ‘Scandinavische connectie. Nederlandse wandtapijten en andere tapisserieweefsels in relatie tot hun Deense en Zweedse afnemers, 1615 tot 1660’, in Textielhistorische bijdragen 46 (2006), pp. 45-72, esp. pp. 47-49.

6 It was around 1614 when Christian IV started to look to producers in Flanders and the Dutch Republic for tapestries: V. Woldbye, ‘Tapestries’, in S. Heiberg (ed.), Christian IV and Europe, Copenhagen 1988, p. 115. Before that time, the court painters Hans Knieper (d. 1587), Johan van Wijck (d. 1613) and Didrik Moll (d. 1622) are known to have been active as cartoonists for tapestry projects in Denmark. Knieper was appointed court painter and ‘Patronenmaler’ and was sent to Flanders to recruit weavers and to buy materials for a new tapestry workshop in Helsingør: V. Woldbye, ‘Flemish tapestry weavers in the service of Nordic Kings’, in G. Delmarcel (ed.), Flemish tapestry weavers abroad. Emigration and the founding of manufactories in Europe, Leuven 2002, pp. 91-111. Knieper produced, among others, the Kronbog Tapestries series here. The workshop remained active after his death in 1587. Van Wijck designed the cartoons for a tapestry series for the Riddersalen at Frederiksborg; three of these were woven in Flanders, but Van Wijk had the rest made at the royal tapestry workshop at Kronborg Castle: F. R. Friis, Samlinger til dansk bygnings- og kunsthistorie, Gyldendalske boghandel, 1878, pp. 244-245; S. Heiberg, ‘Jan van Wijck’, Weilbachs Kunstnerleksikon 1994, artist id. 5284: https://www.kulturarv.dk/kid/VisWeilbach.do?kunstnerId=5284&wsektion=alle Another tapestry manufactory existed in Slangerup: J. G .B. Becker, Forsog til en Bekrivelse a fog Efterretninger om vævede Tapete rog andre mærkelige Væggedecorationer I Danmark, Copenhagen 1863. A certain ‘Lennart Tapestrymaker’ [Linnert Thapetmager] was ordered to weave a tapestry after a carton by Moll in 1618, and was supplied materials by the Royal Colour Chamber to do so: A. H. Christensen, ‘Crafts and colours during the reign of Christian IV. Trade, availability and usage of painters’ materials 1610-1626’, PhD dissertation, Copenhagen, 2017 (The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Conservation), p. 238. See also: H. Gerson, annotated by R. van Leeuwen, Gerson digital: Denmark (RKD Studies), The Hague 2015, §2.5: https://gersondenmark.rkdstudies.nl/2-horst-gersons-text-on-denmark/25-tapestries-for-christian-iv/

7 Hartkamp-Jonxis & Smit 2004 (note 3), cat. no. 55.

8 The book does not mention that there is a previously published Dutch version of this article. J. Roding, Karel van Mander III (1609-1670) hofschilder van Christiaan IV en Frederik III: Kunst, netwerken, verzameling, Hilversum 2014.

9 The Hague, Nationaal Archief (NA), 1.01.02, Archief van de Staten-Generaal, ‘De Liassen Denemarcken’, inv.no. 7239, 26 October 1621: ‘Lectum 26 october 1621. Ick ondergeschreven verclare goede kennisse te hebben dat sijne Ko.e Ma.t van Denemarcken genedichst heeft belast aen Karel van Mander tapissier binnen Delff te maken 21 stucxkens tapisserie, ende dat dselve nu volmaeckt sijn. In kennisse der waerheit hebbe desen ondertekent opten 26en octob[er] 1621. Adrian Strick.’ Adriaan Strick (1650-1724) was the commissaris of Denmark in the Dutch Republic from 1619-1623.

10 Archival evidence to substantiate Karel van Mander’s stay in the Dutch Republic, I have recently published in the article: ‘A reconstruction of The Five Senses by Karel van Mander III’, RKD Bulletin no. 1, 2021: https://bulletin.rkd.nl/en/20211/reconstruction-five-senses-karel-van-mander-iii/

11 A list of the envoys and ambassadors who were portrayed as part of the ambassadors’ series can be found in: Karel van Mander III: Library and oeuvre, p. 236. The names are known from archival sources published in: P. Eller, Kongelige portrætmalere i Danmark 1630-82. En undersøgelse af kilderne til Karel van Manders og Abraham Wuchters' virksomhed, Copenhagen 1971: pp. 227-228, 231, note 49. See also P. Eller, ‘Fem søhaner. Ett krigsbytte af Karel van Mander-billeder på Skokloster’, Livsrustkammaren/Journal of the Royal Armoury Stockholm 12, no. 6 (1971), pp. 161-192; and Roding 2014 (note 8), pp. 75-78 (omitted from Roding’s translation in this volume).

12 The five portraits were taken by the Swedes in 1658 during the plundering of Frederiksborg Castle, and have ever since been installed as door pieces in the Skokloster Slot, the castle of Carl Gustav Wrangel.

13 Forteignelse paa Gl. Carl von Manders Bøger, Teigne-Bøger, Kaaberstycker, Kaaber-Plader, Trævare, Gevær, Seyervercker, Skilderier oc gandske Konstcammer, som paa Mandag den 15. Julij udi en Gl. Mands Gaard paa Østergade skal Auctioneris oc selgis, Copenhagen 1672.

14 The article does not refer to these sources: J. Roding, ‘The “Kunst und Wunderkammer”. The library and collection of paintings of Karel van Mander III (c. 1610-1670) in Copenhagen’, Tijdschrift voor Scandinavistiek 27 no. 1 (2006), pp. 25-42; Roding 2015 (note 12), pp. 114.

15 For the restoration of artworks, see: Roding 2014 (note 8), p. 85.

16 Roding 2006 (note 14), pp. 37-39.

17 The information on authorship of the a is not consistent. Most catalogue entries do not include information about signatures. Of the 221 works listed 24 are listed as being an ‘attribution’ (inv.nos. 3, 14, 18-19, 30-31, 44, 50, 71, 89-92, 110-111, 152, 160-165, 169-170, 219), two as ‘attribution uncertain’ (inv.nos. 130, 120) and one even as ‘attribution very uncertain’ (inv.no. 132). What is the difference? Sometimes the attributions are specified to have been done by Povl Eller (inv.nos. 53, 105, 107) or to have been rejected by Eller (and therefore re-attributed by Roding?; inv.nos. 97-98, 108, 120). One series of The four elements, now in the Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, was added as, ‘formerly attributed to Karel van Mander or Gerard Honthorst [1592-1656], nowadays attributed to Jan Lievens [[1607-1674]]’ (inv.no. 210a-d). Other unconvincing attributions, such as the here described copies under inv.nos. 10-13, are not specified as being attributions or copies.

18 In the RKDimages database, one of them, inv.no. 13, was included as a copy after Karel van Mander: https://rkd.nl/explore/images/65691

19 Christensen 2017 (note 6), p. 233. In this case, Christian IV requested in 1635 another painter, named ‘Korbinianus’, to copy a prototype by Van Mander: three copies in body size and three copies in waist size.

20 Gerson & Van Leeuwen 2015 (note 6): https://gersondenmark.rkdstudies.nl/2-horst-gersons-text-on-denmark/211-karel-van-mander-iii/ These paintings in RKDimages: https://rkd.nl/explore/images/240477 and https://rkd.nl/explore/images/61264, with the source of this attribution given as ‘Juliette Roding (2014)’.

21 Heiberg (et al.) 1988 (note 6), p. 108, no. 338


Angela Jager, ‘Review of: Karel van Mander/Karel van Mander III’, Oud Holland Reviews, March 2023.