Dordrecht, 28 March 1660–Amsterdam, 14 October 1719, buried 18 October in the Nieuwezijds Kapel
Dutch writer, theorist, draughtsman, etcher and painter
Initially Arnold Houbraken occasionally copied drawings and prints while working as a yarn-winder for a Dordrecht merchant. In 1672 he began training as a painter, first with the almost unknown Willem van Drielenburg (1632–after 1677) and then with Jacobus Leveck (1634–75). From c. 1675 to 1678 he studied with Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627–78), who also introduced him to classicizing art theory. In 1678 he entered the Dordrecht Guild of St Luke. In 1709–10 he moved to Amsterdam, where, apart from a trip to England c. 1713, he remained until his death.
A prolific painter of history and genre subjects, portraits and landscapes, Houbraken was also an able and active draughtsman. He is best known today, however, for his collection of artists’ biographies, the Groote Schouburgh (1717–21, rev. 1753), which is a sequel to Van Mander’s Schilderboeck (1603/4). In the 19th century his reputation suffered from many modernist theorists including Théophile Thoré-Bürger (1807–69), who resented his neglect of artists such as Rembrandt (1606/7–69) and Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709), and his anecdotal style of biography was rejected by the new art historians. Nowadays his writings are taken seriously, unless further information proves otherwise.
Hofstede de Groot 1893a; Enklaar 1996; Cornelis 1998; Horn 2000; Maës 2010; Aono 2011, CD-ROM, p. 167; Saur, lxxv, 2012, pp. 80–82 (G. Seelig); Ecartico, no. 3880: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/3880 (Oct. 1, 2017); RKDartists&, no. 39950: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/39950 (Oct. 1, 2017).
Jacob Houbraken most likely after Arnold Houbraken
Portrait of Arnold Houbraken (1660-1719), c. 1714-1718
paper, red chalk 125 x 100 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-T-1897-A-3421
After or in the style of Arnold Houbraken
DPG471 – Landscape with Boy and Dog
1700-1725; canvas, 49.8 x 43.6 cm
Signed or inscribed, bottom right: A. Houbraken
?; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; ?Britton 1813, p. 31, no. 328 (‘Unhung / no. 59, Horse & figures, dead game P[anel] C du Jardin. 1.4 x 1.2’).1
Cat. 1817, p. 5, no. 57 (‘FIRST ROOM – North Side; A Landscape, with a Sportsman; Karel du Jardin’); Haydon 1817, p. 374, no. 57 (Karel du Jardin);2 Cat. 1820, p. 5, no. 57 (Karel du Jardin); Cat. 1830, no. 48; Jameson 1842, ii, p. 451, no. 48;3 Denning 1858 and 1859, no. 48 (Unknown);4 Sparkes 1876, p. 58, no. 48 (panel); Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 61, no. 48 (Dutch School – Unknown Artists; formerly ascribed to Karel Du Jardin; panel); Richter & Sparkes 1892, p. 125, no. 48 (panel); Richter & Sparkes 1905, p. 133, no. 48 (canvas); Cook 1914, p. 261, no. 471 (Dutch School); Cook 1926, p. 242; Cat. 1953, p. 23 (Arnold Houbraken); Murray 1980a, p. 303; Beresford 1998, p. 133 (Attributed to Houbraken); Laing 1999, p. 549 (copy after Withoos?);5 Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 112–13 (after or in the style of Arnold Houbraken); RKD, no. 286329: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/286329 (Nov. 7, 2017).
Hatchlands 1994, n.p., no. 471 (A. Sumner; Attributed to Matthias Withoos, known as Calzetta Bianca).
Fine plain-weave canvas. The pale grey ground has deliberately been used as a mid-tone in some areas and the dark areas are thinly painted. The signature is incised into the paint surface, lower right. Glue-lined onto linen. The painting seems to have been stretched over a slightly smaller stretcher at some point in the past and the original tacking margins have been cut off. The paint film is worn and discoloured, and dark areas are abraded, causing the ground to show through. There is an old (reintegrated) paint loss in the centre on the pyramid. The sombre tonality of the work is probably due, in part, to discolouration of the copper green glazes of the landscape and foliage, and of the blue pigment of the sky (possibly smalt). There is a fine, but fairly distracting, overall craquelure. Previous recorded treatment: 1874, surface dirt removed, varnished; 1952, partially cleaned and restored, Dr Hell; 2001, consolidated, cleaned and restored, S. Plender.
1) Matthias Withoos, Mors omnia vincit, canvas, 82.5 x 67.5 cm. Musée Jeanne d’Aboville, La Fère .6
2) Willem Frederiksz. van Royen after Jan Weenix, Hunter with Dog and Hunting Trophies, signed and dated Guiljelmo van Royen f. 1706, canvas, 121 x 97 cm. Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Brunswick, 443 .7
3a) Nicolaas Verkolje after Arnold Houbraken, Painter and Naked Model, mezzotint, 284 x 174 mm. BM, London, 1872,0113.787.8
3b) 18th-century copy after 3a (Nicolaas Verkolje after Arnold Houbraken), A Painter and his Model, inscribed AN Houbraken pinxit, panel, 28.5 x 19 cm. Van der Hoop Collection, City of Amsterdam, on loan to RM, Amsterdam, SK-C-153 .9
The authorship is problematic. The painting was classified as ‘Karel Dujardin’ (or Karel du Jardin (1626–78)) and later as ‘Dutch School’. The signature A. Houbraken is inscribed in the paint and so cannot be a later addition, but the style does not suggest that artist. In 1999 Alastair Laing, in his review of Richard Beresford’s catalogue of the Dulwich collection, suggested that the picture was ‘a – probably youthful – copy of a painting by Matthias Withoos’:10 see for instance Mors omnia vincit with a bust of Seneca by Matthias Withoos (c. 1627–1703; Related works, no. 1) , inspired by a painting by Salvator Rosa (1615–73). While it is possible that the Dulwich picture is by or after Withoos, its poor quality makes it equally plausible that it was executed by one of any of a number of copyists. There is a similar composition with a figure and hunting trophies by Willem Frederiksz. van Royen (c. 1645–1723) in Brunswick (Related works, no. 2) . A Painter and his Model in the Rijksmuseum has the same awkward character, and also bears a Houbraken signature (Related works, no. 3b) .11 A possible explanation is that it and the Dulwich picture are fakes, one a low life landscape and the other an amorous scene, created to ridicule Houbraken, the outspoken critic of bad art. However that could only have happened in the second half of the 19th century, at least after Thoré-Bürger’s publications.12 DPG471 seems to have been made in the first quarter of the 18th century.
The figure in this painting has traditionally been called a ‘sportsman’, but he seems too young for such a title, and the inclusion of the broken bust, the animal skull, and the funerary monument make it likely that the work was intended to have a vanitas significance, like many other 17th- and early 18th-century Dutch pictures.
after Arnold Houbraken pasticcio after Arnold Houbraken
Landscape with boy and dog, 1700-1725
canvas, oil paint 49,8 x 43,6 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG471
Mors omnia vincit: forest still life with vanitas symbols around a statue, 1660s
canvas, oil paint 82,5 x 67,5 cm
La Fère, Musée Jeanne d'Aboville, inv./cat.nr. MJA362
Willem Frederiksz. van Royen after Jan Weenix
Young hunter with dog and game, dated 1706
canvas, oil paint 121 x 97 cm
lower right : Guiljelmo van Royen / f. 1706
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./cat.nr. 443
after Arnold Houbraken
Painter and his model, 1690-1715
panel, oil paint 28,5 x 19 cm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. SK-C-153
1 This description does not seem to refer to DPG471, as the dimensions and the support are different, and there is no horse. However, it is not clear which picture could otherwise be Britton’s no. 328; it seems that DPG471 is the most likely candidate; moreover, it was considered to be on panel in several 19th-century Dulwich catalogues and to include a horse (see the following note).
2 ‘Landscape, with a Horse [sic] and Sportsman.’
3 ‘A Landscape’. No. 47 has as heading: ‘Karel du Jardin?’; Mrs Jameson probably means that for no. 48 as well (that has no heading of its own).
4 1858: ‘Unknown (formerly ascribed to Karel du Jardin; Certainly not by Karel du Jardin. S.P.D.)’; 1859: ‘This was formerly ascribed, like the preceding [i.e. DPG48, Follower of Dujardin], to Karel du Jardin, but with still less claim to be so honoured.’
5 ‘Is not the explanation of this untypical work by Houbraken (fig. 29) that it is a – probably youthful – copy of a painting by Matthias Withoos?’
6 RKD, no. 37572: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/37572 (Oct. 2, 2017); not in Joconde; see Tapié 1990, pp. 236–7, no. O.11 (C. Debrie). This is said to be based on a painting by Salvator Rosa, Democritus in Meditation, 1650–51 (SMK, Copenhagen, KMS4112: see https://collection.smk.dk/#/en/detail/KMS4112 (Oct. 2, 2017). Another Withoos is said to be based on the same Rosa, Night Scene in a Churchyard (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Reims): see Tapié 1990, pp. 232–3, no. O.9.
8 https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1872-0113-787 (July 6, 2020); Knolle & Korthals Altes 2011, pp. 158–9, no. 51 (S. Broekhoven in collaboration with R.-J. te Rijdt). See for the Rijksprentenkabinet copy: RKD, no. 286701: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/286701 (Nov. 14, 2017).
9 RKD, no. 286668: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/286668 (Nov. 11, 2017); http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.8778 (Oct. 2, 2017); Pollmer 2004, pp. 155–6, no. 81, fig. 37 on p. 46 (Houbraken), who gives an overview of the different attributions, among which is Horn 2000 (pp. 626–67, 846, notes 13–34), who says it may be by the Antwerp painter Melchior Brassauw (1709–after 1757).
10 Laing 1999, p. 549.
11 The Rijksmuseum painting, after having been considered a ‘real’ Houbraken in several museum catalogues, is now an 18th-century copy or an imitation after a print by Nicolaas Verkolje (1673–1746), who had made a reproduction print of an invention by Houbraken (Related works, no. 3a), as was suggested by Hofstede de Groot already in 1893. See Pollmer 2004 as mentioned in note 9 above.
12 See Bergvelt 2004b, p. 46.