THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
This view of the Town Hall in Haarlem is one of Saenredam’s earliest paintings. Though not dated, it is generally thought to have been painted circa 1630. Salomon de Bray’s remodelling of the Town Hall from 1630 onwards is generally accepted to be a terminus ante quem for Saenredam’s painting, because it would be highly out of character for this most meticulous of painters to have produced an out of date depiction of an important landmark. His earliest church interiors are dated 1628. They already reveal an artist whose style, as well as his working method, was already fully developed, for example in the extremely complex Interior of the Bavokerk, Haarlem in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.1 The present picture is unlikely to be earlier than 1628, however. This was the year in which Saenredam’s first important commission, to provide illustrations for Samuel Ampzing’s Beschryvinge ende lof der Stad Haarlem (“Description and Praise of the City of Haarlem”), engraved by Jan van de Velde II after Saenredam’s drawings, came to fruition. One of the plates depicts the Town Hall from further away – from the other side of the Groote Markt – and from a viewpoint slightly to the left of the one from which the present picture is taken (see fig. 1).2 The plate in Ampzing’s patriotic encomium of his beloved Haarlem is often said to have been based on a careful drawing by Saenredam now in the Amsterdams Historisch Museum which was then subsequently used for the painting (see fig. 2).3 The viewpoint and angle of depiction of the drawing coincides, however, exactly with that of the present painting. While it is possible that Saenredam made the drawing at an earlier date, and then used it for this painting, the plate in Ampzing must have been based on another, presumably now lost drawing. Moreover, it is much more plausible that Saenrdam made the drawing in preparation for the present painting. The reflections cast by architectural elements such as the balcony of the New Tribunal are identical in drawing and painting. They suggest a low winter mid-morning sun.4
Examination of the panel under infrared imaging (see fig. 3) reveals a highly dynamic preparation process, and one which found the artist adjusting his original design quite dramatically. Of major consequence is Saenredam’s decision to shift the entire Old Town Hall to the right nearly two inches, thus placing it in a more central position relative to the entire composition. Fascinating and substantial shifts to the spires, chimneys, windows, and roof line have all been changed as the artist comes to understand the appropriate orientation for the major architectural element in the composition. Smaller changes are also visible, for instance the exclusion of an originally drawn window to the right of the central entry staircase. Insight into Saenredaem’s sophisticated understanding of perspective is also gained through IRR examination. At the left corner of the roof he extends the straight line, bisecting it at a near 45 degree angle so as to plan out the remainder of the accurately rendered architecture. While much of the under-drawing is drawn freehand, and is highly spontaneous in character, outlines of the roof of the Town Hall are drawn with a rule, a technique that was to form the basis of Saenredam’s under-drawing later on in his career.
Haarlem, a city with roots in the early middle ages, was a well-established and wealthy center by Saenredam’s time. Ampzing’s Beschryvinge… gives us a clear idea of Haarlem’s importance, not only in trade, but also in the civilizing arts of literature, painting and music, and he kept it updated in successive editions, adding for example Frans Hals (who portrayed Ampzing) in the edition of 1628. The oldest part of the complex of buildings on the west side of the Grote Markt in Haarlem comprising the Town Hall is the largest, dating from circa 1370: a brick structure surmounted by crenellation. In the late 14th and early 15th centuries it was extended to include three additions: the Small Tribunal (the structure with the stepped gable-end right of centre), the Great Tribunal (occupying much of the picture plane) and the Magistrates’ House (also send gable end-on to the right), as well as the small corner (bell) tower to the left and a larger tower to the right. In 1596 Lieven de Key added the first Renaissance architectural element – and the first element entirely in stone – in the form of the double flight of stairs leading to the entrance (removed in 1633). He was also responsible for the design of the new wing added in the Zijlstraat, visible here behind the Magistrates’ House by the row of chimneys that surmount its roof. The three statues above and flanking the entrance to the Great Tribunal were presumably added after 1465, and their removal so a balcony could be constructed above the entrance form part of De Bray’s renovations in 1630, which included classicizing the Great Tribunal and extending De Key’s wing towards the viewer on the Groote Markt.
With the exception of Lieven de Key’s double flight of steps to the entrance, Saenredam’s present view depicts the old medieval Town Hall, including the storks’ nests on the wooden structures placed for them on the ridge of the roof. This was the seat of government and the place from which justice was dispensed, and was believed to have been the Court of the Counts of Holland. It would have been understood in Saenredam’s day as a place of importance and as an emblem of the importance of Haarlem founded on the authority that its long history blessed it with. As Ampzing’s text below the view of the Town Hall from across the Groote Markt makes clear: “The Counts of Holland have since olden days/ Held court in Holland, to our glory and praise”.5
An appreciation of the importance of the setting is vital to an understanding of the event depicted here, which took place during the latter stages of the Twelve Years Truce with the Spanish, when the nascent Dutch Republic was riven with internal political and religious strife. Within the Calvinist church, the Remonstrants, the liberal faction, were at odds with the orthodox Counter Remonstrants, while in the political arena, the republicans were opposed to the increasing power of the Stadtholder. The latter, Prince Maurits, sided for political reasons with the Counter-Remonstrants , and in October 1618 toured the country with a substantial militia suppressing Remonstrant and republican factions, and replacing Governors where necessary. On the 24th – 25th October 1618, Prince Maurits arrived in the Groote Markt in Haarlem with his military entourage. He is probably the figure on a white charger in front of the Town Hall led by a trumpeter sounding a salute while to the left and right musketeers fire salutes.6 It would have been well understood in Saenredam’s time that Prince Maurits drew moral as well as spiritual authority from the ancient Counts of Holland, before whose court and center of government he is arriving in order to replace its recent Republican administration with one of more ancient cast. The event was one of great significance in the history of The Netherlands, and it is worth noting that the subject was understood when the present picture was in the sale of the Haarlem printer Johannes Enschedé in 1786.
It is not entirely clear why Saenredam would have chosen to paint this subject in circa 1630, twelve years after the event depicted. Gary Schwartz and Marten Jan Bok have come up with an interesting suggestion.7 On April 10th 1628 the Stadtholder Fredrik Hendrik passed through Haarlem on the way to Amsterdam to put down an uprising, no doubt reviving memories of events a decade earlier. In 1630 two of Prince Maurits’ hand-picked councillors of the 1618 coup, Pieter Olycan and Nicolaes le Febure, became Burgomasters for the first time, and either may have wished to commemorate the event that led to their elevation.
While the concept and most of the execution of this painting is entirely that of Saenredam, the staffage - the figures and horses are as Gudlaugsson first noticed, are by Pieter Post (Haarlem 1608-1669 The Hague).8 Pieter was the elder brother of the more famous painter Frans Post, who was in 1636 to be taken to Brazil by Prince Johan Maurits, where he produced a series of remarkable paintings, the first depictions of the New World done at first hand. In circa 1630 however, it was Pieter Post who was the better –known of the brothers. He collaborated with Saenredam on at least one other occasion, in a view of The Colosseum, Rome, dated 1631.9 Not many paintings by Pieter Post are known: his early works of the 1630s are predominantly landscapes, and, ironically in the context of the present work, later pictures comprise architectural elements done in collaboration with figure painters. He found far greater renown in the realm of architecture, designing the Mauritshuis and the Huis ten Bosch, both in The Hague, both in collaboration with Jacob van Campen. Together they are credited with introducing the Baroque to the Netherlands, and it was almost certainly Pieter Post’s close association with Prince Johan Maurits while planning the Mauritshuis that led to the employment of Frans Post on the 1636-44 expedition of Maurits de Braziliaan.
A drawing by Hendrik Spilman after this painting, dated 1749, attributes this picture to Saenredam.10 The drawing belonged to Johannes Enschedé, and was published by him in collaboration with his brother Izaäk and Jan Bosch (the municipal printers of Haarlem) as a print in 1753. In the light of this, it is not surprising that, already noted, both correct authorship, subject and plausible date were given in the Enschedé sale catalogue of 1786. No doubt because sites in Haarlem, including the Groote Market and Town Hall, were painted often by Gerrit Berckheyde later in the 17th Century, this painting was given to him when sold at Christie’s in London in 1871, and this mistaken attribution survived until after 1927. Its subsequent owner, the renowned connoisseur and savant Frits Lugt, was almost certainly responsible for restoring it to its correct authorship, though doubtless not until after he had acquired it as a work by the lesser and less valuable painter.
1. See Schwartz & Bok under literature, p. 63, reproduced fig. 67. The construction drawing for it is in the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo; idem, p. 62, reproduced fig. 64.
2. After page 57.
3. Amsterdam, Amsterdams Historisch Museum. Pen and brown ink, brown and gray wash, 17 by 26.5 cm.
4. Although the event depicted took place in a late October afternoon, when much of the Groote Markt and all of the façade of the Town hall would have been in shadow.
5. Gelijk soo voor als na het Grafelyke Hof/ Te Haerlem is geweest tot onser eer en lof.
6. Prince Maurits’ mount is generally portrayed as a white horse, perhaps because of the Spanish stallion captured at the Battle of Nieuwpoort and presented to him as a trophy.
7. See Schwartz & Bok under literature, pp. 57, 66.
8. See Gudlaugsson under literature.
9. Private collection. See Schwartz & Bok under literature, p. 75, reproduced fig. 67.
10. the drawing is now in the Gemeente Archief, Haarlem. It is inscribed: Afbeelding van t' Stadhuis te Haarlem Ao. 1630. P. Saenredam Pinx.
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