Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde
- Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde
- The Plaats with the Binnenhof and the Gevangenpoort, The Hague
- signed lower left : J Berck Heyde
- oil on panel
- 12 5/8 x 15 7/8 inches
With Richard Green, London;
Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby's, 4 June 1987, lot 64;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 7 July 1989, lot 27;
There purchased by the present collector.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."
This delightful townscape is one of Berckheyde's rare views of The Hague and dates from his time there during the mid 1680s and the 1690s. Thus it is significantly later than Berckheyde's views of Haarlem and Amsterdam and executed at a point in his career when he had perfected the art of painting topographical views of sophisticated and refined urban life.
It was only with the 1672 appointment of Willem III as Stadtholder of Holland that the House of Orange-Nassau returned to favor, creating a vogue for depictions of The Hague and its castle complex. Willem's popularity increased as he proved himself to be a brave and able leader in the Republic's war with France which ended in 1678 and was further enhanced by his April 1689 elevation to the English throne. Berckheyde was making a calculated business decision when he travelled to The Hague to depict its architectural, and by implication, its political magnificence. Many of his views of the city are populated by court figures assembling either for hunting parties or a journey as if to emphasize its role as a bustling hub of power. Hague views are amongst his most admired and sought after pictures, both for the aforementioned historical reasons and for the astounding skill with which he records architectural details in a classical, almost dispassionate, fashion.
Berckheyde was not interested in depicting the public areas of the city, or its medieval Main Square and back streets. His focus was the court, and his paintings of this period are confined to depictions of its main buildings, which he painted repeatedly from a number of different angles. The present painting is no exception, with Berckheyde choosing to record the Binnenhof, the inner courtyard of the castle complex, with the Gevangenpoort to the right, the prison for political prisoners. On the far left in the foreground he depicts the Groene Zoodje, the site of public execution, and the gallows pole itself. In the centre Berckheyde affords us a glimpse of the Hofvijver, the last remaining part of the ancient defensive moat that once surrounded the medieval residence begun by Willem II in 1298.
Berckheyde's description of the scene is topographically accurate in most details, but the perspective has been somewhat manipulated to enhance the buildings. He carefully describes the architecture through a series of cohesive vertical and horizontal lines, effectively foreshortened and described in pale tonalities of buff, pink and grey. Overall the scene is bathed in a clear golden light and wispy clouds float through the summer sky creating a dappled effect in the foreground. There is a large patch of shadow in the foreground that serves to direct one's attention further back to the architecture itself and, whilst the cause of this shadow is not clear in the present painting, other works of the same view show that three linden trees grew here (see note below). His composition is cool and luminous and his inclusion of a number of courtly figures adds a note of animation. The palette he uses for this staffage is more saturated than in the rest of the composition which makes them stand out and gives them an added vitality. In the back left two gentleman ride out on their well bred horses, in the foreground an elegantly dress couple stroll hand in hand across the Plaats and back left a magnificently caparisoned carriage in the blue and gold livery of the house of Orange-Nassau waits with its attendant footman drawn by a pair of matching greys. There is even a peasant woman and her child seated along the enclosing wall of the Hovijver but Berckheyde's colours here are more muted than he uses for the rest of the figures and he does not draw attention to them. The setting is very much the grand and lively court; however, by including both the prison block and the public gallows, Berckheyde is also depicting emblems of power.
The present painting is unique in Berckheyde's oeuvre in that it depicts an unobstructed view of the Binnenhof. Two other known paintings by the artist of this same view include linden trees in the foreground, and additional figures and carriages.
1. See C. Lawrence, Gerrit Adriaensz Berckheyde 1638-1698), Doornspijk 1991, p. 71, reproduced plate 75 (dated 1687); and the other sold London Christie's, 5 July 2007, lot 23 for $1,034,914.