The stage played a central role in the cultural life of the city and as one of the first theatres in Amsterdam, originally founded as the Duytsche Academie in 1617, before being redesigned in 1632 by the architect Jacob van Campen: the Schouwburg, as it came to be known, was an important social and cultural destination. Subsequently rebuilt and enlarged in 1665, to a design more in keeping with the Baroque manner, it is in this guise that Vinkeles has depicted the Schouwburg, in this watercolor, dating to 1760.
Over the course of its 155 year history the various incarnations of the theatre that stood on this site played host to performances of plays by the likes of Shakespeare, Voltaire and Moliere, welcomed Vivaldi to conduct the theatre’s orchestra and received many illustrious visitors, including the Prince of Orange, the Czar of Russia and the King of Poland. In May 1772, twelve years after the present sheet was drawn, the theatre was completely destroyed by fire during the performance of a Flemish operetta. The 17th-century sandstone entrance gate, designed by Jacob van Campen, and the official residence of the theatre, located directly behind, were, however, spared in the fire, and are now home to the boutique Dylan Hotel, and it's Michelin starred Restaurant Vinkeles.
Vinkeles is known to have made several finished versions of a pendant pair of scenes, of various sizes and each with different staffage, depicting the Schouwburg on the Keizersgracht canal; one with figures arriving at the theatre in daylight and the other with people leaving the theatre at night. Other examples of these views may have been made as single works, rather than pendants. In the drawings of figures arriving at the theatre, such as the present work, Vinkeles has placed the scene in summer, with the trees in full foliage and the artist looking north with the canal at the right, while the nighttime scenes are depicted in winter, with the trees bare and the canal at the left, viewed from the opposite direction.
A pair of such views, considerably smaller than the present sheet, appeared on the French art market in 1999 and are today in the collection of the John and Marine van Vlissingen Art Foundation in the Netherlands,2 whilst a slightly later pair of the same scenes, dated 1762, and also smaller than our drawing, are in the collection of the Amsterdam City Archives.3
1. See Master Drawings 2017, exhib. cat., London/New York, Stephen Ongpin Fine Art, no. 18, reproduced
2. Sale, Paris, Tajan, 18 May 1999, lot 115; see Robert-Jan te Rijdt, in Home and Abroad, Dutch and Flemish Landscape Drawings from the John and Marine van Vlissingen Art Foundation, exhib. cat., Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, and Paris, Fondation Custodia, 2015-16, pp. 188-192, nos 81a and 81b
3. Amsterdam, Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchief, inv. nos. Atlas Splitberger 481-482
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