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Catalogus Van Nog Bestaande Schilderijen

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image of Oud Holland - Quarterly for Dutch Art History

The Catholic Baron Willem Vincent van Wyttenhorst (I6I3-I674) from Utrecht was an enthusiastic collector of paintings. In his translation of Guarini's Il Pastor Fido, Hendrick Bloemaert even lauded Willem Vincent's 'Lofweerdigh cabinet' (commendable cabinet) of paintings. The inventory Wyttenhorst made of his collection between I65I and I659 affords insight into various aspects of the seventeenth-century art trade. Not only did he record the subject and maker of around I95 paintings, but also the price and often how he had acquired them. Part of the collection - in particular the finely painted works by Cornelis van Poelenburgh and Herman Saftleven - were auctioned in I722. Of Willem Vincent van Wyttenhorst's collection approximately 75 paintings can be traced to Herdringen Castle of the Von Fürstenberg family and several museums, making it possible to establish the relationship between the dimensions and the quality of execution, and the price they commanded in the seventeenth century. Willem Vincent acquired the greatest number of his paintings between I630 and I659, the majority of which were by contemporary masters, some of whom he knew personally. His collection also included several important sixteenth-century pictures by artists such as Cornelis Engebrechtszn, Jan van Scorel and Maerten van Heemskerck, which had come into his possession via his family or via that of his wife Wilhelmina van Bronckhorst. On the one hand, the Wyttenhorst collection is comparable to those of other aristocratic collectors and, on the other hand, to those of well-to-do connoisseurs such as Franciscus de la Boe Sylvius and Hendrick Bugge van Ring of Leiden. Its aristocratic character is evidenced by the prominent place occupied by family portraits: he owned a total of 4I likenesses, 29 of which were made for him and his wife. In I650 Bartholomeus van der Helst needed six weeks to portray Willem Vincent and his wife Wilhelmina van Bronckhorst for the amount of 330 guilders. Wyttenhorst appears to have preferred highly refined small paintings. Not a single genre was overlooked in the collection. Taking pride of place were approximately 90 pastoral scenes and Arcadian landscapes, which added to the collection's aristocratic aura. Furthermore, in keeping with his Catholic background, Willem Vincent had relatively many (25) paintings with religious subjects and devotional works. Striking is also the group of about 20 genre scenes with primarily peasant themes. The II flower and fruit still lifes listed in the inventory were purchased by Wilhelmina van Bronckhorst between I640 and I642 during her first marriage. Regrettably, the inventory only rarely indicates where the pictures hung. On the basis of the scant information, however, it emerges that Wilhelmina van Bronckhorst's cabinet was richly adorned with a variety of paintings. This cabinet also served as the 'Ahnengalerie' (gallery of forefathers) for the I9 family portraits by Cornelis van Poelenburgh. The exceptional status of the Wyttenhorst collection is reflected by the proportionally very modest number of eight anonymous paintings. Moreover, Willem Vincent describes ten copies, most of which he commissioned. The majority of painters mentioned by Wyttenhorst were active in Utrecht, while the overwhelming majority of non-Utrecht masters were active in Haarlem. Wyttenhorst owned about 90 paintings by Utrecht Italianates and related painters such as Poelenburgh, De Heus, Both, Berchem and Saftleven. He maintained intensive contact with Cornelis van Poelenburgh and Herman Saftleven, by whom he owned 57 and I8 paintings respectively. Among the Haarlem artists represented by a few works in his collection were Pieter de Molijn, Adriaen van Ostade and Wouwerman. Interestingly, the vast majority of the painters Wyttenhorst mentioned in his inventory are still known or even famous. The collection also comprised several collaborative efforts, such as Il Contento by Nicolaes Knüpfer, Jan Baptist Weenix and Jan Both. It is notable that Wyttenhorst regularly acquired work by young painters who had just barely begun; a good example is the painting he purchased in I638 from the then at most I8-year-old Nicolaes Berchem. A number of paintings were given to Willem Vincent by relatives and acquaintances. Some works entered his collection through exchange, for example via the Hague collector d'Arminvillers. He also bought the occasional painting from a private individual. In the case of 85 paintings, Wyttenhorst noted that he had bought them directly from a master. He also purchased from art dealers, in particular works by non-Northern Netherlandish painters via Dirck Matham. These were usually small, modestly priced paintings. In a few instances he acquired a painting at an auction, from an estate, at a market, kermis or from a pedlar. Incidentally, he acknowledged that the latter works were not highpoints in his collection. Thus, in amassing his collection, Willem Vincent used all of the channels available around the mid-seventeenth century. The prices of the paintings acquired by Wyttenhorst differed significantly. The cheapest was a panel of Three deer heads by Jacques Savery at 3 guilders, and the most expensive a Peasant kermis by Herman Saftleven at 500 guilders. A large number of works costing more than I00 guilders are explicitly described as history paintings. The finely executed Arcadian landscapes - often on copper - range in price from 30 to I50 guilders. The prices for works by Italianate painters do not differ much and appear to have depended mostly on their dimensions; the larger ones cost exactly twice as much as the smaller ones. The greatest variation in prices is found among the genre scenes. In the case of several paintings, Wyttenhorst noted that their value had exceeded the purchase price. Unfortunately, there is insufficient information to confirm the accuracy of all of his assertions. There are a few indications that the value of the Peasant sheds by the Saftleven brothers did, indeed, rise around the mid-seventeenth century. Willem Vincent's comment that Jacob Matham's flower and fruit still lifes had sharply increased in value between I642 and about I655 is also confirmed by contemporary sources. In addition to the I9 family portraits by Cornelis van Poelenburgh mentioned above, Wyttenhorst owned I7 landscapes by the artist ranging in price between 30 and 90 guilders. For the eight history paintings listed in the inventory, Willem Vincent paid amounts above I00 guilders, the most expensive being a Passion scene for 464 guilders. Alongside these originals, Wyttenhorst also owned several copies after Poelenburgh by Toussaint Gelton and by the master himself. Their prices serve as a good indication of the value attached to the originality of an invention. For these copies after originals - which also were (or had been) in the collection - approximately 1/4 of the price of the original was paid. Wyttenhorst owned several genre scenes and many landscapes by Herman Saftleven. Several of them are described in the inventory as Rhine landscapes. Willem Vincent's Saftlevens included a surprising number of pendants of two (and in one instance a series of four) paintings. On the whole, he appears to have paid more for works by Saftleven than by Poelenburgh. There is insufficient information to allow for a comparison of the prices Wyttenhorst paid for work by Poelenburgh and Saftleven and the value of their work in estate inventories or with the amounts they fetched at auction. However, this is possible with the landscapes by Pieter de Molijn and Dirck Verhaert. In the case of De Molijn, Wyttenhorst paid the master four times more than the price of I0 guilders most frequently given in estate inventories. An explanation for this enormous discrepancy could be that like Herman Saftleven, De Molijn produced work of diverging quality. He crafted both original, finely executed inventions for art collectors such as Willem Vincent van Wyttenhorst as well as small paintings for the open market, which were variations on a basic theme. For a painting by Dirck Verhaert, a Haarlem artist who simply followed popular trends, Wyttenhorst paid the modest amount of 6 guilders, a price that differs very little from the estimated values in estate inventories. On the basis of the above a tentative conclusion can be drawn regarding the services rendered by artists around the mid-seventeenth century who, incidentally, did not depend exclusively on the sale of their own paintings, but also relied on the sale of their pupils' work, the art trade, making assessments, restoration activities and apprenticeship fees. Should a painter like Poelenburgh, Berchem or De Molijn sell a few paintings per month for roughly 40 guilders, their earnings would soon exceed that of the 36 guilders in wages of a trained craftsman. However, this in no way applies to a minor artist such as Dirck Verhaert, who had to settle for 6 guilders per painting. Financial success was thus primarily the reserve of painters with talent and ingenuity. To win the patronage of discerning connoisseurs such as Willem Vincent van Wyttenhorst, an artist had to provide high-quality work and be innovative within a given genre.


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