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Herman Jansz Breckerveld was born in Duisburg, Germany, in 1595/1596. He left his birth country for religious and economic reasons, deciding to settle in the Netherlands. There is evidence he was living in The Hague in the year 1622, though there is a strong possibility that he had been in the country for some time before then. It is probable that he learned the trade of glass making from a Master in Arnhem. Whilst living in The Hague Breckerveld befriended David Beck, Master of the French School there. Beck kept a diary of the year 1624 from which much information on the daily lives of himself and his friend Breckerveld can be drawn. Breckerveld was registered as an official glass maker of The Hague St. Luke Guild in 1623. The levels of his success varied, resulting in financial ups and downs. In March of 1624 he took on the role of teaching, taking on a student, most probably his first. In August of the same year he acquired new accommodation, where the first evidence of a workshop can be found. This workshop contained a glass furnace, the first he could claim to be his own. Prior to this he would take his glasses to Delft for them to be baked there. Little is known of commissions which Breckerveld may have received in his period in The Hague. Beck does mention a number of commissions for producing glasses, but these were for family members of Beck, who were among Breckerveld's circle of friends and acquaintances. At the end of 1625 Breckerveld, by this time married, left The Hague for Arnhem with his wife Jenneke Arents. He registered himself in the same year as glass maker and painter at the guild. From this time until his death in 1673 he ran a successful glass workshop with a total of 20 students, including his own son, Josua, who would later take over the running of the workshop just before his father's death. Breckerveld received many commissions from the city of Arnhem, a few from local organisations, and even some from the city of Nijmegen. A total amount of 3,000 guilders in commissions can be traced back from city account records. The majority of these earnings were made from the installation or renovation of clear or painted glass. Many commissions were for so-called 'tribute glasse', which were presented by the city of Arnhem to certain citizens or organisations. Alongside his work as a glass painter, Breckerveld was also active as a calligrapher and painter. Furthermore, he was periodically involved in many other work activities. This kind of versatility was hard to come by in the mid seventeenth century in the province of Zeeland in Holland, and in Utrecht. The artists in these regions, which at the time formed the economic heart of the Republic, had already specialised in their form of choice. The generalist Breckerveld would most probably have found it very difficult to compete with the large number of specialists in the more economically developed regions, who all had developed a very high standard of craftsmanship. Perhaps he was conscious of this and made the decision to move to Arnhem to avoid this competition. No painted glasses by Herman Breckerveld are known. It may be suggested that a glass with a depiction of Christ and the Samaritan Woman can be attributed to him. The only collection of his artistry known to date consists of 20 signed and attributed drawings, six prints, one painting and some calligraphic work. All but four of the drawings were produced in the period 1624-1626. Eight landscapes form, together with a set of signed landscapes dated from 1625, a stylistically unambiguous group. During this period he worked with thick, precisely placed lines, despite using almost no washing. His compositions from this time seem to be rather old fashioned for the period. He seems to have drawn inspiration mainly from artists such as Paulus Bril, Hendrick Goltzius and Jacob de Gheyn II. Furthermore, a group of four figure drawings can be attributed to him. Three drawings from the National Museum of Stockholm and one from the Detroit Institute of Arts were previously attributed to Hendrick Bloemaert and Herman Blockhauwcr, respectively. The drawings were made in the same style as Breckerveld's landscapes and seem to have been inspired by the series of prints 'Handling Weapons' by Jacob de Gheyn. Breckerveld often used prints by other artists as an example from which he worked. He was also inspired in this way by the work of Claes Jansz. Visscher, Hendrick Goltzius and Abraham Blocmart. There are only three signed drawings and one attributed drawing known by Breckerveld from the period post-1626. The style and technique of these differ greatly from the drawings from the period 1624-1626, the most obvious being the change in medium from pcn to brush. It is possible that there are more unsigned drawings from the period post-1626 that have remained intact, however, without material to compare these to one cannot without a doubt attribute these to Breckerveld. A number of attributed drawings made to him in the past arc for this reason not entirely convincing. Little research has been carried out into the work of Herman Breckerveld, as is the case for many seventeenth century artists. This lack of interest is partly due to the limited artistic value of their work. Any research does, however, contain cultural historical value. It provides us with new information on the social background of the non-specialised masters of a smaller level than their great counterparts. Even more so, research into these masters can assist in identifying the artists of the many as yet anonymous drawings from this period.

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/content/journals/10.1163/187501707x00257
2007-01-01
2015-04-25

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