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'Notitie der Teekeningen van Sybrand Feitama': de boekhouding van drie generaties verzamelaars van oude Nederlandse tekenkunst

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image of Oud Holland - Quarterly for Dutch Art History

The name Feitama is familiar to all students of drawings, for the famous I8th-century collectors J. Goll van Franckenstein and C. Ploos van Amstel are known to have made important purchases at the Feitama sale in I758 (Note I). In the provenances of such drazvings reference is usually made to the sale catalogue (Note 2), but in the Netherlands Institute for Art History in The Hague there is another important document, a notebook in which Sybrand II Feitama kept an accurate record of all transactions relating to the collection. In its 67 pages, all written in pen in the same hand, the artists represented are listed in alphabetical order and each entry under them contains a detailed description of the subject-matter of the work or works and its date or presumed date, with a note of its market value or the price paid and the names of the dealers, collectors or sales in question (Fig. I). In all there are I762 entries, these actually representing afar larger number of drawings, since many refer to pairs, groups or series of drawings. The book covers the period from I685 up to Feitama's death in I758 (Note 3). Remarkably, there appears to be only one mention of this lively document in the literature (Note 4). It came from the collection of Prof essor J. Six (Note 5) and in I9I8 Frits Lugt made a transcript of it, linking it item by item with the sale catalogue and adding an index. This is also in the Institute. There, however, the matter appears to have rested, with the result that Sybrand II Feltama, who had no collector's mark, has remained a rather shadpsu fogire, along with other interesting collectors and dealers of the period who are repeatedly mentioned in the manuscript and also known from reports by Houbraken (Note 6). The printed sale catalogue actually consists of extracts from this notebook, but it does also amplify it in respect of the techniques and dimensions of the drawings, so that the two documents together constitute a unique source, especially as the catalogue obviously does not include the several hundred drawings that left the collection before the sale. The notebook further reveals that three generations worked on this collection. Sybrand II Feitama was not born until I694, so the marry notes with a I7th-century date must relate to information from his grandfather or father, who have not previously been numbered among the known circle of Dutch I7th-century collectors of drawings (Note 8). Of tlte grandfather, Sybrand I Feitama (I620-I70I, Note 9), there exists a portrait of I685 (Fig. 2, Note I0) in a style that clearly points to the mezzotint-engraver Jan van Somer (c. I645-after I699), similar self-portraits by whom are to be found in Amsterdam and Paris (Notes II and I2). Feitama is shown there as a poet and collector of curiosities. He was actually a druggist by profession and lived on the Damrak in Amsterdam. In his collections of poems published in I684 and I885 (Note I3) he makes modest mention of this collection of curiosities, but says nothing about his art collection. This is, however, referred to by his friend, the poet and mathematician Jan Norel ( I635-I790), in I685 - 6, precisely the period of the oldest notes in the notebook. Feitama did in fact live in quite an artistic milieu, as his wife Elsgen came from the Rooleeuwfamily of merchants, who were also art-collectors and related to artists like Jacob Backer and Abraham van den Tempel (Note I7). Sybrand I's grandson copied his notes so carefully that it is possible to arrive at a complete description of his collection, something very rare for that period. It comprised work by Dutch artists in the main, over 70 different names among them (Note I8), the most important belonging to the generation of Sybrand I himself. Four water scenes by Ludolf Bakhuizen were bought direct from the artist, everything else via collectors or dealers such as C. van Dalen, A. de Rijck, S. Schijnvoet, C. Sennepart and J P. Zomer. Not so much is known about Sybrand I's Isaac Feitama (I666-I709), who was also married to a Rooleeuw and lived on the Damrak (Note I9). He is mentioned twice in the notebook with great emphasis in connection with the purchase of six drawings of I653 by Nicolaas Berchem in I695 and one by Frans van Mieris (Fig. 3, Note 20) in I704, for which a very detailed provenance is given. His collecting activities belonged mainly to the first decade of the I8th century. He already acted as buyer during his father's lifetime and the many notes dated I704 could all have been by him, as well as the purchases marked before I709'. He too mainly collected works by Dutch masters (Note 23), thus continuing his father's policy, which seems to have been one of deliberate specialization. The collection certainly contrasts with other large collections of the period, such as those of De Flines, Six and Zomer, which contained considerable numbers of Italian drawings (Note 24). Sybrand II Feitama ( I694-I758, Fig. 4) is mainly known as a poet. He was originally intended for the ministry, but because of his weak constitution he was put to work in an office. However, he gradually came to devote himself entirely to poetry and drawing. The latter aspect of his activities has scarcely been known up to now, but he was praised as an artist by Josi (Note 26), who remarked that he was a pupil of Abraham Rademaker. The notebook contains references to works purchased from the latter in I715 and I7I8. Feitama's drawings were mainly watercolour copies of painting. Ploos van Amstel owned a few of them and a signed example of I7 I7 was sold recently (Fig. 5, Note 28). The latter appears in the sale catalogue along with six others, but Feitama was too modest to include them in his notebook (Note 29). In respect of the collection, he made hardly any change in the purchasing policy. His first purchase was very probably that of some landscapes by Joos de Momper, which is expressly dated I5 November I709, the year of his father's death, and from then on he was a very active collector. Although a large part of what is now known as the Feltama Collection was amassed by his grandfather and father, Sybrand II did not inherit all their collection. A comment in the notebook on a drawing of a quack doctor by Jan Miense Molenaer (now in Moscow, Notes 33 and 34) shows that some drawings must have been sold at the sale of Isaac's estate in I7 I2. As a young man Sybrand II must have had enough money to enable him to enlarge the collection considerably. He regularly attended sales and was familiar with the most important collectors and dealers of the day. At the end of his life he also parted with a lot of drawings, mainly duplicates, but also some by foreign artists, namely L. Agricola, L. le Hyre, N. Poussin and S. Vouet. This seems to have been done deliberately in order to strengthen the Dutch accent of the collection. It certainly became a representative collection of Dutch I7th-century masters, amplified by only afew 'outsiders' (Flemings, Albrecht Dürer, Adam Elsheimer and Wenzel Hollar), one or two I6th-century artists and quite a number of contemporaries of sybrand II. These naturaly included his friends Abraham de Haen, Isaac de Moucheron and Nicolaas Verkolje, as well as his teacher Abraham Rademaker. The best represented artists were I7th-century draughtsmen like Ludolf Bakhuizen, Nicolaas Berchem, Jan de Bisschop, Allaert van Everdingen, Adriaen van Ostade, Jacob van Ruisdael, Herman Saftleven and Adriaen van de Velde. It is not known how the Feitamas kept their drawings, though a note on an Elsheimer suggests that they were laid down and stored in portfolios, which may have been ordered alphabetically like the notebook. They were certainly arranged in portfolios for the sale, this time under different headings, e.g. rare drawings, coloured drawings, landscapes, with the choicest items alzvays on top. The abundance of new information yielded by the notebook is illustrated here by one or two examples. In the case of Jacob van Ruisdael, for instance, Feitama owned so many drawings that Giltay assumed in a recent article that he must have bought them en bloc (Note 37). The notebook reveals, however, that the 38 sheets were acquired over a considerable period (Fig. 6) . Twelve were bought by Sybrand I and/or Isaac and the rest by Sybrand II on numerous occasions between I7I0 and I756. In some instances, e.g. the drawing in Fig. 7 (Note 39), the provenance can be traced almost without a break back to the artist himself. The entry here states that the drawing was done by Ruisdael around I670, finished by Dirk Dalens and valued at seven guilders around I690. Dirk II Dalens died in I688 so the drawing must have been bought from him or his estate. His finishing' of it was probably limited in this case to drawing the lines round it and adding the monogram, but there is no doubt that he worked up quite a lot of Ruisdael's drawings more eleborately and it was perhaps this that gave the Feitamas the idea of having others touched up by Isaac de Moucheron and Nicolaas Verkolje. The date of the drawing is given as around I670, which menas that the exact date was not known. Unfortunately these dates were taken over into the sale catalogue (often without the 'around') and this can and had given rise to misunderstandings (Note 47). The notes on Adriaen van Ostade also give a somewhat different picture from usual of the provenance of his drawings. According to Josi, the majority of his famous watercolours belonged to the Witsen family in the I8th century (Note 48), this on account of Houbraken's tale that Jonas Witsen bought them from the estate of the Amsterdam silk-dyer Constantijn Sennepart, who is supposed to have inspired their production (Note 49). But Sennepart did not keep all these drawings until his death, for the notebook shows that the Feitamas already owned two of them (now in Paris and Darmstadt, Notes 50 and 5I) in I695. Sybrand II also acquired a number: one from the collection of Izaac Delcourt and one from that of Jeronimus Tonneman, both in I7I4, one from the collection of Simon Schijnvoet in I7I6 and one at the I. Delcourt sale in I744. This also adds to our scant knowledge of Sennepart's collection, while it is also possible to distill from Lugt's index to the notebook all the transactions in which he was involved, the Feitamas buying numerous works from him over the years by artists such as Nicolaas Berchem, Pieter Coopse, Cornelis van Dalen, Allaert van Everdingen, Herman Saftleven, Adriaen van de Velde, Jacob van der Does, Jan de Bisschop, Carel Dujardin, Marten de Cock and Esaias van de Velde. The same applies to around 60 other collectors and dealers mentioned in the notebook (Note 53). Some examples are also given of identifications of drawings once in the Feitama Collection, e.g. the two by Fernerius, Disciple of Rembrandt' bought by Sybrand II in I7I5 and sold again in I757, one of which is very probably the drawing now in Haarlem (Fig. 9, Note 54), the other possibly one in the Louvre (Notes 55 and 56). Another instance not mentioned in the sale catalogue is a youthful work by Paulus Potter now in Frankfort (Fig. I0, Note 58). In a third case Van Gelder's identification of the infant in a drazeing in the British Museum by Frans van Mieris as Willem Paedts (Note 6I) is confirmed by the notebook, where it is reported to have been bought at the Paedts sale. This last drawing was among the most expensive in the collection, along with another by Van Mieris now in the Albertina (Note 62), a Gerard Dou in the Louvre (Note 63), an Adriaen van Ostade in the Fondation Custodia (Note 64) and a Philips Wouwermans in Amsterdam (Fig. II, Note 65). An expensive pair of pendants were the two drawings of St. Mary's, Utrecht, by Pieter Saenredam, now in Utrecht and Haarlem (Notes 63 and 64). Inevitably the notebook also contains some erroneous attributions, such as a wrongly identified Monastery at Aachen (Fig. I3, Note 7I) ascribed to Gerrit Berckheyde, which is actually a view near St. Gereon's in Cologne and must, like all the topographical views made during the brothers' journey through Germany, be attributed to job Berckhryde, since Gerrit was only twelve at the time. Similarly, two large panoramic views now in Hamburg (Fig. I4, Notes 72-4) must be by Antoni Waterlo and not the draughtsman Daniel Schellinks to whom Feitama ascribes them. Although the notes are very businesslike and seldom contain any appraisal or interpretation, there is an art-historical story to be read out of them. The prices, the changes of ownership and the obvious preference for Dutch artists point to an aspect of appreciation too little regarded as yet. The Notitieboek der Teekeningen proves to be an indispensable link between the period when Sybrand I still knew many artists personally and the I8th century when many of the big private collections of drawings were made.


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