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Johannes Mattheus Kieseling Een Rotterdamse glasgraveur uit Gotha

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image of Oud Holland - Quarterly for Dutch Art History

In 1953 the Rijksmuseum acquired a wheel-engraved goblet documented as the work of Johannes Mattheus Kieseling of Rotterdam (Note I). More facts have recently come to light about his life and work. He was born in 1691 and first mentioned in Rotterdam in 1717, when he was enrolled in the register of citizens as coming from 'Saxengota' (Note 3 and 4). In 1718 he married Maria Sluyters of Rotterdam (Note 5) and a daughter Maria Martha was born to them in 1722 (Note 6) . Before then, in 1719, he had bought a house on Vissersdijk (Note 7). He was buried on 19 October 1735. He had moved to Geldersekaay before then and the facts that he owned his house and that his wife paid dues for his burial show that he must have been reasonably well off. He probably derived most of his income from the glass shop he ran rather than from engraving. He is known to have supplied glasses to various polder boards (Note 10). He enjoyed a certain renown as a glass engraver and there were some glasses by him in the well-known collection of Jan Bisschop of Rotterdam (Note I ). These were engraved with a Bacchanal, merry peasants and a duck decoy. The goblet in the Rijksmuseum (Fig. I, Note 12) still has its original leather case lined with red cloth. It had a cover originally, but this is now missing. It is described at length by Pieter de Bye of Gorinchem in his account of the society 'Den Negenden' ('The Ninth'), of which he was a member, an further in formation is given in the memoirs of Diderik van Bleyswijk, burgomaster of Gorinchem. After a scandal in 1684 the ruling families in the town split into two camps engaged in a continuous struggle for power. 1687 saw the foundation of 'De Vriendelijke Bijeenkomst' ( The Friendly Gathering)-society) which owmed a silver cup, while 'Den Negenden' was fouded on 9 December 1727. The members of 'Den Negenden' met every month for a cold supper in the house of one of their number, the goblet, which could only be used for toasting the society, being taken along in its case. It was designed by De Bye himself, a detailed drawing being supplied by Frans van Mieris the Younger of Leiden. Kieseling was commissioned on 26 January 1732 to engrave it and was paid 75 guilders for the job. The goblet was ceremonially inaugurated on 3 August 1732, but in October that year it was broken, so a new one was ordered of the same de sign, but with a few more coats of arms added. The design features figures representing 'Concord' (Fig.2), 'Reason' (Fig.3), 'Counsel' (Fig.4) and Patriotism (Fig.5) separated by columns, with an inscription above in which these virtues are also mentioned. Above the columns are the arms of the Dutch Republic, Holland, Gorinchem and the Land van Arkel and the 'bond of friendship', represented by two clasped hands above the Gorinchem arms with a ribbon on which hang the arms of the twelve members. The date of the society's foundation on the foot is encircled by a snake biting its own tail, the symbol of the eternal bond (Fig. 6). The cover was decorated with oak leaves. This goblet came into use on 8 November 1733, but the society, fell apart in February 1734, one of the members even going over to the opposite camp and taking the goblet with him! In the collection of the De Overwaard Polder Board at Kinderdijk are eight glasses also firmly documented as engraved by Kieseling (Figs. 8, 9, 10, Note 16). These are the survivors of thirteen supplied by him in 1721 with a covering letter and bill (Fig.7). The glasses listed in the letter comprise ten engraved with the arms of members of the board, one with 'Friendship', one with 'Peace and Freedom' and one itiscribed 'Collegium in Aeternum esto'. The members in question had to pay, for the glasses themselves. In 1728 the board decided to have a glass case made in which to keep the engraved glasses, each new member being required to present a glass with his arms and an appropriate motto or device for placing in this case (Note 18). The board's rich collection of glass is still preserved thus today. Kieseling was a creditable engraver, but no more than that. The quality of his engraving can best be compared with that of Willem Otto Robart, a contemporary working in The Hague and Leiden (Note 19). He was certainly the least gifted of his known compatriots working in Holland, but his presence does confirm the German influence on 18th-century Dutch wheel-engraving. Little is known of the circumstances in which glass-engravers worked here in the 18th century, but Kieseling now proves, like Robart, to have kept a shop as well. The detailed documentation of his work further gives a good insight into the way engraved glass was used in the 18th century, another subject about which little is known as yet.


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