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Jan Cornelisz. van 't Woudt als portretschilder

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In 1986 B. W. F. van Riemsdijk published an article on the painter/draughtsman Jan Cornelisz. van't Woudt, better known as Woudanus. As well as providing biographical particulars, the article dwelt on some of the artist's paintings and various copper engravings after his designs. Archive research enables us to supplement these biographical details. Jan Cornelisz. is thought to have been born around 1565-1570 in Het Woudt, a village near Delft. He was probably a pupil of the Delft artist Jacob Willemsz. Delff the Elder, whose influence is most apparent in his work. Shortly after his marriage in 1594, Woudanus moved to Leiden, where his bride came from and where Isaac Claesz. van Swanenburg 1537-1614) was a leading painter of the day. For some tweny years Woudanus worked as a painter and print designer in Leiden, where he died in 1615. Of the engravings after his designs, four depicting university institutions - executed by Willem van Swanenburg - are best known. One signed painting by Woudanus is extant: The Surrender of Weinsberg of 1603, in the Lakenhal Museum in Leiden (fig. 1). This large painting corresponds remarkably with the stage directions for a play on the same subject written by Jacob Duym for the local dramatic society, or rederijkerskamer, published three years previously. Woudanus' painting was undoubtedly influenced by the directions in Duym's play. Among the figures in the foreground (figs. 2 and 3) are several portraits, including likenesses of the painter, Dirck Volckertsz. Coornhert and, presumably, Jacob Duym. The rendering of The Surrender of Weinsberg displays a number of special characteristics, such as the use of light and dark patches and the depiction of the hands. There are strong grounds for attributing the blazon of the Leiden Chamber of Rhetoric, D'Oraigne Lelie, of 1606 (fig.4), to Woudanus. Archivalia (see the Appendix) and prints (figs. 5 and 6) show that the artist also painted portraits. A systematic investigation into Leiden portraiture of the late 16th and early 17th century yielded portraits with the same characteristics as The Surrcnder of Weinsberg and which can duly be attributed to Woudanus. The portraits in question are of the Leiden merchant and regent, Huyg van Nes, and his wife, painted in 1606 (figs. 7 and 8), and of another citizen of Leiden, a dyer and former mayor, Claes Willemsz. van Warmondt, and his wife, painted in 1607 (figs. 9 and 10). In view of the discrepancy in size, the latter two portraits are not companion pieces; each is probably half of another pair painted that year in a different format but otherwise identical. The four portraits bear a strong stylistic resemblance to the work of Woudanus' putative teacher Delff. A fifth portrait of 1596, very likely a female member of the Stalpert van Wiele family (fig. 11), may be added to the group with certainty. Differently set up but technically entirely in keeping with Woudanus' work is the profile portrait of the famous scholar Josephus Justus Scaliger in the Leiden Senate Room, dating from 1608 or 1609 (fig. 12). Although not a particularly important artist, Jan Cornelisz. van 't Woudt played a significant role in Leiden between 1596 and 1615 as a history and portrait painter and as a designer of prints depicting a variety of subjects.


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