Gerson Digital : Italy


3.3 Dutch Art and Artists in Venice

The situation is different with Venice, the city which had traditionally exerted the strongest attraction on Northern Europeans.1 The Dutch painters who travelled via Innsbruck and the Brenner Pass could hardly ignore it. We can therefore renew our acquaintance here with a number of travellers to Rome. From Huybrecht Jacobsz. Grimani (1562-1631) 2 via Hendrik Vroom (1562/3-1640)3 and Pieter Cornelisz. van Rijck (1567/8-1635/40) [1],4 a pupil of Huybrecht Jacobsz. Grimani who derived his inspiration primarily from the Bassano family, to Dirck de Vries (d. 1612) [2-4]5 and the Naturalist painters, Jacob Isaacsz. van Swanenburg (1571-1638) and David Bailly (1584-1657) we find the representatives of the first generation gathered here.6 Caravaggio’s followers did not feel at home in the city.

Pieter Cornelisz. van Rijck
Salome with the head of John the Baptist, c. 1588-1604
panel, oil paint 79 x 56 cm
Lawrence (Kansas), Spencer Museum of Art (The University of Kansas), inv./ 1970.0039

Dirck de Vries
A Woman Teaching a Boy to Read
paper, pen in brown ink 191 x 164 mm
Oxford (England), Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, inv./ WA1863.220

Dirck de Vries
Mother with five children, dated 6 October 1590
light brown paper, pen in brown ink, brown wash 197 x 138 mm
bottom (positional attribute) : Dirck de Vrijes. Venetiae/ adi 6 ottobrij ao 1590
Amsterdam, Stichting P. en N. de Boer, inv./ 578

Hendrick Goltzius
Portrait of Frederick de Vries (c. 1590-1614), dated 1597
paper, copper engraving (printing process), 2nd state 360 x 265 mm
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Johann Liss (II)
Vision of St Jerome, c. 1628-1629
canvas, oil paint 225 x 175 cm
Venice, San Niccolò da Tolentino

Quite the opposite was true of the genre painters, however. A certain parallel can be drawn between them and the Bamboccianti, although they were less programmatic in their approach than their fellow artists in Rome and produced sunnier, more festive and painterly works, which was only appropriate for the city of Titian and Veronese. One foreigner who fitted so well into the Venetian milieu that he came to be regarded as part of the city’s art history was Johann Liss II (c. 1597-1631) (died in Venice in 1629),7 a German artist who received his initial training in Haarlem from Hendrick Goltzius (and therefore deserves to be mentioned here).8 Liss interrupted his stay in Venice to go on an ‘excursion’ to Rome, where he studied the works of Caravaggio and was perhaps just in time to make the acquaintance of Pieter van Laer. However, his paintings never have the darkness and heaviness of the Roman school. On the contrary, they exhibit the bright and festive aspects of Venetian painting. Liss’s late work, the Inspiration of St. Jerome in the Tolentini church [5], surpasses anything seen previously in Venice in its painterly freedom and looseness, Northern European, in particular Dutch, elements have been expunged from his Italian works. Thus it is not possible to talk of any influence he might have had on Italian painting.9

Just how deeply rooted the works of Jan Liss are in Venetian art is evidenced by the numerous errors and mix-ups of attributions with the paintings of the elder Domenico Fetti (1588/9-1623) and of Bernardo Strozzi (1581-1644), a Genoese artist who settled in Venice after 1631.10 Fetti’s genre paintings [6], which have their origins in Orazio Borgianni and the Elsheimer circle including Carlo Saraceni, must have been very much to the taste of Jan Liss, but any influence exerted upon him can only have come from the elder Fetti. On the other hand, when Strozzi arrived in Venice he owed a great deal to this first generation of anti-Mannerist painters. His style, which had started to move increasingly towards Naturalism when he was still in Genoa, due to the influence of Rubens and van Dijck, loosened up here, becoming freer and more painterly [8-9]. Indeed, Hoogewerff observed that Strozzi painted study heads which were inspired by Rembrandt’s etchings from the 1630s [7].11

Domenico Fetti
The parable of the labourers in the vineyard
panel, oil paint 61 x 45 cm
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, inv./ 423

possibly Francesco Giovani after Jan Gillisz. van Vliet
Portrait of a philosopher, after 1634
canvas, oil paint 73.5 x 62 cm
Rome, Galleria Doria Pamphilj, inv./ FC 177

Bernardo Strozzi
The cook, c. 1625
canvas, oil paint 176 x 185 cm
Genua, Galleria di Palazzo Rosso, inv./ PR 20

Bernardo Strozzi
Tobias curing his father's blindness (Tobit 10-13), between 1630-1635
canvas, oil paint 146 x 223.6 cm
New York City, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv./ 57.23

Leonaert Bramer (1596-1674) arrived in Venice in the course of his extended travels through Italy in the 1620s.12 He took due note of the works of the Caravaggists in Rome but did not admire them for the monumental power they radiated. Like Johann Liss he preferred the informal genre pictures that Pieter van Laer was about to propagate. The impression one gets is that Bramer failed to exert any influence in matters of style during his time in Italy.13 However, genuine Dutch genre painting did find an advocate in Venice in the person of Andries Both (1611/2-1642), who stayed there for a while before moving on to Rome [10].14 His drawings and paintings reflect the training he received in Holland and reveal a style modelled on Brouwer which had formed and matured before he joined the circle around Pieter van Laer in Rome. Having spent a good five years there (1635-1641), Both returned to Venice, where he died a few years later.15 Thus we have in Venice a small group of Dutch-trained genre painters whose works correspond to Pieter van Laer’s Bambocciate in Rome, although their significance is by no means on a par with that of the ‘Bent’.

If we assume that Jan Both (1615/22-1652) accompanied his brother Andries to Italy, he can be expected to have spent some time in Venice himself. In any event, the two brothers lived together in Rome and left the city together in 1639. 16 Jan returned to his native country on his own in 1641, while Andries went back to Venice. Jan Both’s pupil, Hendrik Verschuring (1627-1690), also travelled via Venice [11]17 to Rome, as did Willem van Bemmel (1630-1708) at almost the same time, i.e. around 1647.18 However, a view of Venice in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin cannot be deemed sufficient proof that Roelant Roghman (1627-1691) stayed there [12].19 Simon Dubois (1632-1708), who studied under Berchem and Wouwerman, must have been in Venice in 1657.20 So it would be wrong to state that the Dutch landscape painters steered clear of the city. The Berchem tradition was taken up by Karel du Jardin (1626-1678), who died in Venice in 1678 during his second trip to Italy. 21 Johannes Glauber met him there and told Houbraken of his death.22 Jacob de Heusch (1656-1701), whose landscapes sold well in Venice,23 and Jan van Bunnik (1654-1727), 24 who purportedly worked with Johann Carl Loth (1632-1698), mark the end of the Both-Berchem style of landscape painting. To this group can be added the two Storcks, Abraham and Jacobus Storck (or Sturck), provided one is willing to accept their fanciful Venetian views as proof that they stayed in Italy.25 We should not forget that Gaspar van Wittel painted a major veduta in Venice in 169726 and that before him Dutch marine painters such as Hendrik Vroom (1562/3-1640),27 Rinaldo della Montagna and Pieter Mulier II found scope for their activities in the city.28

Andries Both
Quacksalver Pulling Teeth, dated 1632
paper, pen, light brown wash 240 x 202 mm
: Andrea Bot f / Venetsia 1632
Leiden, Universiteit Leiden, inv./ PK-1900-T-1

Hendrick Verschuring after Aegidius Sadeler (II) after Tiziano
Portrait of Laura de' Dianti with a black page (verso)
paper, red chalk, pen 331 x 467 mm
London (England), British Museum, inv./ 1836,0811.541

Roelant Roghman
S. Giacomo a Rialto in Venice, early 1650s
paper, black chalk, grey wash 205 x 282 mm
Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, inv./ 2617

The other Dutch artists who visited Venice did not form a clearly defined group.29 They included the portraitist Nicolaes van Helt Stockade (1614-1669), Cornelis de Man (1621-1706), a history and society painter from Delft as was Dirck Helmbreeker (1633-1696), Jan Govertsz. Verbijl (born 1634), Willem van Ingen (1651-1708),30 Robbert Duval (1649-1732), 31 Jacob Toorenvliet (1640-1719),32 Theodor Hartzoecker (1696-1740/1), who studied under Antonio Balestra (1666-1740) in Venice,33 and Theodor van der Schuer 34 and his pupil, Cornelis de Bruyn (1652-1726/7). 35 Special mention must be made of Jacomo Victors (c. 1640-1705), a painter of poultry still lifes, who must have worked in Venice in 1663 [13].36 A certain response to his art can be found in the works of the Venetian artist, Giacomo da Castello (= Jaques van de Kerckhoven] (c. 1637-in or after 1712) [14].37 It transpires that he was not the only artist in this field who was active in the region. When Willem Schellinks (1623-1678) came to Verona in 1665, he was shown around town by a ‘Monsr Spruit zijnde een stillevenschilder’ [‘Mr Spruit, a still-life painter’]. Spruit was probably active in Venice, too, particularly since at the time Schellinks met him he was living with a colonel in Venetian service.38 Ten years earlier Willem van Aelst (1627-1683) returned for a second visit; he must have left for home in 1656, departing from Florence, where he was very successful, and travelling via Padua and Venice.39

Jacomo Victors
Still life with poultry, vegetables, fruits and a cat, dated 1661 or 1662
canvas, oil paint 113 x 145.5 cm
: J. victor. f. A. 166[1?]
Vicenza, Museo Civico Vicenza, inv./ A 265

Jaques van de Kerckhoven
Still life with poultry, vegetables and grapes
canvas, oil paint 100.2 x 137 cm
lower left : I.VD K
Sotheby's (London (England)) 2001-11-01, nr. 56


1 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] A lot of information on Dutch artists in Venice can be found in Meijer 1991A and Meijer 1991B.

2 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Compare Meijer 1999C, p. 139.

3 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Compare § 2.7, note 1.

4 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] On de Rijck: Meijer 1999C.

5 [Gerson 1942/1983] In 1597 Hendrick Goltzius mad an engraving of his son Frederick with a dog (B. 190, H. 218). A drawing by Dirck de Vries of 1590 is published in Dodgson 1931; another of 1592 in Parker 1934. Leeuwen/Sman 2019] New biographical information on Dirck de Vries has been unearthed from the Venetian archives by Ine Legerstee (Legerstee forthcoming).

6 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] While it is highly uncertain whether Jacob Swanenburgh ever visited Venice, Jan Jansz, Orlers Beschrijvinghe der Stadt Leyde (Orlers 1641, p. 371-372) is commonly considered a faithful source of information on David Bailly’s Italian sojourn. He stayed in Venice twice, in or around 1610.

7 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Liss fled from Venice in 1629 for the plague but died of it anyway in Verona on 5 November 1631 (Klessmann 1999, p. 18-19).

8 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] According to Houbraken (Houbraken 1718-1721, vol. 1, p. 129, 205); Klessmann doubts if the training actually took place and point to the influence of Willem Buytenwech; Goltzius was already very ill in 1616 and died the next year (Klessmann in Saur 1992-, vol. 85 [2015], p. 56).

9 [Gerson 1942/1983] Also Sandrart reports that his style changed in Rome (Sandrart/Peltzer 1675/1925, p. 187). On Liss (and his namesake) in general: Oldenbourg 1914; Pevsner 1928, p. 154ff and Fiocco 1929, p. 18.

10 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] On Fetti: Safarik 1990. On Strozzi: Gavazza et al. 1995.

11 [Gerson 1942/1983] A study head by Strozzi has been published by J.O. Kronig as a Rembrandt (Kronig 1921). In a Roman private collection a study head after Rembrandt’s etching B. 309 (Hoogewerff 1922, p. XXI; Hoogewerff 1923A, p. XXIV). [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] According to De Marchi 2016, p. 194-195, FC 177, ill., possibly by Francesco Giovani (1611-1669).

12 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] See § 2.4, note 20.

13 [Gerson 1942/1983] His earliest dated work of 1626 (Bredius Museum, The Hague) is done in the style of Domenico Fetti and Pieter van Laer. Wichmann still observes a strong influence of Fetti, van Laer and Adam Elsheimer in his works of around 1630, when Bramer was already back home for two years (Wichmann 1923, p. 23, 70). [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] On Bramer, see § 2.3. The most caravaggesque painting by Bramer is arguably Saint Peter’s Denial in the Rijksmuseum (RKDimages 2523 ), indeed an exception in his oeuvre.

14 [Gerson 1942/1983] A drawing in Leiden ( 116) is signed and dated ‘Andrea Bot f Venetsia 1632’. Frimmel 1905; Frimmel 1907. [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Andries presumably travelled from Rouen to Venice, but the evidence is somewhat equivocal. A drawing in Weimar is inscribed ‘A. Both / Rouen 1633’ (RKDimages 193030), a date which seems to contradict the one on the Leiden drawing. Schatborn suggests that the date on the Weimar drawing was added later, since it is written in a lighter brown ink, differing from the rest of the inscription (Schatborn 2001, p. 89). Waddingham (Waddingam 1964, p. 15-16) questions the authenticity of the inscription on the loose piece of paper that accompanies the Leiden drawing. He furthermore points out that the painting for which the Leiden drawing is a study is signed and dated 1634. It seems therefore likely that Andries visited Venice between 1633 and 1634. Andries arrived in Rome around 1635, where we find him involved as a witness in a lawsuit filed by Pieter van Laer (Hoogewerff 1952, p. 88-89).

15 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] On Andries Both’s death in 1642, see § 1, note 9.

16 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] From 1639 till 1641 Jan and Andries lived together on Strada Vittoria (Hoogewerff 1942, p. 108, 110), but they did not leave Rome at the same time. See notes § 1, note 9 and § 2.6, note 10.

17 [Gerson 1942/1983] Besides many landscape drawings and paintings with Italian subjects there is a sketch after Titian’s Portrait of Laura de’ Dianti in the British Museum (Hind 5). [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] The sketch in the British Museum - on the verso of an elaborated drawing of A cavalry skirmish by Roman ruins - is possibly made after an early painted copy of Titian’s picture or a print by Aegidius Sadeler II after Titian. In the 1650 and 1660s Titian’s original painting (RKDimages 295866) belonged to the collection of Queen Christina of Sweden and therefore was not on display in Venice but in Rome, at least in the early 1660s (Wethey 1971, p. 93). Verschuring’s visit to Venice is recorded by Houbraken 1718-1721, vol. 2, p. 193-194. Since Houbraken got this information from Willem Verschuring, Hendrick’s son, the account is generally considered reliable.

18 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] The information is based on the brief biography by Doppelmayr (1730), but no documents related to van Bemmel’s stay in Venice have yet been found (Eiermann 2007, p. 22).

19 [Gerson 1942/1983] Compare Hofstede de Groot 1919-1920, p. 8. [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Now generally accepted as proof that he did indeed visit Venice (e.g. Sumowski 1979-1992, vol. 10, no. 2267, ill., I.M. Veldman in Saur 1992-, vol. 99 [2018], p. 256).

20 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Haverkorn van Rijsewijk 1899, p. 177, 240, mentions a drawing made in Venice with that date (Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett).

21 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] The actual date of his burial, 9 October 1678, was discovered by L. Calzoni and first published by Limentani Virdis/Banzato 1990, p. 24. Karel died in the house of a Dutch merchant in the parish of San Cassiano from fever and infection. See Kilian 2005, p. 14-15 and 107, doc. 103.

22 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] According to Houbraken, who had this information from Johannes Glauber, he died because he had eaten too much (Houbraken 1718-1721, vol. 3, p. 60).

23 [Gerson 1942/1983] According to Houbraken 1718-1721, vol. 3, p. 363 he worked for the secretary of the Senate, Mr. Lucatello. Meijer 1991A, p. 91.

24 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Houbraken 1718-1721, vol. 3, p. 339-342. Jan van Bunnik probably stayed in Venice around 1675 before he entered the service of Francesco d’Este in Modena, for whom he is thought to have worked almost eight years. Strikingly enough, no works by Bunnik are mentioned in the inventories of the Este family.

25 [Gerson 1942/1983] See, p. 168 [§ 2.7, above].

26 [Gerson 1942/1983] See, p. 168 [§ 2.7, above].

27 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] See note xxx. When Vroom was in Venice for a year, probably around 1588, he was not yet successful as a marine painter; he resumed the painting of ceramics there to earn a living (Russell 1983, p. 102).

28 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Pieter Mulier’s presence in Venice is firmly documented thanks to an autograph letter dated 15 March 1687 and his membership of the painters’ guild between 1688 and 1690 (Roethlisberger-Bianco 1970, p. 77-79).

29 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Dutch 17th-century artists known to have stayed or worked in Venice but not mentioned by Gerson are: Jan Pynas, Pieter Lastman, Thomas Wyck, Eduard Dubois, Hans de Jode, David Beck, Willem Jonckheer, Nicolaes Roosendael and Albert Meyeringh. See Meijer 1991A, p. 88-95.

30 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Compare Houbraken 1718-1721, vol. 3, p. 317, who reports that Van Ingen worked for some time in the studio of Valentin Lefebre (c. 1642-1677).

31 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Van Gool 1750-1751, vol. 1, p. 83.

32 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] According to Houbraken 1718-1721, vol. 3, p. 167, Toorenvliet used to make drawings after paintings by ’Rafael, Paulo Veronees, Tintoret’. One such drawing after Tintoretto signed 'J. Torenvliet Venetie f.' is kept in the Special Collections of Leiden University Library (inv. AW320). See Karau 2002, vol. 1, p. 101.

33 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Van Gool 1750-1751, vol. 2, p. 240.

34 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] So far, we have found no indication or mention in the literature of Theodor van der Schuer’s presence in Venice.

35 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] As we learn from Cornelis De Bruyn’s own travel accounts, he stayed in Venice between November 1684 and 1692-1693. He apprenticed himself with Johann Carl Loth to improve his paintings skills. De Hond 1994, p. 54.

36 [Gerson 1942/1983] Compare also p. 195 [below, § 3.5]. G.J. Hoogewerff already pointed to two anonymous still lifes, which in my opinion are more derived from the work of Victors than from Willem Kalf (Hoogewerff 1924, p. 711-712). [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] The first reference to Jacob Victors can be found in Martinoni’s addendum to Francesco Sansovino’s Venetia Città Nobilissima of 1663, where he is mentioned as ‘Iacopo Fichtor olandese … mirabile nel formar Animali volatili’ (Sansovino/Martinoni 1663, p. 22). The only work known from the years in which the artist was active in Italy, is the work in Vicenza illustrated here. Jacobus Victors consistently signed his work ‘Jacomo Victors’, referring to his stay in Italy. In the 1970s he was wrongly identified with Jacob van de Kerckhove, which was corrected in 1991 (Miller 1991).

37 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Giacomo da Castello is now identified with the Flemish Jacques van de Kerckhoven, who had been a pupil of Joannes Fijt in Antwerp in 1649 (Marcus 1972 ; Miller 1991 ) . He was documented in Venice from 1685 on and in 1687-1712 listed as a member of the painters’ guild (Favaro 1975 , p. 201, 208, 215, 221).

38 [Gerson 1942/1983] Diary of Schellinks (Copenhagen, Royal Library), vol. 3, fol. 1246. [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] The RKD owns a complete collection of photos (in negative) of the manuscript of the travel journal, including typed transcripts of parts of the text. The original travel journals are in Oxford (Bodleian Library) and, as Gerson already mentioned, in Copenhagen. Mr. Spruit is probably not identical to Johannes Spruyt (1627/8-1671), who painted poultry still lifes in the manner of Hondecoeter; according to a notarial deed the latter was ‘sieckelyck' in Amsterdam in February 1665 (Bredius 1909, p. 127).

39 [Leeuwen/Sman 2019] Van Aelst stayed for a short while at the house of Paolo del Sera, a correspondent and agent of Leopoldo de' Medici (documented in a letter from del Sera to Leopoldo), on his way to Holland. He was in the company of 'Monsu Montagna, painter of storms at sea', probably to be identified with Renaud de la Montagne (Rinaldo della Montagna) rather than Matthijs van Plattenberg (as suggested by T. Paul in Paul/Clifton et al. 2012, p. 18).

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