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In His Milieu

In His Milieu: Essays on Netherlandish Art in Memory of John Michael Montias

A. Golahny
M.M. Mochizuki
L. Vergara
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 496
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  • Book Info
    In His Milieu
    Book Description:

    Collected in memory of the Vermeer scholar and Yale economist J. Michael Montias, these essays take into account the latest trends in the field and provide new data on a wide range of topics in Netherlandish art. Themes include the reception of paintings and architecture; art collecting as interpreted through inventories and other documents that reveal modes of display; relationships between patrons and painters; recently found or attributed works of art; artists as teachers; and the art market. Taken together, these focused studies offer fresh perspectives on the historical appreciation and evaluation of art. Drawing upon J.M. Montias' contribution to art history, these 32 essays present new analyses, attributions, and documents on Netherlandish art and material culture - including the work of Vermeer, Rubens, Rembrandt, van Eyck and others - by internationally known scholars of art history and the economics of art This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0160-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 9-9)
  4. In Memoriam John Michael Montias (1928–2005)
    (pp. 10-12)
  5. Four Remembrances
    (pp. 13-22)
    Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, Otto Naumann, Herbert E. Scarf and Alexander M. Schenker
  6. Art-Historical Publications by John Michael Montias
    (pp. 23-28)
  7. Two Forms of Knowledge: Invention and Production in Thomas de Keyser’s Portrait of a Young Silversmith, Sijmon Valckenaer
    (pp. 29-46)

    In 1630, the Amsterdam portrait painter and architect Thomas de Keyser created one of his most finely crafted paintings: thePortrait of a Young Silversmith(Fig. 1).¹ Although at first glance it appears to be a monochrome composition showing a young man in dark garments surrounded by drawings and silver objects, upon closer inspection the painting broadcasts color. The youth wears a rich olive-brown jacket lined in purple satin, the brilliant Persian rug adorning the table is patterned in deep blue, and there are yellow and blue highlights glinting on the silver surfaces of the elaborate covered beaker on the...

  8. The Case of Han van Meegeren’s Fake Vermeer Supper at Emmaus Reconsidered
    (pp. 47-58)

    In June 1938, the Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam bought the paintingSupper at Emmaus, for what was at that time the very high price of 520,000 Dutch guilders, on the assumption that it was a newly discovered masterpiece by Johannes Vermeer (Fig. 1). Seven years later, in July 1945, the Dutch painter Han van Meegeren, when arrested for collaboration with the just-departed German occupiers of the Netherlands, claimed that he had painted the picture in 1936-37. It soon became evident that his claim was justified. The case has been viewed ever since as “perhaps the most famous forgery of modern...

  9. Prices of Northern Netherlandish Paintings in the Seventeenth Century
    (pp. 59-72)

    John Michael Montias’Artists and Artisans in Delft(1982) inspired numerous studies on the art market in the Netherlands during the seventeenth century. A number of these are wholly, or partially devoted to the prices of paintings, using data from assessments found in probate inventories, auction results, and lottery lists. However, the data from these sources are ambiguous. First, prices for work by certain masters vary widely, even within one source. Second, the descriptions of paintings in these sources are often so vague that no definite explanation can be given for the reasons for those discrepancies, such as differences in...

  10. The Mysterious Landscape Painter Govert Janszn called Mijnheer (1577-c.1619)
    (pp. 73-100)

    In his last bookArt at Auction in 17th Century Amsterdam, published in 2002, Michael Montias observed that during the first half of the 17th century the works of the painter Govert Janszn frequently crossed the Amsterdam art market. With eleven occurrences between 1597 and 1638 Govert Jansz ranked eighth among the artists most frequently mentioned in auction sales, preceded by Karel van Mander, Pieter Aertsen, and Gillis van Conincxloo, but ahead of Cornelis van Haarlem, Roelant Saverij, and Hendrick Avercamp.² After the publication ofArt at Auction, Montias continued adding to his Database of Amsterdam inventories and shortly before...

  11. Jacob Ochtervelt’s Rotterdam Patron
    (pp. 101-122)

    One of Michael Montias’ most significant discoveries was that Johannes Vermeer had in all likelihood a major patron, Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven, who purchased about half of the artist’s entire output – twenty-one paintings, including theView of Delft, theMilkmaid, theGoldweigher, theLacemaker, and theGirl Asleep at a Table.¹ Created to be seen together in a collector’s residence, Vermeer’s subtly varied genre scenes (mingled with city views) might be understood as an extended narrative set in familiar surroundings. Surprisingly, Montias’ finding met with resistance from Arthur Wheelock, who believed that the paintings may have been purchased later...

  12. Did Rembrandt Travel to England?
    (pp. 123-132)

    Michael Montias, having exhausted the Delft archives and become fully ensconced in a study of seventeenth-century Amsterdam auctions and patronage, once commented that the chance of finding a new document with Rembrandt’s name on it in the Amsterdam archive was staggeringly small. This amounted to a sobering assessment for me, as I had just embarked on a doctoral thesis investigating Rembrandt’s bankruptcy. Montias’ advice, and his practice, was to approach an archive in an expansive manner, rather than searching for specific items. This had worked well for him in his sweeping economic analysis of artists and artisans in Delft, and...

  13. The Antwerp-Mechelen Production and Export Complex
    (pp. 133-148)

    In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Antwerp and its near-neighbor Mechelen comprised a formidable complex for the production and export of paintings. Antwerp’s production capability has begun to receive renewed scholarly attention,¹ and the activity of such leading Antwerp traders in paintings as the Van Immerseel-Fourmestraux, Forchondt, and Musson-Fourmenois firms has been known about for some time. Mechelen, however, has never commanded the same interest. Several archival-based studies on aspects of the painters’ guild have appeared over the years.² However, the city has often been marginalized as a center of artistic production. Our aim here is to provide a quantitative...

  14. Thoughts on the Market for Rembrandt’s Portrait Etchings
    (pp. 149-164)

    Michael Montias’ pioneering statistical studies of the seventeenth-century market for Dutch paintings would be impossible to duplicate for prints. Although produced and traded in much greater numbers than paintings, prints were often sold in sets, or bulk lots at relatively low prices, and documents seldom record information about specific titles, or impressions. Nevertheless, sources such as auction records, inventories, early treatises, inscriptions, and collectors’ annotations offer evidence for a lively trade in graphic art.¹ A case in point is Rembrandt’s purchase at auction in 1638 of nine sets of Dürer’sLife of the Virginfor around two guilders per set....

  15. If the Shoe Fits: Courtship, Sex, and Society in an Unusual Painting by Gonzales Coques
    (pp. 165-172)

    This contribution to our memorialfestschriftfor Michael Montias might strike some readers as odd because it lies so far beyond the parameters of his own research interests. Nevertheless it seemed highly suitable to me for the following reasons. It is based upon materials that I had collected during the mid-1980s while living in the Netherlands where I was conducting research for my doctoral dissertation. Michael was also there frequently during this time, diligently engaged in work on his various book projects, including his now-classic studyVermeer and His Milieu. In fact, during the winter of 1985-86, he generously provided...

  16. A Sophonisba by Pieter Lastman?
    (pp. 173-182)

    This essay brings an overlooked design into the Lastman discourse:Sophonisba Receiving the Poison. It is known from a drawing lost in World War II, and a rare etching (Figs. 1 and 2). Gustav Pauli published the drawing as by Pieter Lastman.¹ In 1986, Christian Tümpel attributed the drawing to Venant after Lastman, and discussed it in the context of representations of Sophonisba in the seventeenth century.² The authorship of the drawing may not be resolved easily, although an attribution to Venant is possible.³ The uncredited etching, in the same direction and size as the drawing, has been variously published...

  17. Poelenburch’s Garden: Art, Flowers, Networks, and Knowledge in Seventeenth-Century Holland
    (pp. 183-192)

    The Kleine Bank van Justitie in Haarlem – the small claims court – met twice a week in the 1630s, dealing mostly with the failure of Haarlemmers to pay for food, beer, or other items that had been sold to them on account, or, conversely, for the non-delivery of such items. In the autumn of 1636, however, the court was flooded with cases about something rather more exotic: tulip bulbs. This was the period of Tulipmania, and since in this period prices were still rising, the problem was almost always failure to deliver rather than failure to pay. Possessors of...

  18. Tournai’s Renaissance Jubé: Art as Instrument of Empowerment
    (pp. 193-208)

    In the early modern Netherlands, architecture and monumental sculpture were particularly effective in asserting the political claims of society’s privileged sectors. Opulent town halls and imposing cloth halls announced the power of the cities and their commercial interests to the ruling elite.¹ In the communal space of parish churches, elaborate tombs for the high nobility forcefully affirmed their public authority and their proximity to the emperor.² And during the years of Protestant rebellion, sumptuous church furnishing could trumpet the victory of Catholicism and its institutions over heresy. Recently, Charles Avery and Mariët Westermann have discussed the jubé made for the...

  19. Vermeer and His Thematic Use of Perspective
    (pp. 209-218)

    The paintings by Johannes Vermeer always surprise us with their realistic appearance: the expressions and gestures of the figures; the texture and form of the various depicted objects; and the well-composed interior space.¹ The meticulous observations of reflected light, the seemingly out-of-focus renderings using paint to resemble beads of light, and the well-calculated differences in size among his motifs remind us of an image seen through the viewfinder of a camera. As a result, from as early as the end of the nineteenth century, the argument has been advanced that Vermeer must have used a mirror, or a camera obscura,...

  20. The Face in the Landscape: A Puzzling Print by Matthäus Merian the Elder
    (pp. 219-232)

    During the night of 2-3 May 2003, the celebratedOld Man of the Mountains, a natural wonder that had long been a revered symbol of the “granite state” of New Hampshire, vanished from sight as a portion of its rocky hillside collapsed into rubble. A popular tourist attraction since its discovery in 1805, this forty-foot stone profile high above Franconia Notch was elevated to even greater heights in a comment attributed to Daniel Webster (1782-1852), describing it as a manifestation of divine blessing on theOld Man’s native state: “Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe...

  21. Murant and his Milieu: A Biography of Emanuel Murant, the “Rustic Forerunner” of Jan van der Heyden
    (pp. 233-246)

    One imagines a collector like Michael Montias describing the Amsterdam painter Emanuel Murant (1622-1700) as a poor man’s Jan van der Heyden. This would not have diminished Murant’s interest for Montias the historian, in which capacity he would have turned up every scrap of evidence available on the artist in publications and archives. The author ofVermeer and his Milieuwas not the sort of scholar who introduces unfamiliar figures to the reader by observing that “very little is known” about them, or words to that effect, which are invariably followed by one, or two sentences demonstrating that the first...

  22. Rubens as a Teacher: “He may teach his art to his students and others to his liking”
    (pp. 247-264)

    On 4 January 1611, Rubens officially became the owner of De Wapper, a property in Antwerp that included a house and bleaching fields. By 1618, the artist had developed De Wapper into a large estate on which he spent “some thousands of florins.”¹ Most prominent was the studio building that resembled an Italian palazzo.² This was connected to the existing house with a portico, as we know from a 1684 engraving by Jacobus Harrewijn after J. van Croes (Fig. 1). The original contract between the then owner, Amsterdam merchant and jeweler Hans Thijsz. I (1566-1611) and Nicolaes Coop, who acted...

  23. Abraham van Dijck (1635?-1680), a Dordrecht Painter in the Shadow of Rembrandt
    (pp. 265-278)

    Abraham van Dijck has long been an obscure figure in Rembrandt School studies. Until recently the sum of our information on Van Dijck’s life was the discovery of a document in 1906, which indicates that he was active in Amsterdam in the early 1660s; Abraham Bredius’ further identification of this artist with a man of the same name who was buried in the Westerkerk in 1672; and a few ambiguous details gleaned from Houbraken and old sale catalogues.¹ Beginning in 1983, Werner Sumowski made the first comprehensive attempt to sketch out the perimeters of his oeuvre, a task marred by...

  24. Joachim/Peter Wtewael, Father/Son, Master/Pupil
    (pp. 279-286)

    “Who did it?” is the simplest of attribution questions, but investigating the landscape of authorship can take the art detective on a circuitous path, full of detours, cul-de-sacs, and potholes. Eventually, though, that path leads not only to an answer to the basic question but can also open up onto an expansive vista with larger ramifications.

    Such was my experience as I studied a painting that emerged at a Stockholm auction in 2003, aDenial of St. Peterattributed to Gerrit van Honthorst (Fig. 1), a picture now on the London art market.¹ It bears no inscription. The attribution to...

  25. At Home with the Ten Commandments: Domestic Text Paintings in Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam
    (pp. 287-300)

    In Jan Steen’sThe Prayer before the Meal(c. 1663-65, Duke of Rutland, Belvoir Castle, Grantham), a modest scrap of parchment painted with text and hanging from a nail appears at the upper right of the painting above the hearth (Fig. 1). We could not be faulted for overlooking it, because the main scene of an average family about to settle down to grace first draws our attention and sympathy. But what is this unusual note tacked on high? It consists of a text painted on a rectangle of parchment, approximately eleven inches high and nine inches wide, stretched between...

  26. The Transfer and Reception of Dutch Art in the Baltic Area during the Eighteenth Century: The Case of the Hamburg Dealer Gerhard Morrell
    (pp. 301-312)

    The following case study reveals preliminary results of a research project on the art trade between the Netherlands and the Baltic Area, with special respect to Denmark. Apart from direct contacts between Holland and Scandinavia, the Hamburg art market played a crucial role. It emerged as the leading art market in eighteenth-century Germany, due to its favorable location and its liberal auction laws, as art auctions became the most important form of art supply for a growing number of collectors. This article examines the pattern of collecting in Hamburg and explores possible influences on collectors in Denmark, Northern Germany, and...

  27. Sleeping Caps, City Views, and State Funerals: Privileges for Prints in the Dutch Republic, 1593-1650
    (pp. 313-346)

    The phrasecum privil, often inscribed at the bottom of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century prints, may seem to some ubiquitous and mysterious. In fact, only certain prints were allowed to display this privilege and its primary purpose was clear: to inform the public that a work had been protected against unsanctioned copying. It is the general parameter of such privileges, who applied for them and why, as well as their further significance that will be addressed in this essay. While a good deal of attention has been paid in recent scholarly literature to the privileges given to printmakers in Italy, less...

  28. Piety and Splendor: The Art Collection of Antwerp Burgomaster Adriaan Hertsen
    (pp. 347-374)

    When Adriaan Hertsen, former burgomaster of Antwerp, died on 11 January 1532 at the age of about fifty, he left behind a widow, many children, and an immense house full of art and other luxury objects. The notes of the clerks who made up the inventory of Hertsen’s worldly possessions provide an intimate view into the interior of the deceased’s large townhouse, orhuizinghe. This document is also one of the richest and most complete early sixteenth-century civic probate inventories to have surfaced thus far. The present contribution aims to clarify the nature of Hertsen’s art collection, to put it...

  29. Pictorial Archives: “Jordaans” in Delft
    (pp. 375-384)

    The Flemish artist Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) visited the Dutch Republic several times. He seems to have been in The Hague on at least three occasions. In 1660, his son-in-law, resident in The Hague, bought a house in his name in the neighboring village of Voorburg.¹ Whether Jordaens ever visited nearby Delft is not known, but in the circle of connoisseurs, art dealers, and artists in that city, his work was evidently appreciated. Some Delft artists, such as Christiaen van Couwenbergh and Pieter Jansz. van Ruijven, were influenced by him. Van Ruijven – a distant cousin of Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven,...

  30. Visiting Vermeer: Performing Civility
    (pp. 385-394)

    Johannes Vermeer may be a celebrity now, but in his lifetime –, or so a parade of scholars has told us – he was sorely neglected. The Delft painter was a bit of a mystery, a genius manqué, making him all the more beloved among the art historians and the public at large. Even John Michael Montias, who finally gave us a historically sound Vermeer, found it hard to believe that, in fact, the painter’s fame may have extended beyond the city walls of Delft in his own day, and that – as two contemporary diaries suggest – it had...

  31. The Montias Database: Inventories of Amsterdam Art Collections
    (pp. 395-402)

    As his obituaries made clear, Michael Montias’ love of Dutch art began when he was a graduate student of economics at Columbia.¹ For his dissertation, he first proposed to write about the prices of Dutch paintings at Amsterdam auctions in the seventeenth century. This idea, although rejected by his thesis advisor, stayed with him throughout his career as an economist and during his work in the Delft archives. It was for his scholarly projects that he created the Database now installed at the Frick Art Reference Library, and which he used to produce his last book,Art at Auction in...

  32. Some Questions Concerning Inventory Research
    (pp. 403-410)

    In 1976, or 1977, a manuscript was submitted to the editors ofSimiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, entitled “The Guild of St. Luke in Seventeenth-Century Delft and the Economic Status of Artists and Artisans.” The author, Michael Montias, was an American economist we did not know, and we read the manuscript with an extra measure of care. Quickly, we all realized that this was not the work of an amateur whose enthusiasm exceeded his knowledge. This was the work of a master researcher and scholar, and he was telling us things about our own field that we...

  33. Marketing the Dutch Past: The Lucas van Leyden Revival around 1600
    (pp. 411-422)

    During the early decades of art collecting in the later sixteenth century, the first Northern artist to receive intense interest was Albrecht Dürer (d. 1528), whose revival climaxed around the year 1600 in what has been termed a “Dürer Renaissance.”¹ For example, in one of the earliest surviving print collections, the albums of Ferdinand, archduke of Tyrol from the late sixteenth century, the only artist who is singled out with volumes under his own name – in contrast to the prevailing thematic organization according to religion, moralities, or iconography that prevailed in the remainder of the albums – is Dürer.²...

  34. “Les regards dards”: Werner van den Valckert’s Venus and Cupid
    (pp. 423-440)

    One of Werner van den Valckert’s most engaging paintings,Venus and Cupid(Fig. 1), turned up recently on the art market and was sold in 2005 to a collector in the United States.² It is the kind of painting Michael Montias would have loved to possess. I vividly remember Michael’s expression of heightened interest (especially his twinkling eyes) when I explained to him – it must have been in the early eighties – my ideas on how artists structured the viewer’s involvement in many paintings of female nudes in the late sixteenth and seventeenth century.

    In the late sixteenth century...

  35. The School of Cornelis van Poelenburch
    (pp. 441-454)

    While there were thousands of painters active in the Northern Netherlands in the seventeenth century, not all of them trained pupils and only a few ran workshops with apprentices and assistants. To become a painter, a boy was apprenticed to a master painter; his training could begin already at the age of twelve. Usually he was accepted on probation for a short time, before he could qualify as a real apprentice. The training lasted at least two years and often much longer, up to seven years. After learning the fundamentals of painting during the first years, a pupil became a...

  36. From Art to Politics: The Paintings of Jean de Warignies, Lord of Blainville (c. 1581-1628)
    (pp. 455-466)

    In the winter of 1624-25, Balthazar Gerbier, the Duke of Buckingham’s art expert and a painter himself, was in Paris to look for Venetian old master paintings.¹ He was surprised to discover “so many rare works in Paris.” On November 17, Gerbier wrote to the Duke to inform him of his latest acquisitions – works by Titian, Tintoretto, and Giorgione.² He also sent him “a list of paintings in the hands of Lords in Paris,” that he hoped to acquire.³ This list, recently published by Antoine Schnapper, is of great importance because it enables us to understand the circle of...

  37. Van Eyck Out of Focus
    (pp. 467-482)

    On 28 August 1815, Goethe received as a birthday gift from Sulpiz Boisserée, the pioneering collector of medieval art, an engraving after a work by Jan van Eyck (Fig. 1).¹ Boisserée, reverent, concealed a few of his own verses under the print, framing the sheets of paper with sprigs of oak, laurel, and clover. In his diary, Boisserée recorded the great man’s reaction to the poetry but not to the print, unfortunately.² The engraving replicates with near-perfect fidelity every dash, dot, and stroke of Van Eyck’s work, theSt. Barbara, now in the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp...

  38. Landscape’s Pleasures: The Gifted Drawing in the Seventeenth Century
    (pp. 483-494)

    In 1618, the English gentleman and miniature painter Edward Norgate wrote William Trumbull, King James I’s agent in Brussels, requesting help in procuring a particular type of drawing for his patron, Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, the first Englishman to appreciate and collect drawings seriously. “How very welcome a few…Drawings of Rewbens, or [Guillaume] van Nieulandt…would be…,” Norgate wrote, especially “some of theire first and sleight drawings, either of Landskip, or any such kind as might happily be procured.” His desire to find a “first and sleight” sketch departs from contemporary preference for highly finished sheets.¹ Even more unexpected is...