Hoogsteder Journal No. 07

An immigrant in Amsterdam

How Johannes Bouman of Strasbourg became a Dutch painter

The favourable economic and cultural climate of the Northern Netherlands in the 17th century acted as a powerful magnet to people from all walks of life: merchants, artists, scholars, but also mercenaries and sailors from foreign lands. There was a lively traffic with all parts of the known world: via the Sound with the Baltic countries, Russia and Scandinavia; via the North Sea with England and Flanders right down to the Mediterranean; and finally across the great oceans with the East and West Indies. Amsterdam was the metropolis of Europe, where foreign products could be bought in abundance and the streets presented an exotic scene. Around the mid-seventeenth century Dutch ships transported more tonnage than all the other countries put together. The Dutch East India Company was the world’s first multinational and it brought huge prosperity. Holland was the major trading nation and Amsterdam emerged as a financial centre – the only place in the world – where people could exchange virtually all foreign notes.

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Painting discovered in Vermeer

Everyone was able to admire the painting of the Lady Standing at the Virginals by Johannes Vermeer during the Vermeer exhibition at the Mauritshuis. What a privilege it was to be able to view the painting in The Hague surrounded by so many other works by the artist. Johannes Vermeer surely has no equal; he has a way of subtly overwhelming the viewer. Each object, each form has a unique magic in the paintings of this Delft master, so that we almost forget what we are looking at. We willingly allow ourselves to be swept along in Vermeer’s fine colours, the calm of the movement, the almost abstract composition, the apparently simple technique. In this article we break the spell and examine one particular painting by Vermeer with a sober, searching eye. The Lady Standing at the Virginals, currently at the National Gallery in London, contains an intriguing phenomenon which is discussed here for the first time.

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Twelfth Night

A Jan Miense Molenaer household

‘From my fate all can see
That a beggar a king can be
How long does it keep?
Until it’s time to sleep’.
(verse on a king letter, 17th century)

Epiphany, or Twelfth Night was one of many festivals that used to brighten the dark winter months. Christian holidays and the veneration of saints were opportunities in bygone generations for raucous get-togethers, accompanied by an overindulgence in food and drink. Despite the objections of the Protestant clergy, the originally Catholic festivals of St Martin, St Nicolas, Christmas, Epiphany and Carnival continued to be celebrated after the Reformation.

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Taking on the Art Tax

From September 1999 to mid-January 2000 a sense of foreboding hung over the art world in the Netherlands. The secretary of state for financial affairs, Willem Vermeend, had proposed a tax on private art collections at 1.2 per cent per annum starting in 2001. The catastrophic effects this would have had are easy to imagine.

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Rachel Ruysch, Amsterdam’s Pallas and Minerva of the Amsterdam IJ

‘When a work by Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750) appears on the art market, as still happens from time to time, it creates a sensation.’ This was the opening sentence in the January 2000 edition of the magazine Kunstschrift entirely devoted to Rachel Ruysch. Hoogsteder and Hoogsteder currently have one of this feted artist’s flower still lifes. A sensation!

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Fashionable innovations of Tsar Peter the Great

We recently came into possession of a portrait painted by Michiel van Musscher in the latter years of the seventeenth century. It is a fascinating likeness of a proud and stalwart man, depicted full-length in a splendid outfit. A typical Turkish costume, we were assured. The artist was undeniably Michiel van Musscher. But whether the man in the portrait was indeed a Turk was open to question.

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The Glory of the Rijksmuseum

Exhibition Diary

The copy for this issue of the Journal was already laid out when Her Majesty the Queen opened the Glory of the Golden Age exhibition at the Rijksmuseum on Friday 14 April. But the show is so spectacular that we decided to stop the proverbial press.

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