Gerard Dou - Life From 1631 Till His Death
( Originally Published 1902 )
WHEN the painters of Leyden met together on October 18th, 1641, to celebrate St. Luke's Day, which they were wont to keep " with great feasting," they were, perhaps, disagreeably surprised by a discourse addressed to them by Philips Angel, afterwards painter to the Shah of Persia. After stating, in a short preface, that the Painter's art is far more profitable and useful to the support of the body than any other art," he showed by sundry instances how highly esteemed "great minds" had been at various times and in many lands, and in general how amply rewarded. "And to go no further," said he, " but to look in our own country, nay, within our own city walls, we may see the very excellent Gerrit Dou, who earns yearly, by giving the honourable Herr Spiering the first refusal of his works, a payment of 500 gulden." And in that part of his address, in which he blamed the gray dullness, the green unfitness," and too great smoothness of many pictures, he could not avoid again setting up Dou as an example to young artists.
" For what," he exclaims, " is a piece of painting, that a man should sit for months and try to produce the minutest work ! If anyone will choose minute finish or his study, let him consider the never-enough-praised Gerrit Dou. That is a curious dexterity indeed, which he achieves with a sure and firm hand. Who so goes otherwise to work than in this manner shall be laughed at rather than praised."
Whether Angel's speech made any impression we know not ; but many of his audience, on hearing the name of Dou, certainly wished themselves in his place. In 1641 he was already as " widely famed " as his master Rembrandt. Hardly ten years had elapsed since he had come forth from that master's studio to work independently, and now, at the age of eight and twenty, he had already made such progress, that not only were his works held in high estimation and bought at good prices, but that he had a patron, a Mæcenas of his own. Not Angel only, but Sandrart, in his " Academia Todesca," tells us that " Pieter Spiering, the Swedish minister at the Hague, promised an annual income of 1,000 gulden to Dou, on condition that he should, according to his pleasure, buy for ready money the best of all that Dou should paint. And he bought his little pictures whereof the largest would but measure a span, for 500, 600, 800 up to a 1,000 or more Dutch gulden." And Sandrart must have known the truth, as he was personally acquainted with both Spiering and Dou. He visited the latter in his studio, and he tells us that he himself painted a portrait of their patron.
This patron, Petter Spiering Silvercron, minister from Sweden at the Hague from October 20th, 1637, till] September 11th, 1649, and from August 5th to December 4th, 1651, besides being Queen Christina': political representative, was one of the agents commissioned to collect for her every kind of rare and precious object. She employed several, Appelbom among others, the resident at Amsterdam. They purchased for their mistress everything they could get, partly for her collection at Stockholm, and partly to sell again.'
Spiering was a great admirer of smooth, highly-finished painting, and, so early as in 1635, Michel le Blon writes him a letter commending a picture by Torrentius to his attention for these qualities. This taste, it is very evident, led Spiering to make the agreement, of which Sandrart and Angel speak, with Gerard Dou, of all the painters of his time the most conspicuous for elaborate finish.
So far as we can discover he had no pictures exceptng those by Dou. He had his portrait painted by Dou, sitting at a table in his art-cabinet, with his hand on he table-cover ; near him the lady his wife, likewise seated, with their eldest daughter handing a book to her mother"; and he had also many other paintings by Dou, among them a woman reading and an old man by the fire.
The pictures sent by Spiering to Queen Christina were also almost exclusively by this painter. Christina unad an extensive collection at Stockholm, in which, as compared with other schools, the Dutch school was meagrely represented. Exclusive of the works of Christina's Dutch court-painter David Beck, who was commissioned by her to paint portraits of the princes and princesses of various courts, she possessed no more than one piece by Gerard Honthorst, a couple of paintings of insects and reptiles, and five genre pictures ; besides these she had no Dutch pictures but those by Dou, purchased for her by Spiering. The blue-stocking Queen cared little for the realism of Dutch art, preferring biblical, mythological and allegorical works, such as the Italians were then painting. Appelbom, the Swedish resident at Amsterdam, who, as we know, also bought pictures for his Queen, seems to have known her taste better ; and from that city, where a brisk trade in Italian works of art was carried on, he may have sent her many examples which she esteemed more highly than the small pictures by Dou, which she received from her representative at the Hague. She cared even less for the art of Germany and Flanders, as may be gathered from the fact that, when she retired to Italy in 1654, she left all her pictures of those schools behind in Sweden. Dou's pictures she had already returned to Spiering in 1652 ; in a catalogue drawn up in that year they are marked as " rendu."
There were ten of them, and the list is of especial interest as proving that the works mentioned in it must have been painted before 1652. The most important is the Young Man Playing the Violin, a masterpiece now at Bridgewater House. Next to this must be ranked A Man Writing, probably that belonging to the Marquess of Bute. A Woman Peeling Potatoes, which, after remaining inHolland till the middle of the last century, and passing through many hands, is now the property of Herr Huldschinsky in Berlin. Another picture, representing A Lacemaker, was formerly in the Boymans Museum It Rotterdam, and destroyed by the fire in 1864 ; one )f the two kneeling Hermits,is probably that in the Dresden Gallery.
While we can thus be certain that these pictures were L11 painted before 1652, we can fix a more exact date Ls regards two of them. It may be pronounced with ertainty that they are the same works that Sandrart saw in Spiering's possession at the time of his residence 1 Holland (1637-41), so they were executed before 641, and probably between 1637 and 1641. They are le burnt Lacemaker and the Violin Player ; and we lus know positively that in the last-named picture, which is in fact dated 1637, we see one of the works high Spiering bought " for its weight in silver."
It must indeed be allowed that this picture is a Masterpiece. It represents the painter himself at the age of four and twenty, and the work is so fine in tone, Le light falling through the window is so admirably painted, that we involuntarily refer it to the influence of Rembrandt teaching.
It is remarkable to note how long Dou remained under that influence, after Rembrandt himself was no anger with him, and although he had found a totally dependent line of work, both in conception and exetion. In this very picture we clearly see the divergence between the two men. In Rembrandt, during the last ars of Dou's studying with him, we find a skilful and en daring use of low, mingled tones, giving the corners of a room a look of mystery ; and soon afterwards see him painting broad beams of sunlight, and placing his figures in increasingly splendid and brilliant surroundings. In his pupil, by 1637, we discern a careful arrangement of the scene, and painstaking study from the life in every detail ; in short, a precision which in this picture is not yet vexatious, but which subsequently grew worse and worse, and soon degenerated into finikir painting, the outcome of the brain and devoid of feeling At the time when he painted the Violin Player Dou': talent had already taken this bent ; but the execution still gives a pleasing, nay, in this work a delightful impression. It is one of the choicest pictures of th master's early time. Another fine example of this period is the Gotha picture of A Woman Spinnin, which rivals the Violin Player; but that th painter was not always at the same high level may b seen from the Repentant Magdalen of 1638, at Berli.
Dou at this period painted several pictures of which the subject resembled that at Bridgewater House, an a good many of them are portraits of himself. In th respect he pursued the method of his early years, gene ally painting a portrait, even when he placed the figures in a needlessly " ornamentally arranged " interior. F not only painted Rembrandt's father and mother, had familiar models, but took his own relations as the subjects of his studies. The portrait of his own father, the possession of Herr von Preyer at Vienna and that of his mother, belonging to Sir Frederick Cook at Richmond, must be assigned to this time his father died in 1656, and his mother in 1651.
He also painted other portraits as commissions, as is evident from the two wellknown portraits in the Steengracht Collection at the Hague , said by Smith to be those of Dou and his wife ; Dou, however, was never married, and the man's portrait is so unlike the pictures he is known to have painted of himself that it certainly represents someone else. There is also a portrait of a man at Amsterdam , to say nothing of those in other countries. They are not, indeed, very numerous, so that we are compelled to infer that Dou's portraits did not long meet the public taste. That this was the case must not be attributed to indifferent work or lack of resemblance ; we can form an opinion, on this from the portraits of Rembrandt's father and mother, from those of himself, and above all from the striking family likeness in those of his own father ; there is nothing to be desired in these respects. It is more probable that his excessive carefulness, even in portrait-painting, made such commissions rarer as time went on. When Sandrart tells us that Dou painted Spiering's family, he cannot refrain from remarking that the President's wife had to sit to the painter on five days merely for the under-painting of one hand, and that the family had said to him that they had sat longer for Dou's little picture than for the large portrait group painted by Sandrart in three weeks.
And Sandrart adds : " By this tediousness he spoiled all pleasure in sitting, in such wise that a usually amiable face was distorted, and the ` counterfeit' likewise, with vexation, melancholy and displeasure." That this really was the case seems probable from the Portrait of a Man in the museum at Amsterdam; and it is a pity that the gentleman whose face, depressed from long endurance, Dou so elaborately painted in 1646, should have left no record as to how many hours he spent in the artist's studio. Still, Dou's fame seems to have prompted some persons, who were fain to be perpetuated by him, to pay him to add their heads in pictures painted by other artists.'
Dou was now gradually abandoning portrait-painting in favour of genre, which finally became interiors with still-life and merely accessory figures. His works of 1645 already reveal this transition. We may take as an example the picture at Cambridge, dated 1645 , of a schoolmaster teaching a boy to read, while another studies his lesson. Dou's father sat for the schoolmaster, and the whole composition, with part of Dou's studio for the background, reminds us of his way of arranging portrait pieces, of which there is an instance in the Man Writing belonging to Mr. Charles Morrison, London. This also represents Douwe Janszoon, and is even more crowded with a variety of objects out of his son's studio, reminding the spectator of Rembrandt's etched portrait of Uytenbogaert, worked out so as to be almost completely a piece of genre.
From these years date the earliest known pictures of domestic occupations, which show Dou's divergence in another direction, a line which became characteristic of his school and of himself. I allude to the arrangement by which the spectator looks in through an open window or door—a nis, or niche, as it was termed at the time, and the picture a nisstuk or niche piece.
Dou, of course, was not the first to treat interiors in this way ; indeed, it would seem that it was Rembrandt's example which, in fact, led him to paint these "niche-pictures." If Dou had generally displayed greater initiative, we should not ascribe this new departure to Rembrandt's influence, for the arrangement of figures in an architectural setting of arches, balustrades and the like had long obtained, in imitation of the Italians ; but Rembrandt's Portrait of Saskia, done three days after their betrothal (1633), that of A Man (1634) in the Holford Collection, the Lady with a Fan (1641) in Buckingham Palace, and many others must certainly have had their effect on his pupil. It was already customary to set a portrait-head in an oval as if the sitter were looking out through it, and Frans Hals and his pupils frequently represented their subjects with one hand resting on a balustrade. Rembrandt's pupils followed his example. Nor was it any speciality of Dou's to represent a figure as leaning over the lower half of a door ; it is to be seen in the pictures and etchings of Adriaen v. Ostade, and in pictures by Maes and others.
Still, Dou's treatment of the "niche" window was so characteristic that it became the typical form for all the Leyden school of minute painting, from his first pupil to his last imitator. It is therefore interesting to note the process of its evolution.
The earliest dated work of this class is the Girl cutting Onions in the King's Collection at Buckingham Palace. It was painted in 1646. We look into a kitchen where a girl is cutting onions into a tub which stands on the sill of the window that frames the whole. The girl is evidently a portrait; the same head frequently occurs in his pictures, and the boy is painted from the same model as sat for one of the figures in the Schoolmaster at Cambridge. The arrangement is simple, and the window-frame perfectly plain. Another picture, a Girl scouring a Pan, in the King's Collection, and the Girl chopping Cabbage,' with its companion, now at Schwerin, were evidently painted at the same time, from the same model and the same place, and are equally simple and plain so far as the "niche" is concerned. But Dou gradually worked up this subsidiary feature, as its attraction for him increased ; between 1646 and 1657 we find only one work which is not thus arranged, and even the earliest of his dated lamp-light studies' belongs to this class.
Dou began with a plain arched window, with a broad sill on which two or three accessories were displayed, but he soon began to add some decorations : he first placed a stone tablet below the window on which the date is carved in Roman numerals (as in the Fisherman's Wife at Amsterdam ; or he partly drapes the opening with a curtain ; he trains a vine up the sides, or gives life to the whole by introducing a pot of blossoming pinks. But what he ere long liked best was to place a basrelief in the wall below the window, painting it from a plaster cast in his possession. After 1651 this constantly recurs. We find it in the famous Violin Player at Dresden; in the equally wellknown Poulterer's Shop in the National Gallery (No. 47; Plate28), and a great many more window pieces. t represents some children playing with a goat, and is the best known work of a sculptor at that time famous : Frans Duquesnoy—better known as Fiamingo—a friend of Rubens.'
This bas-relief is the familiar feature of all his more richly decorated window-frames ; and, with a bird-cage, a pot of pinks, a climbing vine, etc., this relief—very rarely any other—became the stock-in-trade of all Dou's followers, and, however varied in arrangement, gives the stamp which enables us to recognize Dou as the model they imitated.
Another class of subject is also characteristic of Dou and his school, interiors, namely, seen through a window, with an effect of lamp, or more frequently candle-light. It was Dou who made this class of work popular by introducing it into domestic genre. Candle-light pieces had no doubt been painted long before his time, as in Jan Massys' St. Jerome and " Night-pieces," as they are called, probably had their origin in subjects of Bible history to which night effects seemed appropriate, as the Birth of Christ and Peter's release from Prison. Gerard Honthorst and Elsheimer's followers had also painted artificial light, but the representation of night scenes of domestic and private life, elaborately finished and on a small scale, was first adopted as a genre of his own by Gerard Dou. He was first attracted to an attempt in this direction, once more, no doubt, by Rembrandt, for during the years of his apprenticeship the master had more than once executed a candle-light scene ; I need only name the Money Changer at Berlin, and the Philosopher at Vienna.
We find no candle-light effect in Dou's pictures before 1653, in which year a replica of the Brussels portrait was painted.' The treatment is not yet altogether satisfactory, too evidently laboured and too gray in tone ; but the painter soon overcame all such difficulties, and brought the painting of these night-pieces to a high degree of perfection. His famous Evening School at Amsterdam, painted in or shortly before 1665, must, whatever may be said of it, hold a high place among the works of our great masters. The Card Players in the Czernin Collection at Vienna , and the Girl preparing Supper, at Frankfort, are also two of Dou's best pictures ; and that this kind of subject, especially a woman in a " niche" with a lighted candle, had great vogue even during his lifetime is well known. In fact, Schalcken became his pupil exclusively, it would seem, in order to learn to paint such subjects.
Though Gerard Dou deviated from his master's teaching in some subjects, in one class that was congenial to his own instincts he followed him most faithfully. I allude to his many pictures of Hermits. The earliest treatment of this subject, which might even be taken for a copy from a picture by Rembrandt (No. 107) has already been mentioned. Dou had the same composition in his eye, even long after. The same accessories—the Crucifix, Bible, rosary, skull, etc., and especially the trunk of a dead tree—" which resembles no tree-trunk in nature," says Weyerman—constantly reappear in the surroundings of the Hermit, who is sometimes reading, sometimes praying, generally seen only to the knees, but occasionally a fulllength figure, and always based on the same conception. And not men alone, but women that may be identified as the Penitent Magdalen, did he paint in the same manner, and with the same accessories, though far less frequently than the Hermits, which were so much to the taste of the buyers, that they not only were well paid for, and repeatedly copied, but were largely imitated by other painters, such as van Spreewen, Leermans and van Staveren, who sometimes borrowed whole passages from Dou's Hermits.'
What is even more striking in the Magdalens than in the Hermits is the typically Dutch physiognomy of Dou's model, a girl who is seen not only in his earliest dated Magdalen (1638), now at Berlin (No. 96), but in the Girl cutting Onions (1646), at Buckingham Palace, in the Woman with a Fowl (1650), in the Louvre , and in the wellknown picture at Waddesdon Manor (1657), formerly in the Six Collection. We still see her in the, Young Mother at the Hague (1658), and in many other pictures. It is always the same girl, always equally young. This makes it quite clear that Dou cannot always have painted the face from life, however evident it may seem that other parts of his work were studied from nature. It would seem that he constantly painted this girl from sketches or from memory, and he probably did the same with other " character-heads," for he repeatedly made use of the studies he had made from Rembrandt's father, as Rembrandt himself did, for a figure in a picture, long after the death of Harmen van Rijn. As regards the accessory objects in his pictures, they were always faithfully painted from nature, as may be proved by an interesting example.
There was, in the seventeenth century, a gate at the end of Haarlemmerstraat, near the Turf market, called the Blauwpoort or Old Rijnsburgerpoort, built in 1619, in place of an older structure. After the extension of the city after 1610, the Morschpoort afforded access to it on this side, and the gate of 1619 was evidently more ornamental than practical. From the middle of the roof rose a peaked tower, and each of the two ridges supported a sort of tall chimney on which was an armillary sphere.' The cornice of the building was evidently not strong enough to bear these superstructures ; the tower was reduced to a peaked cap, and in 1652 the two square chimneys were reduced in height. Finally, in 1667, the gate, by the restoration of the spheres, had assumed the aspect it presents in maps and prints after 1670. It may seem improbable that a fact in the history of a painter should be derived from that of so small a building. But so it is. Dou frequently introduced the Blauwpoort into his pictures. In one at Prague and another at St. Petersburg, and in no less than four at Munich, it is seen in the background. Four of these, dated 1652, 1654, 1663 and 1667, show it in the second and third stages of its existence, while in the first and last it appears with the tall chimneys and tower of its first phase. This plainly shows that Dou did not paint it from an old sketch or from memory, as he seems to have painted his heads, but that he went direct to nature on each occasion.
Another inference may be drawn from this. It is at once evident that the gate and its surroundings were always drawn from the same spot, and, as the perspective shows, from a high position, whence we may safely conclude that Dou drew it from an upper room in the house by the Galgewater.' Sandrart's statement that Dou's studio faced north, and was near a canal, confirms us in the assumption that it was in such a room that he lived and worked. From documents in the Leyden archives we learn that he resided in the Noortrapenburg district, which included the Galgewater, so he did not, as might have been expected, inhabit one of the houses he owned on the Kortrapenburg, which belonged to the Gasthuys district.
From all this we may conclude that Dou lived and had his studio on the first floor of a house by the Galgewater; and that he worked there in 1652, 1654, 1663 and 1667 will be seen from what follows.
There can be no doubt that Dou was already famous in 1641 ; and in 1660 he was reckoned one of the greatest painters in Holland. To realize this we need only refer to the names of some of his more famous scholars, a subject to be treated in a later chapter. Poets sang his praises, and it will here be interesting to give a sketch of the historical events which afford further proof of Dou's popularity.
In 1660 Charles II. of England paid a visit to the Hague, from May 25th to June 2nd, as a guest of the States of Holland, on his way to England. A splendid reception was arranged to atone in every possible way for the incivility they had formerly shown to the Stuarts.
On Saturday, May 29th, 1660, at a meeting of the States it was resolved to offer the King a magnificent present in proof of the sympathy of the Dutch. It was proposed to purchase a spendid bedstead (which was done, for 100,000 gulden), with its hangings and appurtenances, and a fine tapestry hanging ; also " a large number of fine pictures by the most famous painters, as well Italian as of this country, old as well as new" ; and the Deputed States were appointed to carry out this resolution, which indeed was not effected till some time after Charles's visit.
Heer van Outshoorn was commissioned in the first instance to buy twenty-four Italian pictures from the collection of the widow of Gerrit Reynst at Amsterdam, consisting largely of pictures that had belonged to Charles I., and had been turned into money by the English after his death in 1646. For making this purchase Outshoorn availed himself of " the address and advice " of the sculptor Quellinus, and of Gerrit Uylenburch, the picture-dealer ; and for these pictures the unheard-of price was paid of 80,000 gulden.' Then Andries de Graeff, a burgomaster of Amsterdam, wished to withdraw one of his pictures, whereupon two competent persons were to be appointed to value it. On September 23rd the State valuer approved on their part " one Gerrit Dou," and on the part of Herr de Graeff, at his request, one Reynier van der Wolff, and the two said gentlemen were apprised thereof on September 23rd, 1660.
It is to be regretted that nothing more is known about this matter. What the result of the assessment was and who the painter of the picture are alike unknown. But the circumstance is another proof of the high esteem in which Dou's talent was held by men of the highest position and best taste in the land.
The great value set on his pictures is still further shown by the fact that the States bought three of them to be sent as a gift with the others to Charles II. Unfortunately there is no record of the subjects, or of the price paid for them. All that is discoverable is their number, as appears from the following note, written by the Deputed States, dated " Oct. 18. 1660 " :
" It will be necessary," they wrote, that the three paintings bought of you in our name should be transported to Rotterdam on Wednesday or Thursday next at latest. And to that end it will be well that you should pack the pictures well and securely, and cause them to be conveyed to that town, addressing them to Pieter Puert, merchant, there. Trusting to this, we remain," etc.
Dou replied in a letter which is unfortunately lost, and on the following day received this answer :
" In reply to yours, written in answer to ours of the 18th of the current month, we find it good that you should return the paintings, duly packed, by the bearer of this note, named Gerrit Uylenburch, who shall deal with them according to our orders ; Trusting to this, we remain," etc.
Uylenburch, in fact, was instructed to go with them to England, and there take charge of the unpacking and placing of the pictures and statues. Shortly after October 18th he set out with the envoys, who took the presents to England, and on the arrival in London the gifts were displayed in the Great Hall of Whitehall Palace. Charles warmly thanked the envoys, and the pictures which seemed best to please His Majesty were " that by Titian, to wit, a Virgin and Child ; and those of Douw [sic] and Elshamer [sic]."
The question is irresistible : which were the three pictures by Dou here alluded to? It is very difficult to say. Houbraken, when speaking of the demand for Dou's pictures, says : " The picture which is esteemed by many as his best work is that purchased of him by the gentlemen of the East India Company for 4,000 gulden, and given to Charles II. when he went from hence to England to accept the Crown. But others say that the States gave this work to King Charles in the year 1660, when he came into his kingdom, and that they bought it for a large sum of money from the cabinet of M. de Bie, his (Dou's) great patron. In it are painted a woman with a child in her lap, and a girl playing with it. This piece was subsequently removed from England by King William, and placed in the Loo, but where it is now I know not."
From this we might conjecture that the picture mentioned by Houbraken was part of the States' gift But his account, apparently based on a verbal report, perhaps revived soon after the transfer of the picture to the Loo, is very vague.
There is no documentary record of any present made to Charles by the East India Company, though this is no proof against the fact. Nor have we any reason to suppose that the States bought a picture from de Bye ; indeed, as we have seen, they corresponded directly with Dou about the pictures. Though this again proves nothing, since more than three pictures by him may have been purchased.
Research in another direction brings us to the fact that in the Royal Picture Gallery at the Hague there is a picture called The Young Mother, which represents a woman with a child in a cradle by her side, and a girl playing with the infant . A few years ago Dr. C. Hofstede de Groot, in the course of an inquiry as to the history of this work, came to the conclusion that it had once been in the collection of James II., King of England. Whether it had been given to Charles II. is uncertain, as Houbraken's description does not precisely answer to it. That the gift was made we know from a passage in John Evelyn's Diary, where it is noted between the 1st and the 6th December, 1660: "Now were presented to his Majestie those two rare pieces of Drolery, or rather, a Dutch Kitchin, painted by Dowe so finely as hardly to be distinguish'd from enamail." That this was the picture belonging to James II., and subsequently transferred to the Loo—being, indeed, the only work of this kind by Dou as to which the comparison with enamel has any sense—is, moreover, corroborated by the mention of The Young Mother in the list of pictures demanded by Queen Anne after the death of William III., as "A Dutch Kitchen, by Gerard Dow."
It may be considered proved, then, that The Young Mother was presented to Charles II. And as the letter from van Nassau and van Hoorn indicates that the King had inspected the presents before November 26th, and Evelyn expressly says in December "Now were presented," The Young Mother must have been a separate gift, and so not improbably from the East India Company.
There are two wellknown pictures by Dou which correspond with the description given by Houbraken, each representing a woman with her child on her lap, and a girl playing with it. One is in Buckingham Palace, the other belongs to the Duke of Westminster. They are companion pictures, and both came from the Choiseul Collection. I was able to see the former work, and to determine that it was painted about 1654-60. I could not indeed examine it with a view to finding an old inventory number, or any other mark by which to verify its former history. But it seems to me not impossible that one of these pictures was presented to Charles ll or, perhaps, both—and subsequently brought back to Holland, and that one of them is that which is mentioned in van Beuningen's Sale as " The wellknown Cradle by Gerard Douw." This, however, cannot be proved, and we are still in uncertainty as to what were the paintings by Dou presented by the States to Charles II.
At any rate, Charles was so well pleased, especially by Dou's work, that he seems to have had an idea of bidding the famous painter to his Court. This would appear from some verses by a Leyden poet, Dirk Traudenius, famous in his day, dedicated ;
"To Mr. Gerard Dou, when, by the King's command, he was invited to go and paint in England."
Houbraken, who has preserved the verses, hazards the obvious opinion that the painter " had reasons" for rejecting the offer, inasmuch as his retired habits would not accord with Court life, or that his friends persuaded him to think so.
It is known that Charles invited painters from Holland to work at his Court—W. van de Velde the younger and Pieter Lely. And it might seem possible that Dou also came over for a time, since his name is absent from the books of St. Luke's Guild from 1668 till 1673. The existence of a portrait of the King ascribed to him gives support to this opinion, and I carried out a long search, both at the British Museum and the Record Office, but without result.' Not long after, however, I came by other means on a solution of the question. Dou's name, as has been said, is missing from the books during an earlier interval, from 1651 till 1658. It has usually been assumed that Dou lived out of Leyden during these years. Kramm, Ch. Blanc and Dohme speak of his absence during these years, and it is mentioned in the latest catalogue of the National Gallery.
But while compiling my list of Dou's works, I found a Portrait of Himself, by Dou, mentioned by Granberg, signed "G. Dou, Leyden, 1652, AEtatis 39," whereupon Granberg rightly remarks that Dou must have been in Leyden in that year. And an examination of his pictures at Munich, dated 1652, 1654, 1663 and 1667, in which he painted the Blauwpoort, evidently from nature, proves that the omission of Dou's name from the Guild books was not due to his absence from Leyden during the first interval, 1651-1658.
As regards the second, I have come to the same conclusion, especially since Dr. Bredius showed me some legal deeds in which Dou is mentioned. The following résumé will show in what years Dou's residence in Leyden may be positively proved.
From Orlers' statements it is clear that Dou was living in Leyden till 1641, and there is no reason to doubt his being there in 1642 and 1643, though no evidence is forthcoming. In 1644 Dou signed the deed of the " Order of St. Luke" ; then we hear no more of him till 1646, in which year he painted a portrait of a man in his studio. As to 1647 there is no evidence. In 1648 he was a member of St. Luke's Guild, and is mentioned in the lists till 1651. In 1652 he painted a portrait of himself in Leyden,' and the Blauwpoort in the background of another picture. Of 1653 there is no record ; in the following year he again painted the Blauwpoort from nature; and of 1655 again we know nothing. That he was at Leyden in 1656 and 1657 is proved by his signature to two deeds. From 1658 to 1668 his name is found in the Guild registers. In 1669 he had three pupils, he had his will made by the notary Paedts at Leyden, and the burgomasters of the town entered into negotiations with him as to the painting of a picture, a matter still proceeding in 1670. There is no record of 1671, but in the following year Dou seems to have signed a portrait of himself dated "Leyden, 1672."' In 1673 and 1694 his name again occurs in the Guild books, and in 1674 he made his will for the last time.
From this it is plain that the Guild books alone are no trustworthy guide as to Dou's presence in Leyden, so that all hypotheses based on them may be set aside. It is not, of course, impossible that during the years of which we know nothing (1642, 1643, 1645, 1647, 1653, 1655, 1671) Dou was absent ; but it may safely be assumed to be almost a certainty that Dou was never out of Leyden for any length of time, and that Charles II.'s proposal that he should visit London came to nothing.
Dou, in fact, was under no necessity to leave his native land, especially when, in or about 1660, he had Found another patron to buy his pictures as Spiering had formerly done.
It has already been told (p. 9) that Monsieur de Monconys, when he stayed in Leyden in August, 1663, besides going to the world-famed Anatomical Theatre end other places of note, visited the best known painters. He first went to Frans van Mieris, who had but one picture finished, for which he asked him 1,200 livres. He went also to Pieter van Slingelandt, and was willing to give "60 écus" for a picture, for which the artist asked no less than 400 livres. When Monconys came to Dou, " qui est incomparable pour la délicatesse de son pinceau," he too had but one picture, A Woman at a Window, for which he demanded "600 livres du pays."
Monconys bought nothing, but he went to Monsieur de Bye, to see the "great number of pictures by Dou," which that gentleman owned. Johan de Bye seems at first to have had these works in his house ; but they soon became so numerous that on September 18th, 1665, he hired, from the painter Johannes Hannot, who lived in Leyden opposite the Town Hall, at the rent of 40 gulden a year, "a front room in order to display the paintings of Monsieur Douw belonging to the aforesaid de Bye, and to give them a fitting place."
When the pictures were carried thither the following advertisement appeared in the " Haarlemsche Courant September 26th :
" Be it known to all gentlemen and amateurs, that in the house of Mons. Hannot, opposite the Raethuys in the town of Leyden, every day, except Sundays, from I I to 12, should there be no compulsory hindrance, 29 pieces may be seen' most admirably painted and wonderfully finished by the skilled and renowned Mr. Gerard Dou ; praying all in particular as they go out not to neglect to remember the extreme need of the poor, but to make a liberal gift for the sight of the same, to which end a chest shall hang in the said room, and if any one finds pleasure in the art displayed will he be pleased to speak of it to the owner."
This was an important and extremely costly collection, and it is worth while to go through the items and note where the pictures now are.
No. I. " A large piece, daylight, with four figures, a sick woman and a doctor with a vessel ; an ewer on the outside," is beyond a doubt the wellknown and often described Dropsical Woman, now in the Louvre, where, till a short time since, it had the honour of a place in the Salon Carré, among the masterpieces of every school.
The panel on which it is painted was originally inclosed in an ebony case with a double door, on which Dou had painted an ewer and a silver bowl. These, too, are in the Louvre, but separated from the other examples. The Dropsical Woman (La femme hydropique) [L. 2348] is famous not merely for its composition and execution, but also for its history,' and it gave rise to some confusion as to the date of Dou's birth. The picture is signed, on the edge of the Bible, which lies on a desk in the left foreground—" G. Dou 1663 out 65 jaar." Consequently, several writers assumed the year of his birth to be 1598. Kramm, who settled the question, proposed to read this signature out 55 jaar, an assumption accepted by the National Gallery catalogue. In point of fact there is certainly an error in the signature ; and a mistake between 8 and 3 or between 5 and 6 is one easily made. Happily this list of de Bye's now establishes the fact that the picture was painted before September, 1666, which makes it absolutely certain that the date should read 1663, and that the words out (aged) 65 jaar either were added afterwards or contain a blunder.
No. II. " A lady playing on the clavi-cembalo, with a tablecover, daylight," is now in the Dulwich Gallery.
No. III. " Candlelight, three persons playing cards," may be seen in Count Czernin's collection at Vienna.
No. VI. " A naked swimmer near a tree" is in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg. This picture has never been parted from Nos. IX. and XVI.
No. VII. " A goat and landscape" is a subject we should not have expected Dou to paint. This may be the picture seen by Bürger in 1857 in the Manchester Exhibition, which perhaps had come from the collection of Eugene of Savoy. I know no more of this interesting picture.'
No. VIII. " The Evening School " (No. 159), now at Amsterdam, is thus seen to have been painted in or before 1665.
No. IX. " A naked woman rubbing her foot with her hand " is in the Hermitage.
No. XIII. " A double piece, on the outside a curtain, a clock, and a candlestick ; within, a candlelight scene, being a cellar," again is a painting in a case, like No. I. The door and the picture are both at Dresden (Nos. 121 and 122 Dresden Cat., Nos. 1713 and 1708), but until now their relation had not been discovered. In the Dresden catalogue the still-life outer panel is said to be dated 1667 ; but this is an error ; there is no date, as examination by myself and Dr. Karl Woermann, the director, proved.
No. XVI. "A naked girl combing her hair" (No. 184) is in the Hermitage.
No. XVIII. "A candlelight scene with an Astrologus" may be either the picture at Brunswick that at Richmond, or that at Vienna.
No. XX. " A trumpeter blowing, with a silver leather", is in the Louvre. The " silver leather " evidently refers to a blue curtain with a silver border on the right of the picture. No. XXI. " A woman counting money, with a gold leather ", is in the Arenberg Gallery, Brussels.
No. XXIV. " A girl leaning over a balustrade with a cover that is on it" has within a few years been added to the Rudolphinum at Prague.
The other numbers of this list cannot be identified with any certainty, chiefly because in each case more than one wellknown example agrees with the description.
A noteworthy point is the fact that twenty-two out of the twenty-seven pieces were provided with a kas-a chassis or case with doors ; among them are three " double-pieces " besides the Dropsical Woman.
We possess several, though not very many, examples of pictures of the seventeenth century inclosed in such a chassis. The risks of transport, especially to a foreign country, made some such protection necessary, where we now use merely a rough case to protect the frame, and a plate of glass to cover the picture. Sometimes, however, such a " shrine was added merely to give the picture an added value, and that the plan was well adapted to improve a bad picture we gather from a passage in Campo Weyerman,' relating to a spurious Correggio, " inclosed in an elegant case with a green silk curtain." Sometimes the case was not fitted with doors, but with a sliding lid on which something was painted ; for in-stance, a picture was put up for a lottery at Wijk-bij-Duurstede in 1649—an owl by Pieter Aertsen, with a panel that closed over it on which Jan de Bondt had painted some birds.
Dou began early to protect his pictures by a case ; among those sent to Queen Christina one had " un chassis noir de bois d'ébéne." Ere long it occurred to him to paint a picture on the lid, or rather the door of these cases, generally a niche with some object of still-life, in imitation of the niches then commonly made in the walls of rooms to contain all kinds of ornaments ; for instance, in the example at Dresden , a candle-stick and a clock ; and in that of the Louvre an ewer, just to break the dull effect of the cover.
The best example of such a door was the famous picture by Dou which was lost in the Baltic, in 1771, on the voyage to Russia. This piece was arranged as a triptych. Dou had two doors made to cover the picture itself, and on these were painted two grisailles by Michael Coxie on the outside, while Dou himself painted two little pictures on the inner side. In one instance he allowed himself to be tempted to paint a picture on the cover of a chassis containing an ivory crucifix,' probably for a Catholic whose worship had to be performed in secret, thus giving the case the appearance of containing a picture.
If this practice of our ancestors of protecting a painting by a case with doors is unfamiliar to us, it is well known that precious pictures were frequently covered by a curtain. In fact, the curtain almost belonged to the picture. Thus when the Master of the Vintners' Company of Rotterdam had his portrait painted, he ordered the curtain at the same time as the frame. And we see numerous instances represented in the works of our great masters ; for instance, in a charming painting by Gabriel Metsu, the property of Mr. Beit, London, where a maid-servant is inquisitively raising the curtain which screens a marine picture on the wall. And the artist sometimes tried to cheat the eye by painting a curtain on the picture itself, to look like a real curtain. Painters of still-life often did this, but others as well, merely to name Rembrandt and Jan Steen.
Dou more than once painted such a curtain, hung by rings to a brass rod. And not only in studies of still-life ; in the most satisfactory of all his portraits of him-self, that at Amsterdam , a curtain is so wonderfully imitated, that the names of Zeuxis and Parrhasius rose to the lips of many of his contemporaries. For the first desideratum of the taste of the time was that a painting should be exact, and natural. However strange the subject might be, whatever "queer fancies" might be represented, if only the painting was highly finished and had nature for its foundation it passed muster. Apes in men's clothing, nymphs, centaurs or devils, no one cared so long as they were correct, natural and highly finished in drawing and execution. A minutely finished work was most in favour even at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and the whole tendency of the technique of the Flemish school, which trained our younger men, was to this end. No one cared to keep a broadly handled picture for any length of time, though at first it might be attractive. Frans Hals and Rembrandt both died in poverty, while Gerard Dou's great fame and wealth prove the preference at that time for elaborately minute work.
We have seen how great was Dou's renown and what high prices were paid for his work. First Spiering bought his pictures, then the States of Holland, and finally Johan de Bye, whose collection consisted of them exclusively. It is no wonder then that the Burgomasters of Leyden should have proposed to commission Dou to paint something for his native town. This we find in a minute-book of theirs, wherein it is recorded on July 24, 1669, that: "Mr. Gerard Dou w, picture-painter, made his appearance, being notified by the Burgomasters that, in consideration of his art being very famous and in great esteem, they are minded to have a piece by him here ; and they sounded him as to whether he would feel disposed to make a handsome artistic piece of painting for this town ; the which the said Douw, after thanking them for the honour done to him by this offer, expressed himself ready to agree to, but first he was required to communicate to the Burgomasters his idea for the picture which he was left free to decide on."
The Burgomasters apparently thought that Dou would be satisfied with the honour and a present (as a silver ewer, such as they had presented to somebody a short time previously) ; but the painter, somewhat spoilt by the high prices he was being paid for his work, seems to have valued himself in this case by his own standard, as did his pupil Frans van Mieris, to whom the Burgomasters made a similar proposition. At any rate their views did not coincide, and on February 18th, 1670, the Burgomasters resolved to give "the painter Mieris an evasive answer, and to postpone the picture he was to paint for the town as regards the painting by Douw, to put him off as cleverly as may be with an excuse."
Since this was their determination, it is evident that the demands of the two painters were excessive. Both, in fact, were spoilt in this particular. Mieris had been paid 1,825 gulden for a picture painted to the order of Cosimo III., Grand Duke of Tuscany ; and as regards Dou, even after his death the greatest efforts were made to secure a miniature work by him for the same prince, proof enough that his paintings were much sought after. It is quite conceivable, therefore, that he asked high prices, not to be over burdened with commissions. He, like van Mieris,' calculated the price of his pictures by the time he worked on them, charging a pound Flemish, i.e., six gulden, per hour ; and that is quite conceivable in a man who, like Dou, had not to work for his bread.
For he knew no cares of any kind. He was unmarried and lived quietly in his house by the Galgewater with his niece Antonia van Tol, who kept house for him, and he never troubled himself as to what the world might say of their relations to each other. He was to be seen everywhere, a respectable gentleman, " Monsieur Dou" as he was usually called. And possibly for this reason the French form of his name Gerrit (Gerard) had already been adopted during his lifetime. Besides the fact that at the founding of the Guild of St. Luke in 1648 he was chosen its standard-bearer, it is clear that he was one of the " gentlemen" among the painters. His portraits of himself show it more plainly than words or records. The youth who attended Rembrandt's classes grew to be a man who at first made rather a display of his joviality, as in the portrait in the National Gallery, but who gradually assumed the gravity of demeanour which beseemed a patrician in those days. It was in a rich dress, a cloak trimmed with fur, a handsome cap on his head and a silver-headed cane in his hand, that he painted himself in 1663, and with evident satisfaction put in "Aet. 50 " after his signature. The portrait by Schalcken, painted in 1662, shows that he made the same impression on others, and we are involuntarily tempted to lose ourselves in speculations as to the person of an artist who had so wide an influence on the painters of his day.
His wealth was undoubtedly great. He inherited a substantial fortune at his father's death, consisting chiefly of houses, and increased it by the large sums he got for his pictures. Thus for one he demanded of Monconys 600 gulden, which agrees with Sandrart's statement, who speaks of 600, 800, 1,000 gulden and more.
That he had a real respect for money, and was by no means indifferent to the disposition of his fortune at his death, may be seen from his having three times made his will.' From the last, made six weeks before his death, we may estimate his position. He owned three houses together on the Kortrapenburg, and a capital of 15,000 gulden, left to his niece Antonia van Tol for her life, while he bequeathed 4,000 gulden in various legacies, and 500 to the Catharijnengasthuis at Leyden.
Of his last illness and death nothing is known. A brief entry in the register of St. Peter's church at Leyden tells us the date of his death. On the 9th of February, 1675, we find in the list of burials these words only :
" Mr. Gerrit Douw, painter."