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Famous Dutch Painters from Dordrecht, Ancient Capital of Holland

Part 11

22. Arnold Houbraken
23. Jacobus Houbraken


Note : Please do not email me with technical questions about paintings and their age and origin because I am not an expert but I only have gathered information about the Painters from the Netherlands and specially from Dordrecht.

Dordrecht is not only known as the oldest city and ancient capital of Holland but also for the many famous painters who were born or lived in Dordrecht during the late Middle ages and later centuries.

On the next pages you can find many works from these famous painters who were responsible for many styles of paintings and they immortalized the daily life and landscapes in the 15th to 19th century. Most of their masterpieces are nowadays part of collections in museums all over the world and of which many can be seen in the local Dordrechts Museum.

Arnold Houbraken

Dordrecht 1660 - Amsterdam 1719

Arnold Houbraken was taught painting by James Leveck, Samuel van Hoogstraten and others. Around 1709 he moved with his family to Amsterdam, where an art collector lived who had interest in its work. Houbraken probably leaved Dordrecht because he could develop himself to little as history painter. His oeuvre consists of mythological and biblical history pieces, genre scenes, portraits and landscapes painted in fine academic style.

Houbraken primarily known as a writer of "De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (1718–1721) (the great theatre of Dutch painters. It is the main source of the time for life stories of seventeenth-century Dutch painters. The biographies of the Dordtse masters have special value because it became a source for personal information of many painters. Houbraken had acces to data from the Dordtse painters fraternity who are now lost. As a resident of the city he also knew many artists - or their survivors - personal.

His son, Jacobus Houbraken (1698-1780) would became the most famous engraver of Holland in Amsterdam. Jacobus engraved most of the important representations of Britain's most noted men from the past.

Juno, Apollo and Io
Arnold Houbraken
Oil on canvas 53,3 x 50,8 cm
Private collection
Houbraken-Arnold-Commemoration of King Mausolus by Queen Artemisia
Commemoration of King Mausolus by Queen Artemisia
Arnold Houbraken
Oil on canvas, 66 x 79 cm
Private collection
The vocation of St. Matthew
Arnold Houbraken, c. 1710
Oil on panel, 41.3 x 49.5 cm
Dordrechts Museum

The painting is executed in masterly fashion mainly in brown tints. The subject is from he Gosel ccordig to Mattew (9:9-10): "As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collctor's booth. 'Follow me,' he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and 'sinners' came and ate with him and his disciples." The painting was made in preparation for an illustrated Bible edition in which many prints after designs by Houbraken were used.


Pallas Athena visit Apollo on the Parnassus
Arnold Houbraken, 1703
Oil on canvas 71 x 96 cm
Dordrechts Museum

Houbraken's painting was told by the Roman writer Ovid, the goddess Minerva visited the nine Muses on Mount Helicon (not on Parnassus as the title suggests). Minerva came to listen to the songs and stories of the muses. The cloth bears a shield, which Medusahead with hoses to the head. Against the hill is the god Apollo, shown with his golden halo as the sun god.


Portrait of a girl
Arnold Houbraken
Oil on canvas 46,3 x 36 cm
Dordrechts Museum

Between the relatively small oeuvre of Houbraken are a few known portraits, including the painting of this unknown girl.


Psyche taken to heaven and marries Amor
Arnold Houbraken Ceiling painting ca. 350 x 900 cm
Dordrechts Museum

This painting originally was in a house on the Groenmarkt in Dordrecht. Since 1944 is the ceiling piece part of the collection of the museum.

The story Houbraken imagined, is the goddess Venus, who was jealous of the beautiful human child Psyche. Venus sent Cupid, the god of love, to the earth to ensure that Psyche would love to be the ugliest man in the world. Cupid and Psyche, however, fell for each other. Venus tried to crush too frustrating, but the supreme Jupiter had pity on them. He gave Psyche the immortality which the gods celebrated the wedding party.

Houbraken-Arnold-Eternity seated by a five

Eternity seated by a five
Arnold Houbraken
oil on canvas 168 x 117.8 cm
Private collection

She is holding a tablet with the Ouroboros in her left hand, her right hand leaning on a sphere, as Wisdom stands nearby leaning on a staft encircled with a scroll inscribed "Rerum magistra"


Portrait of a young man
Arnold Houbraken
Oil on panel 47.9 x 38.7 cm
Private collection

Portrait in three-quarter-length, in a yellow silk kimono with a red lining, wearing an earring, leaning on a stone plinth, a view to a garden beyond.

Jacobus Houbraken

Dordrecht 1698 - Amsterdam 1780

Jacobus Houbraken, son of Arnold Houbraken was a Dutch engraver, who was born in Dordrecht. All that his father, Arnold Houbraken (1660-1719), bequeathed to him was a fine constitution and a pure love for work.

In 1709 he came to reside at Amsterdam, where for years he had to struggle incessantly against difficulties. He commenced the art of engraving by studying the works of Cornelis Cort, Jonas Suyderhoef, Gerard Edelinck and the Visschers. He devoted himself almost entirely to portraiture. Among his best works are scenes from the comedy of "De Ontdekte Schijndeugd", executed in his eightieth year, after Cornelis Troost, who was called by his Countrymen the Dutch Hogarth.

Houbraken also engraved the portraits for his father's art historical work 'De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (1718-1721)' and for Jan van Gool's 'Nieuwe schouburg der Nederlantsche kunstschilders (Den Haag 1750–51)'.

Jacobus Houbraken first studied and apprenticed under his father, Arnold Houbraken (1660-1719), a well respected engraver in his own right. The younger Houbraken quickly evolved a technique which shared some affinity with the portrait engravings of the great seventeenth century French school, most notably those of Nanteuil, Drevet and Edelinck. For the English speaking world, Houbraken's name is most closely linked to the massive project entitled, Heads of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain, published in parts in London from 1743 to 1752.

Working with the historian and artist, George Vertue, Houbraken engraved most of the important representations of Britain's most noted men from the past.Houbraken's greatest portraits, however, were his engravings based upon capturing the likenesses of his contemporaries. Here we see his precise and subtle use of the engraved line to its best advantage. These skills amazed most of Houbraken's fellow artists. A generation later, the famous Italian engraver, Raphael Morghen, remarked, "No engraver has ever equaled, and probably will not equal, the Dutchman Jacobus Houbraken, in the manner of imitating the flesh and the hair by means of the graver.

During his career both Dutch and English publishers constantly sought Houbraken's skills. His most famous engravings for English publication were those for the historical series, Heads of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain, published in parts in London between 1734 and 1752. The English engraver and historian, George Vertue, was also commissioned to work on the set but most of the great portrayals were left in the hands of Houbraken, including those of Newton, Pope, Dryden, Shakespeare and Milton. Under the framed portrait of each individual, Houbraken also engraved both the delightful vignettes and objects describing the importance of each person.

National Portrait Gallery, London

Jane Seymour (1509?-1537)Third Queen of Henry VIII

Jacobus Houbraken, 1746
Line engraving 35,7 x 21,8 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour, was one of Anne Boleyn's ladies in waiting when she caught the eye of Henry VIII. She refused his advances while Anne was alive, but married him after her execution.

In 1537 Jane bore Henry his only surviving son, the future Edward VI, but died soon after childbirth, leaving Henry inconsolable, for a time. Of all the wives of King Henry she only had the happiness to die in his full favor, the 14th of October 1537 and is buried in the quire of Windsor Chapel.



Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634)Lawyer, legal writer and politician.

Jacobus Houbraken, 1741
Line engraving 37,5 x 23,5 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

Sir Edward Coke was a judge and law writer of great renown. He is considered one of the premier champions of the common law, which he defended against the attempted encroachments of the courts of equity and the royal prerogative of the Stuarts--James I (1603-1625) in particular.


Catherine Howard (died 1542)Fifth Queen of Henry VIII

Jacobus Houbraken (after Hans Holbein the Younger)
Line engraving 36 x 22,7 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

Catherine Howard was the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard, a younger son of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk, her birth date and place of birth are unknown. Catherine married Henry VIII in 1540, almost immediately after the annulment of his marriage to Anne of Cleves was arranged. She had a relationship with Francis Dereham prior to her marriage with Henry. Catherine was also suspected of having an affair with Thomas Culpeper. When her premarital and marital behavior was uncovered, Catherine was beheaded for treason.

Houbraken-Jacobus-Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)Mathematical scientist

Jacobus Houbraken, 1742 (after Sir Godfrey Kneller)
Line engraving 37,8 x 23,4 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

An immensely influential mathematical scientist, in one year (1665-6), when driven from Cambridge by plague, Newton formulated a series of important theories concerning light, colour, calculus and the 'universal law of gravitation'. According to tradition, he developed the latter theory after seeing an apple fall from a tree. He published Principia Mathematica (1687) and the Opticks (1704), and was knighted in 1705.


Anne, Princess of Orange (1709-1759)Daughter of King George II

Jacobus Houbraken, 1750 (after Hendrik Pothoven)
Line engraving 36,4 x 23,2 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

Anne was born in Hannover, daughter of the future King George II of Great Britain (1727-1760) and Markgraefin Karoline von Brandenburg-Ansbach. She married in 1734 with Willem IV (1711-1751), Prince of Orange and Nassau. Only two of their five children grew to adulthood. Her husband died aged only forty and she became guardian for her children as well as taking the position of Regent (1751-1759) or 'Gouvernante in the Dutch Government. She was a dedicated mother to her children. In government affairs, she pleased by her quick actions and decisions, however she was also tyrannical and unpredictable. She placed the affairs of The Netherlands and those of her children above those of England. Suffering for a long period of consumption, she died only forty-nine years old and was buried in the Nieuwe Kerk, Delft.


Huigh De Groot (Hugo Grotius) (1583-1645), Dutch scholar

Jacobus Houbraken, 1755
Watercolor 15,3 x 9,8 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

Huig de Groot is known by the Latinized form of his name Hugo Grotius. He wrote Latin poems at the age of 8 and attended Leiden University from 1594 to 1597. He took his doctorate in law at Orléans in 1599. He entered the private practice of law in The Hague at the age of 16 and 8 years later was named state's attorney (advocate fiscal) of the Court of Holland. In 1610, in De antiquitate reipublicae Batavae (The Antiquity of the Batavian State), he argued that the province of Holland had been sovereign and independent since the time of the Romans. When Grotius was named pensionary (legal officer and political representative) of Rotterdam in 1613, he entered the higher ranks of Dutch politics. He became Oldenbarnevelt's right hand and was arrested with him on Aug. 29, 1618, when Maurice decided to cut short the measures taken by the States of Holland against his military authority. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on May 18, 1619; Oldenbarnevelt received the death penalty. After almost 2 years of imprisonment in Loevestein Castle, Grotius escaped in a book chest brought in by his wife and servant and went to France. Grotius continued his scholarly publications in Paris. In 1631 Grotius published Introduction to the Jurisprudence of Holland, which profoundly influenced legists in the Netherlands and abroad and continues to be considered part of the constitutional law of South Africa.

Grotius returned to Holland in October 1631 and lived quietssly, but he would not request pardon and fled in April 1632 to avoid arrest. Taking refuge in Germany, he came into contact with the Swedish authorities and returned to Paris in 1634 as Swedish ambassador. He proved a better scholar than diplomat and was recalled in 1644. On his return from Stockholm, Grotius suffered shipwreck at Rostock, Germany; he was rescued but died 2 days later, on Aug. 28, 1645, from exhaustion. When his identity was discovered, his body was brought home to Delft for burial.


William Shakespeare (1564-1616)Dramatist and poet

Jacobus Houbraken, 1747
Line engraving 37,2 x 23,4 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

The most celebrated English playwright and poet, and one of the great writers of all time, Shakespeare was highly esteemed during his life.


George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)German/English Composer

Jacobus Houbraken, 1738 (after unknown artist)
line engraving 360 mm x 225 mm
National Portrait Gallery, London

George Frideric Handel is famous for his operas, oratorios, and concerti grossi. His life and music may justly be described as "cosmopolitan": he was born in Germany, trained in Italy, and spent most of his life in England. In August 1750, on a journey back from Germany to London, Handel was seriously injured in a carriage accident between The Hague and Haarlem in the Netherlands. In 1751 his eyesight started to fail in one eye. The cause was unknown and progressed into his other eye as well.


Desiderius Erasmus (1466?-1536)Dutch humanist and Catholic theologian

Jacobus Houbraken
Line engraving 17,7 x 11,7 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

His scholarly name Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus was a classical scholar who wrote in a "pure" Latin style and enjoyed the sobriquet "Prince of the Humanists." He has been called "the crowning glory of the Christian humanists." Using humanist techniques for working on texts, he prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament. These raised questions that would be influential in the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. He also wrote The Praise of Folly, Handbook of a Christian Knight, On Civility in Children, Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style, Julius Exclusus, and many other works. His middle road disappointed and even angered many Protestants, such as Martin Luther, as well as conservative Catholics. He died in Basel in 1536 and was buried in the formerly Catholic cathedral there, recently converted to a Reformed church.


Henry, Prince of Wales (1594-1612)Eldest son of King James I

Jacobus Houbraken, 1738 (after Isaac Oliver)
Line engraving 37,2 x 23,3 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

Henry Frederick Stuart, first child of King James VI of Scotland (later King James I of England) and Anne of Denmark. Henry was the great hope of the Protestants, who saw in him a Protestant Henry V who would lead troops to the continent on a crusade against Catholic Spain. These dreams were shattered in 1612, when Henry suddenly took ill and died, probably of typhoid fever, though rumors circulated that the Prince was poisoned.


John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale (1616-1682)Politician, supporter of Charles II

Jacobus Houbraken, 1740 (after Sir Peter Lely)
line engraving 37,5 x 24 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

An important Restoration politician, Lauderdale was Secretary of State for Scotland until 1680, and had virtually absolute power there. He was a member of the Cabal ministry but took little interest in English affairs. Created Duke in 1672, he was a cultivated but unprincipled and unattractive man.


Anne of Cleves (1515-1557)Fourth Queen of Henry VIII

Jacobus Houbraken, 1730 (after Hans Holbein the Younger)
Line engraving 37,7 x 23,1 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

Anne of Cleves was the daughter of John, Duke of Cleves, and Mary, Duchess of Julich. Her father became a Protestant in 1533 and was generally regarded as the head of the West German Lutherans. They were married by Archbishop Cranmer at Greenwich in February 1540. They never lived together as man and wife and the passive Anne was apparently well pleased when a vote of Convocation divorced them in the following July.


Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596)Admiral and circumnavigator

Jacobus Houbraken, 1746
Line engraving 36,5 x 23,2 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

The most famous of all English seafarers, Drake earned his fame and fortune through his skilful seamanship and outstandingly successful piracy. His circumnavigation of the globe from 1577-81 involved a number of very profitable raids on Spanish ships and ports. Drake's increasingly frequent and serious attacks during the 1580s were an important factor contributing to Philips II's decision to launch the Armada against England in 1588. Draked served as vice-admiral of the English fleet which defeated the Armada.

Houbraken-Jacobus-Queen-Mary II

Queen Mary II (1662-1694)Reigned with William III, Prince of Orange 1689-1694

Jacobus Houbraken, 1750 (after Gaspar Netscher)
Line engraving 35,7 x 23,7 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

The eldest daughter of James, Duke of York, later James II, and Anne Hyde, Mary married Prince William of Orange in 1677. In the dilemma of the 1688 Revolution she supported her husband and Protestantism rather than her Catholic father, and she was invited to return to England in 1689 to share the monarchy with William. She proved a wise and effective ruler, especially during William's absences at war.


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