Probably Maria van Strijp (1627-1707), Haarlem, 1707 (i)
Private collection, Milan, for at least a generation, until 2018
Thence by descent, in Paris, until 2019
We are grateful to Dr. Fred G. Meijer and to Dr. Pieter Biesboer for their help in researching this painting.
Together with Jan van der Heyden (1637-1712), Gerrit Berckheyde pioneered the development of Dutch cityscape painting. He was born in Haarlem in 1638 and lived there until his death in 1698. He was probably taught to paint by his older brother Job Berckheyde (1630-93), with whom he also shared a house and perhaps a studio for much of his life. He specialised in painting city views of which a significant portion is devoted to portrayals of his native city. He also depicted characteristic locations in Amsterdam and The Hague, and vistas of some German cities, especially Cologne.
Berckheyde began painting the landmarks of his native city in the second half of the 1660s and continued to do so throughout his career. Most depict the area around the main square - the Grote Markt, the hub of the city’s civic and commercial life, with the Town Hall at the west end, and the church of St. Bavo, and the meat and fish markets, at the other - but he also painted neighbourhoods outside the historic city centre, including views on the Spaarne, the city’s medieval gates, and the perimeter walls and ramparts. Indeed, Berckheyde’s views of Haarlem provide a remarkable documentary record of the city over the course of some thirty years, for unlike Jan van der Heyden, who regularly introduced fanciful elements into his townscapes, Berckheyde’s Dutch views are almost always true to life.
This recently rediscovered and previously unpublished painting represents a highly important addition to the artist’s oeuvre. A relatively early work, it presents a view looking southeast along the River Spaarne, at Haarlem. Appearing on the left is the double-fronted premises of the brewery ‘De Drie Klaveren’ (The Three Clubs), identifiable by its emblem – a roundel with three white clubs on a black ground – affixed to the façade of the building. Several dozen beer kegs are stacked on the quay in front of it, and another is being carried from the brewery by two beer haulers. Prominent in the foreground, is the so-called putgalg, or beer pole, a device that enabled fresh water to be delivered to the brewery, while on the left, is an unobtrusive entrance giving access to the clandestine Catholic church (schuilkerk) of St. Dominicus. An elegantly dressed couple – presumably the owner of the brewery and his wife - stands on the cobbles in front of the brewery, talking to a man wearing wide breeches and a hat. Spanning the river in the middle distance is the Langebrug, with the Eendjespoort (the little ducks’ gate), or Leidse Waterpoort situated on the far bank on the corner of the Turfmarkt and Kampervest. A number of river craft are drawn up along the banks. A few townsfolk are taking an early morning dip in the river.
Fortunately, the painting has come down to us in outstandingly good condition which enables us to appreciate fully the artist’s refined technique and his masterful grasp of perspective. Typical of Berckheyde is the evocative use of light – here the clear light of morning – and the sunny palette influenced by the Dutch Italianate landscapists. Also characteristic is the vivid naturalism of the scene, with its matter-of-fact viewpoint, recording the vitality and quality of daily life in seventeenth-century Haarlem.
Following the standard practice of the time, Berckhede made on-the-spot preparatory sketches which he later worked up into finished paintings in his studio, though few such works have survived. Unusually, however, and by good fortune a fine preparatory drawing for this painting has been preserved in the Noord Hollands Archief (ii). Although hitherto attributed to Anthonie Beerstraten, the re-emergence of the signed and dated painting makes clear that the drawing must also be the work of Gerrit Berckheyde. Whilst there are a number of small differences between the drawing and the painting in such ‘variable’ features as the boats, the figures, the barrels, etc., the topography of this stretch of the Spaarne remains virtually unchanged in the final work.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries brewing was the main industry of Haarlem and a source of great wealth. Haarlem beer was of high quality and was exported to many other towns in Holland. Its superiority was due in part to the purity of the local dune water which was transported by water barge from the Brouwerskolk – a water catchment area on the edge of the dunes to the west of the city – along the Brouwersvaart (Brewers’ canal) to the breweries, many of which were situated along the Spaarne. “De Drie Klaveren” was one of the fifty breweries listed by Samuel Ampzing in his Beschryvinge ende lof der stad Haarlem in Holland (Description and Praise of the City of Haarlem in Holland) of 1628 (iii). Its location, as described by Ampzing, was on the east side of the Spaarne between the Vis, or Melbrug, and the Langebrug (now replaced with a modern bridge) exactly as Berckheyde painted it in 1669. A mid-seventeenth century map of Haarlem by Pieter Wils shows a bird’s-eye view of the city on which the bridge and the Leidsewaterpoort can easily be identified (iv). Later in the seventeenth century the brewing industry began to decline.
Traditionally, the regent class in Haarlem was dominated by wealthy brewers. In 1578-79, the official change of religion from Roman Catholic to Calvinist – the so-called Alteration – brought about sweeping changes to the social, religious and political fabric of the city. Henceforth Catholics were prohibited from worshiping openly and disbarred from holding public office. Despite this a significant proportion of the population remained true to the old faith, including many of the older members of the brewing elite. Clandestine churches (schuilkerken), where Catholics could continue to hold their services, were soon set up and their numbers proliferated during the seventeenth century. These were to be found in all kinds of buildings, including private houses and commercial premises. One such hidden church, the Church of St. Dominicus, or the Spaarnekerk as it also came to be known, was located in the brewery “De Drie Klaveren”. The normal activities of the brewery evidently provided an ideal front for such an organisation.
There must have been a considerable demand for topographical views of Haarlem’s main square. Berckheyde painted it many times from a variety of vantage points and in different lighting conditions. However, it seems safe to assume that this unique picture must have been painted on commission, almost certainly for the brewery owner, who himself apparently features in the painting standing with his wife before the brewery. Archival research carried out by Dr. Pieter Biesboer has revealed that one of the owners of the brewery in the seventeenth century was named Hendrick Cornelisz. de Moor, but further research is needed in order to find out more about him and his involvement with the brewery. Judging from documentary sources it also seems to be the case the brewery itself was owned by the secret Catholic church. Furthermore, Dr. Biesboer has discovered a reference to a painting of this description (but attributed to Job Berckheyde) in the 1707 estate inventory of Maria van Strijp (1627-1707), the widow of Eduard Wallis (1621-1684 ), a wealthy merchant. The pendant portraits of the couple, which are now in the Rijksmuseum, were painted by Johannes Verspronck (1609-1662) in 1652 (v). Verspronck was the favourite portraitist of the old Catholic elite in Haarlem. Although the members of this group were barred from holding positions of influence in municipal government, they retained their material wealth and formed a strong social group bound together by intermarriage.
Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde was baptised in the Reformed Church in Haarlem on 6 June 1638. He was the youngest son of the butcher Adriaen Joppen Berckheyde and his wife Cornelia Gerritsdr. Pancier. His brother Job, who was eight years his senior, probably taught him to paint. The two brothers made a trip along the Rhine in Germany, probably in the early 1650s (vi), visiting Emmerich, Kleve and Cologne where they stayed for an extended period. From Cologne the brothers travelled further up the Rhine to Bonn, Mainz, Mannheim and finally to Heidelberg, where they found employment as court painters to Karl-Ludwig, Elector of the Palatinate, and were rewarded with a variety of honours, including gold medallions (such as that worn by Job in his self-portrait in the Frans Hals Museum). Both brothers had probably returned to Haarlem by July 1654, when Job was admitted to the Haarlem guild of St. Luke. In 1660, Gerrit also joined the Guild, and produced his first signed and dated works the following year. During this period, he shared a house with Job and his sister Aegje in the Sint-Jansstraat, close to the Grote Markt. According to the artists’ eighteenth-century biographer Arnold Houbraken, neither brother ever married.
In 1666, Gerrit and Job became members of the Haarlem rhetoricians’ chamber De Wijngaardranken (The Vine Branch), an association to which many artists belonged, for which they both held administrative positions: Gerrit was a warden in 1667 and an ensign from 1676-1681. In 1679 the two brothers signed a lease on a house next to the bell-tower, near St. Bavo’s church. Both brothers held offices in the painters’ guild during the 1680s and 1690s. Job died in 1693 and, five years later, Gerrit drowned in the Brouwersvaart, while taking a shortcut through a private garden after leaving a tavern. He was buried in the nave of the St. Janskerk on 14 June, 1698.
i Estate Inventory of Maria van Strijp, 3rd June 1707, where described as “een brouwerij vande Claveren van Job Berckheijde”. Getty Provenance databases – item 16 archival Inventory N-5499.
ii Gerrit Berckheyde, The brewery ‘De Drie Klaveren’, on the Spaarne, at Haarlem, pencil and grey wash on paper, 22.2 x 39.1 cm. Noord Hollands Archief. Kennemerland Collection. Inv. No. NL- HlmNHA_53000276_M. We are grateful to Drs. Fred G. Meijer for bringing this drawing to our attention.
iii Samuel Ampzing, Beschryvinge ende lof der stad Haarlem in Holland (Description and Praise of the City of Haarlem in Holland), Haarlem, p. 338.
iv Pieter Wils, Map of Haarlem, engraving, 1646. Published in 1649 by J. Blau.
v Johannes Verspronck, Portrait of Eduard Wallis and Portrait of his wife Maria van Strijp, Oil on panel,
each 97 x 75 cm, both signed and dated 1652. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, inv. nos. SK-A-4999 & SK-A-5000.
vi There are no documents or statements indicating when the brothers made their German trip. Professor Lawrence reasoned that it was probably in the early 1650s. Van der Willigen/De Kinkelder (RKD, The Hague) put it in the later 1650s.