Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde

(1638 - Haarlem - 1698)

The Courtyard of the Binnenhof with the Ridderzaal, in The Hague

Signed, lower left, G Birck Heyde
Oil on canvas, 21 x 24¼ ins. (53.5 x 61.5 cm)
VP5028



Provenance

Mr. Samuels, and by whose Assignees sold
[By direction of the Assignees of a Bankrupt]; Messrs. Foster and Son, London, 6 February 1850, lot 134, as 'A View of the Cathedral at Haarlem'
With Joseph Henry Carter (1862-1937), London, circa 1896⁄98 (according to a label on the reverse)
Anon. sale, Christie’s, London, 20 February 1986, lot 158, as ‘Attributed to Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde’ [The Property of a Gentleman]
with Johnny van Haeften, Ltd., London, 1986
Linda and Gerald Guterman, New York 1986-1988
Their sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 14 January 1988, lot 3, where acquired by
Private collection, New York, until 2022
Anon. sale, Christie’s, New York, 10 June 2022, Lot 12


Literature

C. Lawrence, Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde (1638-1698): Haarlem Cityscape Painter, Doornspijk, 1991, p. 75, no. 29e.


Essay

Together with Jan van der Heyden (1637-1712), Gerrit Berckheyde pioneered the development of Dutch cityscape painting.  He was born in Haarlem in 1638, where he probably received his artistic training from his older brother Job Berckheyde (1630-93).  In their youth, the two brothers travelled to Germany, visiting Cologne and Heidelberg, where they worked for the Elector Palatine.  After returning to Haarlem, Job and Gerrit shared a house, and perhaps a studio as well.  Gerrit specialised in painting cityscapes, the larger part of which consist of views of Haarlem, Amsterdam and The Hague.

It was not until relatively late in his career that Berckheyde began to paint scenes in The Hague.  From around 1685 onwards, he produced some forty views of various locations in the city.  Unlike the other cities of Holland, The Hague was not a commercial centre, but a small rural town.  Its modest size nevertheless belied its significance to the country as a whole for The Hague was the political hub of the Netherlands.  Not only the home of the Stadholder and his court, it was also the seat of government and the centre of the judicial system.  That Berckheyde turned his attentions to The Hague at this time was likely prompted by the renewed popularity of the House of Orange.  The sudden death of Willem II in 1650 had ushered in the so-called Stadholderless Period, a hiatus of twenty-two years without the leadership of the Stadholder, during which the House of Orange-Nassau had relatively little influence upon the affairs of the nation.  However, following the disastrous French invasion of the Netherlands in 1672, the Prince of Orange was called upon to lead the country’s defences and appointed Stadholder.  With the resolution of the Republic’s war with France in 1678, in which Willem III played a prominent role, the country expressed a renewed loyalty to the House of Orange.  His appointment also restored the association between The Hague and the House of Orange, which, in turn, stimulated demand for depictions of the family’s ancestral seat. 

The view taken here from a slightly elevated vantage point is of one of The Hague’s most famous open spaces, the Binnenhof, or Inner Courtyard, of the residence of the Counts of Holland.  The complex of buildings surrounding it form the core of the oldest part of the city.  Opposite is the Ridderzaal (Knights’ Hall), built in the thirteenth century by Count Floris V, which served originally as the meeting hall of the Knights of the Golden Fleece.  On the left, we see the Stadholder’s palace, built in 1639-40 for Prince Frederik Hendrik (1584-1625), and at the far end of the courtyard, the Binnenpoort (Gateway).  By the seventeenth century, the Ridderzaal was home to the States-General, the principal legislative body of the Dutch Republic, and was also used as a place to receive foreign ambassadors and dignitaries.  The Rolzaal, or courts of justice, where trials were held, was likewise housed there: public executions took place in the square outside.  The Ridderzaal is shown here as it was in Berckheyde’s day, with some structural additions partially concealing the western façade of the building with its fine rose window.  Today, it is used for the ceremonial opening of Parliament by the Dutch sovereign, and for the combined sessions of the Chambers of Parliament. 

Berckheyde has depicted the Binnenhof bathed in afternoon sunshine.  The façade of the Ridderzaal and the buildings on the left are brightly illuminated, while long shadows fall across the side courtyard, creating intricate patterns of light and shade: the foreground is enveloped in a broad band of shadow.  The play of light accentuates the structural forms of the richly Gothic hall on the right in contrast to the restrained classical buildings on the left while at the same time articulating a powerful sense of space.  The vanishing point in the perspective scheme is located on the building at the end of the left-hand side courtyard above a doorway.  As always with Berckheyde, he has succeeded not only in recording the architecture with extraordinary fidelity, but also in capturing the genteel character of life in late-seventeenth-century Holland.  A horse-drawn carriage has just entered the courtyard on the right, while little groups of elegantly dressed figures stand about in the sunshine, exchanging views on pressing concerns of the day.  The single figure of a man with a hawk on his wrist, who appears in the left foreground, reminds us that The Hague was above all the home of a princely court and that hawking remained the ultimate aristocratic privilege and sport. 

Although this painting is not dated, the style of the clothes worn by the figures suggests a date around 1690.  Also characteristic of the artist’s late style is the refined execution and the cool palette in pastel shades of blue, grey, salmon pink and tan.  Another similar variant of this composition from around the same time is in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, in Madrid[i]

BIOGRAPHY

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[ii], 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 Franshals 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] Gerrit Berckheyde, View of the Binnenhof, The Hague, c. 1690, oil on canvas, 54.5 x 63.5 cm, inv. no. 43 (1995-5). 

[ii] 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.