Jan van der Heyden

Gorinchem 1637 – 1712 Amsterdam

A View of a small Town Square with Figures promenading, Probably in Cologne

Indistinctly signed, lower left
On panel, 12 ½ x 16 ins. (31.7 x 40.5 cm)


Sold to the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.

Probably Petronella de la Court (1624-1707) (widow of Adam Oortmans)
Her sale, Jan Pietersz. Zomer, Amsterdam, 19 October 1707, lot 20 or 34 (with pendant)
Etienne-François, Duc de Choiseul (1719-1785), by 1771
His sale, L. F. J. Boileau, Paris, 6 April 1772, lot 76 (with pendant), for 3,900 livres to the Prince de Conti
The Prince de Conti (1717-1776)
His (deceased) sale, Remy, 8 April-6 June 1777, lot 433 (with pendant), for 4,950 livres to Desmarest
Anonymous sale, C. P. Pillet , Paris, Delessert, 15 March 1869, lot 31, for 16,500 francs
Henry Say
His sale, Paris, 30 November 1908, lot 11, for 22,500 francs
J. Simon, Berlin
With Asscher and Koetser, Amsterdam, 1920
Baron Thyssen, Rohoncz Castle, Hungary, by 1930, and then transferred to the Villa Favorita,
Lugano, Switzerland. The painting appears in the 1937 catalogue as no. 187.  From 1937 to 1952 there were no catalogues produced for the collection, and the present work does not appear in the 1952 publication; it therefore left the collection sometime between 1937 and 1952
With Dennis Vanderkar Gallery, 1967-68
From whom acquired by the father of a private English collector
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s, 7 December 2005, lot 14 (property from an English Private Collection) - unsold
Private collection, England, until 2015


J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné …, London, 1834, Vol. 5, p. 378, cat. no. 23
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné …, London, 1927, p. 354, cat. no. 83
H. Dattenberg, Niederrheinansichten holländischer Künstler des 17. Jahrhunderts, Düsseldorf, 1967, no. 244
H. Wagner, Jan van der Heyden, Amsterdam and Haarlem, 1971, p. 90, no. 102, reproduced, as in a private collection, England
J. Ingamells, The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Pictures, Dutch and Flemish, vol. IV, London, 1992, pp. 145 and 146 (note 5), under cat. no. P195. 


Munich, The Collection of Rohoncz Castle, Hungary, 1930, no. 150
London, Dennis Vanderkar, Winter Exhibition, 1967-68, no. 3.


By Georges Petit, in Pierre François Basan’s Recueil d’Estampes d’ après les tableaux de Monsieur Le Duc de Choiseul, Paris 1771, no. 76 (i).

We are grateful to Peter Sutton for endorsing the attribution to van der Heyden, following a first-hand inspection, and for suggesting a date in the early 1660s.  Dr. Sutton will include the picture in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist’s works (currently in preparation).


Together with Gerrit Berckheyde (1638-1698), Jan van der Heyden pioneered the development of Dutch cityscape painting.  In addition to his well-known views of Amsterdam, he painted vistas of other Dutch, Flemish and German cities, country houses and estates, landscapes and a few still lifes.   

In this painting, Jan van der Heyden pictures a small cobbled square, with a clump of trees in the middle.  Enclosed behind a wall on the right, is a tall Gothic edifice, with oriel windows and a balcony silhouetted against the sky.  Further back, behind a partly ruined wall, are more lofty redbrick buildings.  The scene is enlivened by a few scattered figures, including an elegantly dressed woman seen from behind, a strolling couple, a man on crutches leaning against the wall on the right, and a woman with a small child seated on the ground nearby.  The lower part of the sky is filled with banks of clouds, the upper part is a limpid blue, tinged with a delicate yellow, suggesting the light of evening.  Characteristically for van der Heyden, the painting appears less concerned with offering a view of an identifiable place, than with capturing the spirit of this quiet urban neighbourhood and the gentle rhythm of daily life.   

Although the location of this scene cannot be recognised, it is likely that it was inspired by the architecture of Cologne.  It is indeed described as a view in Cologne in the early documentation and the present author sees no reason to disregard the traditional identification.  In the eighteenth century the picture, together with a pendant, formed part of the celebrated collection of Dutch cabinet pictures belonging to the Duc de Choiseul, Louis XV’s Minister of War and Foreign Affairs, in whose 1772 sale catalogue the paintings are described as “Deux tableaux pendants, représentant différentes Places de la Ville de Cologne” (ii).  Executed on panel of exactly the same dimensions, the pendant depicts a cobbled square, populated by little groups of townspeople, with a view of Cologne cathedral in the background.  At that sale, both paintings were purchased by another leading figure at the French Court, the Prince de Conti, whose substantial collection was dispersed following his death in 1776.  The two pictures had, however, become separated by 1802, when the companion piece was sold at auction in Paris (iii), subsequently entering the Wallace Collection, London.  

It is possible that in van der Heyden’s lifetime both pendants belonged to Petronella de la Court (1624-1707).  The daughter of a well-to-do patrician family, de la Court was born in Leiden in 1649.  Following her marriage to Adam Oortman (?-1684), she moved to Amsterdam, where her husband owned a brewery called The Swan.  Over a period of fifty years Petronella amassed an important collection, which included paintings – both contemporary and Old Master - drawings, porcelain, curiosities, and the famous dolls’ house (“poppenhuis”), which is now on display in the Centraal Museum in Utrecht.  In the auction that followed her death in 1707, three views of Cologne are listed, two of which (numbers 20 and 34) are described simply as A View of Cologne (“Een Keuls gezigje”).  Although the descriptions are too cursory to permit positive identification, it has long been recognised that the present painting and its counterpart are likely candidates.  

Jonathan Bikker has remarked upon the curious phenomenon that both Berckheyde and van der Heyden painted a significant number of views of Cologne (iv).  Besides Amsterdam, van der Heyden painted more views of Cologne than any other city and Berckheyde also devoted a considerable part of his production to views of the city.  Their fascination with Cologne can be partly explained by the fact that both artists made trips to Germany at an early stage in their careers.  In van der Heyden’s case, he probably visited Cologne during one of the “speelreijsen” (pleasure trips) which he and his brother Goris (v) made to the Rhineland in the late 1650s with members of the ter Heil family.  Alternatively, as Bikker and others have suggested, the two artists’ concentration upon depictions of Cologne may be an indication of the strong market for such views among German immigrants to the United Provinces and Dutch tourists who had visited the city.

With the signing of the Treaty of Münster in 1648, many years of warfare were brought to a close, opening up new opportunities for the Dutch to travel abroad.  While some chose to make the arduous journey to Italy, others explored countries closer to home, with Westphalia and the lower Rhineland becoming especially popular tourist destinations.  Van de Heyden and Berckheyde focused their attentions upon German towns and cities, but a number of other Dutch painters celebrated the dramatic beauty of the Rhineland in their landscapes, among them, Jacob van Ruisdael and Nicolaes Berchem, who seem to have travelled together to the area around Bentheim in the 1650s, Jan van Goyen, Joris van der Haagen, Anthonie van Borssom and Herman Saftleven.

Houbraken informs us that “It was [van der Heyden’s] custom to draw everything from life, then later to execute it on panel, painting in such details that his like has seldom been seen”.  And it is indeed likely that van der Heyden returned from his German expeditions with drawings made on the spot – now sadly lost – which provided him with a repertoire of architectural motifs for his later paintings.  Although only one of his Cologne views is dated – a painting of 1694 in Manchester (vi) – stylistic considerations and the style of clothing worn by the figures in his paintings suggest that he produced them over an extended period of time, beginning in the early 1660s.  Based on first-hand inspection, Dr. Peter C. Sutton dates the present painting to the early 1660s.  

Although van der Heyden’s scenes appear convincingly true-to-life, they are often only loosely based on reality.  Even in his views of recognisable locations it is apparent that he had no qualms about manipulating and rearranging the architecture, presumably in order to arrive at a more pleasing composition.  This is certainly true of his paintings of Cologne as an examination of several of his city views reveals.  If one compares, for example, the view of Cologne cathedral which appears in the pendant to this painting (vii) with another view of the same building in the National Gallery in London (viii), one sees that the cathedral is depicted from the same vantage point, but the configuration of the buildings in the adjoining street and square are entirely different in the two paintings: most notably, the step-gabled Deanery building seen on the extreme right in the National Gallery painting has been replaced in the Wallace Collection picture by a building with a hexagonal tower.  What is more, the same hexagonal tower may be seen again, but in reverse, in another painting of a small square, which also incorporates a cluster of tall redbrick buildings which are almost identical to those on the right of our painting, but seen in mirror image (ix).  Topographical accuracy one can only conclude was not van der Heyden’s primary objective.  His ability, on the other hand, to capture the character and atmosphere of a place was unrivalled and his vistas, often taken from unusual viewpoints, achieve a remarkable sense of immediacy.  

Another version of the present composition of almost identical size, but with different staffage, is in the Buccleuch collection at Drumlanrig Castle (x). The figures in the present work have traditionally been attributed to Adriaen van de Velde but are more likely to be by van der Heyden himself.  


The third of eight children, Jan van der Heyden was born in Gorinchem (also known as Gorkum), near Dordrecht, on 5 March 1637.  His father was by turns an oil mill owner, a grain merchant and a broker.  In 1646, the family moved to Amsterdam, where van der Heyden’s father acquired citizenship.  When he was about fourteen, Jan probably joined his brother Goris in the business of producing and selling mirrors.  Houbraken reported that Jan first trained with a glass engraver and it is possible that his teacher may have been one of the most admired glass painters of the period, Jacob van der Ulft, who was also originally from the artist’s hometown.  Several examples of van der Heyden’s paintings on glass (verre eglomisé) have survived, probably dating from the early part of his career.

Van der Heyden’s family was Mennonite and he and two of his brothers married into the ter Heil family, who were of the same faith.  Jan married Sara ter Heil in 1661 and the couple had three children.  At the time of his marriage, van der Heyden stated that he was a painter by profession, though he never joined the painters’ guild, nor acquired Amsterdam citizenship.  Painting, however, was not his sole occupation and his prosperity was due mainly to his work as an inventor, engineer and municipal official.  He devised a street-lighting system for Amsterdam and, with his brother Nicolaes, invented a new type of fire pump, which transformed the efficiency of fire-fighting.  In  1669, he was appointed director of street lighting and, in 1673 the two brothers were put in charge of the city’s fire-fighting equipment.  Both these appointments provided the artist with a sizeable income.  In 1680, van der Heyden moved to the Koestraat near the St. Anthonismarkt, where he built a house for his family and a factory producing fire equipment.  In 1690, he produced an illustrated book on fire-fighting with his eldest son, Jan.  He died a wealthy man in 1712, still in possession of more than seventy of his own paintings.  Although his work was in great demand, he evidently had little need to sell his art to make a living.  



i Engraving by Georges Petit, Paris, 1771. Collection RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History.
ii In the catalogue by L. F. J. Boileau of the sale of the Duc de Choiseul’s collection (Paris, 6 April 1772), the pictures are described as “Deux tableaux pendants, représentant différentes Places de la Ville de Cologne”…
iii ‘Van Helsleuter’ (probably Van Eyl Sleuter) of Amsterdam; his [and others’] sale, Paris, 25 January, 1802 (69).  
iv Jonathan Bikker, ‘Cologne, the “German Rome,” in views by Berckheyde and van der Heyden and the journals of seventeenth-century Dutch tourists’, Simiolus, 32 (2006), pp. 273-290.  
v These trips are mentioned by Goris in a document of 1678.  This document is published in A. Bredius, “De nalatenschap van Jan van der Heyden,”, Oud Holland, 30 (1912), pp. 142-51.  Quoted in J. Bikker, ibid, p. 273.  
vi  Jan van der Heyden, A Street Scene in Cologne, dated 1694, on panel, 31.7 x 40.5 cm, Manchester City Art Galleries, inv. No. 1979.463.  
vii  Jan van der Heyden, A Street Scene in Cologne, on panel, 31.6 x 40.6 cm, The Wallace Collection, inv. no. P 195.
viii Jan van der Heyden, A View in Cologne, signed with initials, on panel, 33.1 x 42.9 cm, National Gallery, London, inv. no. NG866.
ix  Jan van der Heyden, An imaginary View of a Town with elegant Figures strolling and conversing on a Square.  Sold Sotheby’s, Amsterdam, 9th May, 2006, lot 64.
x  See H. Wagner, op. cit, 1971, p. 90, no. 103.