Assendelft, 9 June 1597–Haarlem, buried 31 May 1665 in St Bavo
Dutch painter, draftsman, print artist and appraiser
Pieter Saenredam  was noted for his paintings and drawings of churches, both interiors and exteriors. He was the son of an engraver, mapmaker and draughtsman. After his father’s early death he moved with his mother in 1608 from Assendelft to Haarlem, and there in 1612 he entered the workshop of Frans Pietersz. de Grebber (1573–1649), where he stayed until 1622. In 1623 he became a member of the Haarlem Guild of St Luke, where he played an important role as secretary (1633), warden (1640), and dean (1642).
His earliest dated painting is of 1628 (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles); in it his style is already fully mature. His pictures are characterized by close tonalities and balanced compositions which record existing architecture. At the same time, however, he was not above modifying his depiction of a building for artistic effect, and the perspective of his interiors is consciously artificial, including more than could be seen from a single viewpoint. His working method consisted of making a series of detailed sketches, from which he produced a construction drawing based on actual measurements of the building, which was the same size as the finished painting.1 Saenredam painted buildings in Assendelft, Haarlem, Utrecht, Amsterdam, Alkmaar, ’s-Hertogenbosch and Rhenen. In general he painted the figures himself; in exceptional cases other painters such as Jan Both (1615/22–52) made the staffage figures.2
His painted œuvre consists only of some fifty-five works, no doubt a reflection of his slow and careful working practice. He had a very substantial library and a collection of paintings, prints and drawings, including albums with drawings made in Rome by Maerten van Heemskerck (1498–1574), which he used in his own paintings.3
Paintings by Saenredam, Gerard Dou (1613–75) and Adam Elsheimer (1578–1610; see DPG191, Schalcken) were included in the Dutch Gift of 1660 from the States-General to Charles II of England (1630–65),which consisted primarily of Italian paintings and Antique sculptures.4 Saenredam’s view of the interior of St Bavo in Haarlem, that was part of this gift, is now in Edinburgh.5
His fame, and its development, is somewhat comparable to that of Johannes Vermeer (1632–75): both have small œuvres, so both were rare masters, waiting until the end of the 18th century to be rediscovered. But while Vermeer became one of the three celebrities of 17th-century Dutch painting (with Rembrandt (1606/7–69) and Frans Hals I (1582/83–1666), Saenredam became a painter for connoisseurs, par excellence the illustrator of the empty, unadorned, whitewashed Protestant churches of the northern Netherlands.
Ruurs 1987; Schwartz & Bok 1990; Giltaij & Jansen 1991; Liedtke 1996; Van Thiel-Stroman 2006h; Ecartico, no. 6517: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/6517 (March 25, 2018); RKDartists&, no. 69237: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/69237 (March 25, 2018).
Jacob van Campen
Portrait of Pieter Saenredam (1597-1665), dated 1628
paper, black chalk 260 x 182 mm
bottom (positional attribute) : Dit Heeft Monsieur J.van Campen Naer mij Pieter Saenredam gedaen Ao. 1628.
London (England), British Museum, inv./cat.nr. 1854,0628.2
After Pieter Saenredam
DPG59 – South Aisle of the Church of St Bavo, Haarlem
17th century; oak (?) panel, 42.9 x 33.5 cm
?;6 Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 19, no. 187 (‘Upper Room: West / no. 9, Interior of a church with figures – P[anel] De Weel [?]’; 2' x 1'9").
Cat. 1817, p. 5, no. 51 (‘FIRST ROOM – North Side; Interior of a Cathedral; Sanadram [sic]’); Haydon 1817, p. 374, no. 51 (Sanadram [sic]);7 Cat. 1820, p. 5, no. 51 (Sanadram [sic]); Hazlitt 1824, p. 33, no. 52;8 Cat. 1830, p. 6, no. 94 (Saanredam); Jameson 1842, ii, p. 457, no. 94 (Saenredam?);9 Hazlitt 1843, p. 26, no. 94 (Saenredam);10 Denning 1858 and 1859, no. 94 (attributed to P. Saenredam);11 Sparkes 1876, p. 158, no. 94 (attributed to P. Saenredam); Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 149, no. 94 (Saenredam; ‘Going to a baptism in a cathedral’); Havard & Sparkes 1885, p. 244, no. 94 (Saenredam); Richter & Sparkes 1892, p. 14, no. 59; Richter & Sparkes 1905, p. 14, no. 59; Cook 1914, p. 35, no. 59 (P. Saenredam); Cook 1926, p. 34, no. 59; Cat. 1953, p. 36 (copy after Saenredam); Murray 1980a, p. 299 (copy after Saenredam); not in Schwartz & Bok 1990; Giltaij & Jansen 1991, p. 102, note 3, under no. 13;12 Beresford 1998, p. 219 (after Saenredam’s original in Glasgow); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 221–2; RKD, no. 288943: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/288943 (March 27, 2018).
The single-member vertically grained oak panel is in good condition; it is only very slightly warped and has a few old, now inactive, wormholes on the reverse. This work is thinly painted over a white ground. There are small chipped paint losses in the vaulting of the upper part of the painting. Some old retouchings at the top edge have blanched and appear matt, and a few losses have been in-painted without being filled first. The entire painting is covered with a discoloured yellow varnish, and there are some traces of very dark residual varnish in the brushwork. There are some scratches and abrasions to the varnish. Previous recorded treatment: 1952–3, conserved, Dr Hell; 1983, examined, National Maritime Museum; 1988, examined, Courtauld Institute of Art.
1) Prime version: Pieter Saenredam, South Aisle of the Church of St Bavo, Haarlem, with a Catholic Baptism, signed and dated P. Saenredam. fecit. Anno 1633, panel, 42.8 x 33.6 cm. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, 383 .132.
2) Construction drawing: Pieter Saenredam, Interior from the South Aisle looking West, dated 11 October 1631, pen and black chalk on blue paper, 424 x 333 mm. Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, 13862, until 1945.14
3) Noach van der Meer II, after no. 1 (?), Interior of a Church, 1792 or c. 1787, engraving, 249 x 207 mm. BM, London, 1851.0326.54 .15
4) After Pieter Saenredam, South Aisle of the Church of St Bavo in Haarlem, with a Catholic Baptism, pen in brown ink and watercolour, over black chalk, 403 x 315 mm. Albertina, Vienna, 8565.16
The picture is a copy of Saenredam’s original dated 1633 in Glasgow (Related works, no. 1) , for which a construction drawing dated 1631 existed in Berlin until 1945 (Related works, no. 2). All the paintings recognized as Saenredam’s are carefully constructed with the help of lines ending in a vanishing point, but nothing of the kind is detectable here.17 It is perhaps significant that the dimensions nearly match the Glasgow original. The Dulwich picture is slightly cruder in execution, but the painting technique, building up the walls with a rather thick brush, like a house painter’s, is the same in both versions. One remarkable difference is in the coat of arms in the stained-glass window: the Glasgow painting shows the arms of Haarlem, the city of St Bavo, whereas the Dulwich picture has the arms of the city of Utrecht. A possible explanation is the wish of a client.18
We know the names of two students of Saenredam, Claes Cornelisz. van Assendelft (1642) and Claes Heereman II (1651),19 but no work by them has survived. In view of the lesser quality of the painting in Dulwich compared to that in Glasgow, someone (one of the two students?) in Saenredam’s studio might have been commissioned by him to make a painting with the same image, but with the coat of arms of Utrecht instead of Haarlem in the window. What argues against this is that until now there has been no second version of any picture by Saenredam that can be regarded as authentic, made by Saenredam himself or from his workshop. It is not impossible, however, that Saenredam produced a copy directly from the prime version without using the same geometrical system. Or is it possible that he let his pupils make such a copy, whether or not as part of their learning process, and whether or not the picture was in the end sold to a client?
The scene is the south aisle of the church of St Bavo, the ‘Grote Kerk’, in Haarlem, looking west. Saenredam painted this church thirteen times (and was later buried there). It was built in Brabantine Gothic style on the site of an older church, after a fire swept through Haarlem in 1328. Under construction for more than a century, it was originally a parish church, but in 1559 it became the cathedral of the newly formed diocese of Haarlem. The south aisle was built between 1472 and 1481. The large arch at the left is the entrance to the baptistery, with an iron screen (still in situ, dated 1429). In 1566 much of the interior decoration fell victim to iconoclastic fury, and in 1578 the church was reserved for Protestant worship by the city authorities. The scene depicted, thought at present to be ‘the baptism of a child, a priest waiting’,20 would have been impossible in real life at that date. It might be explained by Saenredam’s interest in history, or perhaps by the wish of a Catholic client.21 The scene is however difficult to interpret. Elements in favour of a baptism are the light stole of the priest and the fact that he is standing in the baptistery. Against it are the absence of a godfather and godmother, necessary at a Catholic baptism (or is the man next to the priest the godfather?). The absence of the mother is not significant, since she was supposed to remain in bed nine days after giving birth. There is another possible explanation: a Catholic priest sometimes said prayers in a Protestant church, or delivered holy earth for a burial.22 The rather sober atmosphere and the dark cloth could suggest that this was a funeral service for a dead child rather than a baptism.23
Until now is has not been possible to untangle the provenance because various versions of the composition are recorded in 18th- and 19th-century sales, without dimensions. The Glasgow version was recorded in Alkmaar and Amsterdam between 1776 and 1800.24 It was reproduced in an engraving by Noach van der Meer II (1741–1822) in J.-B. P. Le Brun’s Galerie des peintres flamands of 1792 or c. 1787 in Paris (Related works, no. 3) , which seems impossible, as the picture was in the collection of Jan Jansz. Gildemeester (1744–99) in Amsterdam between 1777 and 1800. This indicates that perhaps a third version existed. Proof that the source of the print was (a version of) the Glasgow painting and not that in Dulwich is the presence in it of the Haarlem coat of arms. Le Brun was a business partner of Desenfans, and in the light of the engraving it is tempting to suggest that DPG59 may also have come from him. Could he have been the owner of two versions?
after Pieter Saenredam
South aisle of the Church of St. Bavo, Haarlem, 1633-1699
panel, oil paint 42,9 x 33,5 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG59
Interior of the St. Bavo-church in Haarlem, view of the south aisle to the west, dated 1633
panel, oil paint 42,8 x 33,6 cm
lower left : P. Saenredam. fecit. Anno 1633
Glasgow (Scotland), Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, inv./cat.nr. 383
Noach van der Meer (II) after Pieter Saenredam
Interior of the St. Bavo-church in Haarlem, view of the south aisle to the west, c. 1788-1789
paper, engraving 205 x 171 mm
lower left : Pieter Jaen Redam Pinx
The Hague, RKD – Nederlands Institute for Art History (Collection Old Netherlandish Art), inv./cat.nr. BD/0676 - ONS/Original Prints (by inventor)
1 Ruurs 1987.
2 Jan Both is mentioned, for example, in Nave of the Buurkerk of 1644 (NG, London, NG1896): see MacLaren & Brown 1991, i, pp. 407–8, no. 1896, as suggested by Stechow. See also Schwartz & Bok 1990, pp. 276–7, no. 127 (the figures attributed to Jan Both), and Burke 1976, p. 161. With many thanks to Gary Schwartz, whose critical comments in notes from 21 to 29 May 2018 (DPG59 file) have helped to clarify the argument in this entry.
3 Schwartz & Bok 1990, pp. 180–89; Ruurs 1983; Veldman 1977, pp. 111–12; on the attribution of the drawings in the albums, ibid., pp. 112–13.
4 For the Dutch Gift in general see Broos 1987, pp. 111–12; Logan 1979, pp. 75–86; and Van Thiel 1965.
5 In the National Gallery of Scotland, https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/5669/interior-st-bavos-church-haarlem-grote-kerk (May 7, 2020); Williams 1992, p. 141, no. 65; Schwartz & Bok 1990, pp. 128, 206, 207 (fig. 216), 261, no. 58. See also https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/the-interior-of-st-bavos-church-haarlem-the-grote-kerk-210662 (March 25, 2018).
6 Only three paintings could be found in the GPID (11 Oct. 2012), and none matches DPG59.
7 ‘Sanadram [sic]. Interior of a Cathedral. Correct drawing, and chaste, but cold colouring.’
8 ‘Interior of a Cathedral, by Sanadram [sic], is curious and fine. From one end of the perspective to the other – and back again – would make a morning’s walk.’ (Jameson 1842, ii, p. 455, no. 79, considers that this description refers not to the Saenredam but to Neefs’ Interior of a Gothic Church (DPG141): see the Neefs entry (DPG141), note 11).
9 ‘Saenredam is well known as an engraver; on what authority this picture is attributed to him I know not.’ Clearly she knows only the printmaker Jan Saenredam (c. 1565/6–1607), who was the father of Pieter, the church painter.
10 Same text as in 1824 (see note 8 above).
11 1858: ‘Pieter Saenredam […] A doubtful picture. Hardly likely to be a specimen of this rare master. […] His pictures are almost all the interiors of churches and cathedrals, but this is not up to his powers.’ 1859: ‘Ascribed to Pieter Saenredam. This picture is hardly likely to be a specimen of this rare master. […] His pictures are almost all of them interiors of churches and cathedrals, but this is not equal to his production.’
12 Giltaij & Jansen 1991, p. 102, note 4, mention a third version, formerly in the Six collection, Amsterdam. That is, however, a view looking toward the choir by Isaac van Nickelen, canvas, 56 x 47 cm (F. Muller, Amsterdam, 27–29 June 1905, lot 96 (as J. van Nickelen); photo RKD).
13 RKD, no. 224915: https://rkd.nl/explore/images/224915 (March 27, 2018); https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/interior-of-st-bavos-haarlem-with-a-catholic-baptism-85942 (March 25, 2018); Giltaij & Jansen 1991, pp. 100–103, no. 13; Schwartz & Bok 1990, pp. 69 (fig. 77), 74, 106, 204, 262, no. 63; Miles & Hannah 1961, i, p. 126, ii, p. 79 (fig.); De Smedt 1961, p. 105, no. 63. For its provenance see note 24 below.
14 Giltaij & Jansen 1991, p. 103 (fig.), under no. 13; Schwartz & Bok 1990, pp. 68 (fig. 75), 74, 262, no. 65; Bock & Rosenberg 1930, i, p. 261, no. 13862.
15 RKD, no. 216169: https://rkd.nl/explore/images/216169 (March 25, 2018); see also https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1851-0326-54 (Oct. 1, 2020), here the date is given as c. 1787; Lebrun 1792, i, opp. p. 70; see also Haskell 1976, p. 21, fig. 38.
16 http://sammlungenonline.albertina.at/?query=Inventarnummer=&showtype=record (May 5, 2015); Schwarz & Bok 1990, pp. 68 (fig. 76), 74, 262, no. 64; De Smedt, Van Regteren Altena & Swillens 1961, pp. 105–6, no. 64.
17 For the construction technique see Ruurs 1987 and Ruurs 1982.
18 This was already recognized by A. van de Put: copy of a letter to the Keeper, 30 Aug. 1938 (DPG59 file).
19 Miedema 1980, i, p. 550, no. 8, and p. 1037.
20 It is interesting how the scene was interpreted in the Dulwich catalogues after Denning (where the scene is not described): ‘A chapel on the left is used as a baptistery. A woman in black brings a child across the aisle towards the chapel, in which a priest and a man are seen. Two persons follow the mother, and a boy precedes her.’ Sparkes 1876, p. 158. After that somebody (Jean Paul Richter?) realized that it was unlikely that a Roman Catholic mother would be present at the baptism of her child, since the baptism should be done as soon as possible after birth. So in the next catalogue the mother has become a nun: ‘to the left, behind, the iron gate of the baptistry, a priest, and a gentleman waiting; in the nave a page, a nun carrying the baby, followed by two ladies, all approaching the baptistry.’ Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 149.
21 Schwartz & Bok 1990, pp. 74–6. It is known that Saenredam owned antiquities from St Bavo.
22 Marten Jan Bok, in conversation, June 2012.
23 Marten Jan Bok, email to Michiel Jonker, 26 July 2012; Guus Sluiter et al., Amsterdam, emails to Michiel Jonker, 10 and 11 July 2012 (all DPG59 file), for which many thanks. On at least one other occasion Saenredam used an existing church as the setting for another religious scene: South Ambulatory of the Church of St Bavo, Haarlem, looking from West to East, with the Presentation in the Temple, June 1635, panel, 48.2 x 37.1 cm (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, 898B): Bock 1996, p. 108, fig. 1582; Schwartz & Bok 1990, pp. 106, 109, 110 (fig. 120), 261, no. 52.
24 Its provenance is as follows: Hendrick Houtkamp, Alkmaar, 19 March 1776 (Lugt 2510), lot 154; Nicolaas Nieuhoff, Amsterdam, 14–17 April 1777 (Lugt 2673), lot 177, bt Gildemeester, ƒ430; Jan Gildemeester sale, Amsterdam, 11–13 June 1800 (Lugt 6102), lot 193, bt Yver, ƒ65, see Giltaij & Jansen 1991, pp. 100–103, no. 13; repeated in Williams 1992, p. 141, no. 65. Giltaij & Jansen and Williams also mention the Le Brun print in their account of its provenance. But how and where Van der Meer could have made an engraving after it in 1792 (or c. 1787 as the date is on the BM website (Oct. 1, 2020)) in Paris in the collection of Le Brun, when the picture was clearly in an Amsterdam collection at the time, has not been explained. Did yet another version exist?