Rotterdam, 1609–Utrecht, 5 January 1685
Dutch painter, draughtsman and etcher
Herman Saftleven  was a son of a painter of the same name (c. 1580–1627) and younger brother of the painter Cornelis Saftleven (1607–81). He moved to Utrecht c. 1632, where he became a citizen in 1659. In 1644 he visited the eastern Dutch province of Gelderland and in 1651 he travelled to Arnhem and Cleves, just across the border in Germany. Between 1655 and 1667 he served on numerous occasions as overman and dean of the Guild of St Luke in Utrecht. In 1662 he organized the sale of part of the collection of Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel (1585–1646) in Utrecht.
Herman Saftleven was an extremely productive artist: over three hundred paintings, many prints, and more than twelve hundred topographical and landscape drawings by him survive. Many of his pictures are dated, showing frequent changes in style. Early works echo Pieter de Molijn (1595–1661) and Jan van Goyen (1596–1656), and Saftleven was also influenced by Abraham Bloemaert (1566–1651) and Jan Both (1615/22–52). In 1635 he collaborated on the painted decoration of the palace of Honselaersdijck for the Stadholder Frederik Hendrik, Prince of Orange (1584–1647), after which he started to paint Italianate landscapes in the style of Cornelis van Poelenburch (1594/5–1667). His paintings are among those by Utrecht masters collected by Willem Vincent, Baron of Wyttenhorst (1613–74).1 He also worked for Lady Alethea Talbot (1582–1654), widow of Thomas Howard, the above-mentioned Earl of Arundel.2
Saftleven’s œuvre consists mainly of genre scenes, riverscapes, and Italianate landscapes. From about 1645, however, he abandoned Italianate landscapes in favour of ‘Dutch’ views, and from about 1650 he produced imaginary Rhineland views. In 1667 he travelled to Basel in Switzerland. For Dutch collectors, c. 1663–6 he drew 37 sheets for the Atlas of Laurens van der Hem (1621–78) and made drawings of flowers and plants in the collection of Agnes Block (1629–1704) at her country estate, Vijverhof (1680 and 1682–4). Jan Vorstermans (1643–after 1693) was one of his pupils. Saftleven was very famous during his lifetime, and influenced several German 18th-century landscape painters.
Nieuwstraten 1965; Klinge-Gross 1976; Schulz 1982; Sutton 1987e; Schulz 1996; Bok 1997d; Saur, c, 2018, p. 345 (I. M. Veldman); Ecartico, no. 6522: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/6522 (Herman Saftleven III); RKDartists&, no. 69247: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/69247 (Herman Saftleven II; Nov. 6, 2017).
Herman Saftleven after Dirk Saftleven
Portrait of Herman Saftleven (1609-1685), 1660 or later
paper, etching, drypoint, 2nd state 160 x 114 mm
The Hague, RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History
DPG44 – View on the Rhine
Oak panel, 42. 8 x 57.8 cm
Signed and dated, bottom left: HSL [as monogram] 1656; on back: Rij zoons3 [should this be in italic?]
?Moses Vanhausen, 1783;4 ?Desenfans;5 Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 19, no. 182 (‘Upper Room: West / no. 4, View of the Rhine, with Mountains &c. P[anel] Vosterman’; 2'2" x 2'6").
Cat. 1817, p. 6, no. 71 (‘FIRST ROOM – East Side; A View on the Rhine; John Vostermans’); Haydon 1817, p. 376, no. 71;6 Cat. 1820, p. 6, no. 71 (Vostermans); Cat. 1830, no. 101 (Vostermans); Jameson 1842, ii, p. 458, no. 101;7 Denning 1858, no. 101 (Vorsterman or ‘perhaps by Herman Zachtleven (or Sachtleven of Saftleven), the master of Vosterman’),8 and 1859, no. 101 (Vorsterman); Sparkes 1876, p. 202, no. 101 (Vosterman); Richter & Sparkes 1880, pp. 149–50, no. 101 (Herman Saftleven);9 Havard & Sparkes 1885, p. 158, no. 101 (Cornelis Saftleven); Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, pp. 10–11, no. 44 (Herman Saftleven); Cook 1914, p. 25, no. 44; Cook 1926, pp. 24–5; Cat. 1953, p. 36; Murray 1980a, p. 117; Murray 1980b, p. 26; Schulz 1982, p. 37, 149, no. 92; Beresford 1998, p. 219; Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 223; RKD, no. 286588: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/286588 (Nov. 6, 2017) .
London/Leeds 1947–53, n.p., no. 48; Houston/Louisville 1999–2000, pp. 188–9, no. 65 (D. Shawe-Taylor).
The single-member oak panel is in good condition with an almost imperceptible horizontal warp; its reverse bears the remnants of five black seals. The panel’s horizontal grain is visible through the paint in some places, and scattered retouchings are visible. There are two very small losses in the sky, to the right-hand side, and an old dent in one of the smaller boats in the middle distance of the Rhine. A little abrasion caused by the frame is evident at the edges of the panel and there are two losses along the bottom edge. There are some vestigial remnants of old discoloured varnish in the surface brushwork. Previous recorded treatment: 1879, cleaned, Reeve.
1) Herman Saftleven II, View on the Rhine (Landscape near ‘Reineck’), signed and dated HS (as monogram) 1654, panel, 30.5 x 45 cm. RM, Amsterdam, SK-A-363 .10
Until 1880, when the monogram was correctly interpreted, DPG44 was thought to be by Saftleven’s pupil Johannes or Jan Vorstermans, although Denning in his 1858 catalogue had already suggested Saftleven; he gave biographies of both Vorstermans and Saftleven.
As Schulz noted, the setting has not been identified, and it is possible that it is an imaginary landscape. Remmelt Daalder identified the long ships on the river Rhine and on the shore as samoreuzen: used for transport on that river, they were pulled upstream and sailed back.11 The painting was made soon after Saftleven began to produce Rhineland scenes c. 1650; the golden light of late afternoon in the sky reveals his assimilation of the Dutch Italianate school, most notably Jan Both, but his technique is far more detailed. Several paintings by Saftleven dating from the 1650s are compositionally quite similar to DPG44; perhaps the closest is one dated 1654 (Related works, no. 1) .12
View on the Rhine, dated 1656
panel (oak), oil paint 42,8 x 57,8 cm
upper left : HSL [as monogram] 1656
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG44
View of the Rhine near Reineck, dated 1654
panel, oil paint 30,5 x 45 cm
bottom left of the middle : HS 1654
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. SK-A-363
1 De Jonge 1932.
2 Sutton 1987e, p. 476.
3 In a note in the DPG44 file, Murray says: ‘Not really Rijnoever [bank of the Rhine] as might have been’.
4 According to Denning 1858 the painting was imported to England by Moses Vanhausen; but in GPID (10 July 2020) no such seller appears in 1783.
5 GPID (29 April 2013) lists three Desenfans sales with five Vorstermans paintings, which probably refer to only two paintings, one smaller (nos 1, 4) and one larger (nos 2, 3, 5):
6 ‘John Vosterman. A View on the Rhine. An extensive landscape; in which the aërial perspective, the misty appearance of nature, is well preserved.’
7 ‘Jan Vorstermann […] (See Windsor Cat., No. 74 [i.e. Windsor Castle in the year 1672, by Vorsterman; Jameson 1842, i, pp. 246–7]).
8 ‘The name of Zachtleven does not stand so high as that of Vosterman (or rather Vorsterman) but the Dresden Gallery contains some beautiful pictures of this master. […] Formerly in the possession Mr Moses Vanhausen, who brought it over to England in 1783.’
9 ‘Formerly ascribed to Vosterman. It is an original picture by H. Saft-Leven, executed at his best period, and remarkable for the exquisite finish of the minutest details in this very rich composition.’ NB: Board Minutes, 11 March 1879: ‘Dr. Richter reported that amongst other pictures whose authenticity he had recently traced, was one by Hermann Saftleven, which he considered to be worth £600. It has hitherto been described to J. Vosterman.’
11 Emails from Remmelt Daalder to Ellinoor Bergvelt, 28 March and 9 April 2018 (DPG44 file), for which many thanks. See also Daalder & Spits 2005, 27–34.
12 See Schulz 1982, pp. 145–6, no. 80. See also Sutton 1987a, pp. 478–80, no. 97, for a picture dated 1650.