Johan van Gool (1685-1763) concludes his Nieuwe schouburg der Nederlantsche kunstschilders en schilderessen with a discussion of the Confrerie Pictura in The Hague. He himself calls his final conclusion ‘a short Historical account of the beginning and advancement of this laudable Brotherhood, as well as of its Academy or Esteemed Drawing School From Life’.1 In his ‘Historical account’, Van Gool aims, amongst other things, to demonstrate to the reader ‘how confused and untrue the little is, which Houbraken has written in his book’.2 Just how far Arnold Houbraken (1660-1719) ‘wanders off the trail of the truth’ becomes apparent, according to Van Gool, ‘when he writes in the life of Willem Doudyns, [that] he is one of the first, or the most important, who in 1661 helped to establish the Art Society and Academy to build up the Arts in The Hague […] because I have shown that the Art Society had already flourished for five years before Willem Doudijns was accepted as one of its members’.3 Van Gool did not just accuse Houbraken of having poor knowledge of the actual facts. Even the members of the Confrerie themselves seemed to suffer the same problem; they celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in 1737, as though it was established in 1662, but ‘as I have proved beyond doubt’, Van Gool writes, ‘and as is fully known, its establishment took place in 1656, and was celebrated six years too late’.4

Even today, the early history of the Confrerie gives rise to disagreement, though the year of its foundation has long since ceased to be the point of departure. History took Van Gool’s side and it is now considered an indisputable fact that the artists of The Hague disassociated themselves from the St Luke’s guild and founded a brotherhood in 1656 that could also be joined by engravers and sculptors. Nowadays, the discussion has shifted towards the artists’ motivation for establishing the Confrerie: what goal did they hope to achieve? Was the Confrerie, as G.J. Hoogewerff suggested in the mid-twentieth century, a first step towards the kind of society that proliferated in the eighteenth century?5 Or was it, as Hoogewerff’s main criticaster Hessel Miedema argued several decades later, a guild in terms of both structure and functioning?6

Based on the Confrerie’s surviving records, this article aims to map out, once and for all, the establishment and early history of the brotherhood between 1656 and 1700. Contrary to previous scholarship on the subject, this essay concentrates not just on artist painters (kunstschilders), but discusses them in relation to coarse painters (kladschilders), who were known as kamerschilders in The Hague at the time. As I shall demonstrate, the steady professionalisation of both crafts played an important role in the decision of the artist painters to leave the St Luke’s guild. In order to put the separation into perspective, some of the local developments in The Hague will be compared to those in Leiden during the same period. In my recent article on the Leiden situation, which also appeared in EMLC, it became clear that the changing relations between kunstschilders and kladschilders led to tensions which, as I shall demonstrate in this sequel, contributed to the break between the two professional groups in The Hague.

Society or Guild?

Although a society is a typically eighteenth-century phenomenon, Hoogewerff did not refrain from applying the concept in part to the mid-seventeenth-century Confrerie Pictura in his De geschiedenis van de St. Lucasgilden in Nederland. He observed that from the 1640s onwards, there was a growing resistence among artist painters to being united with coarse painters as members of the same guild. According to Hoogewerff, artist painters, fed by the desire to raise ‘their profession above the level of ordinary or “common” crafts’, increasingly experienced the situation as constricting.7 Rather than remaining in a guild, they preferred to unite as a brotherhood of exclusively artist painters.8

In numerous later articles, Hessel Miedema forcefully contradicted Hoogewerff’s views.9 According to Miedema, such a lofty view on artistry became topical only in the nineteenth century, while in the seventeenth century a painter was first and foremost a craftsman. According to Miedema, there was nothing to indicate ‘that the Dutch at the time held artist painters in higher regard than coarse painters because of their artistry’.10 When Miedema later learned about the separation of the artist painters in The Hague, he became more cautious. The Hague was the first city where artist painters managed to break free from the coarse painters – known at the time in The Hague as kamerschilders – and to unite with engravers, sculptors, and glass engravers. The kamerschilders, who had been taken by surprise, believed that the departure had been caused by grootsmoedicheyt, understood in the sense of pride. As Miedema wrote, ‘this was the first time that artist painters said outright they wanted to leave the guild not because of economic reasons, but because of reasons of social prestige’.11 Thirty years later, in 1686, the artist painters even appeared embarrassed to have at one point shared a guild with the kamerschilders. This Miedema gathers from an inscription on the painted ceiling, which was applied also in 1686, in the most important room of the building that had housed the Confrerie since 1682. The painted ceiling seemed to have been meant as a permanent reminder of that joyful day in 1656 when they had managed to disassociate themselves from the St Luke’s guild. In Houbraken’s words, the painting showed how ‘Pallas, accompanied by the Love for Art, who throws the coarse painters, accompanied by ladder and daubing pot […], out of the Heavens of Art’.12 Miedema concluded that ‘we are still too far from the artistic pretences of nineteenth-century Romanticism; but by 1686, notions had already been changed in such a way that it is the artist painters who have blown the unworthy craftsmen out of their skies’.13

The Separation of Artist Painters from the Guild of St Luke in The Hague

The prelude to the separation of artist painters from St Luke’s guild in 1656 started a year earlier. In 1655, the lawyer Bartholomeus Canoy appeared before the city council in The Hague with the request to establish a Confrerie.14 The burgomasters were favourably disposed, but demanded that several adjustments be made to the attached ordinance. To meet these demands, the artist painters engaged another lawyer, Cornelis van Veen (1602-1687), who indicated that he would need precisely three days to make the necessary adjustments. Nevertheless, the application was in danger of becoming a lengthy process, until the artist painter Dirck van der Lisse (1607-1669), who served as alderman that year, used his political influence to fast track the application. On 17 October 1656, the artists were able to raise their glasses: the Art and Painters Brotherhood (‘Const ende Schilders Confrerije’) had become a reality. A day later, on 18 October, the name day of Saint Luke, the city council received a list of potential administrators. A week after that, Adriaan Hanneman (1604-1671) was appointed the first dean (deken) of the Confrerie, while Jan Mijtens (1613-1670), Jacob (I) van der Does (1623-1673), and Martinus Lengele (d. 1668) were appointed headmen (hoofdmannen). Apart from artist painters, sculptors and (glass) engravers could also join the Confrerie, but there was no longer room for coarse painters, glass makers, book sellers, and goldbeaters. Eventually, the divorce papers were signed by no fewer than forty-seven artists, of whom at least forty-three were painters.15

An answer to the question of what prompted the artist painters of The Hague to separate should begin by noting that in the seventeenth century such a break with craftsmen was by no means unusual. The reason was almost always a change in the numerical relation of various crafts that were joined within the same guild, as a result of trends and developments in the market. Such disturbances of the equilibrium were often fertile ground for the urge to separate, supported by the conviction that an independent guild or a new formation would allow better opportunities for a particular group to represent its own socio-economic interests.

Remarkably, the plan to break with the kamerschilders of The Hague matured in the same period when the opposite happened in Leiden. Here a St Luke’s guild was established in 1648 at the request of artist painters. While it was the last city in Holland to have such a guild, the city stipulated that the newly formed organisation had to house both artist and coarse painters. This initiative did not come from the artist painters, nor is it known why the city council took this view, though it may have been that the councilmen forced the artist and coarse painters to collaborate to prevent the latter from remaining unorganised and perhaps requesting their own guild in the future.16

This gradual division of the painter’s craft into two independent disciplines with their own field of activity began in the 1620s and was completed in Leiden – as well as in The Hague, as demonstrated below – in the 1640s. Until then, a painter of easel pictures could sometimes pick up a paintbrush, as well as ‘the broad brush’, although presumably that will have happened less and less in the 1620s, when the demand for easel paintings in the Dutch Republic grew so explosively that painters who had once produced easel paintings now merely incidentally specialised in them. Coarse painting was left to those for whom it had already been their main occupation. These painters also profited from the increasing prosperity in Leiden, where straightforward house painting jobs were on the rise alongside the demand for decorative painting in an increasing number of variations and degrees of complexity.17

If, in 1648, the artist painters of Leiden had agreed to the demand of the burgomasters because they expected little or no hindrance from the coarse painters, they would have been sorely mistaken. When the latter learned that the rules and regulations of the new guild exclusively favoured artist painters, they felt deceived. The Leiden marriage between artist and coarse painters had been unhappy from the outset, but attempts made by the coarse painters to improve the relationship were met with stony silence. This only changed in the late 1650s, because the ratio of artist to coarse painters changed in favour of the latter as a result of a change in demand for paintwork. As is now generally known, the demand for new paintings in the Dutch Republic slowly but surely decreased after 1650 and a growing market for second-hand paintings hindered artist painters.18 Furthermore, after the 1650s artist painters faced changes in interior fashion: home owners increasingly preferred to decorate their homes with painted wall hangings and ceilings rather than easel paintings. Although painted wall hangings had always been the business of the artist painter, and still did, coarse painters were also able to produce them, especially non-figurative scenes and straightforward designs. Partly as a result of their mastering other skills that were in demand, such as marbling, gilding, and simulating wood grains of all kinds (houten), coarse painters soon outnumbered artist painters, leading them to desire a guild of their own.19 Three requests to that effect were denied in 1659 and 1660. They were, however, assigned more and more positions on the board of the St Luke’s guild, enabling the coarse painters of Leiden to change the guild’s policy to their liking. Soon, both the coarse painters and their artist brothers appear to have reconciled themselves with the new situation; in any case, there is no proof of any protest. It is possible that no resistence materialised because the guild was no longer an efficient instrument for representing the interests of the artist painters, especially after 1672 when the market for new paintings collapsed completely, with only the high end of the market managing to recover in the years that followed. The guild had, after all, never been important to artists working in that area, as they often worked on commission and not on the open market, relying on forging personal relationships with potential buyers and institutions such as a Drawing School (Tekenschool), like the one founded in Leiden shortly before or in 1694.20

It should be easier to determine how the painter’s trade was separated into artist and coarse painters in The Hague than in Leiden: while the membership administration of the St Luke’s guild has survived in both cities, the Leiden records commence only in 1648, when the parties had already been separated. Therefore, the gradual division in Leiden has to be reconstructed based on other documents. But while the membership administration of the St Luke’s guild in The Hague dates back to 1567, it does not provide a solid base for a reconstruction either, because with a few exceptions, all members were registered as a ‘painter’. As a result, both in The Hague and in Leiden other sources are required to establish whether or not a member was either an artist or a coarse painter.

A register with a list of names of board members who ran the St Luke’s guild in The Hague between 1631 and 1656 is perhaps the best source on this process of autonomisation.21 In 1656, the board consisted of a dean and four headmen, all chosen as representatives of the crafts that belonged within the guild: painters, engravers, glass makers and engravers, book printers and sellers, and goldbeaters. From 1631 onwards, the first year in which the board members were listed, painters long dominated the guild’s leadership.22 Consisting of five members, the board always included at least two painters, often three, and sometimes even five; more often than not, the dean was a painter as well.

After 1645, however, there was a remarkable change. That year, the two painters proposed as potential board members are specifically described as a kamerschilder. They were Zacharias Dijckmans and Willem van Colster, the second of whom was indeed sworn in as headman a year later in 1646. Interestingly, when Van Colster had been appointed headman in 1642 and 1643, he had been described merely as a schilder. Between those years his paintwork had been undoubtedly coarse, only the craft had not yet been delineated enough to necessitate a specific description. As such, Van Colster may have had predecessors on the board. For instance, Sybert Monincx (d. 1636) and Tymon Arentsz Cracht belonged to a group of fourteen painters, who, between 1631 and 1646, divided the available board positions among themselves. Both had been headman and dean several times between 1632 and 1642. No paintings are known of either of them, but they are known to have contributed to the decoration of the stadtholder’s palaces of Honselaarsdijk and Huis ter Nieuburch. Perhaps they, like Van Colster during those same years, were also active as kamerschilder.23 As such, Van Colster’s administrative career, and his specific description as a kamerschilder in 1646, illustrates the gradual autonomisation of his craft, a process that would continue after 1656.24 As noted, the development into two independent crafts in Leiden took place around the end of the 1640s, and based on the developments within the board of the St Luke’s guild in The Hague, the same was true for the court capital.

Before 1646, painting was considered one and the same craft within the St Luke’s guild, but this changed that very year, and so it should perhaps be considered the moment when the separation became official and both crafts became autonomous and started to operate as such. From 1646 to the official division in 1656, the guild’s board had consisted of a glassmaker, a book seller, an artist painter, and a coarse painter.25 The dean, the fifth board member, had always belonged to the ranks of glassmakers, book sellers or artist painters, but, remarkably, never a kamerschilder. This happened for the first time in 1657, a year after the Confrerie had been established, when the by then experienced Willem van Colster became the first coarse painter to be appointed dean of the St Luke’s guild.

After 1646, the position of artist painters in the St Luke’s guild was not entirely in proportion to their growing number. Because the administration of the St Luke’s guild did not distinguish between artist and coarse painters, it is difficult to determine how the number of artist painters developed precisely between 1646 and 1656. Presumably, the development of the art market in The Hague prior to 1656 was comparable to those in most other cities in Holland.26 In The Hague, too, the number of painters specialising in the production of easel painting grew in the first half of the seventeenth century. The number of artist painters who signed the ordinance in 1656 – there are forty-three names on it – is surprisingly large for a relatively small city like The Hague, comprising more than twice as many as the twenty-one kamerschilders who were members of the guild that same year.27 The numerical inequality between the two crafts is so great that it is surprising that the artist painters, given their relatively limited influence, waited until 1655 to withdraw from the St Luke’s guild.28 The first signs of the storms awaiting the art market during the second half of the seventeenth century must have been already visible in The Hague as early as the 1650s. In order to better defend themselves against competition from colleagues in other Dutch cities, the Leiden artist painters had, in 1648, finally been given the guild they had requested in vain in 1642. The permission was undoubtedly related to the rapid growth of their number from thirthy-two in 1642 to fifty-two in 1648. The enormous increase of local production, combined with the growing competition from other cities, where the number of artist painters was also climbing, must have put the Leiden art market under severe pressure. Before 1642, Leiden had no restrictions on the import of paintings. The nuisance of import bans will therefore have been felt sooner in Leiden than in The Hague, where the painters did have a guild and thus an instrument to regulate the trade in paintings. Because the problems that beset the art market would not remain exclusive to Leiden, the artist painters of The Hague had all the more reason to make their own interests a priority, choosing not to be held back by those of others. The fact that the establishment of the Confrerie seems to have been motivated first and foremost by economic interests does not mean that the painters did not want to join the existing St Luke’s guild ‘for reasons of social status’.29 Before we look more closely at the social aspect, we will first consider the size and composition of the painting community in The Hague between 1656 and 1700. A better understanding of both is necessary because they contributed to the development of the Confrerie from guild to society.

The Size of the Artistic Community in The Hague, 1656-1700

Based on the Hoogsteder Lexicon, about 400 artist painters were active in The Hague between 1656 and 1700.30 This number is high, both in relation to the number of painters working in other artistic centers in the Dutch Republic and the number of residents in The Hague.31 For instance, Leiden housed barely hundred artist painters in the same period, while the city itself was much larger, housing around 67,000 inhabitants in 1650, four times The Hague’s population of 18,000. While the two populations grew closer over the following half of the century, by 1700 Leiden was still the more populous of the two cities with around 55,000 inhabitants to The Hague’s 33,000.32

Based on the individual entries in the Lexicon, the number of painters in The Hague should be much smaller. Not only has the label ‘artist painter’ been interpreted fairly broadly, the lexicon also includes a large number of amateur artists, as well as artists of whom only a single painting is known, and who were, in all likelihood, mainly active as an engraver (Adriaen Matham), glass engraver (Cornelis Moninckx), or sculptor (Louis van Queborn). What is more, the lexicon probably includes around one hundred coarse painters that Hoogsteder expected to also paint easel paintings.33 If we omit these three categories, we are left with approximately two hundred individuals whom we can be certain earned a living as an artist painter.34

Among these two hundred painters are all of the artist painters from The Hague discussed by Campo Weyerman in his Levens-beschryvingen and by the artist painter Pieter Terwesten (1714-1798) in his manuscript, which is dated 1776.35 In a way, the manuscript could be considered an early predecessor to the Hoogsteder Lexicon. Terwesten also narrated the lives of artist painters in The Hague. However, he only included artist painters who are recorded as having paid the meestergeld, who numbered almost 120 painters between 1656 and 1700, considerably less than the abovementioned two hundred.36 The difference is partly explicable. The foundation took place in late 1656, while several artists, such as the portraitist Jacob Fransz van der Merck (c. 1610-1664), had left The Hague earlier that year. Others, like Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), had died in early 1656. A second group of artists who did not become members of the Confrerie were closely related to other artists who were, such as members of the Mijtens, Terwesten, Beeldemaker, Verelst, and Le Petit families. They possibly worked in the workshop of their family and as such, registration with the Confrerie was not a prerequisite to do their work.

It is more difficult to explain why Terwesten does not mention approximately fifteen artist painters who do appear in the Confrerie records, including well-known masters such as Eglon van der Neer (1635/1636-1703), Romeijn de Hooghe (1645-1708), Dirk Maas (1669-1717), Gerard de Lairesse (1641-1711), and Johannes Glauber (1646-1726). Their membership will be discussed in more detail below, and it will become clear that it is very much a question of whether they have ever worked in The Hague.

The number of artist painters active in The Hague between 1656 and 1700 remains difficult to assess with precision. In this study, the almost 120 painters in Terwesten’s lexicon are taken as the lower limit, with the upper limit formed by the addition of the roughly eighty painters whose nature of their relationship with The Hague is unclear (fig. 1). The lower limit of circa 120 painters is much lower than previously estimated, but still larger than the number of artists active between 1656 and 1700 in the much larger town of Leiden. The relatively large number of painters in The Hague must have been related to the unique constellation of the local population. The Hague was not just the place of residence of the stadtholder and his family, but also home to many aristocratic families. As the political heart of the Dutch Republic, as well as the province of Holland, The Hague housed a great number of highly placed civil servants, foreign diplomats, and high-ranking army officials. Many administrators from elsewhere in the Dutch Republic also stayed temporarily in the city to attend meetings of the States of Holland and the States-General.37 Taken together, The Hague housed an above average number of members from the highest echelons of society, who are known to have commissioned a wide variety of works of art to present themselves and their families to the world as favourably as possible.38 The stadholder’s court was another dominant player on the local art market; artist and coarse painters alike profited from their patronage. That being said, the most prestigious commissions were given to artists who lived elsewhere.39 Finally, the regional and national institutions based in The Hague commissioned paintwork to decorate the most important rooms where their members met.40

Fig. 1 

Number of artist painters active in The Hague, 1656-1700. Sources: Löffler, Dumas, Meijer, and Vermeeren, ‘Illustrated Index’, 283-362; The Hague, RKD, Terwesten, Register off hanteekeninge.

The Artist Painter’s Urge for Social Differentiation

As demonstrated above, socio-economic arguments alone could suffice to explain the establishment of the Confrerie. The gradual separation of the painter’s trade into two distinct professions had led to the interests of the two crafts no longer coinciding, which – together with the growing number of painters and the earliest manifestations of an art market that would soon be in serious trouble – explains why artist painters wanted to concentrate on their own profession without having to take the coarse painters and their distinctly different interests into account. This is also why the regulations in the ordinance of 1656 did not differ much, if at all, from those in the traditional guild letter, and why the board members of the Confrerie, as in most other guilds, were referred to as dean and headmen.41

Of course, these economic reasons do not rule out the possibility that social reasons such as those suggested by Hoogewerff and Miedema may have formed the basis of the separation of the painters. Hoogewerff based his idea of a brotherhood of exclusively artist painters, inspired by feelings of superiority, on Houbraken, who, writing on the crisis of the early 1640s on the Dordrecht art market, had noted that ‘the growing number of common artist painters (gemeene konstschilders) helped to increase the number of coarse painters (grofschilders)’ to such an extent that ‘the guild-brotherhood mainly consisted of craftsmen’. The situation did not please the Dordrecht artists, ‘as if the Noble Art had been dishonoured, having been grouped among craftsmen’, which explains ‘why they had sought out the opportunity to leave that Brotherhood and establish a Confrerie for konst-beoefenenden’.42

The separation of the artist painters in Dordrecht is in accordance with the facts, but the newly established ‘Brotherhood or Confrerie of St Luke’ did not become a professional association exclusively for them; the coarse painters were also given a place in it. Houbraken’s ‘mistake’, however, shows that he valued both professions differently, a difference that in his case was mainly inspired by an elevated idea about the ‘noble art’. However, Houbraken’s views date to the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the position and function of painting was different from what it had been seventy-five years earlier.43 His ‘mistake’ must have been partly based on projection. As such, Houbraken’s viewpoint is mainly related to his own time than the situation in Dordrecht in the 1640s.

It is therefore difficult to say whether an elevated view of art was a reason for The Hague’s painters to distance themselves from kamerschilders. In any case, they would not have entertained Romantic notions such as those put forth by Hoogewerff. More likely, ‘a lofty notion’ about the social position of artist painters may have sparked the desire to withdraw from the guild. Even before the crafts were separated, there must have been a considerable social difference between artist and coarse painters, with the latter being at the bottom of this social spectrum. As long as the painter’s trade was a united whole and the St Luke’s guild was run mainly by artist painters, the social inequality would not have posed a problem. However, when the two crafts became completely independent in the mid-1640s and the kamerschilders had a headman on the board to advocate on their behalf, the inequality between the two crafts would have been seen as increasingly uncomfortable. The educated, literate middle or even upper-class artist painters would have felt superior to the commonly uneducated and generally illiterate kamerschilders, and although the dean of the St Luke’s guild was regularly chosen from their midst after 1646, this privilege does not seem to have appeased the desire for an organisation that would match their higher social position.44

The most important indication that social differentiation played a role in the separation of the artist painters of The Hague is the word grootsmoedicheyt, used by the kamerschilders in the guild’s minutes to describe the motives of the artist painters.45 But while the word can be understood positively and negatively, it does not appear to have meant ‘magnanimity’, based on the context. More applicable is the meaning ‘pride’ or ‘haughtiness’, both of which could express a sense of superiority and a perceived higher status of their craft.46 However, we must proceed with caution when speaking of ‘the’ artist painters; when we consider the group to be homogeneous, we overlook the important fact that not all artist painters supported the decision to leave the guild. In the aforementioned minutes, the kamerschilders specifically mention ‘some painters’ (‘eenige schilders’) who wanted to abandon the St Luke’s guild, while the kamerschilders asked the city council to be allowed to continue with not just the glass makers, book sellers, and goldbeaters, but also with ‘such other master painters who want to remain in the aforementioned guild’. Apparently, in 1656, not every artist painter believed that his prospects would improve with the protection of the Confrerie. Several of them remained loyal to the St Luke’s guild, and painters continued to be appointed as members of its board for a number of years.47 After 1659, however, only the kamerschilders were left and there were no longer any artist painters on the board.

It therefore seems that the desire to differentiate may have played a part in the separation, but the desire for social recognition and prestige would, in all likelihood, have mattered most to its more successful members.48 As within the St Luke’s guild, this select group continued to claim virtally all available board positions within the Confrerie. A small group of about twenty-two artist painters, most of whom enjoyed notable success, occupied all of the 180 available seats between 1656 and 1700. Tellingly, Adriaan Hanneman (fig. 2), a portraitist in high demand, became the Confrerie’s first dean, and Jacob (I) van der Does, who had attended Leiden University, its first headman. Jan Mijtens also became headman; his success is attested to by the numerous surviving portraits of prominent Hagenaars and members of the stadtholder’s family, as well as the more than 27,000 guilders he left to his sons Daniel (II) (1644-1688) and Martinus (I) (1648-1736) in 1670.49

Fig. 2 

Adriaan Hanneman, Self Portrait, 1656, oil on canvas, 81,5 × 64 cm, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum.

As has been pointed out, artist painters often belonged to the upper social classes, but this was particularly true for Confrerie board members. Frequent dean and headman Arnold van Ravesteyn (c. 1605-1690) was a nephew of the most successful portraitist in The Hague during the first half of the seventeenth century: Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn (1572-1657), who was also Adriaan Hanneman’s father-in-law.50 Martinus Lengele was the son of a notary, Augustinus Terwesten of a goldsmith, Jacob van der Does of a high-ranking official, and the well-known portraitist Jan de Baen (1633-1702) of a merchant. Theodoor van der Schuer (1634-1707) also came from a well-to-do family: his father was a solicitor and some of his brothers became lawyers.51 The three brothers of Willem Doudijns (1630-1698), the son of a burgomaster of The Hague who thus belonged to the patrician class, also opted for the same career. Dirck van der Lisse, finally, never occupied a seat on the Confrerie’s board, but he had played a leading role in its creation. As the son of an artist painter who is hardly known today, Van der Lisse climbed the social ladder on his own merit and was appointed alderman and burgomaster several times between 1656 and his death in 1669.52

A remarkable number of board members had been abroad for a long time. Jacob (I) van der Does had travelled to Rome for example. A journey to Italy, as undertaken by many seventeenth-century Netherlandish painters, seems almost to have been a prerequisite for acquiring a board position in the last quarter of the seventeenth century: Bartholomeus Appelman (c. 1628-1686/7), Theodoor van der Schuer, Daniel (II) Mijtens, Robert Duval (1649-1732), and Augustinus Terwesten (1649-1711) all spent several years in Italy. Often a stay in Italy was preceded or followed by a journey to other European destinations. For example, Van der Schuer had worked in Stockholm and Paris before arriving in Rome, and Terwesten stayed in France and England after leaving Italy in 1675 and arriving home in The Hague in 1678. Adriaan Hanneman also worked in England for several years. This international experience will certainly have served painters in The Hague in their work at the centre of international diplomacy. Many of them will have been multilingual. For instance, when Van der Schuer corresponded about commissions he had received from stadtholder William III, he did so partly in French.53

The Hague, like many other large cities, housed a select group of artist painters who belonged to the upper echelons of Dutch society, based on either their background or professional success. Although a position on the Confrerie’s board could contribute to one’s social standing, talent was undoubtedly more important: artists like Jan Lievens (1607-1674), Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627-1678), Karel Dujardin (1627-1678), Caspar Netscher (1635/1636-1684), Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695), Godefridus Schalcken (c. 1643-1706), and Pieter Nason (c. 1612-1688/1690), who was the last artist painter to have been a headman of the St Luke’s guild, all enjoyed a similar elevated status.

Admission to the Elite

The fact that many painters had a well-to-do background did not prevent the Confrerie from running into financial problems soon after it was founded. Like the guild that precided it, the Confrerie received its income from entrance fees and annual contributions, supplemented by, among other things, fines and percentages of the auctions held. In 1661 the board of the Confrerie suddenly had to look for additional sources of income: following an exemption that had lasted five years, the Confrerie suddenly had to pay rent on the rooms it occupied. Because the budget did not account for this unforeseen expense, the board launched the idea of asking the members who were financially able to do so for an extra ‘ducaton’ per year outside the regular contribution, a measure that came into effect in January 1662. At the same time the board decided to open the Confrerie for art lovers, allowing them to join the Confrerie from the same date against payment of the same ‘ducaton’, but they did so not as a ‘brother’ and so the rules in the ordinance did not apply to them.54

In the first year, twenty-four painters and seventeen art lovers responded to the call. Together they raised an amount that was more than twice as much as the rent due.55 The board therefore decided on 30 January 1662 to have a ‘fair meal’; out of gratitude, but also as an opportunity to secure the contributions of the participants for the next few years.56 Between 1661 and 1700 a total of 275 names were added to the register of contributing artists and art lovers.57 In addition to eight sculptors and engravers, there were eighty painters among the entrants, a considerable number, but significantly less than the 136 who were demonstrably members of the Confrerie during that period (table 1). Apparently, many painters from The Hague were unable or unwilling to provide an annual donation to strengthen the financial position of their association. The number of eighty painters is perhaps on the high side, as some of them do not appear in the Terwesten lexicon. It is therefore doubtful whether they had paid the entrance fees that entitled them to become members of the Confrerie as ‘brothers’. The rest of the administration fails to reveal anything about a possible payment or their exact position. This group also includes the previously mentioned De Lairesse, Glauber, Eglon van der Neer, Romeyn de Hooghe, and Dirk Maas. The question as to whether these painters actually worked in The Hague is therefore justified. De Lairesse received several commissions from the Court of Holland in the 1680s, the period in which he was mentioned as a member of the Confrerie, but he painted these pieces in his Amsterdam studio.58 Johannes Glauber, a member of the Confrerie between 1687 and 1701, lived with De Lairesse in Amsterdam at the time. Together with Dirk Maas he carried out important commissions for Stadtholder William III, but there is no evidence whatsoever of his staying in The Hague. As will become clear, their membership was not on account of having conducted any work in The Hague.

Table 1

Subscriptions to the Fund of Confrerie Pictura with an annual contribution, 1661-1700.

Years Artists Art lovers Total
1661 23 19 42
1662-1665 22 36 58
1666-1670 8 28 36
1671-1675 1 26 27
1676-1680 4 10 14
1681-1685 8 21 29
1686-1690 7 26 33
1691-1695 3 10 13
1696-1700 12 19 31
Total 88 195 283

Source: The Hague, Gemeentearchief, Archives of the Confrerie Pictura, inv. 11, Register van de jaerlycx contribuerende konstenaers ende liefhebbers.

Art Lovers in the Majority

By far the largest group of subscribers were art lovers: no fewer than two hundred in total. Because they registered with only their names, it is not easy to identify them, but where this has been possible, they always came from elite circles in The Hague. A striking number of lawyers were among those identified; the brothers of Willem Doudijns, son of a mayor, for example, and later also some of their children. In addition to the Doudijns family, the patriciate of The Hague was also well represented by members from the Cletcher, Rosa, Maes, Van Hels, Van Byemont, and Dierquens families, some of whom would later become mayor or bailiff.59 In addition, the fund had a number of high-ranking officers and subscribers who held a high position in the civil service of The Hague.

In the same year, a second fund was set up to improve finances. After all, the Confrerie did not only have ‘to enforce and to maintain, but as much as possible, to augment, to strengthen, and to sanction’. In order to strengthen the position of the brotherhood, ‘all Members and Art Lovers’ were therefore kindly requested to help the board in this praiseworthy endeavour and to agree to set up a second fund, ‘which would mean, that when someone departs this world who had personally promised to bequeath to the aforesaid Brotherhood a sum to his liking, his heirs could be approached without any trouble or lawsuits, and they will be obliged to pay out the promised sum’.60 The members agreed, after which Arnold (I) van Ravesteyn, that year’s dean, set an example by promising on 30 January 1662 – the starting date of the subscription – to leave the brotherhood fifty guilders after his death. Adriaan Hanneman promised the same amount, a promise that his son kept, personally handing over the fifty guilders to Willem Doudijns in 1671.

A long list of names and amounts follows: between 1662 and 1700, 69 painters and 165 art lovers promised to leave money to the brotherhood (table 2).61 The amounts varied greatly. The lowest was twenty guilders, promised in 1662 by the painters Sybrand van Beest (c. 1601-1674) and Johan le Ducq (1629-1676). The most frequently quoted amount was fifty guilders. A few participants were inclined to contribute a much higher amount. For example, in 1685 one Mr. Schepers promised to bequeath the brotherhood 315 guilders, and in 1689 Pieter Dierquens (1668-1714, fig. 3), who had just become bailiff that year, was noted down for 157 guilders, the same amount that in 1700 mayor Samuel van Huls (1655-1734) had promised. The latter had a fine collection of paintings in which the work of celebrities such as Rubens, Gerard Dou, Lucas van Leyden, and Jan Steen stood out, but which also included many pieces by fellow members of the Confrerie, including Johan van Haensbergen, Willem Doudijns, and Melchior Hondecoeter.62 Sometimes a subscriber noted down his motivation before signing. For example, Romeyn de Hooghe wrote in 1683: ‘Having read the conditions of the excellent Brotherhood and having been mercifully admitted to these Gentlemen, I consider it my greatest happiness to have been incorporated in such a beautiful body, on the condition that after my death, I will leave the Brotherhood […] sixty-three guilders.’63 This sum was indeed handed over by his heirs to dean Mattheus Terwesten (1670-1757) after his death in 1711. However, the promise was regularly followed by the announcement obiit nihil, which meant that not every heir respected the deceased’s promise. Up until 1700, 85 of the 231 promises were eventually broken, almost a third. Among them were those of Eglon van der Neer and Gerard de Lairesse: their heirs were unwilling or unable to keep the promises made by both painters. For De Lairesse’s widow, the latter undoubtedly applied, since her husband had left her destitute after his death.64

Table 2

Subscriptions to the Fund of Confrerie Pictura with promised bequests (in guilders), 1662-1700.

Years Artists
Art lovers
Total sum Sum received
No. Sum No. Sum
1662-1665 20 715 14 560 1275 160
1666-1670 10 248 38 1677 1925 200
1671-1675 1 40 26 1261 1301 192
1676-1680 4 144 8 365 509 545
1681-1685 10 595 22 1525 2120 556
1686-1690 5 250 27 2056 2306 1000
1691-1695 4 194 13 688 882 320
1696-1700 12 497 17 882 1379 565
Total 66 2683 165 9014 11697 3538

Source: Bredius, ‘De boeken der Haagsche “Schilders-Confrerye”’, iv, 97-114.

Fig. 3 

Jan van Haensbergen, Portrait of Pieter Dierquens, 1690, oil on canvas, 57,5 × 45 cm, The Hague, Mauritshuis.

Looking at tables 1 and 2, it might be surprising that – with the exception of the initial year – the painters were well in the minority amongst the subscribers; after all, it was their brotherhood. There is no doubt that a difference in wealth between art lovers and painters played a role, as did their number: the elite of The Hague was, of course, much larger than the painting community. Another important cause must have been the problems in the art market. Like everywhere else in the Dutch Republic, The Hague faced a sharply declining demand for easel paintings from the 1660s onwards. The market had gradually become saturated in the 1650s and was also increasingly troubled by the changing fashions for interior design, which saw walls that had previously been covered with paintings increasingly decorated with gold leather or painted wallpaper. When the Dutch went to war with France and England in 1672, the market for easel paintings collapsed completely and, with the exception of the narrow high-end segment, it would never again recover.65 This was disastrous for painters, and indeed their numbers declined rapidly in all major production centres: in The Hague, for example, the community fell from at least forty-three painters in 1656 to around twenty-five in 1672, where it would largly remain until 1700 (fig. 1). In other once important production centres, the community was marginalised by 1700. For example, in 1648 Leiden counted almost sixty painters, but at the end of the century barely ten were left.66 For Dordrecht, too, the number of painters had shrunk to about ten; there was not much of a community left.67

Viewed against this background, the artistic community of The Hague held up reasonably well after 1672, in terms of size. This was certainly due to the relatively large number of painters, who responded at an early stage to the changes in interior fashion. With Van der Schuer, Doudijns, Daniel Mijtens, Augustinus and Mattheus Terwesten, Robbert Duval, and Bartholomeus Appelmans, The Hague counted a remarkable number of painters who were very successful both at home and elsewhere in carrying out fixed interior paintings on commission, such as painted ceilings, chimney pieces, and pieces that were hung above door openings.68 Their success somewhat concealed the lost role of the Confrerie – and the guild of St Luke in other cities – as the inspector of the local open market. While most painters in the seventeenth century worked for the open market, in the last quarter the considerably reduced number of painters depended mainly on commissions. Therefore, they benefitted from personal contacts with potential clients, and thus an organisation which could be also be joined by wealthy art lovers. This was also the case for other survivors of the crisis: portrait painters and the painters of high-end easel paintings, such as Caspar Netscher and Godfried Schalcken, who profited more from a society of like-minded men than a traditional guild.

The Confrerie also tried to combat the crisis by increasing the quality of painting. In 1682, Doudijns, Duval, Van der Schuer, Mijtens, and Terwesten, who had all travelled to Rome, set up the Haagsche Teekenacademie (The Hague Drawing Academy) after an international model, where professional painters and dilettantes could draw from a nude model (fig. 4). If we look at the sign-up sheets, we encounter the names of painters, some art lovers, and – surprisingly perhaps – one or two kamerschilders.69 Participation was only possible for a fee, so the establishment of the Drawing Academy was directly related to the poor financial situation in which the Confrerie constantly seemed to find itself. But it may also have had an intended effect on painting in The Hague, as the size of the painting community in The Hague remained fairly stable, while those in Leiden and Dordrecht were marginalised. Incidentally, the Drawing Academy in The Hague also had unofficial predecessors at painters’ homes where professional and non-professional art lovers met to draw together and discuss art.70

Fig. 4 

Willem Doudijns, A Male Nude, 1680, drawing, chalk on paper, 50,5 × 28 cm, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum.

While the number of artist painters who were members of the Confrerie declined after 1660, the figures in tables 1 and 2 show that quite to the contrary, the number of art lovers in the same period increased sharply. If we consider only the enthusiasts from the second fund – many of whom also participated in the first fund between 1662 and 1700 – 115 of the 165 promised bequests were paid out. Assuming that an art lover was a member of the Confrerie from the moment he made the promise to the actual payment, we can assess the duration of their commitment. If we then place these periods in a graph and relate them to those of the painters, it appears that the Confrerie art lovers outnumbered the painters for the first time in 1671, and this situation remained unchanged thereafter. In fact, the art lovers may have been in the majority before then, because fifty art lovers had to be excluded from these calculations (fig. 5).

Fig. 5 

Number of artist painters and art lovers who were members of the Confrerie Pictura in The Hague, 1662-1700. Sources: Bredius, ‘De boeken der Haagsche “Schilders-Confrerye”’, 97-114; The Hague, RKD, Terwesten, Register off hanteekeninge.

As both funds were important sources of income, the Confrerie was increasingly influenced by the growing number of art lovers. Their contribution was not limited to money alone. For example, the art lovers donated books that could be borrowed by members of the brotherhood. Hendrick Rave, an art lover about whom nothing else is known, made a very special donation to the Confrerie in 1671: a copy of Pictorum aliquot celebrium Germaniae inferioris Effigies, a book published in Antwerp in 1572 by Hiëronymus Cock (1518-1570) with prints of portraits of twenty-three mainly Flemish painters.71 Eventually the Confrerie received so many books that in 1689 the board decided to appoint Rave as librarian. Around that time, art lovers were also assigned other functions. In 1690, for example, the first mention of a ‘councillor’ was made in the administration. This was Thomas van der Marck, vrijheer of Leur, who had been appointed to this position ‘unanimously by the guild members’ that year. It is not clear what his function was, as the records offer no description, but since the dean and his headmen regularly signed deeds together with one or two councilmen after 1700, it seems that by the end of the seventeenth century the art lovers had converted their numerical majority and financial weight into administrative influence.72

The numerical majority of the art lovers and their increasing share in the life of the Confrerie raises the question what kind of organisation the brotherhood had become in the last quarter of the seventeenth century. From 1662 onwards, two paradoxical developments took place within the Confrerie. While the painting community as a whole came under increasing socio-economic pressure – as is evident from the ever-decreasing number of members – the appreciation of painting as such seemed to be increasing, given the growing number of enthusiasts who became members. This appreciation may have been partly the result of a genuine interest in painting, but the high number of members indicates that it was perhaps due more to the realisation that an association with ‘noble art’ could increase one’s own social status. Interest in art was, of course, not a new phenomenon, but what was new was the institutionalisation of that interest, which began in The Hague with the establishment of the two funds in 1662. It was within the walls of the Confrerie, where artists and enthusiasts from the highest circles came together, that the special position of painting that led Houbraken to describe the dissatisfaction of the painters in Dordrecht ‘to be counted among craftsmen’ arose. However, the ‘noble art’ and its practitioners did not acquire this special position until the last quarter of the seventeenth century.

The interdependence of art lovers and painters also gives us cause to consider revising the usual interpretation of the allegorical painted ceiling from 1686 in the main room of the Confrerie’s lodgings above the Korenbeurs on the Prinsengracht. Unfortunately the painting has not survived, but a description by Houbraken gives us a vivid impression of the ceiling decoration for which Doudijns painted the oval middle part and Daniel Mijtens, Theodoor van der Schuer, Robert Duval, and Augustinus Terwesten the four corner pieces. The whole can be interpreted as an ode to the art of painting, in which the performers emphasised its most spiritual and intellectual aspects. Van der Schuer painted an allegory ‘showing the three primary colours’, Duval a depiction of ‘Astronomy, Geometry, and Mathematics’, Terwesten one ‘showing Perspective, Vision Science, and Architecture’, and Mijtens a corner piece ‘in which Virtue writes the Histories on the Back of trumpeting Fame’.73

The center of the ceiling, painted by Doudijns and the only part which is visually known because of a surviving drawing by Mattheus Terwesten (fig. 6), clearly shows that artist painters no longer wished to associate themselves with craftmen. Based on the painting, painters in The Hague may have intended to note their embarrassment at having once been members of a guild; the depiction appears to have been meant as a permanent reminder of that memorable day in 1656 when the Confrerie was founded. But while this representation of the facts may be metaphorically accurate, the allegory would have spoken to all members, including the art lovers who had been admitted to the Confrerie from 1662 onwards. The monumental and expensive painted ceiling, executed by the five most successful painters of the time, must be linked to a twenty-five-year anniversary instead of a thirty-year anniversary. Indeed, the idea that the allegory was a joint statement is by no means far-fetched. After all, in Houbraken’s words, Pallas was ‘accompanied by a Love for Art’ when shedding the Heavens of Art of all elements that did not belong there. The tribute to painting was thus paid not only by the painters, but also by the art lovers who by 1686 had outnumbered the painters for several years. This was a development to which the artist painters probably did not object at all, but which they fully embraced.

Fig. 6 

Mattheus Terwesten (after Willem Doudijns), Allegory on the break of the artist painters with the St Luke’s guild in The Hague, 1686-1691, red over black chalk, heightened with white, 62 cm × 94,3 cm, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum.

In 1686, the Confrerie must have already taken the form of an eighteenth-century society. The path towards it had come at the expense of the original socio-economic objectives, but although the decline in the number of painters in The Hague was less dramatic than in other Dutch cities, the decline of the open market had caused the guild to lose much of its significance in The Hague as well. Most painters in The Hague, especially those who worked for the highest echelons, would have benefited more from personal contact with their potential clients, and the Confrerie in The Hague lent itself very well to this end. We do not know what these encounters would have looked like, as actual meetings are not documented. Yet judging from the fact that the Confrerie only just got out of a liquor license imposed in 1707, we can assume that these meetings took place on a regular basis.74 By the end of the seventeenth century, the brotherhood probably already resembled the society described by Van Gool in 1751: ‘A distinguished company, because many noble Magistrates of The Hague are among them [...] who regularly honour the great banquet with their presence, and besides that many other distinguished People, who attend the weekly meeting, held on Saturday Evening in the Chamber, while enjoying a friendly and simple meal, for which everyone pays their share.’75

Conclusion

Returning to Van Gool and his indignation at Houbraken’s portrayal of events, it is clear that the history of the Confrerie can be interpreted in several ways, and that Houbraken was not as misguided as Van Gool thought. Strictly speaking, Van Gool was right: the brotherhood was founded in 1656, but the organisation that saw the light of day was not the same as the one that celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in 1737. In 1656, the Confrerie was mainly a guild, founded primarily to protect economic interests. As in other large production centers, the explosive growth in the demand for easel paintings in the 1620s was followed by a far-reaching differentiation of the production of painting in The Hague. Whereas by 1600 artist painters and kamerschilders were not distinctly different professions, by the 1640s these types of painting had become the domain of two completely independent crafts. In The Hague, this division also meant that the positions on the board were divided, often equally, between both crafts. It was a logical development in itself, but one that, in view of their numerical majority, the artist painters would soon have experienced as unjust and inefficient. The decreasing influence in the guild, combined with their rapidly growing number, must have been the main motivation to start their own guild. Feelings of superiority may well have played a role in this, but in order to understand the separation of the painters, this assumption is not necessary; in principle, socio-economic arguments suffice.

The situation in 1662 was completely different. With the permission of enthusiasts, prompted by a miserable financial situation, the Confrerie entered a whole new chapter. Like elsewhere in the Dutch Republic, the crisis in the open art market began to be felt in The Hague around 1660, resulting in a sharp decline in the number of artist painters. While in comparison with other important artistic centres the decline was not so bad, this was mainly due to the fact that many painters in The Hague depended not on the open market, but on commissions, capitalising on the latest fashions in interior decoration. That is why, in The Hague as elsewhere, the Confrerie quickly lost its significance as guild, yet became increasingly important in its role as a society. The meetings of painters and art lovers lent themselves perfectly for making new acquiantances and soliciting for commissions. Understandably, the Confrerie only celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in 1737. The company that raised their glasses in that year recalled the moment when the seed was planted for the society it eventually became in the eighteenth century, and which was in no way reminiscent of the guild-like brotherhood they had begun in 1656.