Overview

Pieter Saenredam specialized in the painting of church interiors characterized by a luminous and detailed treatment of the architecture that carries the elegance of abstract design. In this portrayal of the fifteenth-century Cathedral of Saint John, an inscription on the choir stall in the lower left corner identifies the subject and dates the picture 1646. Saenredam seems to provide an accurate rendering of the spacious and light-filled interior; yet the relationship of this image to the actual site is quite complicated.

In 1629 ’s-Hertogenbosch had been recaptured by the rebel forces of the United Provinces; as a result, the cathedral became a site of Protestant worship and was stripped of all objects associated with Catholic liturgy, including the stained-glass windows. On July 1, 1632, Saenredam visited the church and made four drawings of its interior. One of these shows the whitewashed vaulted ceiling, the elaborate black-and-white baroque altar with statues of the Virgin and Child with Saint John, a curtain where the altarpiece used to be, and the memorial tablets to the Habsburg rulers Philip II and Albert of Austria above the altar. A second drawing depicts the baroque tomb of Gisbertus Masius, a former bishop of ’s-Hertogenbosch, with a life-size effigy of Masius kneeling in front of an altar.

Saenredam did not create this painting until 1646, and in it he altered the reality of the church’s appearance at the time. Not only did he slightly change the proportions of columns and arches to enhance the soaring quality of the Gothic architecture, but he also inserted Abraham Bloemaert’s 1612 painting of the Adoration of the Shepherds on the high altar, a work that actually graced a nearby convent. Priests leaving for exile in the southern Netherlands had carted away the cathedral’s original altarpiece, God with Christ and The Virgin as Intercessors, 1615, also by Bloemaert. Saenredam included the kneeling sculpture of Bishop Masius on the left hand side of the painting, which likely was created at the request of a Catholic patron. Through all of these changes Saenredam resurrected the cathedral as a place of Catholic worship at a time when it had become a Protestant church.

Inscription

lower left on choir stall: Ao.1646 / pieter Saenredam dit geschildert / de sintjans kerck in shartogenbosch; center on right escutcheon behind altar: AL.BERTO AVSTRIA CO / 1621 / PATRI PATRIAE / SILVA-DVCIS / DICAT CONSECRAT.; on left escutcheon behind altar: 1598

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Possibly Pierre Daguerre, Bayonne and Amsterdam, in the early eighteenth century; possibly by inheritance to his daughter, Marie-Anne Daguerre Harader, Itxassou, near Bayonne, mid-18th century; parish church, Itxassou;[1] (D.A. Hoogendijk, Amsterdam), by 1937.[2] J.A.G. Sandberg, Wassenaar; (Wildenstein & Co., New York); sold February 1954 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York;[3] gift 1961 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1937
Pieter Jansz. Saenredam 1597-1665, Museum Boymans, Rotterdam; Museum Fodor, Amsterdam, 1937-1938, no. 13, repro.
1954
Dutch Painting in the Golden Age, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Toledo Museum of Art; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1954-1955, no. 74, repro.
1961
Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, Centraal Museum, Utrecht, 1961, no. 94, repro.

Bibliography

1937
Hannema, Dirk. Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, 1597-1665: schilderijen en tekeningen. Exh. cat. Museum Boymans, Rotterdam; Museum Fodor, Amsterdam. Rotterdam, 1937: no. 13.
1937
Swillens, P. T. A. "Pieter Saenredam. Eenige nadere bijzonderheden over zijn leven en werken." Historia 3 (1937): 329-335.
1939
Heppner, Arnold. "Saenredam's 'Nieuw Realisme' in de XVIIe eeuw naar aanleiding der tentoonstellingen te Rotterdam en Amsterdam." Maandblad voor beeldende kunsten 16 (1939): 113-119, repro.
1953
Michel, Edouard. Catalogue Raisonné des Peintures: Peintures Flamandes du XVe et du XVIe siècle. Éditions des Museés nationaux. Paris, 1953: 13.
1954
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dutch Painting, the Golden Age: an Exhibition of Dutch Pictures of the Seventeenth Century. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Haarlem, 1954: no. 74.
1956
Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Colllection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1951-56. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida and Fern Rusk Shapley. National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1956: 160, no. 62, repro.
1959
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. Washington, 1959: 324, repro.
1960
Baird, Thomas P. Dutch Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art 7. Washington, 1960: 24, color repro.
1960
Plietzsch, Eduard. Holländische und flämische Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. Leipzig, 1960: 122-123.
1961
Houtzager, Maria E., P. T. A. Swillens, and Iohannes Q. van Regteren Altena. Catalogue Raisonné of the Works by Pieter Jansz. Saenredam. Exh. cat. Centraal Museum, Utrecht, 1961: 140-143, no. 94, pl. 96.
1962
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Treasures from the National Gallery of Art. Translated. New York, 1962: 92, color repro.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 312, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 119.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds, A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1: 238, color repro.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 107, repro.
1971
Liedtke, Walter A. "Saenredam’s Space." Oud Holland 86 (1971): 139.
1975
Chiarenza, Carl. "Notes on Aesthetic Relationships Between Seventeenth-Century Dutch Painting and Nineteenth-Century Photography." In One hundred years of photographic history: essays in honor of Beaumont Newhall. Edited by Van Deren Coke. Albuquerque, 1975: 28.
1975
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 318, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 298, no. 401, color repro.
1977
Eisler, Colin. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian. Oxford, 1977: 142-144, fig. 128, as Choir of St. John's Cathedral, 'S Hertogenbosch.
1977
Pope-Hennessy, John. "Completing the Account." Review of Colin Eisler, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, London 1977. Times Literary Supplement no. 3927 (17 June 1977).
1980
Bavel, H. van. "Het Bossche altaar in Heeswijk." Berne-Heeswijk 33 (1980): 37, repro.
1980
Connell, E. Jane. "The Romanization of the Gothic Arch in Some Paintings by Pieter Saenredam: Catholic and Protestant Implications." Rutgers Art Review 1 (January 1980): 30, fig. 11.
1983
Heijden, Peter-Jan van der, ed. Ach Lieve Tijd: 800 jaar Den Bosch en de Bosschenaren. Translated. Zwolle, 1983: 162, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 298, no. 395, color repro.
1984
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1984: 20-21, repro.
1985
Baudouin, Frans. "Rubens en de altaartuinen ‘van metaal’ te ‘s-Hertogenbosch, 1616–1617." In Rubens and His World. Festschrift Roger Adolf d’Hulst. Antwerp, 1985: 167-169, fig. 2.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 364, repro.
1987
Lawrence, Cynthia. "Rubens and the Ophovius monument: a new sculpture by Hans van Mildert." The Burlington Magazine 129, no. 1014 (September 1987): 586-587, fig. 19.
1988
Koldeweij, A. M. "Pieter Saenredam had al getekend wat Matthieu Brouerius de Nidek beschreef: het doxaal en de koorbanken in de Sint-Jan te ’s-Hertogenbosch." In Was getekend... tekenkunst door de eeuwen heen : liber amicorum prof. dr. E.K.J. Reznicek. Edited by J. G. C. A. Briels. Houten, 1988: 187, fig. 3.
1988
Ruurs, Rob. "Un tableau de Pieter Saenredam (1597–1665) au Louvre: Intérieur de l’église Saint-Bavon à Haarlem." La Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France 38 (1988): 39, fig. 2.
1989
Schwartz, Gary, and Marten Jan Bok. Pieter Saenredam: de schilder in zijn tijd. Translated by Loekie Schwartz. Maarssen and The Hague, 1989: 86, 130, 200, 204, 205 fig. 215, 206, 268, no. 94, 322 n. 25, 323 nn. 33 and 34..
1989
Schwartz, Gary, and Marten Jan Bok. Pieter Saenredam: The Painter and His Time. New York, 1989: 86, 130, 200, 204, 205 fig. 215, 206, 268, no. 94, 332 nn. 25, 33, and 34.
1990
Gaskell, Ivan. "Pieter Jansz. Saenredam and the Great Church of ’s-Hertogenbosch." Wolfenbütteler Forschungen46 (1990): 249-261, fig. 1.
1990
Koldeweij, A. M. In Buscoducis 1450–1629: Kunst uit de Bourgondische tijd te ‘s-Hertogenbosch de cultuur van late Middeleeuwen en Renaissance. Exh. cat. Noordbrabants Museum, ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Maarssen, 1990: 13, 15, repro., 33, 44, 50.
1992
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 128, color repro.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 353-359, color repro. 355.
1998
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. A Collector's Cabinet. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1998: 68, no. 52.
2000
Savedoff, Barbara E. Transforming Images: How Photography Complicates the Picture. Ithaca, 2000: 17, repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 211, no. 166, color repro.
2013
De Hond, Jan and Janssen, Paul Huys. Pieter Saenredam in den Bosch. Exh. cat., Het Noordbrabants Museum, ’s-Hertogenbosch. Eindhoven, 2013: 116-119, no. 118 color fig. [Not in the exhibition.]

Conservation Notes

The cradled support panel is composed of three vertically grained oak boards. Dendrochronology gives a felling date of approximately 1630 for all three boards.[1] Board widths are roughly equal at left and center and slightly narrower at right. Several checks exist at top and bottom, and gouges, some fairly deep, are found along the edges and in an intermittent horizontal band across the center.

Infrared reflectography at 1.5 to 1.8 microns[2] reveals a detailed fine-line underdrawing apparently based upon a preliminary construction drawing. Minor changes appear in the spear held by the sculpted figure at the far right, in the statue to the right of center, and in the arc of the ribs in the vault.

Paint was applied in transparent washes, glazes, and fine brushwork that leave the thin off-white ground layer and architectural underdrawing plainly visible. Scattered small losses indicate a history of flaking. Abrasion is found overall, particularly in the stone floor, the pilaster and engaged statue to the right of the altar, and the pilaster to the left of the altar. A conservation treatment was carried out in 1987–1990 to remove discolored varnish and inpainting and accurately reconstruct abraded passages.

 

[1] Dendrochronology was performed by Dr. Peter Klein, Universität Hamburg (see report dated January 27, 1987, in NGA Conservation department files).

[2] Infrared reflectography was performed with a Santa Barbara Focalplane array InSb camera fitted with an H filter.

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