Pieter Saenredam, who is best known for his paintings of church interiors, had broad humanistic interests, ranging from the history and development of the Netherlands to the literature of antiquity. A prize source of information about Rome was a sketchbook of antiquities made in the 1530s by Maerten van Heemskerck (1498–1574), which Saenredam would eventually acquire.
This painting is based on one of the images in Heemskerck’s sketchbook. The ancient, circular chapel of Santa Maria della Febbre in the foreground was originally built as a mausoleum in the second century. After 1506 the chapel was converted into the sacristy of the new Saint Peter’s basilica, which was then under construction behind it. The massive piers of the crossing that would eventually support the famous dome designed by Michelangelo are clearly visible in Saenredam’s painting. When Saenredam painted the scene in 1629, the dome had already been completed, and the Egyptian obelisk in the foreground, quarried in the thirteenth century BC and taken to Rome in the first century AD, had been moved to a different location on Saint Peter’s Square, some 275 yards away.
Interestingly, Saenredam portrayed Saint Peter’s as though it were an abandoned ruin overgrown with weeds. He created a sense of depth in the landscape by overlapping layers of contrasting tone, moving from a dark foreground through the buildings’ pinkish yellow to the bright blues and greens of low-lying distant hills. It is probable that the cardinal in his horse-drawn carriage and the other figures in the landscape were painted by Saenredam’s colleague Pieter Post (1608–1669).
lower center on paper attached to base of obelisk: P. Saenreda.fe. / Ao 1629
Marks and Labels
Friedrich, king of Prussia. (sale, Frederik Muller and Co., Amsterdam, 25 November 1924, no. 60); Anton W.M. Mensing [1866-1936], Amsterdam; (his estate sale, Frederik Muller and Co., Amsterdam, 15 November 1938, no. 96); (D.A. Hoogendijk, Amsterdam); J.A.G. Sandberg, Wassenaar, in 1950; private collection, The Netherlands; (D.A. Hoogendijk, Amsterdam), by 1953; (Frederick A. Stern, Inc., New York); sold 1954 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1961 to NGA.
- Pieter Jansz. Saenredam 1597-1665, Museum Boymans, Rotterdam; Museum Fodor, Amsterdam, 1937-1938, no. 1.
- Le Paysage Hollandais au XVIIe Siècle, Orangerie des Tuileries, Paris, 1950, no. 82.
- Tentoonstelling Kunstbezit van Oud-Alumni der Leidse Universiteit, Stedelijk Museum Lakenhal, Leiden, 1950, no. 47.
- Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, Centraal Museum, Utrecht, 1961, no. 111.
- A Collector's Cabinet, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998, no. 51.
- Thieme, Ulrich, and Felix Becker, eds. Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart. 37 vols. Leipzig, 1907-1950: 29(1935):306.
- Bredius, Abraham. Künstler-Inventare: Urkunden zur Geschichte der holländischen Kunst des XVIten, XVIIten und XVIIIten Jahrhunderts. 8 vols. The Hague, 1915-1922: 7(1921):83.
- Regteren Altena, J.Q. van. "Saenredam Archeoloog." Oud Holland 48 (1931): 1-2, repro. 2.
- Swillens, P.T.A. Pieter Janszoon Saenredam: Schilder van Haarlem, 1597-1665. Amsterdam, 1935: 8, 83, no. 38, repro. 28.
- Hannema, Dirk. Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, 1597-1665: schilderijen en tekeningen. Exh. cat. Museum Boymans, Rotterdam; Museum Fodor, Amsterdam. Rotterdam, 1937: no. 1.
- Trivas, Numa S. "Pieter Saenredam." Apollo 27 (March 1938): 154-155.
- Bernt, Walther. Die niederländischen Maler des 17. Jahrhunderts.. 3 vols. Munich, 1948: 3:no. 1017, repro.
- Musée de l'Orangerie. Le paysage hollandais au XVIIe siècle. Exh. cat. Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, 1950: no. 82.
- Pelinck, Egbert. Tentoonstelling kunstbezit van oud-alumni der Leidse universiteit. Exh. cat. Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, 1950: no. 47.
- Bersier, Jean Eugène. L'influence d'Italie dans la peinture hollandaise. Paris, 1951: 102 n. 1.
- Gudlaugsson, Sturla J. "Aanvullingen omtrent Pieter Post’s werkzaamheid als schilder." Oud Holland 69 (1954): 59-71.
- 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: 158, no. 61, repro.
- Walker, John. "The Nation's Newest Old Masters." The National Geographic Magazine 110, no. 5 (November 1956): 646, color repro. 652.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. New York, 1957: pl. 157.
- Magnuson, Torgil. Studies in Roman quattrocento architecture. Stockholm, 1958: 190.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 323, repro.
- Plietzsch, Eduard. Holländische und flämische Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. Leipzig, 1960: 123.
- 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: 164-165, no. 111, pl. 115.
- Seymour, Charles, Jr. Art Treasures for America: An Anthology of Paintings and Sculpture in the Samuel H. Kress Collection. London, 1961: 156-158, color repro. pl. 149.
- Pensa, M. "Pieter Jansz. Saenredam." Arte Antica e Moderna 18 (April-June 1962): xi, repro.
- Janson, Horst W. The Sculpture of Donatello: Incorporating the Notes and Photos of the Late Jenö Lányi. Princeton, 1963: 97.
- National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 119.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 107, repro.
- Vey, Horst. Sammlung Herbert Girardet: holländische und flämische Meister. Exh. cat. Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne; Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Cologne, 1970: cited in discussion of no. 48.
- Hülsen, Christian, and Hermann Egger. Die römischen Skizzenbücher von Marten van Heemskerck im Königlichen Kupferstichkabinett zu Berlin. 2 vols. Reprint of Berlin 1913-1916 ed. Soest, 1975: 7.
- National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 316, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 298, no. 400, repro.
- Eisler, Colin. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian. Oxford, 1977: 141-142, fig. 129, as Church of Santa Maria della Febbre, with St. Peter's Under Construction, Rome.
- Duparc, Frederik J. Mauritshuis: Hollandse schilderkunst - landschappen 17de eeuw. The Hague, 1980: 77–79, nos. 765–766.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 298, no. 394, color repro.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 365, repro.
- Schwartz, Gary, and Marten Jan Bok. Pieter Saenredam: de schilder in zijn tijd. Translated by Loekie Schwartz. Maarssen and The Hague, 1989: 73 fig. 83, 76, 105, 204, 272, no. 111.
- Schwartz, Gary, and Marten Jan Bok. Pieter Saenredam: The Painter and His Time. New York, 1989: 73 fig. 83, 76, 105, 204, 272, no. 111.
- Slive, Seymour, and Jakob Rosenberg. Dutch painting 1600-1800. Pelican History of Art. Revised and expanded ed. New Haven, 1995: 264.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 349-353, color repro. 351.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. A Collector's Cabinet. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1998: 30, 68, no. 51, repro.
- Butler, Kim E. "'Reddita lux est': Raphael and the Pursuit of Sacred Eloquence in Leonine Rome." In Artists at Court: Image-making and identity, 1300-1550. Edited by Stephen J. Campbell. Boston, 2004: 145, fig. 9.4.
- Kuretsky, Susan Donahue. Time and Transformation in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art. Exh. cat. Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota; J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville. Seattle, 2005: 31-32, fig. 19.
The support is a beveled, horizontally grained oak panel with a slight concave warp. Narrow oak strips, possibly original, are attached to the edges. The vertical strips are sawn at regularly spaced intervals to counteract splitting of the wood. Neither the smooth, thin, white ground layer nor the paint extends onto the strips. Infrared reflectography at 1.5 to 1.8 microns reveals a loosely executed underdrawing that delineates the church architecture. Minor changes in two of the windows and some architectural details are visible between the drawn and painted stages.
Paint, applied thinly with small brushes, leaves both the wood grain and the individual brushstrokes plainly visible. The sky was laid in first, followed by the buildings, with the figures painted over the completed background, in an economical technique employing opaque wet-into-wet layering and thin scumbles and glazes. Figures and landscape were handled similarly and appear contemporaneous.
Abrasion is minimal. Discolored inpainting covers small losses found primarily along the bottom edge, in the church architecture, and in the sky. In a selective cleaning, prior to acquisition, a layer of discolored, aged varnish was left over the dark foreground in the lower left and over a clump of bushes rising from the building at the left. The painting has not been treated since its acquisition.
 Dendrochronology provides a felling date between 1627 and 1634. Dendrochronology was performed by Dr. Peter Klein, Universität Hamburg (see report dated January 7, 1987, in NGA Conservation department files).
 Infrared reflectography was performed with a Santa Barbara focal plane array InSb camera fitted with an H astronomy filter.
Work of Art
Work of Art
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- March 5, 2012 at 2:00
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