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Begin - Online Appraisal Information - Art Movements and Biographies - Fine Art - Europe - Netherlands - Patronage
Patronage

 

The splendor and extent of his commissions are known thanks to the preservation of his treasury-alas not the treasury of his precious belongings themselves, but the paper treasury of his account-books, which include many commissions for artistic luxury goods. The Bavarian court in The Hague had international dynastic connections, and many of Albert's purchases were made outside his own territories, in Flanders and France. Nonetheless, the impact of his patronage on the level of artistry in Holland and Utrecht is undoubted. Some of the manuscripts made locally for him and for his second wife, Margaret of Cleves, vie with the most accomplished work of the period anywhere in Europe. A later regent of the realm, John of Bavaria, brought Jan van Eyck to The Hague (1422-4). Had John's rule been more stable, this signal act of patronage could have established the northern Netherlands as the leading transalpine art centre of the 15th century. In 1425 John met an art lover's death when assassins smeared poison on his prayer book-no doubt a splendid manuscript made to his order-, which he was often seen to kiss.

 

Shortly thereafter, rule over Holland devolved to the Dukes of Burgundy. Their patronage of the arts, from their seats in Dijon and Brussels, had the opposite effect to that of the Holland-Bavaria line: it drained talent away from the country rather than attracting it. In the neighboring Duchy of Guelders, ruled by an ally of the king of France, leading patrons were equally unwilling to settle for second best. The French-born Mary of Guelders, who corresponded with her relative Jean, Duc de Berry, ordered manuscripts, including a splendid prayer book in the vernacular (Berlin, Staatsbib. Preuss. Kultbes., MS. Germ. qu. 42) from the scriptorium of a monastery near Arnhem. These examples reveal an underestimated aspect of court patronage in the Netherlands: women often practiced it. It is no coincidence that the book considered the high-point of Dutch manuscript art was made for the niece of Margaret of Cleves and the successor of Mary of Guelders: Catherine of Cleves (1417-76), wife of the Duke of Guelders. The two dispersed parts of her famous Book of Hours (c. 1440) are now reunited (New York, Pierpont Morgan Lib., MSS M. 917; M. 945). Manuscripts such as these were undoubtedly made to order, but the records speak of lesser acquisitions that were bought ready-made. Patronage of the arts also played a significant role at the (southern Netherlandish) court of Mary of Habsburg, regent of the Netherlands from 1531 to 1555 and was characteristic of the Mechelen-based courts of Margaret of Austria (reigned 1507-30) and Mary of Hungary.

 

The third and most important seat of power in the northern Netherlands in this period, alongside the courts of Holland and Guelders, was the Bishopric of Utrecht. From the 13th to the early 16th century, the construction of the cathedral involved expenditure on furnishings and liturgical objects, which provided the stimulus for the emergence of Utrecht as a centre for the production of sculpture, metalwork and needlework. This, in turn, facilitated the development of patronage at dozens of smaller ecclesiastical establishments-parish and collegiate churches, convents and monasteries-as well as at local courts, by lay orders such as the Teutonic Knights, by civic governments and by individuals.

 

In addition to their obligatory disbursements on behalf of the fabrica, two of the bishops of Utrecht, the half-brothers David (1455-96) and Philip of Burgundy, illegitimate sons of Philip the Good, bestowed private patronage of a high order. Their now long forgotten courts in Souburg and Wijk bij Duurstede were focal points of humanistic scholarship, literature and art. Philip of Burgundy kept Jan Gossart in his employ for 16 years but also patronized such diverse painters as Hieronymus Bosch and Jacopo de' Barbari. The last bishop of Utrecht with secular power, Philip died in debt and with eroded authority. Nonetheless, the Church and its prelates remained significant patrons of the arts throughout most of the 16th century before fading from the scene as city after city became Protestant.

 

The growing towns themselves took some of the lost initiative up. This is illustrated in the greatest surviving relic of large-scale patronage in the 16th century, the stained-glass windows of the St Janskerk in Gouda. After a fire gutted the building in 1552, the township canvassed likely sponsors all over the country. The earliest donors were royalty, aristocrats, princes of the Church and the most powerful burghers and guilds of Gouda. After the Reformation, the remaining windows were paid for by the other cities of Holland and the Rijnland Water Board.

 

Stained glass was a popular object of patronage for those deemed worthy of perpetual association with a fixture of a church. It was relatively inexpensive and provided maximum public exposure for the donor, complete with coat of arms and sometimes a portrait. Lesser mortals and institutions were more likely to donate carved and painted altarpieces or precious liturgical objects for one of the many altars that filled pre-Reformation churches. The donor's personal involvement ranged from initiating and supervising a commission to pledging funds towards the purchase of a finished product on the open market, with or without the addition of donors' portraits.

 

In the course of the 16th century the patterns of patronage following the transnational lines of Church and court gave way in the northern Netherlands to the more parochial inter and intra-city networks formed by the emerging patrician class. One result was that the social worlds of artists and their patrons grew closer and sometimes overlapped. This occurred in Leiden when the painter Isaac van Swanenburgh, as a member of the town council from 1576 until his death in 1614, stimulated municipal art patronage, while seeing to it that he was its foremost beneficiary.

 

This rather extreme example demonstrates the more general truth that patronage of the arts in the Dutch Republic is often inextricable from political patronage. The Amsterdam magistrate Joan Huydecoper I used his position as captain in the civic guard to glorify his clan through art and poetry. Huydecoper had a poem praising his late father and himself painted on to Govaert Flinck's group portrait of a civic-guard corps celebrating the Treaty of Westphalia (1648; Amsterdam, His. Mus.). The regent patronized Flinck and the poet Jan Vos, both in his public offices and privately. As burgomaster, Huydecoper assumed special responsibility in the 1650s for the construction of the Stadhuis, a great vehicle for the patronage of all the arts, and it was Jan Vos who owned the glass factory that delivered the windows for the building. The town carpenter Daniel Stalpaert, a member of Huydecoper's extended family, suspects the burgomaster's influence in the humiliating ousting of Jacob van Campen as chief architect and his replacement.

 

A more selfless art lover from the Amsterdam patriciate was Jan Six, who was immortalized through his patronage of Rembrandt. Yet, even the relationship between these two leading figures was not guided entirely by shared taste. Six owed his political position to his father-in-law, Nicolaes Tulp, whose portrait by Rembrandt in the Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp (The Hague, Mauritshuis) established the painter's reputation in Amsterdam. Had Six been as influential in city politics as Huydecoper, the history of painting in mid-17th-century Amsterdam would no doubt have been very different. But his secondary status made him dependent on men such as Huydecoper, limiting his effectiveness as patron of as difficult a client as Rembrandt (for Rembrandt's virtuoso etched portrait of Jan Six see ).

 

Dutch government and society, while emanating an image of a certain coherence to the outside world, was to its participants more like a kaleidoscope of clashing and tumbling allegiances. At many levels, embattled groups sought to shore up their identity with symbols, images and works of art. The States General, which did not consider patronage of the arts to be part of its responsibility, nonetheless purchased 12 paintings of the Batavian Uprising by Otto van Veen (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum.) at a key juncture in the Eighty Years War (1568-1648), by which the Republic won its independence from Spain. This story and its depiction provided the States with a sense of legitimacy in revolt.

 

Moved by similar considerations, many other bodies in the country served as ad hoc patrons of the arts. Paintings and other artistic objects were ordered and purchased, for their new owners' use and as gifts, by the provincial states, the admiralties, the townships and their offices, charities, civic guard companies, guilds, water boards, commercial enterprises, brotherhoods, orders and other groups. The Dutch East India Company and the West India Company sent artists to their overseas territories to create visual records of their holdings. Glorious entries and public celebrations were often the occasion for spurts of high-powered patronage, in which the visual arts were joined with architecture and poetry. Despite the moderate suppression of Catholicism and the opposition of the Calvinists to ecclesiastical art, the churches never ceased to order art, though obviously on a smaller scale than in the southern Netherlands.

 

Other important forms of individual patronage existed. The discovery that one patron, Pieter Claesz. van Ruyven, 'may have bought half of Vermeer's production in the years 1657 to 1675' (Montias) alters the prevalent image of the Dutch art market being open and anonymous. The relative invisibility of this form of patronage may be due to a reluctance on the part of Dutch burghers to flaunt their wealth due to a sense of embarrassment at being so rich (Schama). Public spending on the arts was likewise inhibited by sumptuary laws and the profession (or pose) of Republican simplicity by office-holders.

 

The largest single source of patronage was the court of the stadholder in The Hague. The Princes of Orange and Counts of Nassau, owners of the greatest art collection in the country, continued to add to it and, starting with Prince Frederick Henry, to build and furnish palaces on a grand-seigneurial scale. Their ambitions were stimulated by the earlier example of Henry III of Nassau-Dillenburg (1483-1538), whose palaces at Breda and Brussels were major artistic centers in their time, and by the extended stay in the Netherlands, from 1621 onwards, of the Winter King and Queen, Frederick V of the Palatinate (reigned 1610-23) and his wife Elizabeth Stuart.

 

Frederick Henry and his wife, Amalia von Solms, worked closely with the Prince's secretary Constantijn Huygens the elder in all matters pertaining to art. The conscientious and well-informed Huygens, himself a brilliant poet, musician and amateur medalist, wrote critical judgments of a kind no one else committed to paper. He displayed sensitivity to the aesthetic qualities and innovations of the artists he discussed-foremost among them Rembrandt-but he also had a sharp eye for the interests of his employer and an instinct for what art could do for him at court. His contacts and knowledge rendered his princely patrons dependent on him in an area of immense importance to them-their posthumous glory. After the death of Frederick Henry, Huygens helped Amalia von Solms build and decorate a memorial to him at the palace of Huis ten Bosch outside The Hague. (The choice of Huis ten Bosch for replication in Japan Holland Village in Nagasaki, a theme park opened in March 1992, is a tribute to Huygens's success as an engineer of posterity.)

 

The relations between the members of the House of Orange, Huygens and the artists he hired for them reveal a patron-broker-client system in full operation in the arts. It illuminates the patterns of behavior into which the various parties tend to fall, thereby making it possible to recognize these functions even when the historical evidence is more fragmentary. However, it must be admitted that no one else in the history of the northern Netherlands fulfilled the role of the broker with the dedication and expertise brought to it by Huygens.

 

Following the death of Frederick Henry, court patronage began to metamorphose from networking to favoritism, and it declined to a level that could be matched by a self-made man such as Gerrit Braamcamp. At the same time the best career opportunities for Dutch artists once more crossed the border and were concentrated in the German courts of Berlin, Munich and Kassel. In his book of 1750-51 on Dutch painters, Johan van Gool sketched an art world dominated by the relatively few people of means with an interest in the arts.

 

With the emergence in the mid-18th century of cultural societies, a new form of patronage evolved, which put public money to work for the good of the commonweal. In the Netherlands this tendency began late and produced few institutions of importance. The great exception is the still-extant Teylers Foundation in Haarlem (founded 1778), in which the collecting and the commissioning of art took their place alongside the study of theology and science. Initially, furtherance of the visual arts was very much subordinate, but in the course of time it has risen to be the main concern of the Foundation.

 

The efforts of such societies seem pathetically inadequate next to the spending on art by Louis Napoleon, the French Emperor's brother, in his brief tenure as king of Holland (reigned 1806-10). His purchase of two major private collections for the new national museum was in itself an act of unequalled decisiveness. The patronage of King William I, who has often been cited as a great promoter of the arts in his new Kingdom of the Netherlands, is revealed under close scrutiny to have been relatively insignificant. His son William II put together a great collection of Old Masters, which the nation was, however, unwilling to buy after his unexpected death. Around mid-century, a statement by the Liberal Minister of the Interior, J. R. Thorbecke, lifted from its context, became a slogan for both champions and critics of public patronage: 'Art is no concern of the government's.'

 

This attitude could not be maintained for long. The conscience of the public with regard to the preservation of monuments was appealed to with great success by the aristocratic bureaucrat Victor de Stuers, in a pamphlet entitled Holland op z'n smalst ('How narrow[-minded] Holland can be', 1873). The unstaunched flow of artistic treasures out of the country led a group of private art lovers to found the Vereeniging Rembrandt (Rembrandt Society) in 1883 to support museum acquisitions. These and other initiatives eventually led to programs covering a vast range of artistic activities, from art education to art publishing. In many cases the body involved had a religious, nationalistic, political or cultural coloring, or a social aim with a place for art. The patronage of art academies and museums often therefore served sectarian purposes. With the progressive evisceration of religious groups and social classes, these functions, which came to be perceived as a public responsibility, were abandoned on the doorstep of the government.

 

The most prominent present-day patrons of the arts in the Netherlands are the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, whose operations vitally affect all functions of the art world, including the art market, and the government-licensed Prince Bernhard Foundation, which transfers considerable amounts of money from legalized gambling to the arts. A national Arts Council advises the Ministry and monitors its artistic decisions. Until it was discontinued in 1987, an artist-support program, run by the Ministry of Social Affairs, attracted international attention. The artists on this program, numbering over 2000 at its height, produced more than 200,000 works of art for their patron. Since then, the National Service for the Visual Arts (Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst) was given responsibility for finding an elegant way to dispose of these holdings.

 

Below those centralized institutions, patronage of the arts is diffused throughout society. Local bylaws reserve certain percentages of urban renewal or public building projects for artistic enrichment. These schemes are run by unconnected bureaucratic committees and citizen councils throughout the country. By the 1990s the functioning of the archipelago of art patronage had come into question, and the government had undertaken efforts to diminish its custodianship of such a large part of the art world. In 1991 the first national museum was disengaged from the Ministry, as part of a larger effort. Museums were increasingly encouraged to seek sponsors to help finance their activities.

 

Bibliography

 

M. Tóth-Ubbens: 'Van goude, zelver, juellen ende andere saken: Twintig jaaren Haagse tresorie-rekeningen betreffende beeldende kunst en kunstnijverheid ten tijde van Albrecht van Beieren, 1358-1378', Oud-Holland, lxxviii (1963), pp. 87-134

 

S. W. H. Drossaers and T. H. Lunsingh Scheurleer: Inventarissen van de inboedels in de verblijven van de Oranjes en daarmee gelijk te stellen stukken, 1567-1795, 3 vols (The Hague, 1974-6)

 

D. P. Snoep: Praal en propaganda: Triumfalia in de noordelijke Nederlanden in de 16de en 17de eeuw (Alphen aan den Rijn, 1975)

 

C. W. Fock: 'The Princes of Orange as Patrons of Art in the Seventeenth Century', Apollo, 110 (1979), pp. 466-75

 

J. Sterk: Philips van Bourgondië (1465-1524), bisschop van Utrecht, als protagonist van de renaissance: Zijn leven en mecenaat (Zutphen, 1980)

 

W. H. Vroom: De financiering van de kathedraalbouw in de middeleeuwen, in het bijzonder de dom van Utrecht (Maarssen, 1981)

 

G. Schwartz: Rembrandt, his Life, his Paintings: A New Biography (Harmondsworth, 1985)

 

B. Dubbe and W. H. Vroom: 'Mecenaat en kunstmarkt in de Nederlanden gedurende de zestiende eeuw', Kunst voor de beeldenstorm: Noordnederlandse kunst, 1525-1580, 2 vols (exh. cat., Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum., 1986)

 

The Dutch World of Painting (exh. cat. by G. Schwartz, Vancouver, A.G., 1986)

 

S. Schama: The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (New York, 1987)

 

F. P. van Oostrom: Het woord van eer: Literatuur aan het Hollandse hof omstreeks 1400 (Amsterdam, 1987); rev. and trans. as Court and Culture: Dutch Literature, 1350-1450 (Berkeley, CA, 1992)

 

E. Hinterding and F. Horsch: ' "A Small but Choice Collection": The Art Gallery of King Willem II of the Netherlands (1792-1849)', Simiolus, xix (1989), pp. 5-122

 

L. F. Jacobs: 'The Marketing and Standardization of South Netherlandish Carved Altarpieces: Limits on the Role of the Patron', A. Bull., lxxi (1989), pp. 208-29

 

J. M. Montias: Vermeer and his Milieu: A Web of Social History (Princeton, 1989)

 

The Golden Age of Dutch Manuscript Painting (exh. cat. by J. H. Marrow and others, Utrecht, Catharijneconvent; New York, Pierpont Morgan Lib.; 1989)

 

W. Oosterbaan Martinius: Schoonheid, welzijn, kwaliteit: Kunstbeleid en verantwoording na 1945 (The Hague, 1990)

 

C. B. Smithuijsen: De hulpbehoevende mecenas: Particulier initiatief, overheid en cultuur, 1940-1990 (Zutphen, 1990)

 

J. Verheul and J. Dankers: Tot stand gekomen met steun van ...: Vijftig jaar Prins Bernhard Fonds, 1940-1990 (Zutphen, 1990)

 

M. J. Bok and G. Schwartz: 'Schilderen in opdracht in Holland in de 17e eeuw', Holland: Reg.-Hist. Tijdschr., xxiii (1991), pp. 183-95 [and other articles in that issue]

 

J. C. Dagevos and others, eds: Kunst-zaken: Particulier initiatief en overheidsbeleid in de wereld van de beeldende kunst [The business of art: private initiatives and government policy in the world of the visual arts] (Kampen, 1991)

 

D. Freedberg and J. de Vries, eds: Art in History, History in Art: Studies in Seventeenth-century Dutch Culture (Santa Monica, CA, 1991)

 

B. Kempers: 'Opdrachtgevers, verzamelaars en kopers: Visies op kunst in Holland tijdens de Republiek', Holland: Reg.-Hist. Tijdschr., xxiii (1991), pp. 196-209

 

E. Bergvelt: 'Koning Willem I als verzamelaar, opdrachtgever en weldoener van de Noordnederlandse musea', Staats- en natievorming in Willem I's Koninkrijk (1815-1830), ed. C. A. Tamse and W. Witte (Brussels, 1992), pp. 261-85

 

G. Nijsten: Het hof van Gelre (Kampen, 1992)

 

F. van Oostrom: Aanvaard dit werk: Over Middelnederlandse auteurs en hun publiek [Accept this work: on Middle Dutch authors and their public] (Amsterdam, 1992)

 

A. M. E. L. Hoogenboom: 'de stand des kunstenaars': De positie van kunstschilders in Nederland in de eerste helft van de negentiende eeuw (Leiden, 1993)

 

Maria van Hongarije, 1505-1558: Koningen tussen keizers en kunstenaars (exh. cat. by B. van den Boogert and others, Utrecht, Catharijneconvent; 's Hertogenbosch, Noordbrabants Mus.; 1993)

 

D. Eichberger and L. Bearen: 'Family Members and Political Allies: The Portrait Collection of Margaret of Austria', A. Bull., lxxvii (1995), pp. 225-48

 

 

 

 

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