Art at Auction in 17th Century Amsterdam

By John Michael Montias | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Extant Records of Auction Sales in
Chronological Perspective

A few sales records dating to the years 1530-1534, written on loose sheets of paper, have been preserved. Works of art–some of which were fairly expensive, in terms of the much lower prices that prevailed in those times72–were included among household goods in these sales. But the only available corpus of data consists of the records of the 1597-1638 auction sales, which are consigned in the 29 Notebooks preserved in the Amsterdam archives. Of these, all but one was said to contain the results of estate sales (erfhuizen). The exception is a Notebook of “voluntary sales” (willige verkopingen) for the period 1608-1610. In point of fact, the Notebooks of erfhuizen actually contained numerous voluntary sales, and it is not certain that other notebooks of voluntary sales ever existed.73 Some of the Notebooks recording estate sales that occurred between 1597 and 1638 have been lost: there are no records of estate sales held by Gerrit Jacobsz. Haringh covering the period July 1604 to June 1605 or February 1615 to May 1616 or from December 1617 to February 1620. There is a gap in the estate sales organized by bode Jan Dircksz. van Beuningen running from February 1623 to the end of November 1624; in the estate sales organized by Daniel Jansz. van Beuningen, the gaps run from August 1630 to May 1635 and from September 1636 to January 1637. The records of the sales held by Abraham Jansz. (appointed as a third bode in 1636) are entirely lost.74

I have found a few references to sales that were apparently held under the auspices of the Orphan Chamber whose records have been lost. On 19 May 1607, the servant of the goldsmiths’ guild circulated an announcement addressed to all the prominent jewelers of Amsterdam in which he informed them that an auction sale of a large quantity of pearls was going to be held at the house of Anna Vrancken, called “de drie Morianen”, on the Nieuwendijk.75 There is no record in the surviving notebooks that such a sale was ever held by the Orphan Chamber. On 26 November 1619, Pieter de Wit, merchant in Amsterdam, declared at the request of the painter Jacob van Nieulandt, representing Franchoys Seghers living in Antwerp, that “about two years ago, the precise time unrecalled”, at the public sale held in the house of the late Abraham Vinck, painter, of the heirs of the late Louys Vincon, painter, he had bought a painting, being the crucifixion of St. Andrew, which the sellers claimed to be a painting by Michael Angelo Caravaggio.76 Louys Vincon was the painter Louis Finson (or Ludovicus Finsonius).77 It should be noted that Abraham Vinck died in 1619 and that the sale, which was held at his house, was that of Finson’s estate. If the memory of the

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