Art at Auction in 17th Century Amsterdam

By John Michael Montias | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 16
Art Collectors and Painters I:
Rubens’s Promise to Hans Thijsz.

It has been known since 1912, when Abraham Bredius published a short article on the subject, that the Amsterdam jeweler Hans Thijsz. sold his house “De Wapper” in Antwerp to Rubens for 8,960 gulden, plus a painting by his own hand, and painting lessons for Thijsz.’s (unnamed) son.495 In 1976, Isabella van Eeghen devoted an article in the Maandblad Amstelodamum to the transaction, adding useful biographical details to Bredius’s brief account.496 In the year 2000, Oscar Gelderblom published his study on South-Netherlandish merchants in the period 1578 to 1630, which contained a great deal of new information on Hans Thijsz. and his family.497 Neither Bredius nor Van Eeghen was able to find out whether Rubens fulfilled his part of the contract, whether, in particular, he delivered the painting and supplied lessons for a son of Thijsz. Gelderblom speculated briefly on the son who may have been the recipient of Rubens’s instruction–he argued, wrongly in my opinion, that it was Anthony Thijsz.–but he did not broach the subject of Rubens’s promised painting. In the present chapter, I show that the painting was indeed delivered, but only nine years after the contract for the house was signed. I also adduce new information suggesting that it was another son, named Hans Thijsz. de jonge, who was slated to receive Rubens’s lessons (even though it remains unclear whether he ever received them).

A good deal is known about the jeweler Hans Thijsz. I (de oude) and his family.498 He was born in or near Antwerp in 1556. A Protestant of Calvinist inclination, he fled Brabant “by reason of religion”. As we have seen, he still owned an important house in his native city in 1611. He lived part of his life in Amsterdam, Elbing, and Dantzig, where two of his children (Catharina and Anthonie) were born. In 1585, when he was living in Amsterdam on the O.Z. Achterburghwal, he paid a wealth tax of 18 f, which was quite high for this period.499 His father Christoffel Thijsz. I was still alive when he was betrothed to Catharina Boel, from Antwerp, the daughter of Augustijn Boel, on 28 June 15 94.500 Three years later, Hans Thijsz. I signed a contract to freight a ship in partnership with his father-in-law Augustijn Boel and Aert Tholinck. The merchant Aert Tholinck or Tholing (1548-1600), who was married to Anna Hermans, was the grandfather of Magdalena Belten(s), who would marry Hans’s son Anthonie in 1624.501 In 1598, a certain Jan Thijsz., who may be identical with Hans Thijsz. de oude, bought two maps at the Orphan Chamber auction sale of Dirck Willemsz. Sparreboom.502 In any case, it is certain that it was Hans Tijsz. I who invested 12,000 f in the first subscription for shares in the newly founded United

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