Art at Auction in 17th Century Amsterdam

By John Michael Montias | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 25
An Afterword on Mentalités

For the most part, the buyers I have singled out in this second part of the book are shadowy creatures. They lack those “traits de caractère” that define and illuminate an individual. Among the exceptions might be cited the art dealer Hans van Conincxloo III who was accused by the consistory of Emden of denying the existence of God and the Devil; of the rich jeweler Jan van Maerlen in Chapter 19 who was too avaricious to help his poor sister-in-law who was dying of the plague, with two children in the house, and had little more than a barrel of butter to her name; and of, Pieter van den Broeck in Chapter 22, who, devoured by a passion for gossip, did not have the courage to tell the police the truth about his contribution to the “St. Nicholaes” pamphlet and offered his services to the Sheriff to help catch those who had done the deed.

In the course of my research, I learned some distinctive traits about the characters of a few other buyers, but I lacked the background canvas on which to embroider my yarn. Here are two examples, one from the proceedings of a consistory of the Reformed Church and the other from a notarial deposition. Anna Vermou belonged to a family of dyers, some of whom were married to painters (Jacques and Guillaume de Ville, Jean Basse). The family was Reformed. She, too, married first one painter and, after his death, another. She married her first husband, Barent Poelman, before 1632. He was an unsuccessful painter (and a modest buyer at auction), who only left 200 f to his daughter after his death.879 On the third of November 1639, two days after presenting her young daughter to the Orphan Chamber, she remarried with Guillam (du) Gardijn. This little known landscape painter, of whom a few drawings done in Italy have been preserved, was born in Cologne in 1597 or 15 9 8.880 She contributed goods worth 600 f to the marriage, he, only 300 f. But even this small sum was only nominal: when his goods were sold, they brought so little that he was compelled to declare soon afterwards that his heirs could assume, after his death, that he had contributed nothing at all to the marriage.881 He was, by religion, Roman Catholic. However, he converted before the marriage took place in a Reformed church in Amsterdam.882 His conversion emerges from the record of his appearances before the consistory (kerkeraad), which had responsibility for administering discipline over members of the Reformed Church who had strayed from the narrow path.883 He told the consistory that he had only converted “to get the woman”.884 But his heart was not in it. According to his accusers, he had promptly proceeded to utter “defamatory remarks” against the Church and to make fun of the consistory. Only the thought about his small children had kept him from blasting aloud the preachers on the Dam

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