Jan van der Heyden View of Oudezijds Voorburgwal with the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam
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Although Jan van der Heyden went down in history as the inventor of the fire engine and the streetlight, he was mainly a painter of Dutch cityscapes. Here, he has recorded the oldest part of Amsterdam: the Oude Kerk, or Old Church, on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal canal.
Van der Heyden painted the details of the buildings with remarkable precision. The figures that enliven the cityscape were probably added by Adriaen van de Velde, whom Van der Heyden often engaged for such tasks.
Oudezijds Voorburgwal, which links the river Amstel in the south to the IJ in the north, is the oldest but one city canal in Amsterdam. Jan van der Heyden chose to paint one of the most notable areas, the section near Bierkaai and the Oude Kerk. Bierkaai was where barrels of beer were unloaded from ships - foreign beer in this case, most of which was imported from Hamburg. The dominant Oude Kerk, the oldest Gothic hall church in the northern Netherlands, was built in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In 1658 and 1659 the carillon, which is highly visible in the painting, was completely renewed.
Although this city scene was painted from life, Van der Heyden took a few liberties. In reality the bell tower is higher and thinner and the canal is a little narrower. The meticulous detail, in which we can make out the separate bricks in the façades, is characteristic of his style of painting. The numerous little figures that enliven the city scene were probably painted by Adriaen van de Velde (1636-1672), whose services Van der Heyden usually hired for this purpose.
City scenes and landscapes with country houses were Jan van der Heyden’s speciality. Aside from his activities as a painter, he was also an active inventor. In 1668 he devised an ingenious plan for Amsterdam’s street lighting, which would remain in use until 1840. In 1672 he designed a fire engine with hoses, on which production started in 1681.
(this is a reworked version of a text published in in: P. van der Ploeg, Q. Buvelot, Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis: A princely collection, The Hague 2005)
Jan van der Heyden (Gorinchem 1637 - 1712 Amsterdam)
View of Oudezijds Voorburgwal with the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam
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Material und technische Daten
41.4 x 52.3 cm
lower left, on the boat: VHeiden VH in ligature
Valerius Röver, Delft, 1713; his widow, Cornelia Röver-van der Dussen, 1739-1750; sold with the Röver Collection to Prince Wilhelm VIII of Hessen, Kassel, 1750; Josephine de Beauharnais, Malmaison, 1806-1815; Tsar Alexander I, St. Petersburg, 1815; Hermitage, St. Petersburg, until 1935; Fritz Mannheimer (1890-1939), Amsterdam; sold as part of the Mannheimer Collection to the Dienststelle Mühlmann for Adolf Hitler, Führermuseum, Linz, 1940; Stichting Nederlands Kunstbezit (inv. no. NK 3110), 1946; on loan to the Mauritshuis, 1948-1960; transferred, 1960
This painting is part of the Netherlands Art Property Collection (‘NK collection’): objects that were stolen, seized or purchased during the Nazi regime. After the Second World War they were placed under the administration of the Dutch State. In recent decades, applications for restitution are taken into consideration again and some objects have been returned to the heirs of their rightful owners.
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