This portrait, that formerly was thought lost, depicts the Reverend Gerardus Sandifort (Ouddorp, 1709 - The Hague, 1757). This portrait was mentioned by Johan van Gool in the second volume of his ‘De Nieuwe Schouburg...’ (1751). This sober, yet very distinguished oil on panel depicts the sitter as a clergyman, wearing the black attire and typical white collar of Protestant preachers, together with a gray wig. Sandifort is portrayed in half-length and in three-quarter profile, with his head turned to his left, facing the viewer. He is depicted against a dark gray background, slightly right to the middle, on the ‘golden ratio’ (1), resulting in a strong and harmonious composition. Notable are the refined and elegant brushstrokes on the collar and the psychological depth in the facial expression. In this sober but refined portrait, Schouman depicts the cleric as ‘Verbi Divini Minister’, the ‘bearer of the Divine Word’, entirely in line with the Calvinist spirit that did not tolerate the glorification of the clergyman as a person (2).
Artist’s biography (3)
Aert Schouman counts as one of the most important Dutch artists from the eighteenth century. He was a prolific and versatile Dutch painter, glass engraver (4), printmaker, art collector and dealer, who assembled an important collection of paintings. He produced still lifes, biblical and mythological themes, natural history studies, genre paintings, historical works, portraits, sketches, etchings and mezzotints. He designed tapestries, painted wall-hangings and decorated objects such as fans, snuffboxes and even the glass windows for a ‘magic lantern’. Significant is his pioneering with watercolours, a technique that he mastered to great virtuosity. His watercolours depicting exotic birds and plants were very popular among his contemporaries, even internationally (5). As the excellent draughtsman he was, he depicted the city of Dordrecht and its surroundings in great detail, thus producing drawings of great historical value (6).
Aert Schouman was born in Dordrecht on 4 March 1710. When he was 15 years old, he became apprentice to the Dordrecht artist Adriaen van der Burg (Dordrecht, 1693 - 1733), serving there for eight years until Van der Burg's death. Between 1735 and 1785, Schouman counted as a leading artist in the Dutch Republic. During the first part of his career, he was active in Dordrecht, where he was a member of the Brotherhood of Saint Luke, a fraternity of amateur art lovers from Dordrecht and environs and he became regent of the art academy Pictura in 1742. He moved to The Hague in 1748, often returning to Dordrecht. In 1752 he was made regent of the art academy the ‘Haagse Confreriekamer’ of Pictura and by 1762 he had been appointed principal of the academy. Between 1761 and 1764 he lived in Middelburg. Schouman was a fond traveller. In his early Dordrecht years, he ventured a trip to Brussels in the Summer of 1738. During his residency in The Hague, he travelled to London twice: first in 1765/66 to study the art of glass engraving under Frans Greenwood (Rotterdam, 1680 - Dordrecht, 1763), the second time in 1775. An aquarelle annotated ‘Kassel’, that refaced in 1975, indicates that Schouman visited Germany in 1753 (7). After a long and industrious life, Aert Schouman died in The Hague on 5 July 1792, at the age of 82.
Schouman was fortunate to receive royal patronage and he completed many works for Stadholder Prince Willem V at the summer palace Het Loo in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands. The Prince owned a zoological cabinet and a menagerie containing mammals, snakes and birds from various parts of the world. Between 1765 and 1768, Schouman was employed in the pictorial recording of the animals at Willem V’s palace. Over one hundred of his drawings can be found in one of the few surviving complete recueils, the ‘Vogel Boeck’ (or Bird Book). Moreover, Schouman's depictions of the animals housed in the Princely menagerie, along with those of Simon Fokke (Amsterdam, 1712 - 1784), formed the core of thirty-four treatises on foreign animals, published between 1767 and 1787 by Arnout Vosmaer (Rotterdam, 1720 - The Hague, 1799), a vivid collector of naturalia and the director of the natural history cabinet of Stadholder Willem V.
Aert Schouman was not only a highly successful artist, but an important teacher as well, who taught many pupils, both in Dordrecht and The Hague. He took on his first art pupil in 1733 and continued teaching for the rest of his life. Among his pupils were Gerrit Malleyn (Dordrecht, 1753 - Rotterdam, 1816), Nicolaas Muys (Rotterdam, 1740 - 1808), Jacobus Perkois (Middelburg, 1756 - 1804), the well known Dutch flower painter Jan van Os (Middelharnis, 1744 - The Hague, 1808) and his great-nephew, the marine painter Martinus Schouman (Dordrecht, 1770 – Breda, 1848). What makes Aert Schouman stand out from other painters too, is that he kept a very detailed diary of his professional life, known as his ‘memorieboeken’, kept in the collection of Museum Van Gijn in Dordrecht, the Netherlands. On 16 October 1733 he began entries in the first of two professional diaries that record in unusual detail the activities of his career until 16 November 1753.
Aert Schouman was a very renowned and productive artist and painted many portraits (including drawings, engravings and paintings), mostly of members of the civic and religious elites of the cities of Dordrecht and The Hague (8). From Schouman’s detailed professional diaries and Van Gool’s Nieuwe Schouburg der Nederlantse Kunstschilders en Schilderessen (1750/1751) we possess a comprehensive record of the names of persons portrayed by the artist. Since the sitter of the present portrait is unmistakably a cleric, it is possible to distil two possible candidates from the above mentioned sources. We learn that Schouman portrayed Petrus Casenove (Dordrecht, 1711 – Leiden, 1796) who was preacher in Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht, in the year 1753. (9) (10) It is also recorded that Schouman painted a portrait of Gerardus Sandifort (Ouddorp, 1709 - The Hague, 1757), preacher in The Hague, in 1748 (11). Both portraits were unknown. Gerardus Sandifort was also portrayed by Schouman in the year 1751 in a mezzotint engraving (12). Dr. Charles Dumas, Head Curator Old Master Paintings at RKD The Hague, the Netherlands, sees clear physiognomic similarities between the engraving and the painting. He points out that the portrait of Sandifort is mentioned by Van Gool (13) and consequently has to be painted before 1750/1751. This means that the painting depicts a slightly younger Sandifort than the engraving, as seems to be the case. Furthermore, Dumas points to some striking resemblances in the facial features of the sitters: the relatively large eyes, the sharp, long nose, the rather short upper-lip, the narrow mouth, the fairly pointy chin and the large under-chin that runs down from the ears and rounds off the lower side of the face. The differences in the wigs is not significant, and can be due to a change in fashion. For all these reasons, Dumas suggests an identification of the sitter as Gerardus Sandifort.
Gerardus Sandifort was born in Ouddorp on 14 November 1709, as the son of surgeon Eduard Sandifort and Anna Schaap, daughter of lieutenant Pieter Schaap. Van der Aa records that he lost both his parents before he was five years old, after which he was brought up by his uncle and aunt Johannes and Hester van Boeymeer, who lived in Den Briel (14). After having attended the Latin School in Harderwijk, he studied at the University of Leiden between 1730 and 1734. He married Geertrui Helena Snellen, daughter of the Burgomaster of Den Briel, on 14 September 1735. By that time he was active as a preacher at Oost- en West-Blokker. In the year 1738 he was called to Harderwijk and Deventer, and to Dordrecht in 1740 (15). After having refused a position in Haarlem for three times, he moved to The Hague in 1744, where he lived until his death on 31 December 1757. (16) (17) Van der Aa records Sandifort to be a follower of the philosopher and theologian Johannes Coccejus (Bremen, 1603 – Leiden, 1669) and that he was highly regarded by his contemporaries as a man of great wisdom. Apart from his dissertation he did not write any other books and expressed the curious wish that all his manuscripts should be burned after his death (18). Gerardus Sandifort was survived by his three sons, Paulus Sandifort, who became Doctor of Law, Eduard Sandifort, who was Doctor in both anatomy and surgery and later on Professor of Medicine at the University of Leiden and tutor to the later King Willem I; and Jan Bernard Sandifort, who was also Doctor of Medicine.
It is without a doubt rare to be able to positively identify a portrayed person, without any additional data, such as annotations or a coat of arms. Apart from the charm of this small, but delicate painting, the reference in Van Gool is very amusing. Van Gool visited Schouman in the mid 1700s and recorded:
“ons Hoffelyk ’s-Gravenhage levert mede deftige voorbeelden uit ’s Mans Kunftpenseel: dear onder den Eeuwaerde Heer Sandifort, Leeraer der Gereformeerde Gemeinte te dier Stede; dit Portret voldeet zo wel in Gelykenis als Kunft aen de Liefhebbers, dat onze schilder hier door aenleiding kreeg om meer Luiden van aenzien at te maelen (…). ”
[“our Courtly The Hague has seen delivered such distinguished examples from man’s brush, among which the Reverent Mister Sandifort, Minister to the Reformed Congregation of that City; this Portrait pleased in likeness as well as skilful execution art-lovers to such extent, that our painter obtained the opportunity to paint more People of rank (…)” ] (19)
As mentioned in the above, the cleric is depicted as the ‘Verbi Divini Minister’, without any glorification of the clergyman as a person or frivolousness typical for the Rococo period. In this respect, drs. Sander Paarlberg points out that the sober, original frame and even the indistinct signature by Schouman underline the reverendness and discreetness that the Northern Dutch society expected from a Reformed cleric (20). As such, this charming portrait is not only a pleasant work of art by a renowned artist, but also a little piece of cultural history.
The work of Aert Schouman is represented at the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, the Netherlands; the Centraal Museum, Utrecht, the Netherlands; the Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht, the Netherlands; the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague, the Netherlands; the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; the Museum Simon van Gijn, Dordrecht, the Netherlands; the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; the Westfries Museum, Hoorn, the Netherlands. Wall decorations by Aert Schouman can be found in the Royal Palace Huis ten Bosch, The Hague, the Netherlands; the Museum Paleis Lange Voorhout, The Hague, the Netherlands ; the City Hall of 's-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, the City Hall of The Hague, the Netherlands; Castle Het Nijenhuis, Heino (Raalte), the Netherlands; Castle Duivenvoorde, Voorschoten, the Netherlands and the Kabinet der Koningin, The Hague, the Netherlands.
(1) In mathematics and the arts, two quantities are in the ‘golden ratio’ if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one. The golden ratio is an irrational mathematical constant, approximately 1.6180339887. Other names frequently used for the golden ratio are the golden section (Latin: sectio aurea) and divine section (Latin: sectio divina), golden proportion or golden cut.
(2) Bol, J.L. (1991). Aart Schouman. Ingenious painter and draughtsman. Doornspijk: Davaco, p. 104
(3) This biography is principally based on: Bol, L.J. (1960). Aart Schouman 1710-1792. Dordrecht: Dordrechts Museum ; Bol, L.J. (1991). Aart Schouman. Ingenious painter and draughtsman. Doornspijk: Davaco; Dumas, Ch. (2005). Verzamelaarsportretten door Aert Schouman (1710-1792). In: Delineavit et Sculpsit, nr. 29, pp. 42-50; Mandle, R. (1971). Dutch Masterpieces from the Eighteenth Century. Paintings and drawings 1700-1800. Minneapolis: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, pp. 91-93; Niemeijer, J.W. (1980). Aert Schouman. In: Laurentius, Th., Niemeijer J.W., & Ploos van Amstel, G. Cornelis Ploos van Amstel 1726-1798. Kunstverzamelaar en prentuitgever. Assen: Van Gorcum & Co, p. 179
(4) See: Buckley, W. & Greenwood F. (1931). Aert Schouman and the glasses that he engraved. London: Benn
(5) For further reading see: Bol, L.J. 1991, pp. 77 - 97
(6) For further reading see: Bol, L.J. 1991, pp. 51 - 69
(7) Bol, L.J. 1991, pp. 25-26
(8) Bol, J.L. 1991, p. 13
(9) For further reading on Rev. Casenova see: Aa, A.J. van der (1858). Biographisch woordenboek der Nederlanden. Vol. III, Haarlem: J.J. van Brederode; Molhuysen, P.C. & Blok, P.J. [red.] (1911). Nieuw Nederlandsch biografisch woordenboek. Vol. I, Leiden: A.W. Sijthoff; p. 591
(10) Bol, L.J. 1991, p. 48 (record from Schouman’s own notebook, under ‘1753’)
(11) Bol, L.J. 1991, p. 48 (record from Van Gool, under ‘1748’)
(12) Collection RKD, The Hague, the Netherlands, Iconografisch Bureau, IB-nr. 2012618; Bol, L.J. 1991, p. 104
(13) Van Gool, J. 1750/51, p. 350
(14) Aa, A.J. van der (1874). Biographisch woordenboek der Nederlanden. Vol. XVII, Haarlem: J.J. van Brederode, p. 83
(15) Arnold Moonen [et al.] (1807). Naemketen der predikanten, die, van de Hervorminge der Kerken aen tot het jaer 1709 toe, in de Gemeenten, die onder de vier Classen van het Overysselsche Synode behooren, het Euangelium bedient hebben. p. 8
(16) Dalen, J.L. van (1931). Geschiedenis van Dordrecht. Vol. I
(17) The ‘oude Impost registers van begraven’ at the archive in The Hague records that Gerardus Sandifort was buried on 4 January 1758, aged 48, after a ‘beroerte in het hoofd’ (stroke in the head) for 30 florins.
(18) Van der Aa, 1874, p. 84
(19) Van Gool, 1751, p. 350; Bol, 1991, pp. 21-22
(20) Remark during first hand inspection