EMMANUEL DE WITTE

1617 Alkmaar - 1692 Amsterdam
Oil on Canvas, 51,8 x 41 cm
Signed and dated 1655

Essay

This painting is one of many representations of the interior of the Oude Kerk painted by Emanuel de Witte. The earliest representation of the Oude Kerk is dated in 1654. De Witte painted several further variations of this church interior.

The painter was born in Alkmaar and joined the St. Lucas Guild in 1636. From 1639 to 1640, he worked in Rotterdam and then in Delft where he started to paint church interiors.

The Oude Kerk was built in 1300 and was consecrated to Saint Nicolaas in 1306. De Witte presents us with the inner view of the church from various perspectives – however, there is hardly one that is topographically accurate to the church. Very often, de Witte combines several views of the church in one picture. These combinations became increasingly daring during the course of his work.

In this painting one can see the choir area and that the windows have been enlarged. In the side chapel on the left side is the grave for Piet Hein, built as a temple with Tuscan columns (which is in reality in the main choir). A man in a red coat is observing the epitaph for Maria de By, which is also not located here.1 It is very likely that sketches from the artist’s time in Delft form the basis of this picture.2

Strikingly enough, there is another painting at the Hallwyl Museum in Stockholm which can be seen as the twin of this painting. It is painted on panel (Fig. 1) and others only very slightly from this one.

The painting at the Hallwyll collection is a copy ‘with all the characteristics of a weak copy’3 and C. Brown and W. Liedtke now agree with this conclusion.

As in many other paintings by de Witte, the church Oude Kerk in Delft is used as a public space filled with life and different actions (Fig.2). One can see men talking, children playing and even two dogs - the one on the left directly catches the look of the viewer.

The view into the church is divided by pillars in an angular foreground and background. The rear view figure in his red coat draws the viewer further into the scene – this is very common in de Witte’s paintings, as he wants the viewer to identify with a subject. The light from the left highlights the pillar in the centre and guides the viewer towards the events occurring in the background.

The right part of the painting is darker and lies in the shade. It is dominated by a large brass chandelier. Underneath there are men in dark cloaks, in deep discussion and two children play in the foreground.

The atmosphere de Witte creates is very relaxed and sociable. The lighting, the gambling with shade within the picture as well as the colours are an elaborate appliance to convincingly convey to the viewer that they are part of the social gathering in the Oude Kerk.

 

We are grateful to Walter Liedke for confirming the attribution.

 

 

1See Manke, Ilse: „Emanuel de Witte“, Amsterdam, 1963, p.82
2See Manke, Ilse: „Emanuel de Witte“, Amsterdam, 1963, p. 31
3Eva Helena Cassel Pihl „ Hallwylska malersammlingen (The Hallwyl Collection of paintings)“, Stockholm, 1997, p.236, no. 156 


Provenance

Asscher & Koetser, London, April 1922
J. Goudstikker, Amsterdam, 1923


Literature

Exh. Cat. The Hague 1923, cat. 27, no. 139 (ref. from Trautscholdt, 1947).
Exhibited Bremen, 1931 (catalogue ref. from Trautscholdt, 1947).
Trautscholdt, Eduard: Entry s. v. “Witte” in: Ulrich Thieme, Felix Becker & Hans Vollmer (Hrsg.), Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, Leipzig, vol. XXXVI, 1947, pp. 121-127, here p. 125, the painting now in Stockholm erroneously identified with the present canvas (“Ehem. Stockholm, Slg W. v. Hallwyll […] = A’dam, J. Goudstikker (Ausst. im Haag, 1923 Kat. 27, Nr 139). Zuletzt Niendorf, Slg Buchenau (ausgest. Bremen 1931).”)


Fig. 1 Emmanuel de Witte, Interior of the Oude Kerk, Delft, 52,5 x 44,5 cm; signed and dated 1655 © Hallwyll Museum, Stockholm

Fig. 2 Emmanuel de Witte, Interior of the Oude Kerk, Delft, between 1650 and 1652, Oil on panel, 48 x 35 cm, Private collection