Cornelis Claesz. van Wieringen was with Hendrick Cornelisz.Vroom (also from Haarlem), the most important representative of the first generation of Dutch marine painters.
‘His drawings, characterized by a distinctive and spirited penwork, reveal a personal interpretation of the world.’, according to George Keyes in his groundbreaking essay on Van Wieringen’s drawings. Although the artist’s works on paper rarely served as prepatory studies, the composition of ‘Ships on an estuary’ shows close simularity to a 1616 dated painting in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (‘A Dutch merchantman attacked by an English privateer, off La Rochelle’, inv. no. BHC 0723). Comparison with a series of etchings after Van Wieringen, published by Le Roy around 1615, establishes this sheet to date from the very beginning of his career as an artist.
Van Wieringen’s oeuvre contains many seeming contradictions in which ‘Manneristic’ and ‘Realistic’ features co-exist and merge to a varying degree. His art appealed to contemporaries as C.J. Visscher and Jan van de Velde II, who both executed prints after his designs. The present drawing is the largest sheet that can with certainty be ascribed to the artist.
Left from the center is a so-called pinas (privateer), a three-master with open gallery, depicted on the stern. The middle sized ships were in use as warship and for trade by the Dutch, the French and the English around 1600. The open gallery, an extension on the stern and at the side of the after end, would disappear around 1625, to be replaced by a covered or closed gallery. Van Wieringen brings his composition subtly in balance with a group of birds crossing the sky at center right.
The present drawing has been praised by Marijn Schapelhouman, curator of the Rijksprentenkabinet Amsterdam, as an ‘excelent drawing by Cornelis Claesz. van Wieringen’ (verbal comunication).
Cornelis Claesz. van Wieringen, marine painter
Cornelis Claesz. van Wieringen came from a shipping family. His father was repeatedly mentioned in the Haarlem archives, always-in conjunction with ships and shipping. In 1584 he was called ”schipper” and in 1590 even ”grootscipper”. In 1597 Cornelis van Wieringen is first mentioned as he was registered in the Haarlem St. Lucasgilde. The fact that the minimum age of a guild member to be allowed had to be 21 years might indicate that Van Wieringen was born for some years prior to 1580. Karel van Mander, the artist biographer, wrote in 1604 that Van Wieringen came from Haarlem. He also mentions that the painter used to sail himself and then started to draw and paint ships. He thereby shows a “wonderlijcken Gheest and verstandt” and “Because he understands the characteristics of ships, he needs to yield to none,” according to Van Mander. Is generally believed that Van Wieringen has been an apprentice of Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom (1566-1640), the founder of the genre ‘marine painting’, but for this assumption there is no evidence. Vroom and Van Wieringen must surely have known each other as fellow citizens and rival marine painters. The engraver, draftsman and painter Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) can be seen as a link between the two marine painters. By various authors, it is assumed that Van Wieringen was influenced by Golzius in his manner of drawing and printmaking. It is even thought to Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen was a pupil of Goltzius. Goltzius in 1603 bought a house in Haarlem Jansstraat, which was adjacent to that of Vroom. Van Wieringen occupied a prominent place in the artistic environment in Haarlem around 1620. The artist and diplomat Samuel Ampzing (1590-1632) mentions Van Wieringen in the hymn, which he recorded in 1621 under the title ”Het lof der Stadt Haarlem in Holland”.
After he was several years a member of the Guild of St Luke, Van Wieringen held around 1610 a prominent place in the guild board because he is mentioned several times as ”vinder”.
In 1624 he was a delegate in a taxation of a number of paintings for a raffle and on November 1628 he acted as an art dealer in the sale by the city of Haarlem of the paintings of the Commandery of St. Jan.
The painter Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem (1562-1638) was a good friend with Van Wieringen. A proof of this is the fact that he acted and signed five times as a witness in a will of Cornelis Cornelisz. Curiously Van Wieringen did not sign Cornelis’s last testament, but he was well endowed with “a stuck schilderye wesende a Crucifix gemaect by Mr. Carel Vermander”. Van Wieringen was also remembered by Cornelis Cornelisz as “good vrunt synen”
On November 19, 1624 Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem and Van Wieringen appeared together as arbitrators in a case of Frans Hals’ younger brother Dirck.13 In April 1630 the town council of Haarlem instructed the Guild of St Luke to arrange their affairs, starting with the drafting of a new guild charter. This document was prepared and on May 22, 1631 signed by the guild board and some representative painters. Subsequently, the charter was approved and signed by the former ”vinders” of the Guild of St Luke, including Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen and Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem in the inn ”den Coninck van Vranckrijck”. Six months later, on January 20, 1632, they signed the petition for the new guild label, which was submitted to the Haarlem vroedschap.15 On April 26, 1632 the proposal was sent back by the town council with the announcement that it was too long. The final correction did not take place before November 1634. The establishment of this new guild statute was an important event, because now was recorded for the first time in Holland the distinction between artists and artisans.
What exactly Van Wieringens input into the new guild label was, can no longer be ascertained but by placing his signature, he must have agreed to the amendments.
Van Wieringens most important commission dates back to 1621. In that year, the Admiralty of Amsterdam commissioned a painting of the Battle of Gibraltar, which had taken place on April 25, 1607 for Prince Maurits. This battle, in which the Dutch inflicted a crushing blow on the Spaniards in the Bay of Gibraltar, marked the first major naval victory in the Dutch Revolt. During the fight admiral and commander-in-chief Jacob van Heemskerck was killed.
They initially turned to Vroom to make a design for the painting, but he asked the astronomical amount of 6,000 guilders. The negotiations broke down on the asking price, and after Vroom left the meeting cursing and raging it was finally decided that they would give the order to Van Wieringen for 2450 guilders. In 1622 he painted the big canvas with the dimensions 180 cm high by 490 cm wide of the Battle of Gibraltar. It is the largest sea piece, which was made in the seventeenth century in the Netherlands and is now in Dutch Maritime Museum in Amsterdam.
In 1629 Van Wieringen received from the city of Haarlem a commission to create a design for a carpet, intended for the town council in the City Hall. On April 12, 1629 the Comptroller began payments for ” ship of Damietta.” Designer Van Wieringen was paid 300 Flemish pounds, the glass cutter Peter of Holstein, who created the work pattern, 225 Flemish pounds and later another 25 Flemish pounds. The Haarlem carpet weaver Joseph Thienpont received the exorbitant amount of 2003 Flemish pounds. In 1630 Van Wieringen received another 69: 2 pounds ” from zaeke needs to tick down from the ship to the Damiaten verbesigt and geemployeerd “. The dimensions of the tapestry are 10.75 meters long and 2.40 meters high, this is the largest tapestry of the seventeenth century.
Van Wieringen died in Haarlem on 29 December 1633. He was buried in the Great Church between December 31, 1633 and January 7 1634.
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